The Ultimate Christmas Book Review Corner

Over the years, we’ve gathered a whole host of reviews of fantastic Christmas sheet music collections, so this year we decided to tie them all up with one big red bow. Thanks so much to our various reviewers who have contributed over the years. If you’re interested in writing reviews for us, get in touch using the contact details on our website.

Christmas Movie Magic

This is a book full of sensitive and simple arrangements, ranging from ‘Have Yourself a Merry Little  Christmas’ from 1943, and songs from Irving Berlin’s White Christmas of 1952, to the current  favourite ‘Do You Want to Build a Snowman?’ from Frozen, with many in between. Styles vary from  the heart wrenching ‘Glasgow Love Theme’ from Love Actually to the fun of ‘You’re a Mean One, Mr  Grinch’ from Dr Seuss’ How the Grinch Stole Christmas.  

The book seems around AMEB Preliminary with its easily readable pages, but may extend to grade 1 due to some interesting harmony and changing hand positions. There are lots of known songs, and some unknown to me as well, but this simply provides an opportunity for exploration and the  adding of new repertoire to the Christmas collection – I could imagine looking up movie clips on  YouTube and having lots of fun. 

I’m looking forward to using this book with students!

-Kate Spyker

Christmas Sentiments

This is a lovely book containing 19 pretty and lyrical arrangements of sentimental Christmas  themed songs. They range from sacred favourites such as ‘The Little Drummer Boy’ and ‘Who Would  Imagine a King’, to songs from movies such as ‘White Christmas’, ‘Polar Express’, and even ‘Home  Alone’, as well as stand alone songs in between. As with the above book, while not all songs are known, they are all beautifully arranged and worth learning: they are all unique and have different moods and points of value. I particularly appreciated the chord symbols as an excellent teaching point, and many of the songs include some colourful jazz harmony which not only sounds lovely but also provides more teaching and a counter balance to the more traditional harmonies.  

It’s also easily readable with good sized typesetting and I’d put it at AMEB Grade 1 – 2. 

-Kate Spyker

Christmas Classics

This book was so much fun to play through! It may well be more for teachers than students though,  unless there is a real jazz focus in your studio, as the pieces are really quite lush and complex.  

There is a great deal of learning included for all as it features a range of styles including: swing,  lyrical, blues and Latin grooves. There are also a range of moods from somber and tender to bright  and joyous. As someone who is attempting to teach her classical brain how to understand and play  jazz I really appreciate the chord symbols so that I can connect theory to sound. 

I’m planning on playing ‘Do You Want to Build a Snowman’ at my end of year concert and am  having a great time learning it!

-Kate Spyker

Christmas Carols Music Activity Book

This book is an absolute goldmine! It manages to give a clear introduction to piano from notes on  the staff, the keyboard, and note values, through to time signatures. It contains 27 Christmas Carols, most of which will be well known to Australian audiences, in alpha note lead sheet style with chord symbols which will be very accessible for many different levels to play.  

On top of all of this it contains many activities and games such as colouring in, word searches, a  crossword, and mazes. 

It’s an awesome resource and supplement for Christmas time, and would be a great book to send  home over the Christmas holidays.

-Kate Spyker

Christmas at the Piano – 23 Seasonal Selections

This is the perfect Christmas repertoire book for the more advanced pianist. It includes a mix of the Christmas favourites such as Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer and The Little Drummer Boy alongside the more popular hits you’ll hear on the radio such as Winter Wonderland, I’ll Be Home for Christmas and Jingle Bell Rock.

The Jazz style of the songs gives way to interpretive playing with pieces ranging from a grade five stand and above. Some pieces do require a larger hand span but these can always be edited by a teacher or even the student to suit their span.

-David Catterall

My First Piano Adventures – Christmas Book A

The Piano Adventures method series is my go-to for almost all my students and their supplementary books are well in abundance alongside them.

This Christmas book is the perfect fit for very young students learning pre-stave music. It is a mix of familiar tunes alongside some other Christmas themed music. Pre-reading music is quite limited so this is a fantastic inclusion for all early learners.

-David Catterall

American Popular Piano – Christmas Book 1

Christopher Norton has really hit the mark with this one! This is an excellent pedagogical book for teaching students in the areas of Lyrical music, Rhythmic music and Ensemble music. Backing tracks are provided for the ensemble pieces which sound even better when accompanied with the teacher accompaniments.  The tracks are accessed online with a username and password provided in the book.

Each piece also comes with thought-provoking questions to the student to establish greater musical playing. Early preliminary students will benefit most from this book.

-David Catterall

The Christmas Variations

Phillip Keveren’s piano publications have been increasingly filling my shelf this year and this has to be one of my favourites! This book has eight duets arranged for familiar Christmas Carols with small twists on the original to keep you guessing what’s coming next.

The parts are easy to learn since a lot of it is written in octaves. This book would be suitable for students around grades 4 to 6.

-David Catterall

Christmas Hits – Volume 4

This is a cute little book of classic favourites for the late elementary students. The arrangements are simple, with guided finger numbers and minimal page turning. A bonus for this book is the CD accompaniments with adjustable tempos!

-David Catterall

Sequential Christmas Piano Songs

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!

– Kristin Stefanoff

Even More Christmas Creations

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.

-Kristen Stefanoff

Jazz It Up! Christmas

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!

– Kristin Stefanoff

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.

-Kristen Stefanoff

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