Once Upon A December Sheet Music

Nestled amidst the tapestry of beloved Disney melodies, “Once Upon a December” stands as a timeless masterpiece that has captivated hearts for decades. Its poignant lyrics and haunting melody have etched an indelible mark on popular culture, inspiring countless renditions and interpretations.

This comprehensive guide delves into the rich tapestry of “Once Upon a December,” unraveling its historical origins, musical intricacies, lyrical depth, and enduring cultural impact. From its inception to its enduring legacy, we embark on a journey that illuminates the artistry and enduring appeal of this enchanting ballad.

Background of “Once Upon a December”

The song “Once Upon a December” was written by Lynn Ahrens and Stephen Flaherty for the 1997 animated film Anastasia. The song is based on the story of the Grand Duchess Anastasia Nikolaevna of Russia, who was the youngest daughter of Tsar Nicholas II.

Anastasia and her family were executed by the Bolsheviks in 1918, but rumors persisted that she had survived. The song is sung by Anya, a young woman who believes she is Anastasia, as she recalls her childhood memories.

Original Creators and Performers

  • Composers: Lynn Ahrens (lyrics) and Stephen Flaherty (music)
  • Original Performers: Liz Callaway (Anya), Jonathan Groff (Dimitri), and Patrick Page (Gleb)

Musical Analysis

Once Upon a December” is a beautiful and haunting song from the 2000 animated film Anastasia. The song is written in the key of G minor and has a tempo of 60 beats per minute. The chord progression is relatively simple, but it is effective in creating a sense of sadness and longing.

Vocal Range and Harmonies

The vocal range of the song is from G3 to D5. The melody is mostly stepwise, but there are a few leaps, such as the leap from A4 to D5 in the chorus. The harmonies are mostly simple, but they add depth and richness to the song.


The arrangement of “Once Upon a December” features a variety of instruments, including piano, strings, harp, and woodwinds. The piano provides the main accompaniment, while the strings and harp add a lush and ethereal sound. The woodwinds add a touch of warmth and intimacy to the song.

Lyrical Interpretation

Once Upon a December is a heart-wrenching ballad that explores the complexities of love, loss, and longing. The lyrics, penned by lyricist Lynn Ahrens and composer Stephen Flaherty, weave a tapestry of emotions through vivid imagery and symbolism.

Themes of Love, Loss, and Longing

The song’s central theme revolves around the pain of unrequited love. The narrator, a young woman, yearns for a man who remains oblivious to her affections. This unfulfilled desire manifests in a longing that permeates every aspect of her life.

The lyrics capture the raw emotions of heartbreak, painting a picture of a heart shattered into a thousand pieces. The narrator’s pain is palpable as she sings, “Tears freeze on my face / As the memories unfold.” The imagery of frozen tears symbolizes the numbing effect of emotional pain, while the unfolding memories evoke a bittersweet longing for what could have been.

Symbolism and Imagery

Once Upon a December is rich in symbolism and imagery that enhances the emotional impact of the lyrics. The wintery setting, with its snow-covered landscapes and icy winds, serves as a metaphor for the narrator’s frozen heart. The “moonlight’s glow” represents a glimmer of hope amidst the darkness, while the “distant shore” symbolizes the unattainable object of her affections.

The lyrics also employ personification to give human qualities to abstract concepts. “Memories” are described as “cold” and “unyielding,” further emphasizing the narrator’s emotional torment. The “wind” becomes a symbol of her unrequited love, whispering secrets that only she can hear.

Cultural Impact

Once Upon a December has gained immense popularity and widespread appeal due to its timeless and relatable themes of love, loss, and resilience. Its enchanting melody and poignant lyrics have resonated with audiences worldwide.

The song has been featured prominently in film, television, and other media. It was notably used in the animated film Anastasia (1997), where it serves as a central piece that encapsulates the protagonist’s emotional journey. The song’s inclusion in such a beloved and critically acclaimed film has further contributed to its popularity.

Use in Other Media

  • Television: Once Upon a December has been featured in various television shows, including The Simpsons, Glee, and Once Upon a Time.
  • Stage: The song has been adapted for stage productions, such as the Broadway musical Anastasia (2017).
  • Video Games: The song has been included in video games like Kingdom Hearts II (2005) and Disney Dreamlight Valley (2023).

Influence on Music

Once Upon a December has influenced other musicians and musical genres. Its unique blend of classical and pop elements has inspired composers and songwriters to explore similar styles.

  • Classical Music: The song’s orchestral arrangements have influenced classical composers, leading to the creation of works that incorporate elements of pop and film music.
  • Pop Music: The song’s catchy melody and accessible lyrics have made it a popular choice for pop artists to cover and adapt.

Technical Analysis

The song “Once Upon a December” has been covered by various artists, resulting in different arrangements and interpretations. These arrangements vary in instrumentation, tempo, and vocal interpretation, each offering unique strengths and weaknesses.

Arrangements and Covers

Arrangement/Cover Instrumentation Tempo Vocal Interpretation
Original Broadway Cast Recording (1998) Orchestral (strings, woodwinds, brass, percussion) Moderate (90 BPM) Lyrical and expressive, with a focus on storytelling
Josh Groban (2003) Piano, strings, choir Slower (80 BPM) Dramatic and soaring, with a focus on vocal power
Lea Salonga (2017) Acoustic guitar, piano, cello Moderate (85 BPM) Intimate and emotional, with a focus on the song’s vulnerability
Celtic Woman (2020) Harp, fiddle, bodhrán Fast (100 BPM) Energetic and uplifting, with a focus on Celtic influences

Strengths and Weaknesses

  • Original Broadway Cast Recording: Captures the theatrical grandeur of the song with its lush orchestration, but may lack intimacy for some listeners.
  • Josh Groban: Showcases Groban’s exceptional vocal abilities, but the slower tempo may drag for some.
  • Lea Salonga: Offers a raw and emotional interpretation, but the stripped-down instrumentation may not appeal to all.
  • Celtic Woman: Provides a fresh and energetic take on the song, but the faster tempo may alter its original emotional impact.

Historical Performance

“Once Upon a December” has been performed by various artists since its debut in the 2000 animated film, “Anastasia.” Each performance brings a unique interpretation to the song, showcasing its versatility and enduring appeal.

Notable Performances

  • Original Film (1999): The original performance by Liz Callaway in the film set the standard for the song’s interpretation. Her emotive and ethereal vocals captured the character Anastasia’s vulnerability and longing.
  • Broadway Adaptation (2017): The Broadway adaptation of “Anastasia” featured a powerful rendition by Christy Altomare. Her Broadway-style vocals added a dramatic flair to the song, highlighting its theatrical potential.
  • Disney on Broadway Concert (2018): Sutton Foster’s performance at the Disney on Broadway Concert showcased her exceptional vocal range. Her rendition brought a touch of whimsy and enchantment to the song.
  • Kelly Clarkson (2020): Kelly Clarkson’s cover for her talk show, “The Kelly Clarkson Show,” showcased her signature powerhouse vocals. Her performance brought a soulful and heartfelt interpretation to the song.

These performances demonstrate the wide range of interpretations that “Once Upon a December” can accommodate, showcasing its enduring appeal and versatility as a musical piece.

Sheet Music Analysis

december upon once anastasia sheet music

The sheet music for “Once Upon a December” is written in the key of G minor and has a time signature of 4/4. The song is in a slow tempo, with a moderate level of difficulty.

The sheet music includes several unique musical notations, including:

  • A tremolo on the first note of the melody
  • A glissando on the second note of the melody
  • A trill on the fourth note of the melody

Technical Challenges and Opportunities

The technical challenges of playing “Once Upon a December” include the tremolo, glissando, and trill. These techniques require a high level of control and precision. However, they also provide opportunities for the performer to add their own personal interpretation to the song.

Piano Arrangement

The piano arrangement of “Once Upon a December” captures the haunting and ethereal quality of the original song while translating it to the piano’s unique sound.

The arrangement features a sparse, delicate left-hand accompaniment that provides a steady rhythmic foundation while the right hand plays the main melody and harmonies. The melody is played in a legato style, with smooth transitions between notes, creating a flowing and expressive sound.


Pedaling is an essential technique in the piano arrangement of “Once Upon a December.” The use of the sustain pedal helps to create a rich and resonant sound, adding depth and atmosphere to the music. The pedal should be used sparingly, however, to avoid muddying the sound.

Educational Applications

“Once Upon a December” offers valuable opportunities for music education, fostering an understanding of core musical concepts.

Teaching Musical Concepts

  • Melody: The song’s distinctive melody showcases a wide vocal range and expressive leaps, providing a rich study of melodic contour and intervals.
  • Harmony: The harmonies in the chorus create a sense of emotional tension and release, demonstrating the power of chord progressions.
  • Rhythm: The song’s rhythmic complexity, with its syncopated patterns and shifting time signatures, provides a challenge for students to master.

Lesson Plans and Activities

Listening Analysis: Have students listen to the song and identify the different musical elements discussed above, such as the melody, harmony, and rhythm.

Performance Exercise: Divide students into groups and assign each group a different section of the song to perform, focusing on accurate intonation, rhythm, and dynamics.

Composition Project: Encourage students to create their own compositions inspired by “Once Upon a December,” incorporating similar musical concepts and emotional expression.

Contemporary Interpretations

In the contemporary music landscape, “Once Upon a December” continues to inspire artists to reinterpret the song in fresh and innovative ways.

Modern Covers and Performances

  • Sarah McLachlan’s haunting and ethereal cover, released in 2006, captures the song’s melancholy and longing.
  • Pentatonix, the a cappella group, performed a captivating arrangement in 2017, showcasing their vocal harmonies and intricate vocal layering.
  • The Piano Guys, known for their inventive arrangements, released a dynamic instrumental version in 2013, featuring a blend of piano, cello, and drums.

Last Recap

In the annals of musical history, “Once Upon a December” stands as a testament to the transformative power of art. Its timeless melody, evocative lyrics, and universal themes have resonated with audiences across generations, cementing its place as a beloved classic.

Whether enjoyed as a standalone piece or interwoven into the enchanting tapestry of Anastasia’s tale, this enchanting ballad continues to inspire, move, and enchant listeners, leaving an enduring legacy that will undoubtedly endure for generations to come.

FAQ Corner

Where can I find the official sheet music for “Once Upon a December”?

The official sheet music for “Once Upon a December” can be purchased from various online retailers, including Sheet Music Direct, Musicnotes, and Alfred Music.

What is the key and time signature of “Once Upon a December”?

The song is written in the key of G major and has a time signature of 3/4.

What is the vocal range of “Once Upon a December”?

The vocal range of the song spans approximately one octave and a fifth, from the note G3 to D5.

What instruments are featured in the original recording of “Once Upon a December”?

The original recording of “Once Upon a December” features a full orchestra, including strings, woodwinds, brass, and percussion.

What is the tempo of “Once Upon a December”?

The tempo of “Once Upon a December” is approximately 76 beats per minute.

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