6 December 2023

Right Tracks: How to write a catchy Christmas song

Simon Hope

A graphic shows the Salvation Army shield wearing headphones above the text 'Right Tracks at Christmas'. Above the logo hang Christmas lights. Below the logo sits piles of fluffy snow.

As Advent begins, Dan Elson talks about the primary school crackers written by the Music and Creative Arts team.

You might not be ready to hear Hanson’s ‘Finally It’s Christmas’ yet, but whether it’s Mariah Carey on repeat or another song about sausage rolls, Christmas comes wrapped in catchy pop music. This is especially true for younger kids, who will almost inevitably be singing Christmas songs – as well as carols – in school assemblies soon.

Right Tracks is the Army’s evolving resource of pop-based music for children aged five to eleven. The Music and Creative Arts (MACA) and Children & Youth teams released the first batch of songs earlier this year, each of which is paired with school assembly outlines and resources to help you share good values and the good news.

Brought to life by singer Jasmin Nancekivell-Smith (New Addington), the latest entries build upon the rich history of primary school singing by uniting the earnest messages of classic carols with the fun and energy of modern music. The value-based ‘Share a Little Bit (of Love at Christmas)’ encourages compassion amid festivities, and the faith-based ‘The Greatest Day in History’ takes listeners on a walk through the Nativity story.

It’s not easy keeping your finger on the pulse of pop, but MACA Outreach Mission Partner Dan Elson – a writer and producer on the songs – must have done something right, because I’ve had these songs stuck in my head! Decades on from when ‘A Starry Night’ first became a primary school favourite, the two new tracks look to the stylings of singers such as Meghan Trainer and Charlie Puth to offer lively bops that appeal to children and feel at home on any Christmas playlist.

‘We wanted to create music appealing to young people,’ Dan explains. ‘So, it’s singable, catchy and straightforward; most of the Right Tracks songs only have five or six notes in their melody. We also wanted kids to go away and listen to them afterwards, because there’s a real shortage of fun, positive music that they want to listen to.’

Dan reflects that, while the days of instant classics may have come and gone, these songs offer opportunities for the gospel to grab a child’s attention in a new way.

‘There’s a shortage of positive, affirming, singable and safe pop music for kids,’ he points out. ‘We’re not making any money out of this – it’s not about that. It’s about getting the word out in a way that engages kids.

‘I would love to think that people will take these songs out this Christmas and next Christmas, too. Maybe, at some point, people will say: “We’re fed up with these two, give us some more!” In which case, I’ll be squirrelling away listening to whatever is the latest pop music then and doing it all again. It’s all about resourcing local Salvationists with what they need.’

However you engage with young people this Advent season, maybe Right Tracks could be the difference you need to share a little bit about the greatest day in history.

Written by

A photo of Stevie Hope.

Simon Hope

Editorial Assistant

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Right Tracks

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A new Christmas Right Tracks song reminding us to love one another. *Includes School Assembly Resources*

A Christmas Right Tracks song celebrating the importance of Jesus' birth. *Includes School Assembly Resources*

Dan Elson introduces a new collection of catchy children’s songs with a Christian message.

Get your day started with half an hour of music, prayer, a thought and lots of giggles!