Review: Oxford Solo Songs, Christmas

I can’t be the only one who, as a young singer, singing and working with choirs, wished that I could also enjoy the music on my own. At long last, this fairly new series, from Oxford University Press, Oxford Solo Songs, makes that dream a reality, albeit some years on. Following the publication of sacred songs, the latest book in the series is for Christmas; I gather that a book of secular songs is in the pipeline too.

As a blogger and reviewer, it’s highly unusual for me to receive solo vocal music to review. Indeed, I can’t think of any other occasion when I’ve had the opportunity to do this, so this feels like a great treat! It does, however, also highlight the dearth of new vocal music being published, certainly outside of musical theatre and exam repertoire. I have always found that singers and singing teachers in particular tend to play fairly safe with the standard vocal repertoire (which admittedly is huge), underpinned by exam syllabuses. This is perhaps no more acutely felt than as a composer.

But anyway, moving onto the music…

My Lord Has Come by Will Todd from Oxford Solo Songs, Christmas

The book contains 14 songs, and indeed, a high and low voice edition is available (always a bonus). The songs included are:

  1. Rutter: Angels’ Carol
  2. Young: A babe is born
  3. McDowall: Before the paling of the stars
  4. Rutter: Candlelight Carol
  5. Rutter: I sing of a maiden
  6. Chilcott: Mid-Winter
  7. Todd: My Lord has Come
  8. Bullard: Scot’s Nativity
  9. Quartel: Snow Angel
  10. Todd: Softly
  11. Chilcott: Sweet was the song
  12. Chilcott: The Shepherd’s Carol
  13. Quartel: This endris night
  14. McGlade: What child is this?

This is a lovely diverse selection of songs which will give solo singers, and as the book suggests, unison choirs, some beautiful additions to their Christmas repertoire. My initial reaction was that these were all arrangements of existing choral pieces; however, I think some have been newly composed as solo songs in their own right (but OUP may correct me on this).

As expected, there are some old favourites, notably Rutter’s Candlelight Carol and Chilcott’s Mid-Winter. There are also some newer works, including Quartel’s Snow Angel which also includes an optional cello part. Personally, it’s lovely to see Todd’s My Lord has Come here which in my view, is especially effective and haunting in a solo arrangement.

A real bonus with this book is that it comes with a code through which you can download professionally recorded piano accompaniment tracks and PDFs of the pieces; the latter is especially useful for those who now view their scores on tablet devices and similar. I am glad that OUP have chosen downloads rather than CDs, a problem I’ve highlighted in previous reviews.

Composers represented in the new Oxford Solo Songs, Christmas books

As has always been the case with OUP publications, the book is clearly typeset and presented. It’s a no-fuss publication which does exactly what it says on the tin. The books retail for just under £17 which in my view, is excellent value. Not only do you get the book with 14 songs in, but as mentioned above, you also get access to piano accompaniment tracks and downloadable PDFs online.

I really can’t fault these publications. In my view, they fill an extensive gap in the market, and I hope this series will continue to grow in the coming years.

Oxford Solo Songs, Christmas is available in a high voice and low voice edition, ISBNs 9780193556782 and 9780193556799 respectively, priced £16.95.

I was sent a review copy of this book free of charge; however, this review is my honest opinion as a teacher. You can find my Reviews Policy here.

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