Christmas Music Around the World Jennifer Linn

Christmas Around the World

Products featured here are selected for review by ANDREW EALES

Earlier this year I introduced Hal Leonard’s Jennifer Linn Series in my review of the excellent Easy Elementary collection Rendezvous At The Zoo.

Just in time for this year’s festivities, Christmas Around the World is a new addition to the series, this time suitable for Intermediate+ players, defined as:

“…advancing pianists who have progressed to the Piano Solo level and enjoy lush accompaniments and stylistic original compositions and arrangements.”

Whether adopted within the world of the Jennifer Linn Series or beyond it, this publication offers a very interesting and worthwhile addition to the seasonal music shelf of any player or teacher, so let’s investigate further…

12 Piano Arrangements

Christmas Around the World offers its twelve solos in progressive order of difficulty, meaning that players can learn new skills as they advance through the book, returning to it over successive years. I would suggest that the levels range in equivalence from around UK Grade 3-5.

As the title suggests, the collection’s core emphasis is on including music from different countries. This goal perhaps inevitably results in a publication in which several of the chosen tunes will be unknown to players, combining established favourites with fresh discoveries depending on each player’s own cultural experience of Christmas.

It is a minor disappointment that the book does not include background information or the words for any of the songs, but happily we are at least told their countries of provenance:

  • Cantique De Noel (O Holy Night) (French)
  • O Tannenbaum (German)
  • Go tell it on the mountain (African American)
  • Fum, fum, fum (Catalonian)
  • Gesù Bambino (Italian)
  • The Wexford Carol (Irish)
  • Ukrainian Bell Carol (Ukrainian)
  • The Huron Carol (Canadian)
  • Los Peces En El Río (Latin American)
  • Wśród Nocnej Ciszy (Polish)
  • Dormi, Dormi, Bel Bambino (Italian)
  • Dors, Ma Colombe (Sleep Little Dove) (Alsatian)

Linn is well-known for her brilliant arranging skills, and the book certainly does not disappoint on that front. The pieces are consistently rewarding, splendidly playable and delightful piano solos in their own right.

Songs which players may have encountered in other collections receive strikingly good arrangements here. O Tannenbaum, the Ukrainian Bell Carol and evergreen Cantique de Noel (O Holy Night) are particularly excellent, making this publication a strong recommendation for those wanting to revisit those songs, even before we consider the many other great discoveries to be found here.

And those fresh discoveries are very happy ones: for me, the nativity cradle songs Dormi, Dormi, Bel Bambino and Dors, Ma Colombe are especially beautiful in in these arrangements.

The book itself is a simple but very well produced affair, with sturdy cover and thick, white paper within. The pieces are two to three pagers in length, each score clearly and spaciously presented in generously sized notation. Fingering suggestions are included, and as expected are always well-designed.

Closing Summary

Jennifer Linn’s Christmas Around the World might not be the first publication to curate seasonal music from a wider range of traditions than is typical, but I think it is probably the most musically engaging and successful attempt I have yet seen.

The twelve included carols are certainly varied, combining national flavour with global appeal. The progressive design of the collection also makes it especially useful for teaching studios. Most importantly of all, Linn’s superior arrangements are terrific in every respect, creative and pedagogic.

I think this collection could prove hugely popular; it certainly brings a distinctive flavour and infectious internationalism to the festive mix. Fabulous!

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Published by

Andrew Eales

Andrew Eales is a widely respected piano educator, writer and composer based in Milton Keynes UK. His book HOW TO PRACTISE MUSIC is published by Hal Leonard.