Written by Helen Tierney.
By the time the music teacher gets to December, it does not always feel like the season of goodwill.
For music staff it is often the most exhausting part of the year. School musicians are needed everywhere: at Church services, school-based concerts, charity fund raising with carol-singing, or visits to residential homes. Music teachers work right up to the final hours of the last day of term, filing away carols from the night before, ready for next year. But of course, work needs to start pretty soon for that end of term festive extravaganza. So get browsing and ordering in these days of mists and mellow fruitfulness.
In Ye Olden Dayes, music staff pulled their Carols for Choirs off the shelves and away they went. Nowadays schools celebrate Christmas in so many different ways. It is important to get this right for students, staff and parents. Those organising carol services will no doubt use the brilliant Carols for Choirs (now in Books 1–5 and also a wonderfully useful and economical 100-song compilation).
There’s demand for more diversity of material and approach. What was termed the Christmas Concert may now be a Winter Festival, Seasonal Celebration, or a Solstice Singalong. Never fear: There is a wealth of publications to suit all needs from Sleigh Ride to Slade.
For primary you may want a selection of Christmas secular songs, which is covered so well in Little Voices: Christmas. It is a great introduction to part-singing at KS2. Favourites such as Let it Snow and Frosty the Snowman are also included in accessible arrangements in the Novello Primary Chorals – Easy Christmas.
Schools with carol services may find Carols for Young Choirs refreshing , as there are ten new settings of traditional carols. The musical styles include Irish folk, Jazz and Hoe-down. Audio and backing tracks will also support schools in need of more musical guidance. A more contemporary twist on the nativity play much loved by Primary parents is seen in both Manger Tom and Primary School Christmas Musical. Too Busy for Christmas, by Alison Carver is a tuneful and lively retelling of the Innkeeper and the stable.
Secondary school teachers tend to be more spoiled for choice, as concerts in December are often the most well attended of the year and usually aim to showcase the many different groups. Typing “Christmas” into the Musicroom Search Engine should sort out most demands for orchestras and ensembles. A Vaughan-Williams Christmas or Christmas String Ensemble are good examples. You can’t go wrong with a bit of festive Rutter or Chilcott in December, both well represented here, but also old Yuletide chestnuts…like the Chestnut song! Arrangements available include ukulele ensemble!
If you like to involve class performance, the Kaleidoscope arrangement of Vivaldi’s Autumn and Winter is tried and tested and offers ensemble flexibility for the less experienced performers.
In short, it’s a Winter Wonderland of musical possibility. Get ahead of the game to get into that seasonal spirit.
The Carols For Choirs books have established themselves as the quintessential carol books for carol-singers around the world. There’s a wide range of carols to suit every occasion, from well-known tunes superbly arranged to the best original compositions.