The Christmas Family Songbook

It might only be September, but this month’s “Holiday Sales Guide” feature has put everybody at The Retailer in a festive holiday mood. So, what product could be more fitting to profile than Alfred Music’s “The Christmas Family Songbook”? Long recognized as a leader in educational print music publishing, Alfred Music is in the midst of a renaissance, not only releasing its signature printed publications, but also making innovative additions to the company’s portfolio of offerings. Aaron Stang, Senior Director, Pop Catalog, remarked, “Alfred Music’s acquisition in 2004 of Warner Bros. Publications—one of the world’s dominant pop-music publishers—made it possible for us to bring our understanding of the learning process to the arranging and creation of songbooks.” He continued, “We’re better able to arrange the music in ways that satisfy the end user and aid in successfully performing the songs.” For no product is this truer than for “The Christmas Family Songbook.”

The book’s original concept had its roots in the past and the future of print. Alfred Music sought to create a classic product with the nostalgic look and feel of a family heirloom. “We wanted it to be that book that sits on the family piano and comes out every single Christmas season for family holiday gatherings and sing-alongs,” Stang stated. The company also noticed that, with online downloads increasingly satisfying mundane, day-to-day print music needs, there was a growing opportunity—and a powerful niche—for beautifully produced, hard-copy, printed music books. “The value in this gorgeous hardcover book is in owning the physical product,” he explained. “That could not be satisfied with a simple song download from the Web.” Illustrating the tremendous care that went into creating “The Christmas Family Songbook,” Stang confirmed that Alfred Music began working on it in April 2014, and spent a full year on production. “That ensured we could deliver the timeless product we wanted to create,” he added.

Featuring well over 100 of the most popular Christmas songs ever written, “The Christmas Family Songbook” categorizes the beloved favorites into several genres, which include Children’s Songs, Folk Songs and Spirituals, Carols, Contemporary Christian and Pop Christmas. Titles include “Away in a Manger,” “Carol of the Bells,” “Feliz Navidad,” “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas,” “Joy to the World,” “The Little Drummer Boy,” “The Prayer,” “You’re a Mean One, Mr. Grinch” and dozens more. “The arrangements tend to be four-voice melody and chord harmonization with the melody in the top voice,” Stang noted. “Lyrics are included, as are guitar chords, to encourage family sing-alongs.”

“The Christmas Family Songbook” has a 16-page color section that features carefully researched background about, and behind-the-scenes information on, each song. “One favorite story I came across in doing that research dates back to 1939,” Stang began. “Hugh Martin and Ralph Blane were unknown local musicians hired to back Judy Garland in a brief performance at New York’s Capitol Theater after a showing of ‘The Wizard of Oz.’ Blane and Martin got the idea to write a song for Garland that had the emotional poignancy of ‘Over the Rainbow.’” He continued, “A few years later, Garland was making the movie ‘Meet Me in St. Louis.’ Blane and Martin pitched her on their new song, ‘Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas,’ for a climactic scene toward the end of the movie.” Of course, that song came to be one of the great Christmas music classics of all time, and the scene in the movie of Garland singing is the stuff of legend.

The Christmas Family Songbook

A multimedia disc included with the book provides MP3 recordings—live piano, not MIDI—of every song. “People can listen so they know how the songs should sound before they try to play them,” Stang stated. “They can also use the recordings as a listening CD, if they want.” Alfred Music also included its exclusive TnT2 Custom Mix software. Once downloaded, it enables users to play a song, slow it down or speed it up, change the key, and even loop and isolate sections for practice. “On top of the audio components on the DVD,” Stang continued, “we also embedded printable PDF lyric handouts.” Cooler still, Alfred Music commissioned six advanced piano solo and duet arrangements from premier arrangers Bill Galliford and Ethan Neuberg. Suitable for concerts and recitals, the advanced arrangements, along with matching recordings, are contained on the multimedia disc.

During Summer NAMM, Alfred Music featured “The Christmas Family Songbook” prominently in its booth and received tremendously enthusiastic dealer feedback about the book’s incredible sales potential this holiday season. Even so, Alex Ordoñez, Vice President, Marketing, affirmed that Alfred Music is throwing its weight fully behind the product. “It was featured in our July and August issue of Alfred Pulse, which goes out to every one of our dealers,” he said. “We also have full-page ad placements in several trade and consumer magazines and, recently, we recorded a sales presentation by one of our sales reps. All dealers will have access to that.” Additionally, Alfred Music’s “2015 Holiday Catalog” will highlight the book, complementing a major effort—boosted through social-media channels—to direct consumers to their local music stores.

In light of printed publications, accessory products and add-ons’ rapid ascendance to music retailers’ leading profit-generating categories—not to mention the warm response at Summer NAMM—there’s probably not much convincing a savvy retailer would need to stock “The Christmas Family Songbook” for the holiday season. The target buyer, after all, is virtually anyone who walks through the door. “The arrangements were very carefully crafted to be relatively easy to play but, nevertheless, to sound full and rich,” Stang emphasized. “But, although the book is geared primarily to the novice and the hobbyist, a pro could easily use it as a resource for great holiday music.” It’s the perfect stocking stuffer or gift beneath the Christmas tree for any musician or music lover.

Alfred Music’s “The Christmas Family Songbook” sells for $34.99 (MSRP). The beautiful, hardcover, keepsake-edition book is about 260 pages and includes the multimedia disc. It’s shipping now.

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