Traditional Holiday Songs and Christmas Music arranged for Violin
It's finally here even though a bit delayed. We had a regional ice storm that took out our power and internet for almost one week here in Eugene, Oregon. In the spirit of "better late than never" I am so happy to share the revised collection of holiday music with you. Below is a list of pieces in this 34 page collection with some background and performance ideas. Happy music making!
This is a beautiful traditional French Christmas Carol that has the unforgettable refrain of “Gloria, in excelsis Deo!” I had fun arranging this piece and decided to keep the refrain in a classic hymn setting but for the opening I wrote a more contemporary arrangement introducing a rhythmic drone harmony part in Violin 3. If your musicians are excited about playing double stops this can be done with three violin parts, otherwise, Violin 3 can be broken up into a top and bottom part for four violins. This arrangement can also be played with any two of the violin parts as well so you can have some fun hearing what Violin 1 & 3 sound like together (or Violin 1 & 2 or Violin 2 & 3).
2- Chorus from “Judas Maccabaeus” by G. F. Handel (with Winter themed lyrics) -
Many string teachers use this beginner level piece to teach long, slow bow strokes however in it’s original context it is a quick paced and lively opera chorus song with some snazzy parts composed for the french horn. To honor this I wrote some simple Winter themed lyrics and have my students perform it at the quicker paced tempo alternating violin playing and singing. For added pizazz in your performance you can create expressive hand motions to illustrate the lyrics.
3- Ding, Dong Merrily on High (arranged for 2 Violins) -
This is another traditional French Christmas Carol and has been a favorite in my studio for years. I love how interesting the harmony part is and like to perform it in an arrangement that features the harmony part. For our last performance we did this piece 4x:
4- Deck the Halls -
This is another favorite tune in my studio. I let my students choose which pieces they want to work on and most choose this one first. It is a traditional Christmas and New Years Carol based on a Welsh melody dating back to the sixteenth century.
5- Dona Nobis Pacem (Grant Us Peace) in 3 Parts -
The beauty and simplicity of this composition is hard to match and there are endless ways to arrange this piece. Consider also doing the melody down an octave and/or adding a harmonic D (or open D string) to add texture and anchor the tonality.
+ Dona Nobis Pacem Sub-Divided Study Sheet - One of the most difficult parts of putting this composition together in a larger sized group of players is executing the accuracy of the rhythms. I recommend having your students listen to this and learn how to sing it in addition to using the provided sub-division study sheet. Also, please visit my youtube channel for a play along video to aid students in their home practice.
6- Dreidel Song -
This is is so fun! Fun to play and fun to sing. I included some neat lyrics here that will make your students smile and in the process help their memorization of this piece. I personally like to have my students perform this at a regular tempo and then repeat it multiple times getting faster each time
7- Hark! the Herald Angels Sing (for Solo Violin, 2 and 4 Violins) by F. Mendelssohn -
What a memorable melody by Mendelsshon! In the first edition I published of this arrangement I wanted to create some double stops to challenge my older students in preparing for our holiday performance. I still like this idea pedagogically but this sounds a little thin harmonically so I created the version included here using a traditional 4 part hymn harmony arrangement in part extracted from William H. Cummings’ arrangement. I have included both versions so you can experiment in your studio and see what works best.
8- Jingle Bells (LARGE Print and for 2 Violins) by J. Pierpont -
It would not be an official holiday music collection without this piece. I made a few small revisions from the version for 2 Violins that I originally published in 2015. I also included a LARGE print version with fingerings for your youngest violin students because I know how much it thrills and motivates them to be able to play this piece
9- Joyful, Joyful We Adore Thee/Ode to Joy by L. van Beethoven -
While not specifically a holiday piece it pairs so well with Joy to the World (and theme of this collection) that I wanted to include it. I have also added this to my holiday programs in the past since it is a beginner level piece and can incorporate my youngest students. For this reason I added a LARGE print version with fingerings to this collection. The melody is credited to Ludwig van Beethoven who made this famous with his 9th Symphony but there is debate about the true origins of this tune.
10- Joy to the World (for 2 Violins) by G.F. Handel -
I love the brilliance of this piece. The composer in my revels on how it is just an A Major scale. The teacher in me loves that my beginning level students can learn this so easily since it is aligned with their existing skill set.
11- O Come, All Ye Faithful (in A & D Major and for 4 Violins: High and Low Versions) by J. F. Wade -
These parts are extracted from the original arrangement of this piece in hymn form. For a rich musical texture try combining the high and low versions together and/or arranging in various ways to make your performances interesting. For example, if you arrange to play this piece 3 times for your performance, you could move some players to a different octave for the final time through, etc. Alternately, you may want to give a higher part to a more advanced student so that this repertoire provides more challenge for them.
12- O’ Come Little Children (for 2 Violins with Optional Violin 3 Open G Drone, Harmonies 1 & 2 + Octave Variations) by Johann Abraham Peter Schulz -
You may have played and taught this piece for years and never known that this is a German Christmas Carol. I encourage you to play this at an upbeat tempo and incorporate your beginner students to play an open G drone throughout to fill out the arrangement. I included in these arrangements an octave variation so you can play around with neat ways to perform this piece.
13- Silent Night (LARGE Print and for 2 Violins and 4 Violins) by F. X. Gruber -
What a beautiful piece all in itself and a treat for me to arrange and embellish the harmonies. My older students especially love playing the high part in Violin 3.
14- The First Noel (A & G Major) -
This is a traditional English Christmas Carol. I wanted to add a harmony part to this piece but was unhappy with all the ideas I came up with so just left it here as a simple melody. If I get inspired to write a harmony part for The First Noel, I will post on my FREEBIES page and announce it to the Music for Young Violinists newsletter list.
Hi! It's me, Heather. I absolutely love working on the Music for Young Violinists project and all the many facets: blogging, website, music, teaching materials, freebies, videos, newsletter and giveaway contests. The best part is connecting with you so feel free to drop me a line. You can learn more about me on the "ABOUT" page. Thanks!