Just ask them if they have ever heard this Christmas song, and start to play the first line of "O Holy Night" chords.
If they have ever heard it before, they will LONG to play it. Here is a moving video of the story told by "O Holy Night," Josh Groban singing:
Here is page 1 of the lead sheet O Holy Night sheet music, available here in 4 keys.
Scroll down the page to find the free PDF links:
And page two:
Now for the piano arrangement...
It is the flowing chords that give the O Holy Night sheet music its special flavor.
Never having found a version easy enough for my students but also lovely enough to want to play and work hard on, or even with which to accompany singers, I finally arranged my own version.
The chord pattern is different from the lilting chord inversion pattern usually heard with piano arrangements of O Holy Night, but my pattern frees the right hand to play the melody.
There are some chord "fragments" in the right hand. If kids are somewhat familiar with playing chords in inversions, then they may be ready for this song.
Now I am going to offer you a little music theory lesson!
O Holy Night: the Chord Progressions
The essentials of music theory are much more fun when you are discovering them in a real honest-to-goodness song, rather than in a workbook.
O Holy Night has all the chords belonging to its key:
I, ii, iii, IV, V and V7 both, and the vi chords.
In addition, we will encounter the V7 chord of the iii chord in the chord progression B7 to Em.
This is explained as "borrowing" a chord from another key, the key of E minor, to temporarily give us the feeling of being in that minor key.
When I start O Holy Night sheet music with my younger students, it is always in the key of C.
I have them read and play the first left-hand chord, then tell me its name (C).
Even though it seems like that should be pretty obvious, the doubling of the C at the octave can cause confusion.
Especially if they haven't played the chord built in that manner, kids may be cautious about advancing an opinion about a chord if it shows up in unfamiliar guise!
Then they play along for a few measures, right into the F/C chord, usually without noticing that the chord has changed!
I may take the point of my pencil and direct their attention to the "f" after the "c" in measure 4. When I ask them to analyze this chord, I may have to say "Look for the interval of a 4th.
"The note at the top of the 4th is the name of the chord" -- or perhaps I will make the chord myself, an octave higher, then point out the 3 notes of the F chord in root position.
They always recognize chords in root position.
This slash chord, the F over C, is so beautiful that we usually start over so we can experience it again without hesitation (or so much hesitation, at least!). There it is again, in measure 4:
The left hand then moves back into the C chord for a couple measures, and then in line 2, measure 2, the hand drops to a "g".
Most kids will start immediately to form a G chord, so I give them a warning to read carefully.
"It looks like it might be a G chord, but is it?"
Having just made the F/C slash chord, they are more wary, and usually recognize quickly that it is really a C chord -- a C over G, written "C/G".
As we move along in the O Holy Night sheet music, we are writing the chord names at the top of each measure.
We do this right over the beat where each chord begins (not centered over the measure, which some kids are tempted to do).
In the next measure, the hand stays where it is, but changes to a G7 chord.
It is pretty easy to read those intervals of 3rds. We count up from the bottom just to confirm that the top note, "f," is indeed 7 steps up from the bass note "g", making it a "seventh chord."
Then where do we go after a G7 chord?
Most of my students know that the G7 chord (or V7 chord) always makes us feel like "going home" to the main chord (tonic chord), C.
And sure enough, that is just what happens.
On page 2, measure 29 of the O Holy Night sheet music (that page not shown here), the song moves briefly ("modulates") into the relative minor key of the key of C, Am. ("Fall... on your knees... ")
We meet the Am chord, and its iv and v chords, which also happen to be the ii and iii chords of the key of C -- Dm and Am.
(And if you didn't already know, the minor chords are designated with lower-case Roman numerals, not capitals as the major chords have.)
Now let's skip to page 3 of the O Holy Night sheet music, shown in the key of Bb...
After 2 pages of left hand chords in the same basic formation, finally something different in measures 43 & 44, just in time for the high point of the song! In the key of Bb, above, it is a climbing Bb chord. Let's see it in the key of C instead:
Sometimes instead of having my students try to play those measures, I say, "Look at my hand. What am I doing?" and I perform the left hand only of those 2 measures.
They see right away (if they can recognize chord inversions) that it is just a C chord inversion, broken, ascending. Then they try it.
Measure 45 of the O Holy Night sheet music is a root-position G chord, but the next measure may be harder to decipher for some.
Measure 46 is still a G chord, but it has changed into a G7 chord, with the "f" in the bass (and doubled at the top).
Where is the "g" of the chord? In the right hand, and I point it out to my students.
So where does a G7 chord want to go?
It goes to a C chord again, only it goes to that part of the C chord which is right next-door to the "f" of the G7 chord; it goes to an "e".
Very beautiful voice-leading, or bass voice movement. It is one of the things I have always loved about this song. G, to F, down to E.
That chord climbs and climbs and finally comes to rest at a simple F chord: it feels like a sigh of relief.
Later, when they are very familiar with the right hand and putting hands together, I may suggest adding extra chord tones to some of the right hand notes.
Actually, they are eager to do this themselves, once they understand that the extra notes are just part of the same chord!
And that is basically it. After thrashing through the left hand chords like this, the right hand is a breeze (except some kids will need help choosing fingering), so I frequently don't even go into it (depending on the student).
Unlike most of the music on my site, this piano version of O Holy Night sheet music, in 3 keys, is for sale, $5.00 USD for unlimited copies of all 3 keys, for your students only. (If you have questions or doubts about the quality of the file, please visit other pages on my site where music is free to download. My graphic program, unfortunately, cannot show the beauty of these pages!)
When you buy this music, you will receive O Holy Night for piano in the keys of Bb, C, and D, 3 pages each. This is a 9-page collection. And I give you permission to make unlimited copies, for your students only (please do not share with anyone besides your students).
GET O HOLY NIGHT SHEET MUSIC IN THE KEYS OF Bb, C, & D, 9 PAGES:
Aside from the fact that these O Holy Night sheets are beautiful, why should you buy this music from me?
For $5.00, you will receive O Holy Night for piano in all 3 keys: Bb, C, and D. This is a 9-page collection. And I give you permission to make unlimited copies, for your students only (please do not share with anyone besides your students).
The 9-page collection is available immediately as a digital download onto your computer, for only $5.00.
You don't have to download any new software into your computer in order to acquire the PDF. I don't know about you, but I detest clogging up my computer with yet another program I didn't know I needed. You just need a version of Adobe Acrobat or another PDF reader, which all computers come with. If you DON'T have Adobe Acrobat or a similar program, then you couldn't download any of my other PDFs either.
I give you permission to make unlimited copies, for your students only. This is a real deal! Ordinarily, on other sites, one copy of sheet music, for just one student, will cost at least $5.00. If you are buying a physical book or sheet, then there is postage too! Please do not share with anyone besides your students.
Paypal, the payment system I use, is a secure and recognized payment system. You can pay by credit or debit card, or your bank account. E-Junkie delivers the PDF document, working as a partner with PayPal... your purchase is guaranteed. Any problems downloading? Email me through the Contact link.
Get O Holy Night in the keys of Bb, C, and D (total of 9 pages) for $5.00
And now, O Holy Night lyrics & harmony part, a free duet arrangement for two voices!
This would be a lovely Christmas song for a church duet.
My easy soprano/alto arrangement of O Holy Night sheet music will not take long for your singers to master... for the most part, the harmony stays a third or a sixth below the melody, without any complicated maneuvers.
Here is a closeup:
There is only one place where I broke voice-leading rules a little, with a spot where the harmony crosses over the melody's previous note (a forbidden move in elementary voice leading).
But the harmony part in measure 28 is begging for a bit of drama, so I allow it to break out of the lower notes.
And a lovely rendition of my free duet version, posted at Youtube by Dave and Shirley in Canada (thanks, Dave & Shirley - & Chris!):
Here are the Oh Holy Night lyrics, useful for sing-alongs, or just for saving paper!
The links to the lead sheets at the top of the page:
The wonderful thing about a song like "O Holy Night" is that it is so motivating to play, for the sheer pleasure of hearing it come together, that kids will work and work on it. I have seen a lot of smiles lately, passing out this piece.
GET THE PIANO SOLO MUSIC, $5.00 for 3 keys, Bb, C, & D (this piano piece can be used to accompany the vocals, but is a stand-alone arrangement):
Shanette, US: I just purchasedO Holy Night to use as a duet for Christmas Eve Mass. Thank you so much for this simple, easy to read version as my vocalists are not professional and this music won't be quite so intimidating as other arrangements I have. Your expertise is much appreciated!! Merry Christmas!
Liz: Hello - I just want to say THANK YOU so much for the duet version ofOh Holy night (in Bb too!), which is great, as I have two students at school that are going to sing this in a concert in 3 weeks. With not much time and no budget, it is so nice to find an arrangement! Thank you.
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