The Nutcracker Ballet's Sugarplum Fairy by Tchaikovsky
The Dance of the Sugarplum Fairy ~ such beauty, grace, elegance, and fluidity! What young lady hasn't dreamed of flowing across a sparkly stage in a pink tutu dancing with a handsome prince? Well, maybe not everyone, but this magical, mysterious piece of music is one of the most well known classical pieces of music in the world.
As the fourth in a music unit about the Nutcracker Ballet and Tchaikovsky, this lesson hopes to share appreciation for a remarkable musical creation and teach about the many musical elements of melody, harmony, tempo, dynamics, form, tone color, and expression.
Free recordings and sheet music are found below along with worksheet materials, resource links, and full lesson plans that will hopefully shorten lesson planning time for teachers trained in music or teachers who want to add music into their whole curriculum. See the main unit page for cross-curricular ideas throughout the unit.
Thanks for visiting ~ enjoy your study and leave a message below to let me know how my lessons may serve the education community better. Peace & Blessed Christmas Greetings!
Dance of the Sugarplum Fairy
The Nutcracker ~ Lesson Materials
These materials were created for my children and students and are free for anyone to use simply because of my love of music education! All I ask is that you could leave me a message to know how you used the materials and / or what I could add or change to make them more helpful to others. If you would like to post a picture of your lapbook or notebook that you create, just contact me and I will happily do so to one of the pages of the unit. :D
The notebook and lapbook materials are stored at my blog, Joyful Songs. Two stars and the number of the suggested mini will be placed at each section in order to know which one to use. i.e. **3
Joyful Songs presents The Nutcracker Ballet Unit!
Update: March 2014 - Since I first entered these worksheets at my blog, the blog format has changed several times (beyond my control). Please message me if you would like a free copy.
1. Nutcracker Music Vocabulary Cards - print on tagboard.
2. Vocabulary Pocket
3. Vocabulary Notebook Page
4. Nutcracker Theme Music 'Lyrics", Celeste Mini Book
5. Instrument Family Book - Keyboards
6. Orchestral Score Pocket
7. Sugarplum & Marzipan Mini Books
Tchaikovsky's Use of the Celeste
Listen to a recording of the Sugar Plum Fairy. Ask student to listen for the special instrument called a celesta. Discussion topics to think about: What does the instrument sound like? What type of instrument do you think the celesta is (string, woodwind, brass, percussion, keyboard)? Why do you think Tchaikovsky choose this instrument for a fairy dancer? Which family of instruments is the celeste from? What other tone colors or instrument sounds can be heard in the piece?
Select (if any) mini books you would like students to write notes.
**1 Nutcracker Music Vocabulary Cards - print out on tagboard for extra durability.
**2 Vocabulary Pocket
**3 Vocabulary Notebook Page
**4 Celeste Mini Book
**5 Instrument Family Book - Keyboards
Research history with "What is a Celeste?" below, and listen to samples of the instrument.
Kids will enjoy reading and hearing about the celeste at New York Philharmonic Kids.
History & Samples of the Celeste
Famous Modern Piece for Celeste - Music by John Williams
Main Musical Theme of the Sugarplum Fairy
Listen to the Dance of the Sugarplum Fairy again. (By the way, when I was researching I found many references to both "sugar plum" and "sugarplum" - pick whichever you like.)
Teach students my silly lyrics to the 'A' Theme. I wrote these just as a simple way for students to remember main concepts and themes. I apologize for not being a poet! Listen to the piece again singing the "A" theme while tapping a steady beat on laps for the other sections.
**4 Nutcracker Theme Music "Lyrics"
"Nutcracker Dance of the Sugar Plum,
Sugar Plum, Sugar Plum, Sugar Plum Fairy.
Features instrument called celesta,
celesta, celesta, came form Paris, France.
Nutcracker Dance of the Sugar Plum,
Sugar Plum, Sugar Plum, Sugar Plum Fairy.
By Tchaikovsky, by Tchaikovsky,
by Tchaikovsky, the end!"
Reading an Orchestral Score
Look at sheet music for "Sugar Plum". I used the score below for these questions. If you have a different arrangement there will be slight differences. Simply adjust as needed.
Scroll down to Tchaikovsky; there is a score for the whole orchestra, and separate instrument parts to see.
I did not create a lapbook mini for this section; instead, I had the children use copies of the first two pages of the score to circle concepts we talked about and take notes. The pages can be folded to put in a lapbook pocket.
**6 Orchestra Score Pocket
Music Theory Concepts to Learn & Discuss ~ Lessons and materials to teach these concepts are found in previous lessons of the Nutcracker Unit.
Nutcracker Ballet Unit
Overture of the Nutcracker Lesson Plan
March of the Nutcracker Lesson Plan
~ What is the meter or time signature of the Sugarplum Fairy? (2/4)
~ What does that mean? (There are 2 beats per measure, and every quarter note gets one beat.)
~ Where is the key signature located? (At the beginning of each line.)
~ How many sharps # does the Bass Clarinet part have? (3)
~ How many sharps # do the string and celesta parts have? (1) - Strings, keyboards, and some brass and woodwinds play in what is called concert pitch and are considered C instruments. A key signature with one # is called concert G major. Other instruments play in different keys due to their sizes and shapes; therefore you will see various key signatures in the score. Although the key signatures look different, they are pitched the same. The bass clarinet part (BC) is in A major but sounds in concert G major. The French horn part (Hn) has no flats or sharps in C major, but it also sounds in G major. The 'A' clarinet part (cl) is marked in Bb major with two flats, but sounds in concert G major. Most clarinets are considered Bb clarinets, but some are pitched differently. My daughter recently performed Nutcracker in a youth orchestra switching from her Bb clarinet to an A clarinet as the score called for. The fingerings are the same, but the size variation causes the change in pitch. ~~ Confusing, huh? I hope this makes sense!
~ Find where it has a quarter note or q = 64 on the top left of the first page. This tells the conductor and performers the tempo or speed of the piece. Sometimes it will have M.M. q = 64 standing for metronome marking set for a quarter note at 64. If the number were 60, it would mean there should be 60 beats per minute, or one beat per second. 120 would mean 120 beats per minute, or two beats per second.
~ Find "pizz." in the string parts on the first page. Pizz. stands for pizzicato - it tells the string players to pluck their strings instead of using their bows; it creates a short, detached sound instead of the usual smooth sound.
~ Look at the celeste part on the first stanza. Find the dot (.) on top of the notes. This is called staccato. The performer will play the notes separated or detached - more of a bouncy feel!
~ Pick out any other concept you would like your children or students to know.
~ Students may write down any unknown vocabulary words down on their vocabulary flashcards or notebook page for reference.
Analyzing, Arranging, & Composing Music
Listen to several other arrangements to compare and contrast what you hear such as tempo (speed), dynamics (loudness), tone color (instrumentation), and other musical qualities such as melody, harmony, rhythm, and form.
You will find many versions on YouTube - some incredibly awesome, and others ... well ... not. I think music students may learn from both good and bad interpretations of the piece, and so I encourage listening to many.
Questions to think about: What makes one version better than another? Will some people prefer one version while other people prefer another? Why? What is most appealing to you about your favorites? If you were performing this piece, which qualitites would you like to imitate and why?
Creative assignment: Consider creating your own version of the Sugarplum Fairy. It could be as simple as humming the main theme while tapping on a percussion instrument to very elaborate adaptations.
Play around with many musical qualities! There are no right or wrong answers, so try something new!
Melody & Rhythm - perhaps keep the same notes but alter the rhythm, or keep the rhythm and change the notes slightly.
Harmony - try an ostinato (repeated pattern of notes or rhythms) with one note, chord, or sequence.
Form (how the sections of the piece are put together) - change the order or amount of sections in the music.
Experiment with numerous tempos (speed) or dynamics (volume) to see what you like the best.
Tone Color (sounds) - try different instruments or sounds in the music.
A Mad Russian's Christmas - Music by Trans-Siberian Orchestra
Enjoy this very modern version of a classic piece!
Trans-Siberian Orchestra - Cool mix of classical and rock styles!
What exactly is a Sugarplum or Marzipan?
We've heard of them, but what are they?
Research and write your findings in the mini books.
**7 Sugarplum & Marzipan Mini Books
Visions of Sugarplums has a brief history and recipies.
"Sugarplum" Poetry to Enjoy
Favorite Poems about Sugarplums
The Sugar-Plum Tree by Eugene Field (1850-1895)
Twas the Night Before Christmas ... "while visions of sugar-plums danced in their heads".
Does Sugarplum taste good? - (I've never had it before.)
Have you ever tried sugarplum candy?
Wishing you "Sugary Dreams" this season!
RklC on October 10, 2019:
This is wonderful!!. I am looking for copies of your printables too. I appreciate if you email me some.
RaquelC on October 10, 2019:
This is wonderful!!. I am looking for copies of your printables too. I appreciate if you email me some.
Maddie O on October 23, 2017:
Can you send me as many of your docs as you can?? This all looks great!
Bethany on December 13, 2016:
Hi! I am also looking for copies of your printables. Would you email me some as well?
These lessons are so creative and fun. :)
JoyfulPamela2 (author) from Pennsylvania, USA on July 22, 2013:
@kaseyrivenburgh: Me, too!
kaseyrivenburgh on July 19, 2013:
Love the music, dance and ballet.
Herman IV on February 22, 2012:
My kids love the Nutcracker. It is a family tradition to try to see the ballet each Christmas. Wonderful lens!
Lauriej1 on February 18, 2012:
Great lens! My daughter was in "The Nutcracker" for 9 years straight. We loved every minute of it! Great lens!
Mauhro on November 28, 2011:
Great music, great ballet, great lens :)
WriterJanis2 on November 23, 2011:
I remember as a child doing a dance to this at a dance recital. Thank you for bringing back such fond memories.
anonymous on November 15, 2011:
I love it when I come back to a lens I blessed before and its worn-off, and I get to bless it again. I'm going to add this to my Nutcracker lens too. Tis' the season for the Nutcracker!
squidshe on November 14, 2011:
Love the sugar plum fairy!
Fay Favored from USA on November 11, 2011:
Thanks for explaining things. It makes it more enjoyable.
sushilkin lm on October 18, 2011:
Thanks for Sharing informative lens !!
JoyfulPamela2 (author) from Pennsylvania, USA on October 12, 2011:
@Nancy Hardin: Thank you so much, Nancy! :)
Nancy Carol Brown Hardin from Las Vegas, NV on October 12, 2011:
The Dance of the Sugarplum Fairy is one of my favorite recordings, and I play it often, especially nearing Christmas. Thanks for an interesting lens which taught me something new...the celeste. Blessed.
Mary Norton from Ontario, Canada on September 15, 2011:
What a wonderful lens. While you were enjoying your sugary dreams, the sugar angel came to bless your lens.
ChemKnitsBlog2 on April 01, 2011:
Getting snow last night got me thinking about Christmas real early.... thanks for bringing me the spirit!
DesignedbyLisa LM on December 10, 2010:
This is a great lens. Wow! Lensrolled to my: Waltz of the Flowers from the Nutcracker Suite lens.
BuckHawkcenter on December 10, 2010:
What a wonderful lesson. Great for adults, too.
Jennifer P Tanabe from Red Hook, NY on December 10, 2010:
Love Tchaikovsky's Nutcracker! Lensrolling to my Best "Nutcracker" Movie lens.
anonymous on December 10, 2010:
Ballet .. Nutcracker's Dance is so charming. Love here .. Give you 5 stars :)
anonymous on December 09, 2010:
Very sweetly done!
anonymous on November 04, 2010:
Such a delightful and informative piece, I thoroughly enjoyed learning more about the Sugarplum Fairy and how it can be played.
Liz Mackay from United Kingdom on January 20, 2010:
Great lens. Thanks for visiting mine and your good comments. 5*
Cynthia Arre from Quezon City on January 08, 2010:
I'm back to give this wonderful lens a little boost because I strongly feel that it needs to be seen by more people! *blessed by an angel*
lasertek lm on December 20, 2009:
I have watched the Nutcracker dance several times but this year is a special one because my daughter is part of the school play. Great lens! Rated 5*
Happy Holidays! Hope you could visit my lenses and be a fan of my fb page. Thanks
rubyandmahoney on December 14, 2009:
I love the Nutcracker ballet! My mom and I used to go every year.
blessedmomto7 on December 14, 2009:
Great Lens Pamela! Can you believe I have never seen the Nutcracker live? Of course I have seen the Barbie version and another DVD version from the dollar store. Maybe someday I will see it live!
Rhonda Albom from New Zealand on December 10, 2009:
Congratulations on reaching 50. This is another fantastic lens! I was surprised I missed 2 on your quiz, but I did learn a lot here. Blessed by a Squidoo Angel (if you want, you can add your link at Angel Blessings from Pukeko)
Joan Hall from Los Angeles on December 08, 2009:
Congratulations on your 50th lens! It's terrific!
AlisonMeacham on December 07, 2009:
I know The Nutcracker very well as my daughter has danced in it for 6 years and now my son does too. I spend my time backstage helping with costumes and props. I don't often get the chance to watch it from the audience! Squid Angel Blessed.
Cynthia Arre from Quezon City on December 06, 2009:
What a fantastic lens! I studied piano when I was young so I always love your music lessons Pamela - this one in particular takes me back to my childhood as I remember watching a staging of the Nutcracker by a local ballet company. (:
WindyWintersHubs from Vancouver Island, BC on December 06, 2009:
Magical. I love the Nutcracker Ballet. Congrats on your 50th Lens, Pamela!
Heather Burns from Wexford, Ireland on December 06, 2009:
great lens! angel blessed!
Patricia on December 06, 2009:
anonymous on December 06, 2009:
What a "sweet" website!
myraggededge on December 06, 2009:
Lovely! My teacher used to play this to the class during needlework lessons. It's always been one of my favourites. Gorgeous lens.