Irish Celebration is the latest piece by Wendy Stevens, published by Hal Leonard. It is a “Showcase Solo” which means that it is leveled with the Hal Leonard Student Piano Library, which is a piano method popular with many teachers. This series starts with Level One, not a Primer level, so Level One on the front means it is an Early Elementary Piece. It is written on-the-staff in the key of C, with 3 pages including a teacher duet.
Irish Celebration is a jig with very large notes that will make your youngest students feel very comfortable. As we know, large notes make it look easy, and when we show a piece to our students, we want them to feel like they can do it. At the top of the page there is a keyboard diagram to show students where to put their hands. This is a very handy thing to have because, while the right hand is in middle C position, the left hand pinkie will sit on E, not F as it does in a true middle C position piece. But this is not a problem because the left hand only plays 2 notes the entire piece. If your student can only play in middle C position, this is a good piece to start branching out. I’ve said many times on this blog that middle C position is very awkward for the hand, and it is so much better if the thumbs are on different keys. I have personally arranged many pieces for my beginning students with the thumbs touching, but not on the same key.
Sometimes I look at a piece with just 7 notes and wonder how the composer managed to make such appealing music out of so little. Irish Celebration is one of those pieces. Wendy, my hat goes off to you, because you have written another winner. This piece is a jig, written in 3/4 time, but like all Irish jigs it has a 6/8 feel. It is written in 3/4 time to be accessible to the beginning student. That means the piece should be played fast with one beat in a measure. Students will love this tempo. Just the other day one of my students told me he didn’t want any more “boring” pieces. I asked what made a piece fun and not boring, and he said “a fast song!” I guarantee that Irish Celebration is a fun piece. The teacher duet is appealing and also helps the student get the feel of the rhythm.
Before you start to teach this music to your young ones, work some on feeling 6/8 rhythm. Sit on the floor and chant or sing some 6/8 songs. There are so many: Hickory Dickory Dock, Mulberry Bush, Jack and Jill, the list is endless. That’s because spoken English falls naturally into a 6/8 meter. Take a look at any nursery rhyme book and you will see what I mean. As you say the rhyme, you and your student should keep the large beat on your lap or the floor. Be sure you are beating the dotted quarter note in 6/8 meter, not the “small beat” eighth note. Then change quickly to you singing the melody to The Irish Washer Woman while also beating the dotted quarter note. I don’t know the words to that tune, but I can sing it with fa, la, la, la. Have fun with it by starting slow and then singing (and beating) faster and faster. This will really get the child to feel the rhythm of a jig.
Then go back to the piano and tap the rhythm of Irish Celebration (using whatever counting method works for you) on the piano lid. Now you are ready to teach Irish Celebration! The notes are not difficult, mostly steps, so it is a very good beginning reading piece.
More Music For St. Patrick’s Day
If you are looking for more music for St. Patrick’s Day, Melody Bober (FJH Publications) has written a level 1 solo that my student’s love, The Leprechaun’s Jig. Here are some more:
Schaum Publications: Jolly Leprechaun by Schaum, E
Hal Leonard: Jazz Jig by Keveren, EE
Willis: Jaunty Jig by Hudelson, Elementary
Kjos: Dublin Irish Jig by Bastien, Level 4
Willis: Irish Suite by Melody Bober, Intermediate
FJH: Farewell to Ireland by Timothy Brown, Intermediate
These are not particularly St. Patrick’s Day, but I like them
FJH: Three Wishes by Kevin Olson, Pre Reading
FJH: The Troubadour by Kevin Olson, Intermediate (My student and I liked this so much when it first came out, I wrote Kevin and told him how great we thought it was. Later it became at NFMC choice piece! This is a great piece for teens who like Celtic sounding music)
There are many, many more pieces that can be used for St. Patrick’s Day. I did a search of all the publishers and came up with many songs about rainbows, pixies, castles, ponies, and jigs. I have also posted on my website a few games with shamrocks and a composing piece for beginners with a St. Patrick’s Day theme. If you have a favorite St. Patrick’s Day piece you can recommend, please send me an email. Éire go Brách!