Peace Songs for Choir

- 10 choral selections from the musical "Twimfina" -

What follows is an online version of the above "Peace Songs for Choir" book. Clicking on a song title will take you to Secretary Michael's comments about the song, a link to a beautiful, downloadable PDF file of the musical score, and a demo recording of the song.

1. Nonviolence Takes a Long, Long Time /
One by One, Destroy Each Gun
(piggyback songs)

2. We are the Animals of the Planet Earth (for animal choir)

3. Live, Let Live (3-voice machine)

4. The World is Our Family (4-voice SATB)

5. Keep Us Open, Keep Us Free (3-voice machine)

6. Brick after Brick (3-voice choir + 2 soloists)

7. Jeeno Casino (2 and 3-voice alternating)

8. Peace Machine (6-voice)

9. Peace to You from Language Number Two (2-voice)

10. Come Live With Us (4-voice SATB)

Peace songs are important. In a society that glorifies guns and war, there needs to be a constant counterbalance - something that celebrates active pacifism and the building of social justice.
These 10 songs for adult or high school choirs do just that.

 


Secretary Michael's comments:

I hope that these songs are fun to sing and bring your singers a sense of community and purpose. All artists need that. Choirs do important work in spreading peace. Don’t be mislead by the children in Jennifer Stolzer's illustrations. These are not “kiddie” songs. They are songs for intelligent people who understand the larger world.

The ten songs in this collection are quite different from each other because they each have a different job to do in the Twimfina musical. But unconventional as they might be, none of the songs are difficult to sing. Being a choir person myself with a limited vocal range, I always make sure of that. Speaking of which, the mp3 demo recordings that I sing aren't much to listen to. Hopefully someone else (you?) will replace them soon. In the meantime they're all I have to communicate what the songs might sound like.

Now begins my comments and links to each of the 10 songs:


Nonviolence / One by One

 

The above illustration shows Twimfina teaching her students how to “disgunsemble” a handgun, after which they will all scatter the little pieces so that they can never again be found and reassembled. During this scene, Twimfina teaches them to sing these two songs. They are “piggyback” songs. The songs can be sung separately, or on top of each other.

The guitar accompaniment is just a suggestion. If a different chord voicing or pattern sounds better, then follow your better judgement.

There are three “singings” that happen. The first group sings the “Nonviolence Takes a Long, Long Time” song. Then the second group sings the “One by One, Destroy Each Gun” song. Finally they both sing their songs at the same time. These songs are for mixed voices, so please sing in whatever octave is most comfortable.

Click to see a beautiful, downloadable PDF file of the score: nonviolence score
Click to hear a rough, homemade MP3 demo recording (sight-read by a few generous students at East Central College): nonviolence audio

 


Animals of the Planet Earth

 

“We are the animals of the planet earth.” When choir directors see the bizarre score to this song, they probably just skip it. Maybe I would too. To my knowledge it has never been performed. But I am absolutely sure that it is doable - and joyfully doable. Different groups of singers will have to learn different animal sounds, but that’s not an impossible task. Clear instructions for each animal sound are given in the score.

As shown in the illustration above, Twimfina sought shelter in a barn on her long journey to Enemia. It was the night before she finally reached the Enemian border. Here you can see all the animals that joined her in song - even the buzzing bees. (Thank you, Jennifer Stolzer, for putting such detail into your illustrations.) By the way, the buzzing bees are no longer in the score. I don't remember removing them, but somehow they've managed to fly away.

I’ve included a piano rendition of the song. Although it wasn’t written as an accompaniment, it could serve that purpose if you feel it adds to the festivity and doesn’t hide any animal sounds.

Click to see a beautiful, downloadable PDF file of the score: animals score
Click to see the optional piano instrumental: animals PIANO score
Click to hear a rough, homemade MP3 demo recording (just me and Jasmine Turner): animals audio


Live, Let Live

I love this gentle little “machine” of a song (in fact I’m writing an entire book of such mechanical songs). In the musical, the Teachers’ Commune (in St. Louis) sang this peaceful song before eating lunch. But it was a peace before a storm because moments later they would learn that Twimfina had run off to be with her pen-pal boyfriend in Enemia.

It is written in 3-part harmony for Upper, Middle, and Lower voices. If the tenors sing the middle voice with the altos, they should read the notes as if they were written in tenor clef and sing in that comfortable range. This slow song just floats in the air.

Click to see a beautiful, downloadable PDF file of the score: LetLive score
Click to hear a rough, homemade MP3 demo recording (just me and Jasmine Turner): LetLive audio


The World is Our Family


When Twimfina crosses the border into Enemia, she sings “The World Is My Family, I’m Not Afraid” (the acronym spells “Twimfina”). It’s the title song of the musical, and so I certainly wanted to include it into this collection of “Peace Songs for Choir”. Although it’s a peace song (as is just about every song I’ve ever written in my life), it’s not a choral song. So I arranged it for SATB and renamed it “The World is Our Family”. Even though the song now has the unpronounceable acronym “Twiofwna”, it still rejoices in an important idea worth singing about.

Click to see a beautiful, downloadable PDF file of the score: world choral score
Unfortunately we don't have a recording of the choral version of this song. (Somebody please send us one!) But we do have a recording of Jasmine Turner sight-singing the song with Secretary Michael playing piano: world solo audio

 


Keep Us Open, Keep Us Free

Like the earlier “Live, Let Live”, this is a simple, peaceful little “machine”. It is written in 3-part harmony. As before, if the tenors share the middle voice with the altos, they should read the notes as if they were written in tenor clef and sing in that comfortable range.

This song is sung twice in the musical. Early in the play, Twimfina sings it with her parents. Later in the play she sings it with her new family, Guru and Ace.

Click to see a beautiful, downloadable PDF file of the score: KeepUs score
Click to hear a rough, homemade MP3 demo recording (just me and Jasmine Turner): KeepUs audio


Brick after Brick

This song occurs early in the musical (Segment 3). It is operatic in the sense that there is no dialogue during the scene - only singing. Guru has just graduated from a teaching program, but he feels defeated because the area’s only school did not want to hire him. Guru, who is wheelchair-bound, feels that no more doors are open to him.

Meanwhile, Guru’s ever-supportive father (Baba) has begun to dig a foundation around their garden. He is going to build his son a school of his own: “Garden School”. Guru thinks this is a ridiculous idea. But as he watches from a distance and sees his father working so hard, and sees other teachers and townspeople coming to help, he begins to realize that this hair-brained idea might actually work.

This song calls for two soloists (Baba and Guru), plus a group of male teachers (divided into tenor and bass), plus a group of women factory workers (divided into soprano and alto). The music is in 3-part harmony, so after the women factory workers arrive, the altos should join the tenors on the middle voice (each singing in their own comfortable octaves).

I’ve added a piano accompaniment that can be used for rehearsals and even for performances if you feel that it helps move things along. The appearance of this 3-page condensed accompaniment will be off-putting at first. It’s a type of shorthand. Boxed letters represent entire passages that need to be played. If you make photocopies of the 3 pages and then tape them together, you’ll be able to avoid endless page turns.

Click to see a beautiful, downloadable PDF file of the score: brick score
Click to see the optional piano accompaniment: brick PIANO score
Click to hear a rough, homemade MP3 demo recording (just me and Jasmine Turner): brick audio


Jeeno Casino

“Sheer luck determines who we turn out to be”. That’s the theme that underlies almost everything that I write about. The Jeeno Casino (“jeen” meaning “gene”) puts this idea front and center. The song emphasizes that those of us who are “more lucky” have a duty to protect those of us who are “less lucky”.

The Jeeno Casino song has three verses, each followed by a refrain. The verses are circus-like and are in 2-part harmony. The refrain is slower, deeper, richer and in 3-part harmony.

As the above illustration from the musical shows, this song is sung by the Jeeno Casino staff, dressed as babies. During each refrain, a large “Wheel of Fortune” spins on the wall behind them.

Click to see a beautiful, downloadable PDF file of the score: jeeno score
Click to hear a rough, homemade MP3 demo recording (just me and Jasmine Turner): jeeno audio


Peace Machine

Like “Animals of the Planet Earth”, the “Peace Machine” has lots of moving parts. Although it is written in 6-part harmony and sung in 10 different languages, it is quite easy. And since it is so mechanically constructed, we are calling it the “Peace Machine” instead of “One World, One Song” (as it is titled in the Twimfina musical).

The illustration above shows Twimfina singing this song with an international group of students at the San Francisco Youth Hostel. But she’ll only be there a short time because that night she is to meet somebody down at the Port of San Francisco as she continues her long journey to Enemia.

Click to see a beautiful, downloadable PDF file of the score: peacemachine score
Click to hear a rough, homemade MP3 demo recording (just me and Jasmine Turner): peacemachine audio


Peace to You from Language Number Two

This song celebrates bilingualism and the importance of language.

In the musical, this song is sung on a split stage. On one half of the stage, Baba is teaching the Enemian language in a modern St. Louis high school (Mendel Science High). On the other half of the stage, Twimfina is teaching English in a poor Enemian school with a dirt floor. Though thousands of miles apart, both teachers are teaching the same lesson at the same time. The students are asking the same questions at the same time. And at the end they’re all singing the same song at the same time.

“Peace to You from Language Number Two” is sung in 2-part harmony. The younger Enemian students sing the upper voice while the older St. Louis students sing the lower voice.

Click to see a beautiful, downloadable PDF file of the score: language score
Click to hear a rough, homemade MP3 demo recording (just me and Jasmine Turner): language audio


Come Live With Us

This final song is very short (only two pages), but it’s sung very slowly in rich 4-part harmony.

In the musical, this song is sung acapella at the end of the show after everything is over - even after the curtain calls. Everybody involved in the production (including the ushers, stage hands, pianist, janitors - everybody) climbs on stage and sings it by memory with one outstretched arm. When the song is over there is silence. The stage goes black, the house lights are turned on, and everybody goes home.

Click to see a beautiful, downloadable PDF file of the score: ComeLive score
Click to hear a rough, homemade MP3 demo recording (just me and Jasmine Turner): ComeLive audio