On this page you will find a special edition of our listening page (proposed by tutors and members of the Sistema team) to mark the festive season.

Melinda Hirsch-Robinson - Violin/Viola Tutor

Sleigh Ride by Leroy Anderson

I am someone who really enjoys Christmas music (in December) especially when we are decorating the tree. However, being a freelance musician back in New York meant that December also brought the busy gig season when I’d be playing lots of festive music. Even though I’ve played countless holiday performances, I still get excited every time I get to play ‘Sleigh Ride’ by Leroy Anderson. I love everything about it - the buoyancy of the melody in the violins, the way the accompaniment pushes everything along,  the boundless energy of brass in the middle part (listen out for this especially at the 1:46 mark in this youtube recording), and how the percussion (and trumpet at the end) mimic the horse, sleigh, and whip. Even though as a viola player I mainly play minims and off-beats in this piece, I have so much fun playing them to accompany the melody - that it could just as easily be the tune I’m playing. In addition to loving the piece itself, it also brings back many happy memories of some wonderful colleagues I’ve gotten to play with over the years, so it will always hold a special place in my heart.


Mark Read - Brass Tutor

I Saw Three Ships - Jacob Collier

As a composer and arranger myself this is an amazing example of how to develop a fairly simple theme in to something quite spectacular. Creatively thinking ‘out of the box’.    Years of musical dedication have allowed Jacob the technical ability to let his imagination run wild, and with him performing every instrument it is a joy to behold.


Daniel Wright - Singing and General Music Tutor

Nova! Nova! Ave fit ex Eva

Christmas is a great time to learn about medieval music. This carol is from 15th century England, and tells the story of the Angel Gabriel announcing to Mary that she was to conceive Jesus. Although only the text and melody are written down, in this recording by Obsidienne we hear improvised parts for percussion, a harp and recorder (or Gemshorn) doubling the melody, and improvised vocal harmony at the refrain. Medieval musicians, a bit like Jazz musicians, did not rely on sheet music and would use whatever instruments were available to perform with. The twanging metallic sound which is prominant at the start of this recording is made by a 'Jew's Harp'. This is music for dancing to, either in private or in public places, perhaps not what you would immediately associate with a Christmas carol. When I was younger my parents had a recording of this carol and, perhaps because I was so small, I misheard the refrain as 'Nova! Nova! Underneath the table', somewhere I used to spend more time than I now do. It took me years to forget this!   


James Kinsley - Administrator

Shakin' Stevens - Echoes of Merry Christmas Everyone


I'm a massive fan of Christmas music, from the well-known seasons pop favourites and traditional carols, to obscure country records and the Star Wars Christmas album. Five years ago, Shakin' Stevens re-recorded his festive favourite Merry Christmas Everyone as a melancholic, bluesy, bluegrass song. Not only is it a fantastic recording in its own right, I love how it shows the versatility of music, that you can take a commercial pop tune and find something else totally different in it. I think it shows that music starts with the writing, but that when it comes to the playing, there's still so much to explore and experiment with.


Marcus Patteson - Executive Director

Feliz Navidad - cover by Walk Off The Earth

I love a good tune and this is a classic Christmas pop song given the WOTE treatment, adding their twist of fun.


Lizzy Wood - Ukulele Tutor

"Mele Kalikimaka" - Bing Crosby and the Andrews Sisters

My favourite Christmas song is "Mele Kalikimaka" (It means Merry Christmas in Hawaiian) by Bing Crosby and the Andrews sisters. We play it in my uke groups every year without ever tiring of it!  It lends itself perfectly to the ukulele, and the close harmonies that can be sung in it are fabulous. It has a vintage swing feel and is so different to other Christmas songs!


Alex Hobbs - Cello Tutor

The Snowman - 

Gotta be ⛄☃️⛄The Snowman⛄☃️⛄ for me, it has been around almost as long as I have and I loved it when I was small, I think I loved (apart from Bowie's intro at the beginning in the original) that the music told the story as well as the pictures. We always put The Snowman on when we decorate our tree. 🌲🎄🌲🎄🌲