It's not that easy to find Christmas music that reflects the real meaning of Christmas.
A while ago, I thought that I'd record some Christmas arrangements available for students to play (useful for students); using the mighty Roland LX-15e and SoundCloud (useful for me).
Then anyone who wants to listen to some beautiful Christian music can do so for free (useful for everybody!)
I did these recordings in a hurry, 2 or 3 nights before Christmas (at 2am in the morning!), each carol in a single take, no editing (hence, mistakes - sorry!). The only things you're hearing are my fingers real-time on the LX-15e.
I hope to add additional (and better!) recordings over time...
To my wonderful students and their families - Merry Christmas and best wishes for the New Year!
Here’s the music!
You can simply play all the pieces automatically in a row on my SoundCloud page here:
Here they are individually, with comments and extras!
O Come All Ye Faithful
This is a beautiful George Peter Tingley arrangement.
He is one of my favourite composers and arrangers, and it’s a travesty that almost none of his pieces are on piano syllabuses.
One day I’ll create a website featuring some of his amazing work.
Good King’s Boogie
A groovy Christopher Norton arrangement of a carol that scares me! (“Good King Wenceslas looked out, on the Feast of Stephen!”)
Where does Mr Norton get all these ideas?
Royal David’s Groove
Another Christopher Norton arrangement.
I couldn't resist adding a bossanova rhythm - and that's where the fun started...
Roland include several extraordinary sounding drum kits on their pianos - but no actual rhythms. So I had to create a MIDI drum loop. So far, so good... except now the piano is doing split sounds, playing a MIDI rhythm, AND recording my performance, all in realtime.
And at 3am, my head started to hurt…
So you'll have to live with a 2 bar count-in and an abrupt ending, until I program a complete backing (I have this activity scheduled for February 2027...)
O Come O Come Emmanuel with Moonlight Sonata
Why Not?!? It works!
O Holy Night with Ave Maria
I'm a Baplican! What? Yes, I'm a Baptist that for many years has attended an Anglican Church. Worse, at Christmas and Easter I sometimes go to St Finbars Catholic Church (I like the Mass, and the Stations of the Cross).
Now Mary was an amazing woman. Imagine: you're maybe 15-16 years old, and an angel turns up and says “God has chosen you to give birth to his Son, to save all mankind”. I think I'd be, well, freaked out! But Mary says “May it be done to me according to your word.”
Later she sings a beautiful hymn of praise, known as the Magnificat, or the “Song of Mary” Luke 1:46-55.
Many composers have been inspired by this hymn, but the best version is by Bach, God's Kapellmeister. Here’s a recording of Luke 1:48 according to Bach:
Here Mary sings, “For he took notice of his lowly servant girl, and from now on all generations will call me blessed”. Bach has Mary sing the first part alone, but at the instant the words “Omnes generationes” (all generations) appear, Bach has the whole choir join in - they are the generations praising Mary!
Many know the story of Jesus turning the water into wine at the wedding. But for me, the miracle isn’t the most amazing thing: Mary goes to Jesus with a request—essentially a prayer. She doesn't tell him what to do, she doesn't ask for the problem to be solved in a particular way. No, she makes her request, and then she turns to the servants and tells them “Do whatever he tells you”. She doesn't know what Jesus will do, or how. Instead, she knows that Jesus will heed her prayer, and she gets the servants ready to help. Now that's faith.
And when Jesus is on the cross, and Judas and Peter have denied Him, there's Mary again.
We now have the Holy Spirit to intercede for us (see Romans 8, and all of Hebrews), but it’s understandable that Schubert was inspired to write Ave Maria.
My favourite version of “Ave Maria” is here (the translation of what Sumi Jo says at the start is in the comments):
So this arrangement of “O Holy Night” with “Ave Maria” seems most appropriate.
Boy, that was a long justification, wasn't it?!?
This was my first take of this Christopher Norton arrangement. I used the Magical Piano sound (a fusion of Concert Grand, EP Belle, and Warm Pad).
The bell sound is Christmassy, but a bit too muddy for me, so I did a second version with harp...
This was my second take of this Christopher Norton arrangement. I like this Harp (mixed with a little Angel Voices) better...
But you can choose your own favourite!
The First Noel
A wonderfully warm carol arrangement by Mike Springer.
Chord substitutions, anyone?
So why celebrate Christmas?
At the start of time, God created a perfect Universe. “God saw all that he had made, and it was very good indeed.” Gen 1:31 CSB. Everything was in harmony. Life was good, with food for all, humans at peace with nature, and no pain, no lies, and no death.
But then sin entered the world, poisoning not only all people, but even nature. We can see this simply by looking at the world around us, and the behaviour of even those we admire is never perfect.
Despite this, God set a plan in motion…
Since mankind has sinned, we can't enter God's presence. God promised to send a saviour... “The Lord himself will give you the sign. Look! The virgin will conceive a child! She will give birth to a son and will call him Immanuel (which means ‘God is with us’).” Isaiah 7:14 NLT
Many years later, God sent His own son, Jesus. “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.” John 3:16 ESV
He wasn’t born in a palace, but in poor lodgings, and slept in an animals feeding trough... “She gave birth to her firstborn son... and laid Him in a manger, because there was no room for them in the inn.” Luke 2:7 NASB95
His arrival wasn’t posted on Facebook; instead, angels announced his birth... “Glory to God in the highest, and on Earth peace, good will toward men.” Luke 2:14 KJV
Jesus grew into adulthood, and began three years of ministry, ending in his death. He lived his life without sin, and so his death paid our penalty. In this way, we can be forgiven, and can live with Jesus in Heaven for all eternity. “For God made Christ, who never sinned, to be the offering for our sin, so that we could be made right with God...” 2 Cor 5:21 NLT
“He said, ‘Sirs, what must I do to be saved?’ They said, ‘Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved, you and your household.’” Acts 16:30 NASB95
Even better, God stays with us now... “Now it is God who makes both us and you stand firm in Christ. He anointed us, set his seal of ownership on us, and put his Spirit in our hearts as a deposit, guaranteeing what is to come” 2 Cor 1:22-22 NIV. Or to put it another way... “We owe our position in Christ to this God of positive promise: it is he who has consecrated us to this special work, he who has given us the living guarantee of the Spirit in our hearts.” JBP
“The LORD is near to the brokenhearted And saves those who are crushed in spirit.” Ps 34:18 NASB95
I think it’s extraordinary that Jesus, who created and sustains the Universe, humbled himself to become a little baby, to be born in poor circumstances, growing up to be abused, and then tortured to death on a cross — all out of love for us.
That's why we should celebrate Christmas: it's a time of peace and joy, of family, and most importantly, a reminder of the free salvation available to all who believe...
Stephen’s extra piano pieces for Christmas...
Joyful, Joyful We Adore Thee
Why have one key signature, when two or three is obviously better! Victor Labenske to the rescue!
And I couldn't resist adding a LOT more left-hand bass notes - which, in hindsight, probably needed to be practised first...
Holy, Holy, Holy
A stunningly beautiful arrangement by Mark Hayes of an epic hymn.
He Is Exalted
This song has beautiful lyrics and a wonderful melody.
Dear friends, let us love one another, because love is from God, and everyone who loves has been born of God and knows God. The one who does not love does not know God, because God is love… If God loved us in this way, we also must love one another. 1 John 4:7-11 CSB, cropped.
This is one of those songs that can be performed reflectively, or with power and praise.
However, I really love this Philip Keveren classical arrangement, so I've used the Ballade Piano sound to get that Clementi lightness.
I hope you enjoy it!
A beautiful hymn by Paul Baloche. You can hear Paul perform an acoustic version here:
I have five different arrangements of this piece, but most are too fancy. I like this Victor Labenske arrangement best (with a bit of tweaking, of course...)
What A Friend We Have In Jesus
I’ve saved my personal favourite until last...
Jean-Pierre de Caussade said, “God instructs the heart, not by ideas but by pains and contradictions.”
Whilst I believe there's merit to this idea, I fully believe that God can communicate any way He wants. And I believe that one way He can communicate with us is via music.
Music can touch the heart in a powerful way, and often times we can recall the lyrics to songs at stressful moments...
This song says...
“What a friend we have in Jesus,
All our sins and griefs to bear!
What a privilege to carry
Everything to God in prayer!
Oh, what peace we often forfeit,
Oh, what needless pain we bear,
All because we do not carry
Everything to God in prayer!”
Perhaps when I hear these words, I should pay more attention...
I'd like to thank...
Joshua, Jordan, and Rosanne — I will always love you, and there’s nothing you can do about it! Merry Christmas!
Matt and Briony — thanks for your wonderful and patient friendship over the last few years. You’ve helped me through difficulties, and allowed me to worship with you, and I truly appreciate it.
The Walter Clan: Dennis and Anne, Matt and Iko and Miranda and Nick, Phillip and Anne and Suki and Calvin — you’ve known me for years, and you still talk with me! Thanks!
John, Tim, and Adam: thanks for allowing me to be a part of the music team!
Jim — you’re a living demonstration of Christian manhood. I’m trying to learn from your example. You've often encouraged me to record some Christian music — so in part this is for you.
Tony S — thanks for your wise advice.
Belinda Weng — thank you for your extreme patience, and persistence in overcoming all hurdles!
Springwood Anglican Church — my extended family — I get by far the better part of that deal.
And there have been so many other blessings I would need pages to list them all.
THANK YOU, AND MERRY CHRISTMAS!
Blue Mountains Piano School