Music Teacher's Helper Blog

Inspired Holiday Music

It is this time of the year again! I always look forward to checking out new arrangements of my favorite holiday music. This year, three collections will become staples in my studio.

Christmas Extravaganza by Robert D. Vandall

imageThis is a collection of three books, from Early to Late Intermediate levels. It was great fun when I was sight reading through the pieces for my students, as each one sounds so impressive. Each arrangement of familiar Christmas favorites combines both fresh and familiar harmonies with unique melodic treatments and interesting rhythms.

imageThe composer intended these to have show-stopper effects, hence the name “extravaganza,” yet technically they are accessible and fit comfortably in the hands. Some of them are inspired by famous classical pieces. For example, in Book 3, The First Noel started with the theme from Canon in D by Johann Pachelbel, and one can recognize the familiar theme being cleverly interwoven into the piece. My teenage girls absolutely LOVE this arrangement! There are also plenty arrangements that will appeal to boys, such as We Three Kings of Orient Are from Book 2, with its March-like rhythm and use of the rich, low register of the piano. In fact, the whole collection is about exploring pianistic freedom around the keyboard, and allowing students to shine as they play and become inspired by the wonderful music of the season.

Christmas Impressions by Catherine Rollin

imageThis is also a collection of three books from Early Intermediate to Late Intermediate levels. The selections here are especially suitable for teenage students and adults, as they sound more difficult than they actually are. If you are familiar with Catherine Rollin’s music, you will find that these are similar in style to her Preludes for Piano. They are very charming and rewarding to play. I can see my students falling in love with the impressionistic harmonies and figurations. I can also see myself playing these for my holiday party guests!

An Impressionistic Christmas by Faye Lopez

imageSpeaking of holiday parties, this book of holiday music will sure impress your friends who are also pianists. There are 10 early-advanced-level arrangements in this book, each inspired by a famous composition by Debussy. As I played through the pieces, I am in awe of the arranger’s ingenuity! They are so clever and tastefully done. I think even Debussy would have approved! Just look at the titles: Away in a Manger (Inspired by Clair de lune) * Go, Tell It on the Mountain (Inspired by Le petit negre) * Good Christian Men, Rejoice (Inspired by First Arabesque) * Hark! The Herald Angels Sing (Inspired by La cathedrale engloutie) * Infant Holy, Infant Lowly (Inspired by Reflets dans l’eau) * Lo, How a Rose E’er Blooming (Inspired by La fille aux cheveus de lin) * O Come, All Ye Faithful (Inspired by Reverie) * O Come, O Come, Emmanuel (Inspired by Jardins sous la pluie) * O Holy Night (Inspired by Doctor Gradus ad Parnassum) * While Shepherds Watched Their Flocks (Inspired by The Little Shepherd).

I just found out that there are two other books in this collection by the same composer – A Classical-Style Christmas and A Romantic-Style Christmas. This is the first time I have come across music by Faye Lopez, and I am a fan!

Whether you are looking for holiday music for your students or yourself, the above collections will impress any audience.

Have a wonderful holiday season!


About the Author

Yiyi Ku
Yiyi Ku is a pianist and teacher. Born in Taiwan, she grew up in New Zealand and obtained her Master of Music degree with Distinction in Composition and Piano Performance from the University of Canterbury. Yiyi also holds a Licentiate in Piano Performance from the Associated Board of the Royal Schools of Music. She is a Nationally Certified Teacher of Music in Piano from Music Teachers National As... [Read more]

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