It’s that time of year again, when we divide into two groups of people: folks who start decorating their homes for Christmas at the first hint of fall weather, and those who hate them for it.
Sure, it’s too early to really think about Christmas, but if you are an artist with holiday music to share, or an event producer hosting a Christmas-themed festival, you can’t wait until mid-December to start spreading the word. It’s the same for anyone wanting to learn to play some Christmas music by the time the holidays roll around. Schools or churches planning a Christmas recital are hard at work already.
In that spirit, Mel Bay has released a new banjo book by Lluis Gomez titled Christmas in the British Isles, as part of their Banjo Picking Tunes series. It includes 20 timeless hymns and carols taken from Ireland, Scotland, and England, many reaching back several hundred years into the rich tradition of folk music from the region. The selections are perfect for those who prefer older songs during the holiday season, as opposed to the popular Christmas numbers of the 20th century.
All are arranged for intermediate to advanced players, though many of the songs will be accessible to new pickers as well, especially as they are not meant to be played very fast. These are versions that accentuate the melody of the songs, as opposed to employing either 3 finger or clawhammer approaches, so any student of the five string should find them easily accessible. The style is closest to classical banjo, with a number of these pieces reaching back to the Baroque era.
The songs are presented in metered tablature, with rhythmic notation, and very little indication for left or right hand fingering. Fingering should be obvious to anyone with some experience on the instrument.
Songs presented in the 32 page, large format book include:
- A Boy Is Born in Bethlehem
- Away in a Manger (Cradle Song)
- Baloo, Lammy
- Blessed Be That Maid Marie
- Carol of the Birds
- Coventry Carol
- Ding Dong, Merrily on High
- Down in Yon Forest
- God Rest Ye Merry, Gentlemen
- I Saw Three Ships
- In the Bleak Midwinter
- My Dancing Day
- On Christmas Night (Sussex Carol)
- Once in Royal David’s City
- The Bagpiper’s Carol
- The Devonshire Carol/The Moon Shines Bright (Medley)
- The Nativity (Rorate)
- Wexford Carol
- What Child Is This?
Christmas in the British Isles comes with a link to online audio recordings of all the songs which you can download with a unique code.