Sunday, December 2, 2012

Dance of the Sugar Plum Fairy Play-a-long

'Tis the season to bring in the winter holiday music in music class!

I love introducing young students to the wonderful music of Tchaikovsky's Nutcracker Suite. The individual pieces are short and familiar to many kids. Several of the pieces provide an excellent opportunity to reinforce concepts we have been focused on in the music room.
Dance of the Sugar Plum Fairy is a favorite of many students. 

This short, festive piece is not only a chance for students to play-a-long with the celesta theme, it is also an excellent review of ABA form. (I ask students to improvise a "glittering snowflake dance" with their hands during the B section. Each sforzando could be a sudden gust of wintery wind.)

Additionally, I use it as a reading piece showing "split tis" or single eighth notes.  (A blogpost regarding split tis will be coming soon! Watch this space for ideas regarding teaching split tis after ti-ti is learned. )

Students will be intrigued by that rarely heard, fairy-like, bell-sounding instrument, the celesta. Here is video of someone playing this piece.
(This is the most close-up shot of someone playing the celesta that I could find.)

Every year I ask students if they have seen the Nutcracker ballet live and as the years go on, less and less students have had that experience. I can give them a glimpse of the ballet that they may never see live. (Don't you just love teaching with modern technology?)

Here a youtube video of the Dance of the Sugar Plum Fairy.

Download a free PDF file of  my play-a-long pages here.


  1. I can't believe I never made the ta/ti-ti connection with this piece - I am ashamed! Anyway, thanks for sharing this activity! I can't wait to do it with my students!

  2. Thank you! I neglected to mention that this works very nicely with students playing along on triangles. They have to play very softly. It's an opportunity to discuss the importance of dynamics!