Follow the Star: Christmas Songs for Piano (Level 4)

Level 4

Non-Fiction - Music/Entertainment
28 Pages
Reviewed on 12/31/2018
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Author Biography

Author Donna Gielow McFarland developed an early love for literature. She wrote her first book at age ten, and later contributed to her high school and college newspapers while working in book stores and libraries. After earning a degree in piano performance from Wheaton College and a master's degree in piano pedagogy from the University of Oregon, she taught at New Hope Christian College and currently teaches at Northwest Christian University. She also served as class piano program coordinator at the University of Oregon.

Her books include Worship at the Keys: A Method Book, Follow the Star: Christmas Songs for Piano, The Purple Elephant chapter books, Duck and Friends early readers, Sam and the Dragon: A Medieval Mars Story and several college music textbooks. Donna lives in Oregon with her husband and son.

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    Book Review

Reviewed by Randy B. Lichtman for Readers' Favorite

Follow the Star: Christmas Songs for Piano—Level 4 is a very enjoyable collection of Christmas songs for students, edited and arranged by Donna Gielow McFarland with additional arrangers Cherry Wilson and Tami Wilson collaborating. The arrangements are easy enough for Level 4 and creative. “Silent Night” has a creative harmonic setting for its “slow, dreamy” direction and is a very nice setting for a traditional Christmas carol. “Away in a Manger (for Cowboys)" changes the melody somewhat to deliver a very fun and bouncy cowboy version of the traditional carol, arranged by Tami Wilson. One of my favorites was McFarland’s setting of “A Thousand Candles” which has a very lyrical harmonic setting and is a very sweet song based on a Swedish carol. “Deck the Halls” has a nice staccato ostinato underneath it, resolving in octaves and a harmonic ending measure for each phrase. Other settings are very traditional such as “Joy to the World”, “Good King Wenceslas” and “March of the Toy Soldiers”.

The illustrations are very appropriate for this book, which was designed for children, and are very appropriate for adults at Level 4 as well. I enjoyed playing the arrangements through. They do a good job of presenting different styles and introducing different skill challenges for children. Since there is such a variety of pieces, it presents different skills for the student. For example, “March of the Toy Soldiers” has a left hand in Treble Clef for most of the piece, which is different from most pieces, which are in Bass Clef, so it opens that opportunity for learning. The use of staccato underneath of a legato line in “Deck the Halls” presents a different learning opportunity. The cowboy version of “Away in a Manager” offers a different type of accompanying figure with a rhythmic ostinato accompanying it. So, in addition to fun Christmas pieces, there are wonderful opportunities to learn and use it to supplement piano methods in a piano lesson. Follow the Star: Christmas Songs for Piano—Level 4 should become a valuable teaching tool and an enjoyable one to use for students, especially in preparation for holiday time. Highly recommended!