It’s that time of year when pianists and teachers dust off their trusty Christmas carol / songbooks. There’s plenty to choose from; my personal favourite easy solo collection is ‘Pianoworks Christmas’ from OUP, but there’s plenty of great seasonal music collections out there.
When it comes to good duets however, the choice is more limited, especially if the primo player is a near-beginner. So I would like to warmly recommend this excellent collection from educational composer Heather Hammond, ‘Christmas Cool Piano Duets’.
‘Christmas Cool Piano Duets’ is brought to us by publishers Kevin Mayhew as part of their ‘Cool Piano’ series of books, written by Heather. The series comprises six volumes of ‘Cool Piano’, three volumes of ‘Even Cooler Piano’, and four volumes of ‘Cool Piano Sport’. These books are made up of Heather’s own compositions in a variety of contemporary styles, and are “graded” to help teachers and players match them to ongoing progression benchmarks. So ‘Christmas Cool Piano Duets’ is an exception within the series.
You can find out about all of Heather’s publications on the Kevin Mayhew site here »
Phew! On with the review!
‘Christmas Cool Piano Duets’ contains 12 seasonal pieces arranged for one piano, four hands, with the lower secondo part written for the teacher.
The primo part features the main melodies, with one hand playing single notes at a time, mostly within a five note range.
The included tunes will neither surprise nor disappoint, and are:
- Angels from the realms of glory
- Frosty the Snowman
- God rest ye merry gentlemen
- Good King Wenceslas
- Jingle Bells
- Joy to the World
- Rudolph the red-nosed reindeer
- Silent night
- Walking in the Air
- We the kings of Orient are
- We wish you a merry Christmas
- While shepherds watched their flocks
The teacher parts are written with a contemporary vibe befitting the ‘Cool Piano’ series, and while most teachers will have no difficulty sight-reading them, it is worth running them through when you get the book for the sake of familiarity, and so as to give the student full attention when playing together.
The student parts, while mostly staying within a five-note position, use quite a wide range of notes, including sharps and flats. At the top of each tune there is a handy guide showing the student where the hands need to be placed.
A couple of the arrangements include simple hand position changes, but nothing here is too taxing, and a pre-grade one student should easily be able to learn one a week alongside their other piano work. Players at ABRSM Grade 2-3 level will be able to sight read the pieces in their lessons, which will undoubtedly be an enjoyable treat as Christmas approaches!
Some publications are easy to review, because the general concept is a simple one, and its execution brilliantly done, and ‘Christmas Cool Piano Duets’ is such a book.
The book perfectly fits its niche, and is an excellent addition to the available Christmas repertoire. Heather is a superb composer and arranger, and the publishers have done a fine job of editing and reproducing her work here.
‘Christmas Cool Piano Duets’ is also very nicely presented, matching the series style. That said, I can’t help but feeling that some illustrations (preferably in colour) would have added the final cherry to this particular Christmas cake!
I know that my students and I will be enjoying these duet arrangements throughout December, and I hope you have a look at ‘Christmas Cool Piano Duets’ for yourself – it’s great!