Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Musical Companions for Truth in the Tinsel

EDITED TO ADD:  I have created a playlist on YouTube that includes my primary selection for each day.  You can listen here:

Original post begins here:

Hopefully, like our family, you are busy making Zechariah ornaments today as part of Truth in the Tinsel. 

If you are looking to buy this wonderful e-book that has really brought our Advent season into focus the past two years you can buy it here:  Click here to visit Truth in the Tinsel..  I photographed the first ten ornaments the kids made last year (I'll try to pick up the last two groups this year):

Truth in the Tinsel:  Days 1-4
Truth in the Tinsel:  Days 5-10

This year, as I have been reading the Bible passages the text has been bringing to mind music; specifically, music that uses the text, would help us remember the text, and/or music that I think that as human beings my kids should know.  Thanks to YouTube, it is easy to pull up specific pieces instantly as they come to mind and I've been playing them (repeatedly) as the boys make their ornaments.

I thought it might be helpful if I shared the selections I am using.  Not everyone has a musical background like I do and songs might not come to mind or one might be intimidated by the number of choices available.  What follows is a quirky collection curated by this musician.  There is a crazy amount of choices available for almost each and every tune.  I tend to pick things that have a high-quality of musicianship or things that trigger nostalgia for me personally.  I tried overall to pick things that spoke specifically to the Bible text rather than the image on the ornament itself.  I stray from that slightly in the middle for variety.  As I compiled a collection for the whole book I also tried to achieve some variety in presentation.  I didn't want to use the Mormon Tabernacle Choir for every song, for example.  You might prefer a different performer or arrangement, but hopefully these will get you started.  Feel free to have your kids listen to several versions of the same song.  It is really good for them to start thinking about what makes one musical performance different from another, what they prefer, and why.  If you have favorites or other suggestions, please add them in the comments!

Days 1-2:  Light, Kingdom

Handel Messiah, "Unto Us a Child is Born."

We listened to this the past two days and I'm really getting a kick out of hearing the boys sing "Wonderful, Counselor, Almighty God, Everylasting Father, Priiiiiiiiiiiince of Peace" as they play with Lego.

Days 3-5:  Zechariah, Gabriel, Mary

Okay, the point of this whole section is really about John the Baptist and how he helped prepare the way for Jesus.  As it turns out, there hasn't been a lot of music written in honor of John the Baptist.  For this reason I chose to focus on the Angel Gabriel here, especially since I have a song and arrangement I just love.  However, if you truly want to remain focused on John the Baptist, there is a song available.  It's just kind of awful.

Truly awful John the Baptist Song

Instead, I recommend The Angel Gabriel From Heaven Came (a Basque carol)
My favorite version: Sting

If Sting isn't your thing, here are some alternatives:
pretty choral version
Charlotte Church

This carol is not as well-known as some, so here is a link for lyrics if it is unfamiliar:
 lyrics for The Angel Gabriel From Heaven Came

Day 6:  Mary and Elizabeth

I'm not sold on this selection musically, but here is a dramatization of this meeting between Mary and Elizabeth:

Seattle Revival Center:  Song of Mary and Elizabeth

I'll keep looking and am open to suggestions!

Day 7: Song

It is nearly a crime NOT to take advantage of this time to introduce children to the Magnificat.  Most of the "Big Ones" are not in English which is less helpful when you are trying to help English-speaking children remember the Bible text.  I have to say, my favorite version of this has always been in Spanish:

My favorite is in Spanish: Hermana Glenda, My Soul Doth Magnify the Lord

In English  my favorite is by Thomas Tallis.

I can't find a nice, simple, singable version of this in English that I feel the boys should know.  But here's the nicest link I could find if you are looking for one:

Singable Magnificat

There are many famous Magnificats:  Bach, Charpentier, Vivaldi, Saint-Saens, Monteverdi, Bruckner, Rachmaninoff, Rutter, take your pick.  Of these, I prefer the Saint-Saens but most prefer the Bach.

Day 8:  Sun

We are back to John the Baptist here.  See days 3-5

Days 9-11: Joseph, Dream, Jesus' Name

I focused here on the verse in Matthew that quotes Isaiah:  "The virgin will conceive and give birth to a son and they will call him Immanuel." I don't really have a favorite version of this song but chose a couple of nice ones.

Sugarland: Oh Come Oh Come Emmanuel
Kelly Clarkson:  O Come Oh come Emmanuel Kelly Clarkson

Days 12-13:  Census, Bethlehem 

Whenever this song comes to mind I hear Nat King Cole in my head.

Nat King Cole: Oh Little Town of Bethlehem

Day 14-16: Stable, Manger, Cloths

Days 14-19 all use the same text, Luke 2: 8-20.  The song that truly addresses this text is While Shepards Watched Their Flocks by Night.  If you want to stick close to the text you can use that song every day (see day 19 for the link).  I don't think I can help but branch off into some of the many Christmas carols that focus on some of the smaller aspects.  So for days 14-16 we have Away in a Manger.  Sometimes you just can't beat Nat King Cole.

Nat King Cole:  Away in a Manger

Day 17: Sheep

The Mormon Tabernacle Choir:  Friendly Beasts

Day 18:  Angels

I wish the quality of the winds in this recording were a little better, but it was the only recording I found that had the "big scale" or production level that I like for this song.

Belmont University:  Angels We Have Heard on High

Day 19:  Shepherds

I love showing the boys videos of boys (especially close to their own age) singing beautifully.  This version is really nice.

Libera (Irish Boys choir) While Shepherds Watched Their Flocks by Night

Day 20:  Temple

These verses are known as The Canticle of Simeon or Simeon's Song.
Here is a really beautiful version:
Hangad (Philippine-based vocal ensemble):  Simeon's Song

If you haven't introduced your child to Gregorian chant, this is a great version (but not in English, of course):

Cistercian Monks:  Canticle of Simeon

Day 21-23:  Star, Wise Men, Gifts

The obvious choice here is "We Three Kings."  I personally like the Jimmie Rodgers version, but you have to buy it:

 Jimmie Rodgers: We Three Kings Of Orient Are

In a pinch, the Mormon Tabernacle Choir will have to do.  I prefer the Men's Chorus version.

Day 24:  Cross

Michael Card:  Carmen Christi

This is the Carmen Christi.  These verses have long been thought to be a quotation of an already existing early Christian hymn.  I'm not a big Michael Card fan, but I like the traditional setting used at the beginning of this video and couldn't find it elsewhere.  I will also admit that it is easier to understand the words when the style switches to a single vocalist.

Montessori Monday


  1. Do you use playlists to create music lists on YouTube? It's a pretty nifty way to organize songs, especially by liturgical seasons.

    1. NO! I didn't even know that feature existed. You'd think I'd be more technologically savvy than I am... I'll have to go try it out.

  2. Thanks so much for this post! I hadn't heard of Truth In Tinsel and it's absolutely perfect for my 4 year old! So excited to get started!