The first tune my beginning piano students this semester are learning to play is that familiar and sticky melody known the world over as “Ode to Joy.” Beethoven decided that the human voice was needed in the final movement of his last symphony, the Ninth, and hence nicknamed “Choral.”
The piano textbook instructs them to play in the key of C. However, the original key is in the key of D major, a mere whole step shift up.
As they are not yet reading notes, I asked them to move their hands to the right, hovering their middle fingers on the F-sharp. In one move, they’ve learned to transpose.
And then I showed the video of the flashmob of Beethoven’s Ninth, the Allegro Assai section of the Fourth Movement, the Finale. A young girl throws a coin into a hat. The well-dressed double bass player gently bows his instrument. Before long, a cellist joins him. And the rest is history. This surely is the best flash mob I’ve seen yet.
Meanwhile, my eighteen students are watching the video on the big screen and wanting to participate.
“Just play whenever you hear the tune,” I indicated from the Steinway Grand. In front of me were several different arrangements for piano solo: Pauer, Reinecke, and Liszt. It was playtime for me.
Unfortunately, sheet music for “Ode to Joy” for Easy Piano is few and far between. Most assume the beginner can only play white keys. I think of transposition as parallel universe. Black keys are okay, too.
Below is a version for class piano. I’ve added the chords to encourage students who play guitar and ukelele to join in. The rehearsal marks are deliberately indicated to allow breaks. Notice that the original theme spreads over 16 measures. The second and subsequent times, the theme appears over 24 bars because the last 8 is repeated. Click on the sample score (image) below for the four-page PDF.
More advanced players may want to consult Liszt’s piano solo transcription available from IMSLP. Start at page 51 for the flashmob — allegro assai.
UPDATE! A slightly more advanced version which I call “Ode to Joy for Not So Easy Piano” follows the most logical parts from the original orchestral score, page 8 to 18. Download the 5-page pdf for “Ode to Joy for Not So Easy Piano.”