Looking for Holiday Piano or Organ Music?
Tis the season to dust off those holiday music books. I play two services every Sunday and have done so for about 10 years. With my inability to pass up appealing new releases, my holiday music selection continues to grow...and grow. Although I look forward to selecting music for the festive Advent services, I face two predicaments.
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Quandary #1: Because I tend to find a new Christmas piano book or two that I "need" every year, the stack I must dig through each November gets higher and higher. This in turn makes the decision of what to play during December services even more difficult. I have way too many favorites and the season is far too short!
Below is a tiny compilation of Christmas books I recommend with no reservations.
Here's a list of dependable composers. I purchase EVERY one of their books (or at least most of them). I've listed only ONE favorite book of each composer and mention only one must-play solo from each book. It was extremely difficult to choose just one.
Christmas Tapestry by Joseph Martin. His books are always appealing with just the right amount of challenge, take a look at "Joy to the World" and his website here.
Emmanuel by Mark Hayes. "The Father's Rose" is a lovely prelude that immediately quiets the congregation. Mark's online store is featuring 20% off.
Home for the Holidays by Lorie Line. This is great news that this library standard is back in print. Get it while you can here and try "O Come All Ye Faithful".
Unto Us a Child by Heather Sorenson. "Silent Night" is mesmerizing and unforgettable. Find more about Heather and her books here.
Here's some I purchased last year and finally read through recently.
We Gather Together Vol 2 by Bradley Sowash. This book features solos for Christmas and beyond. "O Come, O Come Emmanuel" is a rhythmic challenge with fun harmonies. Find more Christmas books and CD's here.
Wondrous Christmas by James Koerts: "Good Christian Men Rejoice" is my postlude for this Sunday. It should get the congregation up on their toes. Here's his website which offers some free pdfs as well.
All of these artists have new releases--worth checking them out, as they all promise to deliver fantastic selections that will please you and your congregation.
FYI: even if you don't play the organ, you may enjoy the video (of me) at the end of the blog. Scroll down.
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Quandary #2: Although I consider the piano to be my main instrument, the organ is a close second. It may just be my taste in styles, but I find it much more difficult to find favorite Christmas organ books vs piano books.
Here's some favorites I return to year after year:
Carols and Candles (Lorenz) complied by Peter Benjamin Nice collection of quiet, accessible, lovely preludes, communion selections.
Christmas Joy (Morning Star) by Dan Miller. MIDI suggestions for several arrangements of carols are included. Start practicing now if you want to polish an impressive, one-of-a-kind, rockin' rhythmic presentation of "Christmas Joy!"--LOVE IT!
Festive Gloria (Morning Star) by Aaron Miller. Just released this year, I will be pulling out this exhilarating prelude or postlude next year just because it is so fun to play.
Three Christmas Preludes (Morning Star) by Robert A Hobby. "What Child is This?" included in this collection is my FAVORITE organ arrangement of this carol.
Two Christmas Hymns for Organ (Concordia) by Wayne Kerr. This includes accessible "winners" for Christmas Eve postludes.
Variations on Sussex Carol (Concordia) by Raymond H Haan. A long time favorite, I've even divided the variations into a prelude, offertory and postlude.
Beyond the Standard Repertoire
Mannheim Steamroller rocked the world of Christmas music with their stunning albums combining fresh, imaginative orchestrations of favorite carols. About 5 years ago, my church purchased--much to my delight--an Allen Renaissance Quantum Organ. This pipeless organ features unprecedented pipe organ sound samples AND 200+ MIDI voices. The possible settings attainable with such an instrument are overwhelming--it's like a candy department store. I've owned and played from the Mannheim Steamroller Fresh Aire Piano Solo book for a while but about 4 years ago, I decided to orchestrate "Hark the Herald Angels Sing" for the organ. This year, I've decided to bring it back. Below is a video of me playing the arrangement.
Disclaimer: I always practice the organ in the early mornings before anyone else arrives in the church building. This means, I usually hop out of bed, grab some coffee and don my workout clothes for an upcoming exercise class--thus my attire, hair and no make-up....
I'd be happy to give you more details on any of the items mentioned above,
and supply you with ideas for your holiday music needs
before you make the investment.