Christmas Carols: From Around the World, a brand new publication arranged by Gail Fischler carols are for intermediate level performers. After playing through them, I would say many would work for your early intermediate students and even some strong late elementary students as well. So I think intermediate really suggests anything in that leveled frame. (early, mid, late) I really enjoyed the pieces Gail chose to arrange for this book. Though I did recognize a few, there were several that I hadn’t heard before and really enjoyed playing them.
He is Born (France) starts off pretty simple and sweet but becomes more exciting when you turn to the 2nd page and the left hand crossovers begin. This is a piece that sounds harder than it is once the student gets the left hand crossovers. Very fun to play!
Sleep Jesus, Sleep (Ukraine) is a lovely piece with a beautiful melody line. Very simple patterns repeated throughout making it a perfect Christmas lullaby.
The Branch (Mexico) is one of my favorite carols from Mexico so I was pleased this piece was included. I just love La Rama, the tradition of the branch, where children in Mexico go from house to house carrying a lovely branch and singing. This arrangement represents this traditional piece well, full of fun rhythms to play and enjoy.
God is Born (Poland) was a new piece to me and one that I really enjoyed. The melody line is simple with repeating patterns. It begins with the melody in the right hand and then transfers over to the left hand.
And the Trees Do Moan (Appalachia USA) begins with a lovely broken chord pattern in the right hand and then the strong left hand melody takes over. I loved the decision of starting the melody in the left hand. By the second page it merges over to the right hand.
Tru’s Jingle Bells (USA) starts off with the jingle bell effect and goes into the strong Jingle Bell melody in the left hand that we all have come to love. The pattern changes on the second page which gives it a little lift and then closes with the “jingle bell” effect at the end. Lovely arrangement.
I Am So Glad (Norway) was another piece I wasn’t familiar with and so glad Gail included it in her book. Written in 6/8, this was a very fun upbeat piece to play and represents Norway well. I love the sixteenth note patterns she began and ended with. Just one page but so fun! I would imagine it owed become a student favorite.
I really enjoyed playing each of these arrangements. Each arrangement was just 1-2 pages which makes it perfect for students to learn all of them over the holidays. My only regret is that this book wasn’t available last year when I held my Christmas Around the World Camp. I would have loved to showcase these pieces with my students. But the great thing about Christmas music, they can be shared no matter what the environment.
I asked Gail a few questions that I thought you may be interested in knowing….
What made you want to arrange a Christmas Carols: From Around the World book?
Christmas time is a time for family and each family makes new memories every year. It’s fun to learn about the Christmas traditions of other countries and cultures through carols and I love discovering new ones. So, a book of both familiar and unfamiliar carols was the perfect extension of my folk song arrangements from around the world.
Do you have any favorites in this book and what makes them you favorite?
Oh boy, that is like asking which is my favorite child. But, if I need to choose, I love Sleep Jesus, Sleep and He is Born. Sleep Jesus, Sleep is a lovely lullaby from Ukraine and He is Born is a more familiar and lively tune from France. The two paint very opposite scenes from the Christmas story. The first is a quiet scene of worship and awe and the second is a joyous shout to the rooftops.
Have you visited any of these countries?
Sadly, I have not. But that’s the great thing about music isn’t it? We can travel and experience many cultures and times through the music we share. I like to think of all my arrangements and original pieces as musical postcards.
Have you arranged anything else?
I collaborated on the volume Latin America with Neeki Bey for Piano Accents which was published in 2012. He is currently taking Piano Accents in a cool new direction and as usual something terrific came from a closed door. I now have the privilege of working with the very talented Elena Cobb of EVC Publications and being in the company of her group of talented modern composers. I currently have some very cool music on the back burner. I’m very excited about these newest compositions which are a blend of folk elements and songs set in modern styles.
Anything else that would be fun to know in regards to this book?
I began creating arrangements of folk music for my students to give them the opportunity to discover a variety of music and styles from around the world. I try very hard to make each piece full and satisfying no matter the level.
I had a lot of fun setting these carols. When I first heard And the Trees Do Moan from Appalachia, I immediately heard the opening of the Rachmaninoff G# Minor Prelude in my head. So I simplified Rachmaninoff’s pattern and worked to keep the haunting, moving character. Of course I also changed the key.
One day my almost 3 year old Grandson was improvising on the piano and discovered pentatonics. He was so entranced and started playing a boogie pattern over and over with slight variations. I heard Jingle Bells in my head as I watched him play and that’s how Tru’s Jingle Bells came about.
You can see sample pages and purchase Christmas Carols: From Around the World on Elena Cobb’s website here.
GIVEAWAY! Gail is giving one lucky teacher a signed physical copy of the volume Christmas Carols together with a digital copy of Musical Words: The Board Game. (You can see more about the game here.) To enter leave a comment below by Saturday, September 19, 2015 10:00pm (AZ MST).
Gail is the founder of Piano Addict, the international blog for piano students, teachers, and avocational players to connect, discover and enjoy all that is piano. She has contributed to The Piano Bench Magazine, The American Music Teacher, and Grand Piano Passion, and has been featured on the Podcast, The Modern Musician.
Gail created The Musical Adjectives Project, an interactive Wiki to aid pianists and musicians in understanding and describing the emotions and character within themselves and their music. To further help young musicians discover and communicate musical meaning, she created the popular board game Musical Words, which is based on the descriptives found at the Musical Adjectives Project.
Gail is an MTNA Nationally Certified Teacher, and a past president of both Arizona State MTA and Tucson MTA. She holds degrees from San Jose State University and The University of Arizona. She is a recipient of the Janice McCurnin – Beatrice Searles ASMTA Honored Teacher Award.
Gail currently teaches private and community class piano as well as, a Pedagogy/Literature seminar at Eastern Arizona College in Thatcher, AZ and maintains an independent studio in Tucson. When not teaching, composing, or blogging, she gardens, cooks, bikes, and hangs out with family and friends.