I’ve enjoyed lots of high school and collegiate choral performances over the course of my career: at festivals, concerts, conferences, etc.
It’s almost a cliche to end a choral performance with a spiritual or gospel piece. By my count, at least seven groups ended in just that way at the most recent National ACDA Conference.
In choral concert programs, we hear Sea Shanties, world folk songs, and other music indigenous to various cultures. Parker-Shaw arrangements are performed nationwide every year, covering all sorts of Americana and World folk music.
But for whatever reason, I rarely hear a collegiate or high school concert choir ever get close to the jazz world.
Vocal jazz is art music, equally so to Handel or Brahms. If your choir can sing a Whitacre a cappella piece, they’re going to do just fine at a Puerling a cappella piece.
Professional ensembles worldwide have come to see that the entire spectrum of vocal music can be performed by the same ensemble as part of a single program. Chanticleer’s closing set typically often includes Spirituals and vocal jazz side by side. Other ensembles melding these traditions include The King’s Singers, Voces8, Cantus (coming from the choral side of the spectrum) as well as the Swingle Singers and The Real Group (coming from the jazz/pop side).
I anxiously await hearing high school concert choirs include the art music available from vocal jazz as part of their concert programs: not just in their spring “pops” concert but as part of the meat of the year – side by side with Palestrina, Mozart, Stanford, or Pärt.
Wonder how to make this a reality? Talk to your state, divisional, or national ACDA Vocal Jazz R&S Chair – they’re knowledgable and excited to help.