We are delighted to present these free digital downloads for piano players and teachers, and really hope they will be useful to you this Christmas time.
We hope the additional information about the carols will give some interesting facts for you to share with your students, and the teaching content section will help you determine which students they will be most useful for.
Very best wishes, Karen Marshall and David Blackwell
In dulci jubilo
In dulci jubilo [PDF Download]
The poetic origin of this carol is that it was sung by angels to the 14th century mystic and Dominican monk Heinrich Seuse (Suso). In his autobiographical Little Book of the Eternal Wisdom, Suso tells of angels visiting him and singing and dancing this joyful song about the infant Jesus.
True or not, the song was known in Germany by the early 14th century. The text is unusual in being in two languages – Latin and German originally – but today is often sung just in English:
‘Good Christians all, rejoice, with heart and soul and voice … Christ is born today!’
There is a rich harmonisation by Bach, but a simple accompaniment with drones and light chords captures the dance-like nature of the carol.
Arrangement and teaching content
The piece is useful for working on three-time (always a challenge in the beginning stages) and also playing simple chords. Students can struggle to play both notes together at this stage.
In addition the piece also features the melody moving from right hand to left, stretching the little finger to play an A and also passing 2nd finger over thumb. The notation spans the two octaves above and below middle C.
In the bleak mid-winter
In the bleak midwinter [PDF Download]
Christina Rossetti’s text, the first verse of which we print here, has two popular and lovely settings.
The first is by Harold Darke from 1911, often sung at carol services, and voted the best Christmas carol in 2008 in a poll by leading choral directors.
The second is this simpler hymn-like setting by Gustav Holst, composed for the first edition of The English Hymnal in 1906, edited by his friend Ralph Vaughan Williams.
Holst wrote a beautiful melody, that rises and falls with the text, and some awareness of this shape will help create a musical performance. The dotted notes are as Holst’s original, though it can – perhaps as a first step? – be played with crotchets.
Pupils should play the tune an octave higher when the duet part is added. This matches Holst’s harmony, and creates a calm accompaniment, allowing the pupil to shine in this lovely melody.
Arrangement and teaching content
This piece is really written for the very beginning stages, and is particularly good at getting students to play Middle C with the left hand. With the thumb on D in the right hand, it’s useful for moving away from the Middle C position, and can also be helpful for counting dotted minims and semi-breves.
If your student is able, why not use the dotted crotchet, quaver rhythm alternative? It’s a lovely aural activity to get the student to hear the difference between the two.
Text: David Blackwell
All images and downloads included in this post are copyright Collins Music, shared with the kind permission of HarperCollins Publishers.
MORE Christmas Cracker Content
Celebrate Get Set! Piano Christmas Crackers on Pianodao:
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Get Set! Piano Christmas Crackers is available now!