Regular readers will know that I am quite a fan of Faber Music’s Piano Player series, originally projected to include seven books, five of which are already available and reviewed here, with the final two anticipated for 2024.
With decorous covers sporting the artwork of Edward Bawden (1903-1989), a pull-out reproduction to keep and frame, and a mixed range of popular classics and tasteful arrangements geared towards adult intermediate players, the series has carved out a very particular and worthwhile niche.
Taking us unawares, Faber Music have just launched a new addition to the series. Not billed among the seven titles advertised so far, The Piano Player Christmas Time is more than just a welcome surprise…
‘Tis the Season
Last year’s The Piano Player Wintertide Collection (reviewed here) is already a favourite, offering a wonderful array of seasonal music to warm the cockles, but without a focus on specifically Christmas-themed titles.
This new book complements that collection nicely, delivering a more traditional feast of festive favourites:
- Angels from the Realms of Glory (Traditional)
- Away In A Manger (Traditional)
- The Christmas Song [Nat King Cole]
- Coventry Carol (Traditional)
- Do They Know It’s Christmas? [Band Aid]
- Driving Home For Christmas [Chris Rea]
- The First Noel (Traditional)
- Gabriel’s Message (Traditional)
- God Rest Ye Merry, Gentlemen (Traditional)
- Good King Wenceslas (Traditional)
- Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas [Frank Sinatra]
- I Believe in Father Christmas [Greg Lake]
- I’ll Be Home for Christmas [Tony Bennett]
- In the Bleak Midwinter (Traditional) [Gustav Holst]
- Jingle Bells (Traditional)
- Joy To The World (Traditional)
- Let It Snow! Let It Snow! Let It Snow! [Dean Martin]
- Little Donkey [Eric Boswell]
- The Little Drummer Boy [Bing Crosby]
- O Little Town Of Bethlehem (Traditional)
- Silent Night [Franz Xaver Gruber]
- Stop the Cavalry [Jona Lewie]
- Sussex Carol (On Christmas Night) (Traditional)
- We Three Kings (Traditional)
- While Shepherds Watched (Traditional)
The Christmas carols included tend to be given faithful arrangements that evoke the familiar four-part harmonies of the hymnal, while the more contemporary titles are given the jaunty solo piano arrangements more typical of pop songs and jazz standards.
In all cases, the song lyrics are included between left- and right-hand staves, making the book ideal for a family and friends singalong, fulfilling the book’s tagline:
“25 of the best-loved carols and Christmas songs, specially arranged for intermediate piano solo, with lyrics for singing along.”
Having seen otherwise good Christmas piano books spoilt by the omission of the words, their inclusion here is a welcome win, even if it sets the book slightly apart from the others in the series.
In terms of level I would say that, as usual with The Piano Player imprint, the bulk of the music sits at the upper end of intermediate, and the pieces are presented in ascending order of difficulty.
Four-part harmony is not easy to play smoothly on the piano, with good voicing, a singing melody line and effective pedalling, and the contemporary songs arrangements are in some cases quite complex. On balance however, I would suggest that this collection is slightly easier than The Piano Player Wintertide Collection so should perhaps be investigated first.
Devotees of the series will already know that the presentation of these books is very classy. This one has 64 pages (printed on white paper), the notation is as spaciously presented as is Faber’s custom, and there are fingering suggestions throughout (albeit at times minimal), which is helpful indeed.
As a simple book of seasonal fare, this collection certainly joins a very crowded market, but for collectors of The Piano Player series its appeal will be as obvious as it is understated.
Meanwhile, for those in the market for a fairly standard book of well-loved Christmas music, this one certainly makes an attractive and affordable choice that deserves a prime position on the shortlist.
The Piano Player Christmas Time very nicely fulfils its remit, and can be given a warm and hearty welcome! Now then, where’s the sherry?…
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