Some tips for arranging Christmas music for young children

  1. Don’t do too many songs.  Five or six is more than enough.
  2. Get all the children to sing all the songs.  Some schools still insist that each class should be given a song which only they sing.  Resist this, you want all the children to sing.
  3. Do not arrange songs that go below middle C.
  4. Going up high is not a problem – children even at a young age need to be developing their head voice.  However, school staff really find it hard to pitch songs above a high C and automatically try to sing an octave lower. Because of this I try to just keep the range of songs between middle C and high C.  If you can train the staff to sing with their head voice that would be a long term solution!
  5. If you can sing songs that use the intervals so, me and la (G, E or A at fixed pitch) it will help the children’s vocal development.  However, all songs like this will be a bit boring for the audience.
  6. Make your performance live.  It is OK to rehearse to backing tracks but it is important for children to sing with an accompanist and if things go terribly wrong, a good accompanist will cover any obvious mistakes.  If you don’t have one, advertise.  We need to encourage live music and give jobs for accompanists.  If we don’t we will lose these skilled musicians and it will be another job that will be pointless for young musicians to train for.  Don’t think that all music needs to be accompanied by a piano, if you have a guitarist that is wonderful and if you are lucky to know a harp player ask them to accompany your children’s singing.
  7. Make at least two copies of the sheet music and print out with at least three weeks to spare.  Make sure the accompanist (if it is not you) has the music well in advance as it is not fair to spring music on them at the last minute even if they are amazing.  It’s basic respect.
  8. When rehearsing the songs never start with the entire song.  Break it up and teach each phrase four or five times, modelling exactly how you want the children to sing.
  9. Insist on good word pronunciation of the start and end of words. This is especially important for English language learners.  This will make the words clear and if you are performing in a hall it will stop the sound becoming awash with vowels echoing in the hall.
  10. Make sure all the children sing.  If they aren’t tell them that mummy or daddy will becoming to watch them sing, not the teachers or other children and this is a lovely way to say thank you.  Your singing is like a Christmas present to your family.  They will probably film it too and show it to their friends!

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