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Joining the rather crowded market of elementary Christmas piano collections, Hal Leonard’s newly released Christmas Songs for Kids aims to deliver,
“25 Holiday Favourites arranged for Easy Piano, with practice tips for learning each song.”
This tastefully clothed collection is definitely tempting in its excellent presentation, so let’s peek within the covers to see what’s inside…
25 Holiday Favourites…
Let’s start with a look at the contents page, which lists the following titles:
- All I Want For Christmas Is You
- The Chipmunk Song
- The Christmas Song (Chestnuts Roasting On An Open Fire)
- Christmas Time Is Here
- Do You Hear What I Hear
- Feliz Navidad
- Frosty The Snow Man
- Happy Holiday
- Here Comes Santa Claus (Right Down Santa Claus Lane)
- A Holly Jolly Christmas
- I Saw Mommy Kissing Santa Claus
- I’ll Be Home For Christmas
- It’s Beginning to Look Like Christmas
- Let It Snow! Let It Snow! Let It Snow!
- A Marshmallow World
- Mary, Did You Know?
- The Most Wonderful Time of the Year
- Rockin’ Around the Christmas Tree
- Rudolph the Red-nosed Reindeer
- Santa Claus is Comin’ to Town
- Silver Bells
- Somewhere In My Memory
- Underneath The Tree
- White Christmas
As you can see, the list is dominated by songs that have appeared in favourite Christmas films from Home Alone to White Christmas, TV shows (perennial favourite A Charlie Brown Christmas) and classic hits from Bing Crosby, The Jackson 5, Andy Williams, Michael Bublé and more.
And I think it’s fair to describe all these as “songs for kids” because they have so successfully transitioned to become classics beloved by every generation in the family!
For American readers (for whom this collection is the primary market), I suspect this reads as the essential must-have list of festive family favourites. For those of us in the UK, meanwhile, here is a selection of mostly popular songs which are perhaps a little overlooked by the more traditional Christmas fare often served up elsewhere.
…arranged for easy piano…
The arrangements in this collection (which are uncredited) are all in my view musically excellent, preserving the character, harmony and important riffs from the original songs.
They are however more difficult than the Phillip Keveren arrangements in A Magical Christmas and Christmas Movie Magic, both reviewed here.
I think that the book would suit players at late elementary level, around UK Grades 2-3. Expanding on this, the following points should not be taken as criticisms but rather as pointers which identify the correct level needed for success playing these lovely and hugely enjoyable arrangements.
While the textures are fairly sparse, all the pieces cover an extended note range, and several include triplets, dotted quavers, semiquavers, swing rhythms and syncopations. Some include passages of thirds and sixths within one hand, and stretches of a seventh that won’t suit smaller hands.
Most have a lot of accidentals, although none have more than one sharp or flat in the key signature except Underneath the Tree, which unexpectedly appears in E flat major. Helpfully, the melody range of most songs is a comfortable one for those singing along.
More tricky perhaps, very little fingering is provided, and teachers will want to be aware that they will almost certainly need to add this to help students. There is certainly plenty of space to do so: the notation is presented in a large music font, and is clearly engraved and well-spaced.
The words to the songs appear between RH and LH stave, including the verses, making it easier to sing and play at the same time. As such I think the book could prove particularly popular with adult learners who want to play and sing these songs with their own children.
…with Practice Tips
Sandwiched between the Contents page and the songs, the Practice Tips (again the author of these is uncredited) deliver six pages of notes on the pieces, with a short but commendably detailed paragraph on each.
These begin with an introduction to the song, noting who wrote and performed it, the context (film, television, etc) and where relevant the US Billboard chart position.
Useful teaching and playing tips follow, drawing attention to technical challenges and important aspects of musical style. The writing is suitable for adults (teachers, parents), and for UK readers I should note that American terminology (“measures”, “quarter-notes”, etc) is used throughout.
These tips offer a very welcome addition to what is already an attractive and thoughtfully presented publication.
Christmas Around the Piano
The Hal Leonard sheet music catalogue offers a formidably extensive and superb selection of Christmas music collections suitable for players of all ages, abilities and musical interests. Who, then, is this collection for?
In the US, to start with, I would suggest this new collection is an absolute essential for piano studios. I have no doubt that these arrangements will prove immensely rewarding when sung, played and taught in lessons. Teachers might want to consider introducing different songs to each of their students in the run-up to the Holiday Season, perhaps with a view to a shared term-end performance.
On both sides of the Atlantic, I think that this publication will appeal to school music teachers for use singing in classes and assemblies, with minimal need for piano accompaniment preparation, and an easy foundation for arranging parts for other instrumental players.
I think this is a collection which will have huge appeal to families in which one or more parent can play the piano. These easy arrangements will require little practice for the player who is intermediate or more advanced, while the whole family can sing along round the piano.
Finally of course, students of all ages who have progressed beyond the level of the Keveren titles mentioned above will welcome the more musically engaging arrangements that are available here.
In short, this is a book which I can happily recommend, and I hope it will bring comfort and joy to all who use it as they gather around the piano this merry Christmas season!
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