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MAKING ARRANGEMENTS



Singers in My Pop Choir will tell you that part of the excitement of being in the choir is discovering the next song choice and then skimming through their part to find out what they are about to sing.


Jocelyn Regina, one of the My Pop Choir arrangers, feels the same excitement when she first hears the choirs bring her work to life.


“The first time I hear my arrangement in a room full of people singing it, I get chills,” says Jocelyn.  “It’s thrilling to hear it come to life.”


“It’s also really nice when people like the arrangement. You can feel the vibe in the room,” Jocelyn adds.


She describes how the arranging process begins: “Once the song choice is decided and I know which ones I will be arranging, my process is to start in Sibelius and get the melody in from start to finish.”


My Pop Choir owner/director Alex Fiddes describes Sibelius: “It’s a program that we use to create the sheet music that choir members sing from. It’s a music notation software where we input everything.”


Arrangers start by listening to the original artist perform the music and then extract what they’re singing. They determine what the time signature is and what the key signature is.


“As we listen to the song, we input the notes that we hear, the pitches of the main melody and the chords and then create some harmonies and creative choices around that,” Alex explains.


“Music is a language just like any type of language and Sibelius is the paper that we use to communicate this language.”


If you have been singing with My Pop Choir for a while you will have noticed that one voice part does not always have the melody.


This is a very intentional choice when it comes to arranging. “I have to be mindful of an even balance of voices,” says Jocelyn. “And some songs have melodies with a wide range – low notes but then super high. With a song like that, I split it up, switching the melody line from one voice to another.”

The song key also dictates arranging choices, according to Jocelyn. “Sometimes we change the key because we are thinking of the vocal range. We try to keep the three voices [sometimes four] in a general range for each group to make it comfortable.”


Jocelyn also points out that the goals of finding the optimal key are to make sure that the result is both fun and familiar.


One of the challenges in arranging is recognizing what works best for choral singing. That might not necessarily be the most complicated approach.  “You want to make it interesting and complex but you have to rein that in sometimes,” says Jocelyn. “I’m getting better at this – making things clear so it makes sense.”


Jocelyn emphasizes that arranging for My Pop Choir is very much a collaboration.  After seeing the song list for the term, she lets Alex know which songs she would like to arrange and shares some of her ideas.


She then sends in her first draft for comment and Alex gives her notes on possible changes. “For instance, he might suggest that the harmony in one bar could be simplified.”


Jocelyn has years of experience writing and performing music, but her work with My Pop Choir is her first arranging for choir. “I had to clue in to what choirs can do and also how I can teach.  Once I began to know what works well in sessions, that informed what I do when creating the charts,” she explains.


“I really love it. When Alex first asked me, I felt fear! Creating harmonies isn’t scary but I’d never done it for a choir. But after having a couple under my belt it got easier and a lot more fun.”


And there is one underlying motivation when the arrangements are created for My Pop Choir, according to Jocelyn: “Figuring out what works best for our choirs.”


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Dave Toms
Dave Toms
Feb 18

Jocelyn's arrangements are always so much fun. Her talent and her appreciation for the music shine through in the harmonies and the way each voice part gets to stand out in their own way. Plus she's such a cool person! Looking forward to singing the next arrangement she shares. Great blog as always!

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