by Ken Tilger – Band Education Specialist –
Each year in previewing the new band releases, we keep an ear out for the best new arrangements for Christmas and winter season programming. As always, we have chosen a number of fun, high quality (and some of my personal favorite!) titles for young band this year. There’s something for everyone – traditional carols, popular Christmas songs that have become standards, and two unique takes on the season that will be a blast for your students!
While we often get tired of the same old titles at Christmas time, let’s face it – they are what our audience wants to hear. You can never go wrong with wonderfully arranged versions of traditional Christmas carols, and if they’re done right new light can often be shed on old favorites.
arr. Scott Watson
Alfred Debut Series
Grade 1 $48.00
Majestic and celebratory, Come, Rejoice! is a fanfare based on Adeste Fidelis. Very accessible to young bands, this arrangement is in Bb with fairly limited range, mostly quarter note based rhythms (some 8ths), and a moderate tempo. There is plenty of opportunity to develop a big, full sound and the style is set by the numerous accents throughout the piece. While the work is based on a familiar carol, your audience will enjoy that the tune is prominently featured throughout.
arr. Jerry Davis
Belwin Young Band
Grade 2 $62.00
Midnight Carols combines two beloved Christmas carols (What Child is This?; It Came Upon the Midnight Clear) in a charming 3/4 setting for developing band. While rhythms are no more technical than 8th notes and both settings are fairly straight-forward, challenges will be presented by the numerous accidentals throughout, and the seamless weaving of an 8th note accompaniment line on the second number. The percussion writing enhances each setting, and intro and transition material centers around quarter note rhythms and the key change from Eb to Bb.
The Popular Standards
Some popular Christmas songs are so good and beloved that they have added themselves right alongside traditional carols. This year features young band arrangements of two of my all-time favorites in tasteful arrangements that are sure to be a hit with your audience!
The Christmas Song
arr. Johnnie Vinson
Hal Leonard Discovery
Grade 1.5 $45.00
You just can’t go wrong with a straight-forward setting of this popular Christmas standard. Johnnie Vinson sets the tune in a ballad style against a soft rock beat. All the 8th note melody lines are present from the original, and its stocking is stuffed with chromatic passages and harmonies making for a lush, warm, and sophisticated setting worthy of the original. This is the perfect gift for your audience this year.
Merry Christmas, Darling
arr. Michael Brown
Hal Leonard Discovery Plus
Grade 2 $50.00
Beautiful and straight ahead, Michael Brown does a wonderful job of maintaining the rhythms, harmonies, and pleasant, easy listening quality of this holiday favorite by The Carpenters. Sometimes all an arranger needs to do is orchestrate a tune to fit the ensemble it’s being arranged for, no more, no less, and Brown comes through. A perfect addition to your holiday library that is sure to stand the test of time!
”And now for something completely different.” While they won’t play to every audience, these unique pieces incorporate pirates (!) and the recent popularity of the folkloric (and dark & twisted) Krampus for some fun playing and interesting programming.
A Christmas Tale: Beware the Krampus
Randall D. Standridge
Alfred Young Symphonic
Grade 2.5 $58.00
Creepy, awesome, and very challenging! Setting a narrated original poem by the composer based on the European tradition of the Krampus (St. Nick counterpart who doles out punishment to bad boys and girls on Christmas Eve), numerous settings and advancing musical concepts are used to combine distorted versions of The Ukrainian Bell Carol, Up on the Housetop, Jolly Old St. Nicholas, and other holiday favorites into an alternative holiday tour-de-force! Great for advanced junior high bands or for high school groups as an alternative to The Nightmare Before Christmas!
A Swashbuckling Christmas
arr. Jack Wilds
FJH Developing Band
Grade 1.5 $50.00
Looking for something unique for your holiday concert? Setting familiar Christmas songs & carols in a medley with familiar sea chanteys makes for quite the holiday adventure. Including What Would You Do, We Three Kings, Blow the Man Down, and more, A Swashbuckling Christmas is fun and full of musical challenges – changes in tempo, style, and meter. Sure to be fun for your students and provide a creative moment of levity for your audience.
For more Christmas and winter ideas, check out the Christmas & Winter Holiday category on our concert band page.
About the Author:
Ken is a former band director, and has been with Stanton’s since 2004. Besides music, he geeks out on comic books, amusement parks, and all things Pittsburgh. He also plays saxophone with Swing’s the Thing Big Band. You should check out their album Walk On Out the Door available on iTunes and Amazon.