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2019's Best Holiday Songs for the Viola

Are you ready to add more holiday songs to your viola music repertoire? The following suggestions are categorized by beginner, intermediate, and advanced playing levels. These suggestions will be appreciated by your family, at public holiday functions, or if you’re interested in busking to earn some desired holiday cash.

Songs for Beginners

If you’re newer to the viola, never fear. There are some simple holiday songs arranged just for you.

Holiday Songs for Intermediate Violists

Are you on the cusp of beginner/intermediate level playing? Then honor that cusp and challenge yourself by taking on these intermediate-level holiday songs for the viola.

  • Carol of the Bells. This piece is challenging for any musician, from strings to vocals to actual handbell choirs, but it’s impressive when played correctly. The Carol of the Bells is originally a Ukrainian tune composed by Mykola Leontovych as a New Year’s Day carol. The linked version here is free on stringclub.com and comes with an animated scrolling tab to help you learn it, as well as accompaniment options.
  • Rockin’ Around the Christmas Tree. This upbeat tune gets people singing and dancing, which is why it’s included in the viola book, A Family Christmas Around the Fireplace for Viola ($8.00). Other intermediate tunes included in the book are, The Christmas Waltz, Feliz Navidad, and The Most Wonderful Time of the Year.
  • Sivivon. This traditional Jewish song about the dreidel, is written as a viola duet. Pair-up with a friend or classmate to begin learning from this free download of Sivivon, and you may land yourselves a featured spot in the holiday concert. We’re big believers that ensemble-style learning and playing are more enjoyable and inspiring than playing solo.

Ready For Advanced Viola Action?

If you’ve arrived at the advanced level, your audience will love to sit back and enjoy these famous holiday tunes.

  • Ma’oz Tzur (Rock of Ages). Here’s a popular Hanukkah piece. You can access a free version of Ma’oz Tzur at sheetmusicplus.com. The site also offers an orchestral arrangement, so share this with your string teacher in case s/he’s interested in incorporating it into your upcoming concert series.
  • Jingle Bells. Surprised to see this one on the list? Typically on the list of holiday songs for beginners, this version of Jingle Bells ($13.99) is written for a single viola with piano accompaniment, and a note range of F1 to F8. You’ll appreciate getting to play a holiday classic that is set at your playing level, providing more complex notation and embellishments.
  • Jesu, Joy of Man’s Desiring. The famous Jesu, Joy of Man’s Desiring, was composed by J.S. Bach, as part of a chorale setting in the Cantata, Herz und Mund und Tat und Leben, BWV 147. You can listen to it here. It is one 50 duets, included in the book, Compatible Christmas Duets For Strings ($10.95), which means you can pair your viola with your favorite, other string instrument (and player) of choice, as you work together on more advanced holiday songs.

Are some of these options outside of your holiday season budget? Then we recommend adding them to your Christmas Wish List. In the meantime, happy practicing – and playing – as we make our way into the holiday season.

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