Jolly Old Saint Nicholas

Primer students get an opportunity to play together in this black-key pre-reading duet of the famous tune now believed to be composed by carolwriter James Murray.

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Jolly Old Saint Nicholas started off as a poem by Emily Huntington Miller, published as Lilly’s Secret in the children’s periodical The Little Corporal Magazine in December 1865. The song’s lyrics and music at one time were mistakenly thought to be by Benjamin Hanby, composer of the Christmas favorite, Up on the Housetop.

James Ramsey Murray is most famous for the hymn Away in a Manger. His music instruction manual School Chimes: A New School Music Book contains the first known publication of  Jolly Old Saint Nicholas, and it is very likely that he is the composer of this tune.

This arrangement is designed for pre-reading primer students playing groups of black keys. Both parts are of equal difficulty. Students will work on finger numbers, black key topography, forte and piano dynamics, and the elementary rhythms of quarter, half, and whole notes. The entire arrangement may be repeated for recital performances.

For additional holiday fun, play each part on separate keyboards with different sounds: primo with vibraphone, trumpet, or violin, and secondo with acoustic bass, tuba, or cello!

Key: pre-reading black key groups (Gb Major)

Mood: happy, merry

Pedagogy: black key groups, forte/piano, basic rhythm values, ensemble playing


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