Sunday, December 16, 2012

Carol of the Bells

This carol has always fascinated me.  As a student performer, I've sung and played it.  As a student teacher, I taught it to a high-school choir.  As an elementary teacher, I've used it within the Orff ensemble.

Kids love it too.  The ostinato is easily distinguishable, although some can't exactly pinpoint where they've heard it.

Previously, I used this carol in the 5th grade Winter Program.  I had a class of above-level 5th graders who really enjoyed learning to play it on our Orff instruments.

Well, this year I made the mistake of diddling out the melody on the glockenspiel a class of my 5th graders were coming down the hallway to my room.  They were instantly asking about it and complementing my playing (bahhaha - we need more listening examples, clearly).  I told them that if they'd like to meet me after PE during their recess time, I would be happy to let them try it then.  Well, the interest was overwhelming (recess this time of year is a cold affair - I know I'd rather hang out in the music room) so now I have to weave it into next week's lessons.

Therefore, I'll begin with a bit of history about the carol.  The 5th graders were using my Spooky Music Unit this year, so they're pretty savvy with musical terms, learning about the composer, and appreciating the history of a piece.  Here's the slide I'll use:

We'll also listen to these two performances on Youtube.  The first is from the lovely boys' choir, Liberia.  I love the style of the video.

And the second is a video most of the kids have already seen.  My mom always played Mannheim Steamroller around the house during the holidays.  This particular video has a Christmas-light adorned house and the lights are choreographed to the music.
After viewing and comparing the videos, we'll use this PowerPoint: Carol of the Bells.  I have enough instruments that the students can work in pairs and trios.  However, only my glockenspiels are chromatic, and include the necessary G#.

Using each slide, we'll read the music, sing the music, "air mallet" the music, using correct hands, and then play.  I like to keep the tempo using claves so the students don't rush.

Yes, the runs are ridiculously hard, but not impossible.  This is more of a "just for fun" lesson.  If you're looking for a more realistic version with complete instrumentation, I'd suggest this version, created by Laurie Zentz.  It is fantastic!


  1. Cool! I teach it as an ostinato piece, too. After they learn the basics, I start to put it into the "classic" form of the song, directing two or more parts to play at once. I had a class this year play it for our fundraiser CD! And while it wasn't perfect, I was proud. Every kid in that class played, even the turkeys!

    Thanks for the links to the videos! They are good! Here is an audio recording of my kids playing:

  2. Thank you ! On youtube: [Official Video] Carol of the Bells - Pentatonix ~ very beautiful version this amazing song!!!