Written by Fiona Lau.
Playing Christmas music is a great way to connect piano playing with what’s going on seasonally. It improves sight-reading, and it’s good to have fun playing tunes that everyone is familiar with. It makes piano lessons and playing relevant to real life.
If you have pupils using a particular tutor book scheme, there is a Christmas book that will match their level. The Piano Adventures series has a Christmas book for every level, starting with My First Piano Adventure Books A (pre-reading), B and C. There is also one for every level of their tutor books series. The contents vary from traditional carols to contemporary songs and some original compositions. They also have theory and sight-reading activities in them too.
Beautifully presented and clearly laid out, The Hal Leonard Student Piano Library also has Christmas Piano Solos for every level of their series. The Adult Piano Method isn’t forgotten either with Christmas Favourites Book 1 and 2 available. Piano Time Carols have 19 festive favourites arranged for beginners through to Grade 2 standard, which means it can be used for more than one year. The duet accompaniments are, as always with this series, absolutely spot on.
Moving out of tutor book mode, because it is sometimes good to encounter a new technique or style via a known Christmas tune. At an early level, Hammond’s Cool Piano Duets are for beginners to Prep test level. These all have great duet accompaniments and sound fab.
Christmas Carols for Beginners by Blake and Capp are at a similar level and have duet accompaniments too. Here, each piece also sounds convincing as a solo. Bastien’s Christmas Songs books are always good. Furthermore, Carol Matz’s Famous and Fun series book 1–5 has the absolute best duet accompaniments ever; they’re simply ravishing.
Jazzy pieces also provide a great incentive to practise, play and perform. For my grade 3–6 pupils Christmas Jazzin’ About by Wedgwood (includes solos and a couple of duets). Christmas Jazz, Rags and Blues, books 1–4 by Mier make us all sound like jazz or cocktail pianists in a classy restaurant or hotel. Christmas with Style by Jerry Ray does have the US versions of Angels We Have Heard on High and Away in a Manger amongst its 10 gentle jazzy and contemporary arrangements but they are so well done that you will not care. Created for Grade 5–7, these books are well worth learning and, for me they mark the start of Christmas.