The TVF Academy Virtual Caroling Project
We are so excited to share the TVF Academy Virtual Caroling project with you!
This project began with a question: How do we get an online community of singers from all over the world to sing together?
I handed the project over to Karen Archbold, TVF Director of Operations and what she produced simply blew me away!
The TVF Academy community is full of wonderful and talented singers. The beauty of an online community is that there can be great diversity. However, it makes a caroling party a challenge! We have met that challenge with this virtual caroling project. What a beautiful and profound joy for us to be able to sing together! I love getting to hear these voices from all over the world blend together in song. It isn’t perfect but it is absolutely heartwarming. Getting to make music together is a gift and this is the way the TVF community is able to share that gift virtually!”
In all, 17 singers from the TVF Academy community submitted an individual recording. As you can see in the videos they are wearing headphones and singing along to a pre-recorded track. Karen then had the demanding task of putting all of the individual recordings together into the videos you see below.
While it’s not technical perfection, we still think the result is quite wonderful and celebrates both this blessed holiday season and the beauty of many voices singing together, even when it’s virtual!
In the Christian tradition of lessons and carols, Karen and I offer a lesson to accompany each carol as a holiday offering to our readers and followers.
We hope you enjoy and from all us at TVF…Happy Holidays! ??❄️?☃️????️?
? Carol of the Bells ?
Music: Mykola Leontovych
Lyrics: Peter J. Wilhousky
“Leave Me Alone, Please Go Away” – Lesson by Peter Jacobson
Some things, once heard, can never be “unheard.” The Saturday Night Live parody of this song is an example of this for me.
In a commercial promoting the “A Dysfunctional Family Christmas” album, Dana Carvey sings this familiar ostinato tune with these alternate lyrics:
Leave me alone,
please go away,
I’m doing fine,
just get away.”
In the background the rest of the cast sings, “Please…don’t…touch…me” while we are instructed to order this album by calling 1-800-GET-HELP (can you say pre-internet?!).
Though hilarious, this parody speaks to a larger truth – Christmas is a holiday of heightened emotions. We feel deep love and connection. We remember what really matters in the end. Yet just around the corner can be deep annoyance, sadness and even deep loneliness.
There’s also a cultural pressure to feel only joy and happiness and stuff all the unpleasant emotions. Case in point, we wish people a MERRY Christmas. Or HAPPY Holidays. But sometimes you just don’t feel merry or happy.
This lilting tune from Ukraine is based on an ancient folk chant and is one of the handful of Christmas carols set in a minor key. I love that! It’s not pretending to be something that it’s not. What a lovely metaphor for us all.
Whatever you are feeling this Christmas, there’s no need to fake it.
If you’re feeling merry and joyful, that’s great.
If you’re feeling in a “minor” key, well that’s alright too.
A sad Christmas can be just as meaningful as a merry one.
“Carol of the Bells” – Carol by TVF Academy Virtual Choir
? Maria durch ein Dornwald ging ?
Traditional German Advent Carol
“Thorns Into Roses” – Lesson by Karen Archbold
Have you ever had to carry something hard? Have you ever watched something that you thought was going to be horrible turn into the best thing that ever happened to you? Have you ever been surprised by the way that things turned out?
Maria durch ein Dornwald ging (Maria walks amid the thorns) is a beautiful traditional German song that dates back to the Middle Ages. It tells the story of Mary walking to visit her cousin Elizabeth while Jesus is in her womb. Along the way, the thorns turn into roses acknowledging the presence of the Christ Child. I love the beauty of the song and the image that springs to my mind. The journey that Mary was on was thorny and not easy. Can you imagine her fear and wonder at what she was being asked to do? Parenthood brings with it many challenges but the challenges she faced were especially difficult and unknown.
Just imagine the picture of her walking to Elizabeth. She didn’t know how it would all turn out but she was pregnant when she shouldn’t have been. The whispers and gossip about her would must have been terrible. The song says as she walked the thorns sprung into roses. Do you think she was being thankful? Was she talking and singing to Jesus as she walked? I don’t know but I can guess that she was full of wonder at what had happened.
For many of us as well, the journey is challenging and may have thorns.
But as we walk, those very things that we thought were so hard or terrible may yet turn out to be roses.
“Maria durch ein Dornwald ging” – Carol by TVF Academy Virtual Choir
? Hark! The Herald Angels Sing ?
Music: Felix Mendelssohn
Lyrics: Charles Wesley
“Are You Listening or Just Hearing?” – Lesson by Karen Archbold
That’s an old word! I haven’t told my children to hark probably ever!
Webster’s Dictionary defines it as: “to pay close attention to or to listen to.”
I had a vocal coach in Germany who was always telling me how he loved that we had two words in English for listening. There is a difference between hearing something and listening to something. He said that in German they only had one verb (hören) and that it didn’t have the nuances related to it that we have in English. I was still learning German and so it didn’t impress me that much but I think about it almost weekly now! When I am listening and not just hearing, I take the time to really pay attention.
The angels came with a message and they wanted the shepherds to pay attention to it. Listen to the message – Glory to the newborn King. Peace on Earth and mercy mild, God and sinners reconciled…. What a message. Pay close attention…
There are so many things that I love about this! I love that the angels came to the shepherds – not the most impressive and wealthy audience. The shepherds were humble and yet they listened. They ran to find the baby. Would I have listened? Do I listen? Do I find the time to be quiet and listen? This carol reminds me to listen and then go look for the message of peace.
During this season and especially this year, I am very aware of the need to listen and to pay attention….there is peace but I have to listen for it!
“Hark! The Herald Angels Sing” – Carol by TVF Academy Virtual Choir
? Tia’a Noera ?
Traditional Song from Tahiti
“Cracking Open the Coconut Shell” – Lesson by Peter Jacobson
Have you heard of the island of Moorea?!
Before Sylvain Rudo and Kevin Kelly Kahelain joined the TVF Academy I hadn’t either! Sylvain and Kevin are best friends and live on the Pacific island of Moorea. Due to its proximity to Tahiti, the two islands share much in common.
Kevin (who plays the ukulele and shot all the footage for this video) told me that this traditional song from Tahiti is about a very poor boy who cannot afford anything for Santa to put his gift into. So his solution is that he cracks open a coconut shell and puts out the two halves so that he too might receive a gift.
What a wonderful message – Nature (or God if you prefer) provides us a rich bounty with which we might receive gifts and blessings. I believe one of the most beautiful things that Nature has provided us is the human singing voice.
If we’re willing to crack it open like the boy and his coconut shell, we open ourselves up to many gifts and blessings (fully acknowledging that for some people, sharing their singing voice is as challenging as trying to crack open a coconut shell…I mean have you ever tried? Impossible!)
In brain scans, scientists have shown that singing lights up the brain. Singing also has been shown to release dopamine, the feel-good chemical that makes us happy. Singing lights up our souls and connects us with others.
The carol below represents all of this: Nature’s gifts (Moorea was named “the world’s most beautiful island you’ve never heard of”) and cross-cultural connections through music (I find it so cool to see shorts and scarves and Christmas and palm trees all together!).
One final thought: I do have to admit – having grown up in Minnesota, it’s strange to imagine celebrating Christmas in a tropical environment.
For me, snow, cold and darkness have always been defining features of this time of year and in my cultural arrogance I felt pity for people that didn’t have those things.
Watching this carol opens me up to a new possibility – that this season isn’t about snow or ornaments or presents or even cookies (ok, not 100% sure about that last one!).
Take all that away and what’s left is hope and love and the promise of a better world.
“Tia’a Noera” – Carol by TVF Academy Virtual Choir