Merry Christmas ! – 40 Christmas Favourites for guitar.
2019. Paul Coles. Universal Edition. UE 21679
A fresh influx of music has arrived from Universal Edition and I thought it wise to put this on the top of the collection, because it is almost time to dust off baubles and hang the mistletoe. The latter is probably unwise in a Covid era.
Paul Coles has come up with a great anthology of every Christmas tune you might wish to play (except perhaps for Slade) including some newly-penned festive contributions. He even throws in some European songs such as Leiserieselt Der Schnee alongside the more familiar Hark The Herald Angels and Coventry Carol.
These arrangements are predominantly set in 1st or 2nd positions and are beautifully fingered by Paul. I found no issues at all with his choice of digits, and thought them all well-crafted versions. These are highly accessible interpretations suited to players of intermediate standard; Grade 5-ish should find you well-enough equipped to tackle most of what is here.
He has utilised a new notation indicator not seen before by this reviewer: describing the number of strings required for a barré. Thus, a full first finger stretching across the neck is identified with a 6/6, a B minor chord gets a 5/6. Of course, experienced players won’t need this, but it may help students further down the ladder who hesitate to work out just exactly how much of the neck should be covered by the first finger.
Paul’s voice-leading is well worked out and as logical as it is pleasing. Silent Night’s concluding cadence was an exception, where he places the resolving tonic an octave removed from where one might expect. But that was a rare disagreement I had with him. Another was in his own Church Bells Ring – there, he notates harmonics not at sounding pitch, but in positions akin to a tablature version.
There are lyrics and a chord sheet, making this as much a sing-along book as it is repertoire for a soloist. The font is large and the layout is very clear, helping the music to come off the page towards the player.
I like this book a lot and can see no reason not to offer a hearty endorsement to it. Tell your students to buy it now, and many parents will be delighted to have their children come home, armed with pieces to entertain Granny & Grand-dad.