Earlier this year, Faber Music released a brilliant compilation of jazzy pieces selected by Pam Wedgwood from her back catalogue of bestsellers.
In my review of the Jazzin’ About Anthology, I described it as,
“a superb publication which I can truly recommend without reservation.”
Now Faber have followed it up with The Pam Wedgwood Christmas Collection, and the same high praise is due.
Producing this book is certainly a smart and welcome move. Wedgwood has an impressive archive of Christmas-themed music to mine, having produced several books of traditional, jazzy and contemporary seasonal music in the After Hours, Jazzin’ About, and Up Grade! series, not forgetting the excellent It’s Never Too Late to Play… Christmas collection.
With such a wealth of material to choose from, let’s find out what Wedgwood and Faber Music have picked…
A Seasonal Feast
Faber Music tell us,
The 32 pieces are presented progressively in order of difficulty from elementary to late intermediate, and are as follows:
- The Mistletoe Mystery
- Let the Bells Ring Out (Jingle Bells)
- Close Your Eyes
- We Three Kings
- Past Three O’clock
- Let it Snow! Let it Snow! Let it Snow!
- Coventry Carol
- Ding, Dong Merrily on High
- Little Donkey
- O Come, all Ye Faithful
- Silent Night
- Once in Royal David’s City
- The Holly and the Ivy
- The Christmas Song
- Deck the Halls
- Winter Wonderland
- Christmas Jingle
- On Christmas Night – I Saw Three Ships
- Hark the Herald Angels Sing
- Sugar and Spice
- Look High Above
- Away in a Manger
- The Angel Gabriel
- I Wonder as I Wander
- O Peaceful Little Town of Bethlehem
- In the Bleak Midwinter
- The Virgin Mary had a Baby Boy
- We’ll Shop ‘Til We Drop!
- The Little Drummer Boy
- We Wish You a Merry Christmas
- Auld Lang Syne
The book draws liberally from seven of Wedgwood’s best-selling collections of old, without replacing any of them in your library, and includes four brand new compositions (shown above in italics).
Wedgwood writes in her Introduction to the book,
“I always enjoy the challenge of adding my own twist to your favourite Christmas pieces! In this collection I have woven interesting and engaging melodies around the main themes without losing the wonderful Christmas music that you know and love…
The music in this collection covers many different styles and is presented progressively from early elementary to intermediate level, offering seasonal challenges to players for many years.”
This seems to me a very accurate estimation of the musical content on offer here, and the scope of the collection itself.
As one would expect from Pam Wedgwood, the stylistic variety encompasses a mixture of traditional arrangements, jazzed up alternative takes, and more mellow reflective pieces.
While the more advanced player might enjoy playing through the whole collection in one season, many learners will be confined to attempting a handful of pieces each Christmas; this publication offers a lovely variety of music at each level, likely to prove sufficient, and genuinely enjoyable, year after year.
Unwrapping the Gift
The publication itself is attractively presented, with a vibrant card cover and 72 white pages within. There’s the usual title pages, credits, a brief introduction by the composer, and a spacious laid out contents spread, after which the rest of the book offers a straightforward presentation of the scores.
The earlier, easier pieces in the book are drawn from the brilliant Easy Jazzin’ About the Year (which I reviewed here, and which remains an essential title to own), Up-Grade Christmas and It’s Never Too Late to Play Christmas. These are just one or two pages long, and include helpful fingering suggestions. The delightfully melodic new piece Robin also fits in nicely here.
From Christmas Jingle onwards, the fingering suggestions are more occasional, and the pieces begin to include page turns. Presumably the scores are based on the existing assets from Christmas Jazzin’ About, After Hours Christmas and After Hours Jazz Christmas, although I noticed that the presentation here is more spacious that it was in those earlier publications.
Sugar and Spice is another new piece, with a relaxed swing feel, while Look High Above is a new carol, presented with lyrics so the player can sing along. The final new addition here is We’ll Shop ‘Til We Drop; with the tempo marking “Desperado!” and agitated semiquaver patterns, the piece lies nicely under the hands, is great fun to play, and showcases Wedgwood’s characteristic wit and good humour.
The publication includes audio recordings of Pam Wedgwood playing all 32 pieces, which can be downloaded from the Faber Music website here, and will be especially helpful to less confident players.
Pam Wedgwood has created some excellent Christmas music over the years, and this well-priced anthology offers a nicely balanced selection of some of her very best seasonal music. It is a collection which will suit pianists of all ages, but will undoubtedly have particular resonance and special appeal for older players.
While not relegating her other collections to the attic (there’s some superb pieces, and unmissable duets that are not included here), this collection really offers a neat and complete package in its own right.
To summarise, The Pam Wedgwood Christmas Collection is an essential purchase for any player wanting to spread some much-needed cheer this Christmas, and will undoubtedly be called into service for many more to come!
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