Favorite Christmas Music to Celebrate the Season
I know it's a little late to be sharing this list. If you've already chosen all of your music for your students, various church services and gigs, then consider these options for next year. That's the nice thing about music--it never goes out of style! In fact, I've included links to my favorite holiday sheet music from years past so you can check those out, too.
From Leila Viss
Life happens and I'm SO happy to share that I will have a lovely flautist (and another female) in the family! In June 2016, my son is marrying Brittany who is a senior in college earning a degree in education and music. This called for an arrangement for piano and flute to celebrate the occasion!
Here's my setting (with some expert input from Brittany) of "Infant Holy, Infant Lowly." It IS notated--anybody need a Christmas piano and flute duet?
From Wendy Stevens
Wendy always takes an interesting twist on tunes. After I played this for a postlude, a congregational member thoroughly enjoyed it and said it reminded him of Copland's "Rodeo!" Here's the link to purchase your copy.
From Paul Sweet
Beginning this year, some of Sweet's music can be found at Jennifer Eklund's site Piano Pronto where she is selling the works of a number of composers besides her own. You are sure to find Sweet's music uplifting, hip and just a tad bit of challenge mixed in to keep you on your toes. Order the sheet music for this piano duet "Up On the Housetop" here. So sorry I didn't secure a duet partner to play this with this year. Maybe next year!
From Mark Hayes
A student of mine was looking for an arrangement of "White Christmas" and my search ended when I found this book by Mark Hayes. You can ALWAYS count on him for extraordinary arrangements. His book Popular Performer Christmas Classics does not disappoint but be ready to practice some. These are challenging but satisfying arrangements. Tip: Shop at MarkHayes.com for a 20% discount. The two selections I played for church services this year: "Let there Be Peace On Earth" and "Little Drummer Boy."
From James Koerts
Koerts seems to have this magical touch for arranging. He is the most prolific composer of sacred piano music I know! Every time I need an arrangement of a hymn or Christmas tune, Koerts has one, usually accessible with a little practice and ALWAYS appealing. I'm not sure how he does it. This year I played "What Child is This," "The First Noel" and "Go Tell it On the Mountain" from his first volume of Sacred Christmas Volume 1. As many of his scores are in a digital format, they are easily loaded into forScore where I can enjoy hands-free page turns. The video below shows how slick this combination of the iPad Pro, forScore and the AirTurn PED work while I'm playing Koerts' arrangement of "What Child is This?"
From Marianne Kim
Hooray! I discovered a new composer of organ music that likes jazz, interesting chords and unique settings. Make sure to add Kim's recently released book The Heart and Soul of Christmas to your organ music collection. I enjoyed playing her "I Wonder as I Wander" and "Angels We Have Heard on High" this year--more to come next year!
From Dan Miller
Every year I look for a "showstopper" organ piece that has "dazzling appeal" for the congregation and is ideal for showcasing the marvelous features of the church's Allen Quantum Renaissance organ. Dan Miller's "Festive Encore on We Wish You a Merry Christmas" fits the bill perfectly. Miller's unique arrangement artfully mixes in the standard holiday tune with some favorite Baroque repertoire and hints of Widor's "Toccata." I've avoided that piece my entire organ career and finally gave in with this piece! I think you'll enjoy the extra MIDI sounds I add in as the piece progresses. Miller's arrangement is found in his book Two Festive Christmas Settings.
From Chris Rice
Chris is perhaps best known for his song "Untitled Hymn." I'm a longtime fan of his Living Room Sessions. I purchased his book Living Room Sessions: Christmas years ago and then promptly forgot about it. After digging it out again, I enjoyed playing his arrangement of "Joy to the World" and "O Holy Night." The entire book is a compilation of fresh contemporary settings that are accessible and lean towards fewer notes than more notes--a nice change from the some of the other pieces included in this post. Good news: the book is pricey on Amazon but I just discovered you can purchase any single from Rice's book at Musicnotes.com.
From Glenda Austin
Just in! Willis Music is now offering a freebie of Austin's arrangement of "What Child is This?" Follow this link. Have you seen her playing snippets of holiday tunes on Facebook? She squeezes so much character into every captivating bar. Her Solos for the Sanctuary - Christmas book will be on the top of my Christmas book pile for next year!
There's many more I did not include here. Can you ever have TOO many music books?
Favorite music of 2014
"O Come All Ye Faithful" arr by Paul Sweet
I enjoyed creating a rousing organ piece from Paul Sweet's piano arrangement of "O Come All Ye Faithful." Follow this link to learn more and purchase your copy.
"Go Tell it On the Mountain" arr by Leila Viss
Last year, I offered my original arrangement "Go Tell it On the Mountain" for free. Follow this link if you missed it and want a copy.
Favorite Music of 2013
In this post I listed ten selections that I or my students played during the season. I'd still include them all again this year if I didn't have so many other favorites! Here's some wise pianists performing Wendy Steven's "We Three Kings."
How are YOU and your students playing it forward in 2016? Stay tuned for more details as I flesh out this idea of sharing the gift of music with others.