A fourth tip for choosing a theme is to have themed sections of a program instead of an overarching theme. You can have three to five different sections of music that make up the program.
This method can simplify the repertoire selection process. It’s easier to find three to five songs that go together than a full program of songs. Furthermore, it provides greater variety in the program and gives more options for programming music that might not fit easily into a full-themed program.
The spring program at the high school where I taught had sections built into it. The high school choir sang the main sections of the program, and the German or Spanish class and music class(es) sang smaller sections throughout the program. With all those separate pieces to juggle, it was difficult to create a theme for the whole program. It was much easier to plan a theme for each section.
I mentioned in a previous note that I usually like to begin a full program with a section of praise or thanksgiving, so that’s what I did with the high school choir. After the praise section, I included two more sections in the program such as a children’s song section, a rain section, a great hymns of faith section, a Taizé community section, or a new hymns section. Instead of shaping the whole program as a unit, I shaped the smaller sections which fit together to create the whole program.
If you choose section themes that are somewhat related to each other, you might end up with a program that looks similar to what I suggested in Tip #1 without trying. That would be cool. But even if you choose section themes that are unrelated, you can still end up with a meaningful program. The key is that you choose music thoughtfully and purposefully within each section.