Christmas Carols for Ukulele Orchestra
12 Classic Carols for Three or More Ukuleles.
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Campanella-style ukulele arrangements for 3 or more players (2 or more if your group includes singers). Orchestral-style instrumental parts include both tablature and standard notation. Rhythm ukulele parts include the melody line, lyrics, chords and strumming/fingerpicking indications. See the free sample content below for examples.
- Away in a Manger
Sample: 1b Away in a Manger – Rhythm Ukulele (PDF)
- Carol of the Bells
Sample: 2c Carol of the Bells – Ukulele 1 (PDF)
- Deck the Hall
Sample: 3b Deck the Hall – Ukulele 1 (PDF)
- God Rest Ye, Merry Gentlemen
Sample: 4b God Rest Ye Merry, Gentlemen – Rhythm Ukulele (PDF)
- Good King Wenceslas
Sample: 5c Good King Wenceslas – Ukulele 1 (PDF)
- Hark! The Herald Angels Sing
Sample: 6b Hark! the Herald Angels Sing – Rhythm Ukulele (PDF)
- Jingle Bells
Sample: 7b Jingle Bells – Rhythm Ukulele (PDF)
- Joy to the World
Sample: 8c Joy to the World – Ukulele 1 (PDF)
- Silent Night
Sample: 9c Silent Night Uke Orchestra – Ukulele 1 (PDF) : Audio Demo
- We Three Kings
Sample: 10c We Three Kings – Ukulele 1 (PDF)
- We Wish You a Merry Christmas!
Sample: 11c We Wish You a Merry Christmas – Ukulele 1 (PDF)
- What Child is This?
Sample: 12e What Child is This – Ukulele 3 (PDF)
Note: This is an example of what the harmony parts are like for Ukulele 2 and Ukulele 3 on all of the arrangements.
I was inspired to create this book by a number of things; my love for the ukulele, the ukulele ensemble I lead in the heart of the Wasatch mountains (UFO HUM: Ukes for Others Happy Ukulele Movement), my experience as a composer and arranger, and not least, some great arrangements for ukulele ensemble that I’ve seen others do.
As I’ve used some of the arrangements made by others with my UFO HUM group, I’ve compiled a wish list of things I’d like to see in a book of this kind. For instance, tablature parts for those playing strictly instrumentals (we spend a lot of time in rehearsal just figuring out the best fingerings), a rhythm part that includes strum suggestions with the chords, and lyrics for those of us in the group who like to sing as well as play.
This book meets these qualifications for the most part. Carol of the Bells and Deck the Hall omit the lyrics for purely instrumental versions of these standbys. Deck the Hall and We Three Kings also omit a rhythm part with chords for reasons of complexity. All in all, I hope you enjoy my take, influenced largely by my college studies in 16th and 18th century counterpoint as a composition student, to be a lot of fun for you and your ukulele orchestra or ensemble!
M. Ryan Taylor
While all the arrangements can be performed as written in the score and parts, I’m including some variations that you might consider based on the preferences of your ensemble. First of all, the ‘Rhythm Ukulele’ part (which contains the lyrics and vocal melody) can be omitted on all the arrangements if you only have three players. Alternately, the ‘Ukulele 1’ part usually sticks to the melody and can be omitted any time you’d like to sing the melody instead from the ‘Rhythm Ukulele’ part. Where and when you use the vocal lines are up to you, including the possibility of audience participation on one or more of the verses.
Other suggestions are specific to the individual carols . . .
Away in a Manger: Ukulele 3 combines the parts 1 & 2 to make an intermediate level solo. This solo (with or without the Rhythm Ukulele part as a duet) could be used to feature one of your fine players on sections A & B (the first two verses), after which the entire ensemble could join in on the C section (a recapitulation of section A). The Rhythm Part includes my simplified version of fingerpicking notation; the numbers indicate string numbers where A is the 1st string and so forth. This pattern can be played on the right hand with just the index and thumb fingers.
Carol of the Bells: As written for three players (or multiples).
Deck the Hall: This crazy version of the classic carol was inspired by a version I sang in high school, arranged by James McKelvy, that stays in 7/8 throughout. My version, however, playfully switches back and forth between 7/8, 6/8, 5/8 and 4/4 and includes my own brand of counterpoint. Perform, if you can, as written. 😉
God Rest Ye, Merry Gentlemen: The Rhythm Ukulele part enters on the second verse, though the vocal could be included on the first (if using vocals).
Good King Wenceslas: This carol has five verses, and if you are singing them it is difficult to leave a verse out and have the carol make any sense. I’ve included repeats to cover all five verses, but if you’re doing this instrumentally, I would play through once and then take the repeat of the A section to conclude.
Hark! The Herald Angels Sing: Maybe more than any of the other arrangements in this book, this one might be the one to forgo the Ukulele 1 part entirely and have the audience sing along while your ensemble weaves counterpoint around the melody on parts 2 & 3. I’ve included the optional alternate lyric, “As with Gladness Men of Old,” which I like very much.
Jingle Bells: This would be another great one for an audience sing-a-long on the familiar first verse.
Joy to the World: As written, with each of the parts playing on the verses marked for them.
Silent Night: In this simple version of the carol, you might have the audience sing along with the Rhythm Ukulele part on the first verse, have parts 1 & 3 join on the 2nd, and save the contrapuntal Ukulele 2 part for 3rd verse. Other variations are also possible. The Rhythm Part includes my simplified version of fingerpicking notation; the numbers indicate string numbers where A is the 1st string and so forth. This pattern can be played on the right hand with just the index and thumb fingers.
We Three Kings: Ironically, to shorten this carol to three verses, I added my own verse to conclude the carol (included are verses 1 & 5 of the traditional carol). There are no strum indications or chords because the constantly shifting harmony of the counterpoint makes if impractical. Perform with or without the lyrics as written.
We Wish You a Merry Christmas!: This arrangement doesn’t bring in the vocal line until after an instrumental section. Perform with or without the lyrics as written. The Rhythm Part includes my simplified version of fingerpicking notation; the numbers indicate string numbers where A is the 1st string and so forth. This pattern can be played on the right hand with just the index and thumb fingers.
What Child is This?: The Rhythm Part includes my simplified version of fingerpicking notation; the numbers indicate string numbers where A is the 1st string and so forth. This pattern can be played on the right hand with just the index and thumb fingers. If singing beginning at the A section, omit the Ukulele 1 part until section C after the vocals end.
A final note about the Rhythm Ukulele part: I have not included chord diagrams in this book, which is on an advanced beginner to intermediate level for the strummer. If you’re unfamiliar with any of the chords included in this book, please consult a chord dictionary (many exist); my favorite online site for chord reference is UkeBuddy.com.
While I feel I’ve given some well-informed suggestions for playing this strumming/fingerpicking part, please feel free to improvise a bit. Good ukulele players are generally great improvisers, especially in this realm. My suggestions are there to help, and provide guidance, not to constrict the player that has a lot of experience under their belt.