Attaching the tag line, “stylish arrangements” to a collection of early elementary hymn solos may seem like a bit of a stretch, but composer Wendy Stevens manages to pull it off! I recently played through each of the hymn arrangements in her new three-book collection of Easy Hymn Solos published by Hal Leonard and was delighted with them. Early-level arrangements of this caliber are hard to come by, so I know they are going to be well-used among my students! In fact, truth be told, I’ve already parted with a couple of the books because I just couldn’t wait to let my students get started on some of the pieces. 🙂
Just to give you a taste of what you’ll find in these books, here’s an annotated list of the contents of Book One:
Amazing Grace – The damper pedal is sustained for the duration of the piece, creating a sweet overarching mood and leaving lots of room for expressive playing.
Brethren We Have Met to Worship – A syncopated rhythm (well-notated for the beginning student) in the introduction gets this piece off to a lively start! A brief legato, lyrical section in the middle provides a nice contrast. The performer of this piece will need to have good counting skills and a great sense of pulse!
Come, Christians, Join to Sing – Probably the first thing you’ll notice about this piece is the character created by the rests that appear frequently on the first beat of the measures. Along with the well-articulated staccatos, this piece will be lots of fun for a student to tackle!
For the Beauty of the Earth – Students will love the mature sound they can achieve with the harmonic thirds and fifths that adorn the opening of this reverent hymn. They’ll also get a brief chance to explore voicing left hand melodic notes while the right hand supplies the harmony.
Doxology – This is one of the two pieces in the collection that utilizes harmonic pedaling, so this could provide a great introduction to pedaling techniques for an early level student. A lovely left hand inverted arrangement of the melodic notes provides an echo effect throughout that can be a great lesson in balance between the hands.
God is so Good – Lovely and simple, with a very open sound – perfect for this song. No doubt a few reminders to count all the notes for the full value will be necessary with this arrangement, but it will be a great experience in counting and listening to the sound of the music.
How Firm a Foundation – A few surprising harmonies dot the landscape of this familiar hymn, giving added color. Played up to tempo, this well-articulated and lightly syncopated piece will have you tapping your toes!
Joyful, Joyful, We Adore Thee – What would an early hymn book be without this song? 🙂 Open fifths comprise much of the harmony, giving this a nice cheery sound. A straightforward melody with a few register changes, combined with the familiarity of the tune, would make this a great first choice for a student playing from this book.
Joshua Fit the Battle of Jericho – A super fun arrangement! It will probably take a while to master, but will be well worth the effort for any precocious student who wants to have an exciting, impressive-sounding piece to play!
Savior, Like a Shepherd Lead Us – Tender and expressive, with mostly a single melodic line split between the hands. Written in G-Major, this is the only piece in the book in a key other than C-Major or a-minor, but all the F#s are notated individually, rather than in the key signature.
The other two books in the series are equally varied, with a mixture of both lively, fun arrangements, and gorgeous, lyrical arrangements. I love seeing my students get inspired and excited to reach new heights in their musical endeavors, and music like this often provides the impetus they need to launch into that adventure. So, whether you have students who could use a little inspiration to take the next step in their musical studies, or whether you have students who would love some easier stylish arrangements to bring out their musical expressiveness, these Easy Hymn Solos books are sure to be a hit!