December is here, and that means it’s time for Christmas music! My students and I are prepping for our annual Christmas concert—back after The Age of The Virus—and have been playing and singing quite a bit of Christmas music.
Indeed, my Music Club—a club designed to get students involved in playing and performing music who, for whatever reason, could not get a music class fit into their schedules—met Tuesday to sing some carols, with the idea being that we will spend lunch and break periods next week caroling for the student body.
As their voices came together in sparkling purity, it reminded me of this post from last year. We started our short rehearsal with “Silent Night,” one of my all-time favorite Christmas songs, and the sweetness and fullness of it with eight or so singers really swelled my heart. We also sang “Joy to the World,” “Away in a Manger,” “O Little Town of Bethlehem,” “Hark! The Herald Angels Sing,” and one or two others that escape me.
I once heard that singing is good for you, both physically and mentally. Christmas carols—songs about the Birth of Our Savior, Jesus Christ—surely are good for you spiritually, too. Sing some today.
With that, here is 4 December 2020’s “Singing Christmas Carols with Kids“:
It’s that time of year when Christmas music dominates the airwaves and our collective consciousness. It’s always a tad irksome to me how folks will complain about Christmas music during the Christmas season. Of course you’re going to hear Mariah Carey every fifteen minutes—it comes with the territory. Naturally, let’s at least get through Halloween (and, preferably, Thanksgiving Day), but at least make an attempt at getting into the Christmas spirit.
Last year I wrote extensively about Christmas carols. Indeed, one of my many unfinished projects is to compile a small book containing the stories of some of our most cherished carols (I want to write a similar book about hymns, too). I play and sing a lot of carols this time of year: I’m a music teacher. Perennial favorites—and the selections my classes are currently playing—are “Silent Night,” “Joy to the World,” and “O Holy Night.”
Needless to say, it’s been a fun week, as we’ve been singing these classics daily. Normally we’d be prepping for a big (and stressful!) Christmas concert, but with The Age of The Virus, we’re foregoing the usual festivities. That’s bittersweet—it’s my favorite concert of the year, and the students enjoy it, too—but we’re opting for a “virtual concert” format with recordings strung together in a video editor.
We’re mostly playing the carols straight this year—no seguing into “Holy Diver” or the like—but we’re still having fun with them. On “Joy to the World,” we do have a “heavy metal” verse, where we take the key from C major to its relative minor, A minor. My high school guitarist kicks in the humbucker pickup on his guitar and the drummer gets a-crashin’, and it sounds awesome.
Otherwise, I’m focusing on sweetness and simplicity this year. One of my favorite techniques is to have all the students sing an a capella verse at the end. It’s especially effective on “Silent Night.” Imagine a room full of apple-cheeked middle schoolers singing “Silent Night”—it’s the definition of sweetness and light. The contrast from dropping out the instrumentation really enhances the impact, too.
I’ve groused about work and the state of education many times on this blog. But I am thankful for the opportunity to sing Christmas carols with students—and to share some of the meaning behind the songs. Without the looming stress of a concert, we’re really able to enjoy the pieces, and I think the performances are better and more natural because of it.
God is good. He sent His Son to die for our sins. That’s worth singing about.
4 thoughts on “TBT: Singing Christmas Carols with Kids”
Hear hear! 🙂
Long may this tradition continue. We could do with a few sticking around.
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Amen! There are plenty of traditions worth preserving; this one is near the top of that list.
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I have been listening to carols and other Christmastide music since the end of September. I have a passion for choral music and song. It is so difficult to choose favourites from among so much wonderful music but the Darke setting of Christina Rossetti’s poem In The Bleak Midwinter has to be at the top of my list, the last verse which starts ‘what can I give Him, poor as I am?’ and ends with ‘yet what I can I give Him, give my heart’. always brings me close tears, every single time and I have listened and sung this beautiful song many hundreds of times. They are the simplest of lines, yet carry such meaning and are at the centre of what Christmas is all about.
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Thank you for sharing those lines from the Rossetti poem, Alys. They truly are beautiful, and full of depth.
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