carol of the bells

Carol of the Bells: Orff Arrangement

Carol of the Bells

Have you ever met anyone that didn’t love “Carol of the Bells”? I haven’t either, and my students are no exception. “Carol of the Bells” and the Orff instrumentarium were destined to go together, and so here is an arrangement that will satisfy every student in your classroom. Everyone can play a part!

There are some chromatic phrases that are difficult to play with access to only F#s and Bbs, so they have been eliminated in this arrangement, but they won’t really be missed because the rest of it is so fun to play.

“Carol of the Bells” is ultimately based on either 3 descending stepwise notes or 4 descending stepwise notes. Invite your students to explore these patterns starting on different pitches. You may refer to the process score for illustrations of the steps I use to teach “Carol of the Bells”.

1. With the right hand, start on high E and find the descending pattern of 4: E-D-C-B.

2. Add the left hand to that pattern starting on C and play hands together.

3. With only the right hand, start again on high E, but this time decorate each note with a pattern of 3 descending notes.

4. Change the B-A-G at the end of pattern 3 to G-F-E.

5. Add the left hand to this pattern, but starting on C.

6. Play patterns from the beginning, but leave out step 3. Add octave As at the end with a flourish! Teach this to the whole class, but ultimately it is the alto xylophones moment in the sun.

7. Invite your students to play “Hark, how the bells” (quarter, eighth eighth, quarter) on the low E. This is the bass xylophone part. For fun, have the AX play their part, and everyone else play the BX part with the stipulation that everyone must play the octave As at the end together. It’s a good listening exercise!

8. All of the above is merely introductory material and we have now reached the moment that everyone has been waiting for. This can be found in the process score at m. 24, or step 9. This is the glockenspiels big solo! Have the alto glockenspiels play the main motif for 4 repetitions, then add the sopranos a third higher.

9. Invite your students to play a pattern of 4 descending notes starting on A. This correlates with the “Ding dong ding dong” part usually sung by the altos. This will be the alto metallophone part. (Mm. 26-29)

10. Now play a pattern of 4 descending notes starting on high F. It should sound like this. F-E-D-C. Change the last note to A to get F-E-D-A. This will be the bass metallophone part. (Mm.30-33)

11. In the process score, the next motivic phrase in mm. 34-37 is one that can be taught by rote.

12. We have arrived at the apex of the piece “Gaily they ring while people sing….”. (Mm. 38-41) Believe it or not, most of the students have usually figured out how to play this by ear because they all know it so well. Indeed, while you have been valiantly teaching the rest of it, some of them have been secretly noodling away at this phrase. It teaches itself!

13. Because the next familiar phrase is so chromatic (“Merry merry merry merry Christmas!), I modified it and eliminated the accidentals. (See mm.
42- 43). Your students can audiate it if they would like.

14. You now know all the important motifs and may mix and match as you see fit. I have attached a score that has worked well with my students. Have fun!!

Click here to download Cyndee’s performance order printables.

Click here to download Cyndee’s individual printables.

Cyndee Giebler

CYNDEE GIEBLER lives and teaches in northeast Wisconsin. She is a graduate of the University of Wisconsin-Green Bay and completed her master’s degree at the University of St. Thomas in St. Paul, Minn. She has presented workshops for American Orff-Schulwerk Association chapters around the country as well as state, regional, and national conventions. In her spare time, Cyndee enjoys composing and arranging music for classroom use, children’s chorus, and elementary strings.

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  1. Charis Murphy on November 29, 2018 at 11:46 am

    How fun and what a great process. Love this and can’t wait to use this next week.

    Thank you for sharing!

  2. Karen Petty on November 29, 2018 at 1:34 pm

    Thanks, Cyndee! I look forward to trying this out with my students.

  3. Stephanie Holtman on November 29, 2018 at 2:36 pm

    This looks like fantastic fun! Thanks Cyndee!

  4. Alexander Murer on November 29, 2018 at 3:04 pm

    Already trying. Great!

  5. Tonya McKenna on November 29, 2018 at 3:51 pm

    Thank you. This is great.

  6. Amy Fenton on November 29, 2018 at 5:41 pm

    Thank you, Cyndee! My 5th graders will LOVE this!

  7. Philip Benson on November 30, 2018 at 1:04 am

    Looks great, Cyndee! Do you have a version in 4/4?

  8. Wanda Parson on November 30, 2018 at 7:31 am

    Thanks. Perfect lesson for this time of the year!

  9. Stephanie Bradley on November 30, 2018 at 9:33 am

    Thank you for sharing!

  10. Patricia Cauchon on November 30, 2018 at 10:55 am

    Thank you

  11. Maria DiFiore on December 4, 2018 at 2:50 pm

    As always, FABULOUS!!! Thank you, Cyndee!

  12. Donna Fleetwood on December 5, 2018 at 4:36 am

    Thanks for sharing, Cyndee – this will definitely brighten some December classes!

  13. Eileen on January 1, 2019 at 3:04 pm

    Nice! Thank you.

  14. Steve on August 21, 2019 at 3:45 am

    Danke Cyndi. I love the “Pachelbel’s canon-like” build-up of complexity in your arrangement. I can’t wait to try it. Liebe Grüßen Steve

  15. Ms. Urbano on October 21, 2019 at 11:59 am

    Thank you so much for sharing this!!

  16. Randall Harris on October 26, 2019 at 1:03 pm

    In case no one told you today, this is wonderful. Love your work.

  17. Jerry Nelson on December 17, 2020 at 2:57 pm

    I love this arrangement. I taught it to a group of fellow staff members a couple of years ago. They had a blast. I had 13 teachers who volunteered to play. They stayed before or after school to practice. Some even asked to borrow a glockenspiel overnight so they could practice at home. Then, we surprised our students with a spontaneous assembly on the last day before winter break. It was a great bonding activity for our staff and as a bonus, they got to see a little bit of the Orff process in action. I can still hear my principal….”oh, so that’s why you….”.

    • Cyndee on December 17, 2020 at 5:44 pm

      This makes my heart so very happy! Thank you! I am glad that your staff had fun. I have generally found that this arrangement is easy to teach because it is very rewarding when you “get it.”

  18. Chelsea Thiel on December 6, 2021 at 7:29 am

    Thank you, Cyndee! Your “Carol of the Bells” arrangement and lesson is so completely thorough. I appreciate how clear the process is. Amazing! Thank you!

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