Monday, November 30, 2015

Winter Packets

Winter packet excerpt for beginning string players
Excerpt from winter packet for second-year string players

My schools each have a winter band/orchestra/choir concert in December.  The closest we get to performing Christmas music is my arrangement of "Jingle Bells." It has become an orchestra tradition at my schools to end their portion of the concert with combined 5th and 6th grade orchestras playing their different parts and student volunteers ringing bells.  Before my students leave for winter break, I pass out these winter packets for them to enjoy over their time off from school.  These packets are great for sight-reading and reinforcing skills from the fall semester.  I've tried to stay away from the more religious Christmas songs and to include some melodies that may be unfamiliar to my students.  The second-year winter packet includes many rounds and duets too.

Winter packet excerpt for beginning string players
Excerpt from winter packet for first-year string players

Winter packet (for first-year string players):

Winter packet (for second-year string players):


Sunday, November 8, 2015

Jingle Bells!

Jingle Bells score elementary orchestra

One tradition at my elementary winter band/orchestra/choir concerts is that the orchestras always end their portion of the concert with "Jingle Bells."  I've written an arrangement that works well for where my students are by this point in the year.  Beginners have an open-string arco harmony part, while the 2nd-year players have a more exciting harmony part, with lots of shuffle bowing patterns.  The beginners' harmony part is in unision; while the 2nd-year harmony part has separate parts for upper strings, cellos, and basses.

Combined beginners and 2nd-year players play through this twice at the concert:

1st time:

  • Beginners--open-string harmony part
  • 2nd year players--melody

2nd time:

  • Beginners--melody (or open-string harmony--their choice) 
  • 2nd year players--harmony

At the school performance for students, one pre-chosen student from each class comes up and rings jingle bells while the orchestra plays.  I have students from the orchestra help with distributing and collecting the bells.  They're just little jingle bells from a craft store threaded through pipe cleaners with the ends tied together to form a bracelet.

For an introduction, I play the last two measures on the piano, and, as an interlude before the repeat, I play the last four measures again, showcasing the jingle bell players and giving the string players a moment to remember which part they're playing next.

I'm sure "Jingle Bells" is one of those pieces that every orchestra teacher has their own arrangement of, but here are the parts for mine; feel free to use!

Beginning parts (PDF) (melody/open-string harmony)

Advanced parts (PDF) (melody/harmony)

Score (PDF)

Monday, November 2, 2015