Once in Royal David’s City

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This is an elementary-level piano setting where the student plays just the melody. There are two stanzas: the first in F major, the second in G major. Key signatures are not used in the solo part to keep it as simple as possible.

The accompaniment elevates the sophistication of the arrangement and will help the student feel like it’s something special.

I arranged this for an early-level student who came to his lesson saying that the organist at his church had invited him to play a duet with her on the organ for a children’s Christmas service. Given those circumstances, a single-line melody for the student seemed best. I purposely wrote the accompaniment so that it could work well either on organ or piano. An organist could easily add a pedal line, but it also works well with manuals only.

I expected that my young student would not know this carol, so I showed him the opening of a King’s College Choir Christmas Eve Festival of Nine Lessons and Carols. As you probably know, that service always begins with a young chorister singing the opening stanza of Once in Royal David’s City a cappella. I’ve read that the choristers don’t know who will sing the solo until moments before it happens when the choirmaster points to the student who will sing. (Click here to read more about that.) My student enjoyed that story and it gave him some fun context for a Christmas carol he hadn’t previously known.

I hope this setting will work well for some of your students, too.

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