As the days of December grow shorter and darker in the northern hemisphere, we often lift our spirits – as people have been doing for centuries – with song. Songs can bring people together, preserve traditions, and reflect and capture the pulse of events.
The Library of Congress collects and preserves music that is vitally important to our history and our culture, including song sheets, sheet music, and audio recordings. These rich collections of historical music can help your students make connections to the past. Try these tips to find pre-1923 music in the Library’s collections to enrich your curriculum or include in choral performances.
Finding holiday songs:
To find sheet music and recordings, go to The Library of Congress Celebrates the Songs of America. Search with keywords such as “snow,” “sleigh,” “auld lang syne” or the name of a winter holiday or tradition. A sample search on the keyword “winter” yielded 276 results, including the 1910 sheet music, Winter. (Tip: To narrow results to sound recordings only, select “audio recordings” under “Refine your search”, or repeat your search in the National Jukebox.)
Ideas for the classroom:
- Study a song over time by exploring several versions. Display The One Horse Open Sleigh, 1857, and facilitate a whole-class primary source analysis using prompts from the Teacher’s Guide to Analyzing Sheet Music and Song Sheets to deepen student thinking. What does this song tell us about the times? How does it compare to the 1880 “Jingle Bells“? …to this 1901 version? …to Jingle Bells today? Afterward, learn more about the song’s history from the Performing Arts blog post, Jingle Bells.
- Select an audio recording such as Auld Lang Syne and use prompts from the Teacher’s Guide to Analyzing Sound Recordings to facilitate a primary source analysis. Encourage students to document their thinking on the Primary Source Analysis Tool.
- Explore “Auld Lang Syne” further using strategies from our blog post Teaching Language Arts Through Music: Historic Sheet Music and Song Sheets.
- Collaborate with your music teacher or social studies teacher; performing a song can help students deepen their understanding of the music, its message, and the times in which it was created.
As teachers, we know that music is important for the healthy development of growing children as well as for its musical, historical and cultural value. How might you collaborate with a colleague to teach and learn with holiday songs?
What a fun idea! Although we are out of school for the break–I can see using some of these songs to ease us in when we get back. Thanks so much. I always love to get ideas on ways to use primary sources other than images.