Monthly Archives: August 2009

Easy Hymn Solos by Wendy Stevens

Easy Hymn Solos copyThere are two ways to arrange hymns for the piano student. You can arrange them harmonically, in more or less a simplified hymnal setting, with words. This is great if the student wants to play an accompaniment for singers. It also helps students learn to play out of a hymnal and to sing along as they play.

 Another way to arrange hymns is for solo piano in a way that is meant to be performed, perhaps as a prelude or during the offertory. For most pianists, this is a lot more enjoyable to play and often more musical.

 Wendy Stevens has written 3 graded books in the solo arrangement style, Easy Hymn Solos, 10 Stylish Arrangements, recently published by Hal Leonard. Each book contains 10 beautiful and sophisticated arrangements of the best traditional hymns, complete with introductions. These are performance-oriented arrangements, but they are student friendly. They have finger numbers where appropriate and they contain all the expression markings needed for a musically sensitive performance. They are obviously arranged by a teacher/composer who knows how to challenge without overwhelming her students and they are enjoyable to play. But what I would like to stress is that these arrangements are interesting and more creative than most arrangements at this level.

 The hymns in level one are at the Elementary level. The book includes a beautiful arrangement of Amazing Grace, Joyful, Joyful, We Adore Thee, the Doxology, Come, Christians, Join to Sing, and other favorites. The notes are in 5 finger patterns, and there are only a few accidentals. Hands are separate most of the time, but together enough to add interest. More interest is added with articulation and dynamics, creative introductions and endings.

 Level two contains ten hymns in several positions that should be comfortable for a student at the late elementary level. There are 8th notes and the hands move around in very interesting ways, but they rhythm is not difficult. Included in this level is Come, Thou Almighty King, This Is My Father’s World, and Be Thou My Vision.

 Level three is where the music really sounds satisfying. Here, keys change, hands move up and down, and each piece has a flowing style that is very enjoyable to play as well as listen to. Written at about the early intermediate level, they sound much more difficult than they are. I believe I could perform out of this book and the audience would not guess it was easy piano. Three of the ten hymns are All Things Bright and Beautiful, Come, Thou Fount of Every Blessing, and Battle Hymn of the Republic.

 The books are well designed and engraved. Because they contain beloved traditional hymns, not Sunday school songs, and book covers appropriate for all ages, they are especially good for older beginners and adults. If you are looking for good hymn arrangements for your students, I encourage you to check these books out.

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