Christmas recommendations from Mary Cohen

Christmas recommendations from Mary Cohen
We’re well and truly in the run up to festive concerts now. Coming back after the half term holiday is the signal to get Christmas carols out, and pupils particularly love old favourites.  Whatever else we are doing, most of the chamber music groups (including the hardened teenagers) insist on finishing the last lesson of the term with Christmas Quartetstart. I also like to provide some ‘serious’ seasonal material that is not religious. Winter Soundscapes is particularly useful because some of its seven movements can be learned in the autumn term, and others in the early part of the New Year.  Both of these volumes work for string ensemble as well as for string quartet.

Bags of Christmas
is perfect for pupils who want to play something at home that is complete without needing an accompaniment. It contains a mixture of carols and secular seasonal favourites, plus some new pieces.  Snow Angels and There’s Enough Snow For A Snowman were inspired by the fun we had when heavy snowfall coincided with the visit of pupils from a music school in Sweden. The Kitten And The Christmas Tree portrays a friend’s tiny kitten leaping up over and over again, trying to catch the decorations dangling from the branches.

Carol Stringfest is always in my case at this time of year. A really flexible resource, it can be used in a ‘full’ version for lots of different combinations of violins, violas, and cellos (including beginner parts) plus optional piano, or as a melody line with piano, or simply as string duets. It’s really handy for family music making too. Two of my former pupils (now at University) were really proud at Christmas last year when their Mum managed to fit the beginner cello part with their duet lines at the end of her first term of lessons!

Some of my adult string pupils (including the owner of the famous kitten) also sing in the choir for which I have just written a carol.  Lulla, lulla is a simple, unaccompanied SATB setting of a medieval text, and you can download it at for just £15! It proved very popular from the first rehearsal, but the choir would like to issue the following warning: Beware! Once sung, this carol is hard to get out of your head!

Seasons Greetings, Mary Cohen