Your Accompanist - Rehearsal Tracks for Singers

Festive Greetings!

Fa-la-la-la-la, la-la-la-la! Welcome to this festive edition of the Your Accompanist Newsletter. We thought we'd help you get in the mood for your carolling and christmas singing.

If you're wishing to brush up your background knowledge, we have a catch-up history of Christmas carols.

Performance tips brings advice for carollers out-and-about this winter, and we'll be introducing you to singer-songwriter, Bree Noble, from California who shares a taste of her life in song.

We've got gift ideas for the special singers in your life, as well as our regular slot for those who sing with children and much more!

Happy Christmas Singing!

The Your Accompanist Team

PS We've got a series of great Christmas eCards for you to send a musical greeting to your loved ones.



Special Festive Issue
December 2007

In this issue:
What's new to the catalogue?
New Carols Collection
Gifts for singers
Catch-up history of the Chrismas carol
Singing with kids at Christmas
Send a musical eCard
Singer profiles: Bree Noble
Performance tips: Top-tips for Carollers
About Your Accompanist

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Latest AddtionsWhat's new to the catalogue?

Handel's Messiah
More  'Messiah' chorus and recitative accompaniments now available

The Tosti Collection Suggested by you, a collection of songs by much loved Italian and Victorian Court Composer Sir Paolo Tosti.

Gilbert & Sullivan By popular demand we are expanding our Operetta selection considerably

Halfdan Kjerulf & Carl Nielsen We will be featuring the songs of these two important Scandinavian composers in the next edition of the newsletter.

Brahms Now added - Sapphische Ode and An Die Nachtigall.

Latest additions:



History of songCatch-up history of the Christmas Carol

Many of us have grown up singing carols at Christmastime. Often, it has been a very happy way for us to learn to sing. With all the excitement of each festive season, maybe we haven't had much time to think about why we do it or how the tradition started.  Catch up now…

In 13th century France, 'caroles' were sung as accompaniments to a circle or 'round' dances. The leader of the dance sang the verse whilst the others stood still – the 'stanza' - giving the dancers a chance to get their breath back!  The rest of the group then sang a 'burden' or refrain while they were dancing the next round, like many children's playground games today.

By the time the idea reached England in the 15th century, the form had become less physical but more complicated musically, more attention being given to the singing rather than the dancing.

The music had become 'polyphonic' with two or more independent parts, but still with stanzas and choruses or refrains (burdens). Harmony was still experimental - think of the Coventry Carol with its 'false relation' which leaves everybody feeling that somebody's sung a dud note somewhere.

Increasingly, the words were based on sacred texts and by the time of the Reformation in the 16th Century, carols had become almost exclusively Christmas songs. They reflect huge diversity of language and style - narrative (Good King Wenceslas), symbolic (The Holly and The Ivy) or expressive of deeply held beliefs (Veni Immanuel). Many of their origins are ancient - like Adeste Fideles, originating in a 15th century French Convent, or obscure - like the traditional Celtic carol Bunessan, the melody for which is said to have been gathered from 'a wandering highlander'.

Each century has added its own to the list – from Victorian hits like Sullivan's Noel (It came Upon The Midnight Clear) right through to modern favourites like John Rutter's Shepherd's Pipe Carol. Many famous composers have arranged and rearranged them. To this day, we still sing many secular 'carols', true to their original dance form, like Here We Come A-Wassailing  dating from the 13th century Norse –'ves heill' which means 'be in good health'. In these, the emphasis is definitely on fun, not piety.

Other Christmas songs, particularly American ones, like James Lord Pierpont's, One Horse Open Sleigh (aka Jingle Bells) and Irving Berlin's, White Christmas also deserve inclusion in our carol history. Along with Noddy Holder's very 'danceable', Merry Christmas Everybody (harking back to the original 'carole'), they will take their place with all the rest – secular and sacred - continuing to to revive our spirits through long, cold northern nights or helping us feel festive in warmer climes.


Teaching TipsSinging with the kids this Christmas

Children all over the world sing carols joyfully in unison… without worrying too much about polyphony!

Kids choir'One Horse Open Sleigh' (or 'Jingle Bells' as it's better known) is our free kid's Christmas warm up. It's always a favourite.

Work on tone with this one and avoid anything too raucous to begin with. Turn the volume down and try getting them to hum it very quietly. Tell them that they're only humming properly if it tickles their top lip and teeth - watch the concentration on their faces!


Performance Tips Top tips for Carollers

Memorise the words as many as you can so that you can meet your listeners with a smile. No 'lah-lahing!'

Do have a run through before you set off (even if you're with seasoned campaigners - there's always somebody who's not been before) and preferably do it outside to get used to the difference in the sound.

Use pitch pipes or a harmonica (unless one of the crew has really reliable pitch). There's not much festive cheer in finding you can't finish your carol because you started too high.

Work out a running order for what you're going to sing - easy to forget when enthusiasm kicks in - to avoid decision-making huddles in between each carol. Try to be flexible - you may get requests.

Practise singing and walking at the same time. It can be quite hard if you're not used to it. Pick a carol where the rhythm helps - like O Come O Come Emmanuel, (say with crotchet = 40-44 beats per minute) otherwise you'll find yourself going 'at the double'.

Organise the look of your group. Informal is good and a semi circle is practical. Try to sing without your conductor standing in front if possible. Don't stand in one long row or you won't be able to hear each other.

Give some thought to lighting. Lanterns are traditional and lovely, but headband lights could be very useful if you do need to see the music.

Wear light colours to be road-safe in the dark - reflectors on your coats can look very festive.

Be sensible about your safety. Alert as many people as you can about your carolling visit and go in as large a group as possible - it's more fun anyway and you'll get a better audience.

Avoid offers of hot chocolate or milky drinks to heat you up - good for the toes but not for the top notes - and stay off the very strong stuff!


Relaxing online games

When SuperMario gets a bit too noisy for grandma this Christmas, you might like to take a look at these beautiful online games:

Deer Crossing by Orisinal
Tea time by Orisinal

The intuitive gameplay and great music make the perfect Christmas pastime for the whole family.

If you're lucky enough to have a Nintendo Wii, you'll find that these games also work perfectly on your TV.

We've picked out a festive selection here, but you'll find many more year-round games at:


Seasonal SingingNew Carols Collection

If you're looking for ideas for varied and engaging festive singing, we hope our Christmas selection will be a fine source of inspiration.

In addition to our popular Carols Collection - Vol 1, we're adding another, Vol 2, containing more seasonal favourites, such as See Amid the Winter Snow, Joy to the World, We Long to See Thee So.

View all carols:


Gifts for singers

Modest budget:
Your Accompanist Gift Vouchers
Beautifully presented in PDF format, our gift vouchers start at 5 tracks, and are perfect stocking fillers for the special singers in your life.

Moderate budget:
There's no shortage of books, CDs and gadgets available which would appeal to singers of all ages and abilities. What about some pitch pipes for carol singing? Check out a few of our favourites:

Large budget:
If money is no object why not send your loved one on an active singing vacation. Here are a couple of options (check out our links page for further details):

US and Worldwide - Berkshire Choral Festival

Choral singers get together to rehearse and perform masterpieces of the choral repertoire.

UK and Ireland - Farncombe Estate
Short leisure courses and weekend breaks all year round.


Send a musical eCard

eCardLooking for a paper-free way to send greetings this Christmas? Send one of our musical eCards!

We've recorded special versions of some favourite Christmas songs for you to share with your loved ones, near and far, instantly.

They're completely free:


Singer ProfileSinger Profile: Bree Noble

Bree Noble, an award winning singer-songwriter Bree Noblefrom San Dimas, California, ('Best Female Performer' at the 2007 Inland Empire Music Awards), uses our tracks to help with her community work. She's been kind enough to take time out from a busy performance schedule to talk to us.

Happy Christmas, Bree! What does festive singing mean for you?
It's a huge part of our holiday tradition.  My husband and I always sing with the church choir in the Christmas Eve service and my 4 year old daughter performs in the church musical.

How did you get into singing?
With church musicals in elementary school, specifically the Psalty Praise musicals.  My first major performance was in Grease in 7th grade as the Teen Angel.

I sang in several choirs in high school and lead a women's barbershop quartet. My college degree is in classical voice, but I also toured with a Christian pop and a cappella group for four years.

Do you have a favourite composer?
I'd have to say Mozart, but I love to sing everything from classical to Broadway to pop/rock to Christian music. My favourite song is probably the Bach/Gounod Ave Maria.

Who or what is your biggest musical influence?
Classical? Good solid lyric sopranos. I'm also inspired by Pop singers like Sarah McLachlan and Christian singers like Sara Groves.

Tell us about concerts you've performed in.
Last year, my biggest performance ever - singing the National Anthem for 56,000 people at Dodger Stadium in Los Angeles.

Recently, performing my original songs, treasured hymns and worship music at the California Pacific United Methodist Conference for about 1500 people.

Does your singing involve you in any charitable work or fundraising?
I perform at benefits for charities for the visually impaired, single moms in need and many church organizations. I've also allowed organizations to place my songs on CDs to raise funds to help troubled youth.

Do you do have other occupations or interests?
With an additional degree in Business, I'm a part-time accountant for Opera Pacific in Orange County, CA.

I also write songs; collaborate with other writers; plan and lead worship services for my church and spend time with my husband and daughter Julia

Do you have a top singing tip?
Always keep throat muscles relaxed, breathe correctly and practise, even a little, everyday. Vocal chords are muscles and need to be exercised to stay in shape.

Prayer is great for focus and calming if you believe in God. And… always warm up your entire vocal range.
Whose names are on your ultimate fantasy concert poster?
Current cast of Broadway's Les Miserable performing that musical, or the best cast at the MET performing The Marriage of Figaro.

Full interview on

Bree's own website:

If you would like to be featured, please email:


Feedback please

If you've enjoyed this issue of the newsletter, if there's something you'd like us to talk about in the future, if you've got a question you think we could answer or a singing tip you'd like to share with others, please let us know.

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About Your Accompanist

We make real piano rehearsal tracks for singers. All tracks are recorded by a real pianist on a real piano in a single take. You download them directly to your PC in MP3 format. They can then be transferred directly to any portable MP3 player (such as an iPod or, Sony MP3 walkman, Archos box or iRiver), or burned to CD.

They are ideal for soloists, ensembles, choirs and classrooms, for those who sing professionally, recreationally or secretly. The quality of the musicianship and sensitivity of the performances means that the accompaniments make great listening, even for those who don't sing along.

Our catalogue covers a large part of the standard repertoire and is growing all the time. We bring you a wide variety of genres and composers, and aim to cater for all vocal ranges and levels of proficiency. Each track can be sampled on the site so you can be sure you've got the piece you want.

We believe very strongly in the importance of music in education, and have a great deal of experience in the field. We hope to support music teachers, promote singing in the classroom and provide an effective low cost solution for singing teaching situations where good quality live accompaniment is not readily available.

All of our tracks are available for instant download, so if we've already got the piece you want, there's no need to wait for a CD via post. If you'd like something we don't already have, or you need it in a different key, let us know. If it's in the public domain and we can get hold of the music, we could have it online for you quite quickly.

Read more in our User Guide:


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