It’s Beginning To Sound A Lot Like Christmas

Are you looking for some new Christmas repertoire for your students? Well look no further! Kristin Stefanoff (South Australia) has cast her tinsel fingers over some new Christmas charts.

Kristin Stefanoff is a piano and voice teacher, an arts reviewer for Glam Adelaide, and a self-proclaimed musical theatre nut. When she’s not preparing students for exams, theatre auditions, or performances, she can be found in a rehearsal room or on a stage somewhere in Adelaide working on a musical. Kristin lives in Mount Barker with her very musical husband and daughter, and somewhat less musical dogs and chicken. Twitter: @StefanoffK

Christmas Piano Songs
Sequential Piano Songbooks

This book is a real find for teachers who may have a lot of students at different skill levels, or just for someone looking for a wide spread of arrangements. The book is indeed sequential in difficulty level, starting with arrangements at a pre-preliminary level (static hand position, one note at a time), up to about Grade 4 level by the end of the book. The arrangements are well-considered for the skill levels and the book includes some interesting pieces that often aren’t included in collections of easy arrangements, such as “Feliz Navidad”, “Mary Did You Know” and others. With the wide variety of pieces in this book, this would be a great addition to a teacher’s Christmas collection!

Peaceful Christmas Piano Solos
Peaceful Piano Solos

While it’s always fun playing highly creative arrangements with a well-known tune put to a different style, sometimes all you want is a nice but more traditional piano arrangement. This book is exactly what some teachers may be looking for. The arrangements tend to stick to a more traditional style, though some attempt some basic jazz style chords. The “Away in a Manger” medley (utilising the three commonly known tunes for this carol) is particularly lovely. Some of the arrangements I feel are less effective than others, but for the most part they are nice, intermediate level arrangements. I feel that these might be of particular interest to an adult learner who is looking for something nice to play but isn’t interested in some of the more adventurous arrangements that are out there.

Christmas Movie Magic
The Phillip Keveren Series

Philip Keveren has done it again with this book of simple arrangements of Christmas film tunes. The book is nicely laid out, and I appreciated the fact that longer songs were shortened in this arrangement to make them more suitable for young learners. There are plenty of fingering guides, making them easier to teach as well. It makes a nice change from traditional Christmas carols to have songs from The Polar ExpressDr Seuss’ How the Grinch Stole Christmas, and Home Alone, among others, although some of the older movies represented in this book may not be as well known to younger students, such as White Christmas or A Charlie Brown Christmas. Pitched at approximately Preliminary to Grade 1 level, students and teachers alike will enjoy the variety that this book brings to their Christmas repertoire.

Even More Christmas Creations
arranged by Randall Hartsell

This book is a collection of traditional Christmas songs arranged for intermediate piano solo. While some of the arrangements were somewhat disjointed in the way they jumped from one style to another without a transition, others were quite lovely. I particularly enjoyed “O Come O Come Emmanuel” and the “Away in a Manger Medley”, both of which were cleverly constructed and arranged in an interesting style. Be aware that there are some rather large hand stretches in these pieces, with a lot of octave chords and a few ninths, and younger students or those with smaller hands will struggle with these arrangements. Adult learners or anyone looking for some intermediate level Christmas arrangements would enjoy this book.

Jazz It Up! Christmas
Eric Baumgartner – Jazz It Up!

I’ve played a number of Eric Baumgartner’s arrangements over the years, and I’m never failed to be impressed by how good they are. These jazz arrangements of traditional Christmas songs (sitting at roughly a late intermediate/early advanced level) are another example of his masterful arrangements. They fit nicely under the hands, are true to jazz chord voicing and styles, and are just really fun to play! Many of the arrangements include a written solo to break up the themes in the pieces, and these felt comfortable to play and sounded great. It would be difficult to choose a favourite arrangement from this book, but the Latin “God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen” was great fun, as was the arrangement of “Jingle Bells”, which cheekily sneaks in motifs from several other Christmas tunes. I know what I’ll be playing this festive season!

*Please note, the ‘Second Edition’ of this book was reviewed and featured. There is also a ‘First Edition’ available with only 6 songs in it and play-along CD. See it HERE.

100 Most Beautiful Christmas Songs

I had no idea just how many Christmas songs I didn’t know until I started playing through this book! As you might expect from a book with 100 songs in it, there is a hugely eclectic mix of songs, including traditional religious carols (such as “O Come O Come Emmanuel” and “Hark the Herald Angels Sing”), popular Christmas songs (such as “Baby It’s Cold Outside” and “Blue Christmas”), and Christmas songs from movies (such as “Where Are You Christmas” from When the Grinch Stole Christmas, and “Star of Bethlehem” from Home Alone). They include standard arrangements for piano and voice with guitar chords, and most can easily stand alone as piano solos or work as flexible ensemble charts. As they are not specific piano arrangements or aimed at a particular age group or skill level, the pieces vary in difficulty, depending on the song. The only drawback to having such a comprehensive collection of songs in one book is that it was a struggle to keep the book open at the piano, but over time and with use this would likely improve (as it has with my copy of 100 Best Movie Songs). This collection would be a great single-purchase option for someone wanting as many Christmas songs as possible without being too concerned with special arrangements.

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