Do you have sheetmusic ready for this year’s holiday celebrations? The Holiday season is a hectic time, and if you’re in charge of getting music students ready for concerts, I certainly don’t have to tell you that. I also don’t have to tell you that if you are trying to get string players together for an ensemble - whether it’s for church, school, a charity collection at the local mall, or just for grandma’s enjoyment – you can’t be too picky about the instrumentation! The chances are slim of ending up with a standard string quartet of exactly two violins, one viola, and one cello. Publishers and arrangers know this, which is why so many have put together collections of music that can work with many assortments of violin, viola, cello, and bass. So, why not be prepared with one of these flexible ensembles that will make your Christmas, Chanukah, or other winter holiday gathering jolly? Having an assortment of this type of music can be very helpful for getting holiday season gigs on a moment’s notice, or just always being prepared for spontaneous string caroling!
Flexible ensemble sheetmusic collections are typically written for two to four voices, but those voices are available for any instrument so that you can mix and match just about any combination of instruments. The following Christmas Sheetmusic collections are flexibly arranged without complicated embellishments, so that they are approachable for players of any level! “Level 1” will be mostly quarter notes and half notes in separate bowings very suitable for even first year students, while Level 2 will have more slurs, eighth note and dotted rhythms, and some larger intervals.
Difficulty: Very Beginner (Level 1)
The Strictly Strings method book series, a traditional method that starts from the beginning with reading notes, is a favorite of school orchestras everywhere. Their Christmas & Chanukah Ensembles books are geared toward first or second year players, consisting of mostly simple bowings and rhythms, first position, easy key signatures, and simple forms. Each of the four instrument books (violin, viola, cello, and bass) includes a melody line and a harmony line for that instrument in score form - written on the same page so each book is essentially a stand-alone duet book. Those
books can then be mixed and matched to form any ensemble, and an optional piano accompaniment book is also available. Here is an example of a page from the violin book, and a page from the score book:
The A-part in each book is the melody, and the B-part is one of two harmonies in a three-voice arrangement. The full score book (see above right) makes it easier to conduct larger ensembles. The contents are a diverse mixture of 23 secular and non-secular Christmas, Chanukah, and Yuletide selections including: Angels form the Realm of Glory, Angels We Have Heard on High, Away in a Manger, Bring a Torch Isabella, Chanukah Chanukah, Chanukah Oh Chanukah, Come little Children, Deck the Halls, Ding Dong Merrily on High, Dreidl Song, The First Noel, Good King Wenceslas, Hark! The Herald Angels Sing, Jingle Bells, Jolly Old St. Nicolas, Joy To The World, Lo How A Rose, Maoz Tsur (Rock of Ages), O Come Emmanuel, Silent Night, Up On the Housetop, We Three Kings, and We Wish You A Merry Christmas.
Christmas Kaleidoscope by Robert S. Frost
Available in two sets, Christmas Kaleidoscope and Christmas Kaleidoscope II are exceptionally flexible and easy arrangements of mostly Christian Christmas carols, with a few traditional secular carols included. Each of the instrument books (violin, viola, cello, and bass) includes a melody line with two harmony lines (only one for bass) for that instrument in score form - written on the same page so each book is essentially a stand-alone trio book. The books can be mixed and matched, allowing for any combination of instruments, and there is a piano accompaniment book as well. In total, there are four harmony parts, creating a lush sound with full instrumentation! These books are perfect for beginners who are only on their first method book – the simplified rhythms, easy key signatures, first position only, and straight-forward notation make playing these recognizable melodies possible for the most beginner of players.
On the left shows an example of a page from the Violin book. As you can see, comparing it to the score below, you get three lines of the 5-part harmony. All books contain the A part, violin and viola also include B and C, cello includes D and E, and Bass just has two parts - A and E. This makes it fool proof when telling groups of younger players which line to play!
Book 1 includes: Jolly Old St. Nicholas, Good King Wenceslas, Adeste Fideles, The Infant King, Up on the Houestop, We Wish You A Merry Christmas, We Three Kings, Away in a Manger, Hark! The Herald Angels Sing, The First Noel, Angels We Have Heard On High, God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen, Deck The Halls, and Joy To The World.
Book 2 includes: Silent Night, Lo How A Rose, O Little Town Of Bethlehem, The Friendly Beasts, The Coventry Carol, The Holly and the Ivy, O Christmas Tree, Bring a Torch Jeanette Isabella, What Child Is This?, It Came Upon A Midnight Clear, I Heard The Bells on Christmas Day, The Bell Doth Toll, Christmas Is Coming, Good Christian Men Rejoice, Masters In This Hall, and Here We Come A-Caroling.
Festive Strings by Joanne Martin
The Festive Strings Series offer slightly longer and more interesting arrangements than most beginner-level books, making them more exciting to play and listen to, but also more challenging to first or second-year students. They come in two separate series – Festive Strings, and More Festive Strings, which are at the same difficulty level, but are simply different sets of songs. Both collections include a mixture of secular, Christian, and Jewish holiday tunes. Any Festive Strings book will work with any other Festive Strings book, and any More Festive Strings book will work with any other More Festive Strings book. However, they come in Solo, Ensemble, String Quartet or String Orchestra, and Piano Accompaniment books to facilitate common ensembles.
Solo books (available for violin, viola, or cello) contain the melody for that instrument, and work best with the Piano Accompaniment book. Ensemble books (also available for violin, viola, or cello) contain the melody line above three harmony lines, making them useful on their own for duets, trios, or quartets of the same instrument, or in combination with any of the other ensemble books for mixed ensembles. The Ensemble books are the best bet if you may have to change instrumentation often!
The String Quartet/Orchestra books (score shown to the left) offer individual parts for violin 1 (melody), violin 2, viola (or violin 3), cello, and bass that match up to form a standard String Quartet (plus optional bass) or String Orchestra ensemble. While you don't get as many combinations with the Quartet/Orchestra books, they cost less, and are a bit easier to read than the score-form ensemble books, especially for younger students who aren't used to jumping four lines at a time.
Festive Strings includes: Jingle Bells (in D Major), Joy To The World, Chanukah, Away In A Manger, Jolly Old Saint Nicholas, God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen, S'Vivon, Jingle Bells (in A Major), Lo How A Rose, and O Christmas Tree.
More Festive Strings includes: O Chanukah, Angels We Have Heard On High, We Three Kings, Silend Night (in D Major), We Wish You A Merry Christmas, O Come All Ye Faithful, Dreydl, Silent Night (in G Major), Good King Wenceslas, and What Child Is This (Greensleeves).
Compatible Christmas Duets for Strings by Gazda & Clark
Compatible Christmas Duets for Strings sacrifices thick instrumentation for a thick collection of 50 duets! The collection is sold in four separate score-form duet books: for two violins, two violas, two cellos, and two basses. Each book has the same melody and harmony, allowing you to set up a duet of any two string instruments that you own the books for. These are nice to play through once, then repeat with each player switching to the other part, so that both players get to play the melody! Also, there’s no reason that you can’t have two different instruments team up on the melody and make it a trio!
These arrangements are short and simple, but do include some rhythms and bowings that are slightly more difficult than separate bowings and quarter and half notes only. These are great for beginners with a year under their belt, or for intermediate players who want something easy to sight-read! No third position required, and the keys are all string-friendly. The song selection is mostly non-secular with a few secular and folk tunes included.
Fifty tunes include: Angels from the Realms of Glory, Angels We Have Heard On High, As Lately We Watched, Auld Lang Syne, Away in a Manger (I), Away in a Manger (II), Bring A Torch Jeannette Isabella, Bright and Joyful is the Morn, Carol of the Bells, Christmas Greeting, Christmas Greeting, Come All Ye Shepherds, Coventry Carol, Deck the Halls, El Rorro (The Baby), The First Noel, Gesu Bambino, Go Tell It on the Mountain, God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen, Good Christian Men Rejoice, Good King Wenceslas, Hark The Herald Angels Sing, He Is Born This Holy Child, Here We Come A-Wassailing, The Holly and the Ivy, I Saw Three Ships, In a Manger He is Lying, It Came Upon a Midnight Clear, Jesu Joy of Man's Desiring, Jingle Bells, Jolly Old Saint Nicholas, Joy to the World, Lullaby Carol, March from The Nutcracker, March of the Toys, O Christmas Tree, O Come All Ye Faithful, O Come Little Children, O Come O Come Emmanuel, O Holy Night, O Little Town of Bethlehem, Patapan, Rise Up Shepherd and Follow, The Search for an Inn (Pedida de la Posada), Silent Night, Toyland, Up On The Housetop, We Three Kings, We Wish You A Merry Christmas, What Child Is This?, and While Shepherds Watch Their Flock by Night.
For More Christmas, Chanukah, and other Holiday Sheet Music for Strings, follow the link: