It has become more and more common with choirs containing changing voices to have only one adolescent baritone particular if the group does not contains eighth or ninth graders. Or, one may have two or three adolescent baritones but they are not strong enough musicians to constitute a section in itself. The difficulty is more crucial when one or more of these boys are adolescent basses.
How does one administer to the needs of these boys so they can contribute to the choir and, more importantly, feel good about their contribution? There are other solutions, but the best solution is simple: recruit more boys! This statement may seem flippant to those who are struggling with this difficulty, but in reality it truly is the best solution and directors owe it to these boys to attempt to build a strong enough section to administer to their individual needs and the needs of the choir as a whole.
You may have noticed that when the adolescent baritone(s) sings with the cambiatas on a part within the range of both (about F to D around middle C), the part is too high to be comfortable for the adolescent baritone(s) and too low to use the best notes of the cambiatas. This difficulty is described in more detail in the article Singing Two Parts with Male Mid-Level Students. As the article indicates, one needs at least two adolescent baritones to accomplish two-parts for the boys with success. Here are two suggestions: (1) If the adolescent baritone is a strong singer he may attempt the adolescent baritone part alone. He may not be able to balance the others, but he will be happy because the part is comfortable to sing. Or (2) one may perform two- or three-part music and let the adolescent baritone(s) double one of the girl's parts 8va down. If he is an adolescent bass, he may even temporarily attempt the cambiata part 8va down until his voice stabilizes. The first solution above is the best solution for a good choral sound. Boys singing girls' parts 8va down is not as chorally satisfactory but it administers to their personal needs.
As mentioned previously, using music that all boys (both cambiatas and adolescent baritones) may sing together in unison seems to be a solution for some directors and teachers, however unsatisfactory the results may be. As the article above indicates, this approach limits the vocal possibilities for both cambiatas and adolescent baritones because neither group is able to use their comfortable singing area. It is more important to put them on a part where they may sing comfortably, so they will feel they are making a contribution to the choral process. If they don't feel they are contributing, ultimately they may drop choir so one runs the risk of permanently eliminating them from the choral process for life. Teaching and supporting a lifetime of singing should be the ultimate goal.
Prepared and submitted by:
Don L. Collins, Ph.D.
The Cambiata Institute of America
for Early Adolescent Vocal Music