The 'Carol Story' Story
This is the first in a series of essays about “Carol Story" a 10-minute play that tells the story of Christ solely through lyrics of Christmas songs as dialogue. Learn More.
Sing unto him, sing psalms unto him: talk ye of all his wondrous works.
by Michael Edgar Myers
Founding Artistic Director
There has been much conversation lately about the meaning of some songs associated with the Christmas season. That is, they are songs generally sung during the Thanksgiving and New Year's holidays then not heard for another 12 months.
Without offering a viewpoint on a particular song, yes, it is good to frequently examine what we sing and what we say. Scripture reminds us to do so, especially teachings (2 Peter 2:1), spirits (1 John 4:1) and ourselves (2 Corinthians 13:5). Re-examination not only yields growth, it also deepens discoveries that yield fruit. Those who lead music for Christian services of worship are regularly challenged to test the lyrics of newer songs for theological accuracy as well as singability.
At the same time, we must often revisit beloved "traditional" songs to make certain we know what we're saying, and not just singing songs because "it's my favorite." It's important to grasp the intent of the author or the rationale behind the song. This is, perhaps, a reason for some of the conversations about holiday music outside of church circles today.
Over a decade ago, Kingdom Impact Theater Ministries took such a musical journey, looking afresh at the lyrics and origins of songs associated with Christmas. We discovered fascinating and cathartic messages. This discovery enabled us to create a one-act play, "Carol Story," that consists solely of the lyrics of Christmas carols spoken as dialogue.
I began noticing a pattern among the Christmas songs, especially the subsequent verses not heard often in holiday recordings. Exploring each verse of a Christmas song -- notably the carols -- enables a careful listener to actually hear the gospel message of Christ: from birth to death to resurrection to second Christmas yet-to-come.
The script incorporated lyrics from 17 songs, performed by two actors without accompaniment. The "musicality" was in the words. We planned for one presentation. The scene ran about five minutes, slightly longer than a typical choir song. Vikki and I were concerned that we'd run too long and cut into the pastor's sermon time.
Afterwards we were asked when we'd do it again.
As requests came to present elsewhere, we needed revisions to give context to not-regular-churchgoers -- as well as veteran church people who often sang the songs because they always sang the songs. We added a "prologue" for context to quantify "carols" from other Christmas songs. (Our primary qualification is that a Christmas "carol" must tell an element of the the story of Christ based in Scripture -- His birth, death, resurrection, promised return and associated prophecies.)
Expansion for context also led to tunes we'd first overlooked. We discovered other lyrics that fit our carols-life-of-Christ criteria. Many times the inserted three or four words completed a poignant picture and strengthened the transitions between songs without adding significantly to the time.
What actually truncated the time and filled the transitions was our musical director, Garlan Garner.
During a rehearsal for a road trip Vikki, Garlan and I were taking, he heard us run lines of the dialogue-only script. Garlan is an anointed, by-ear-only pianist. Even if we wanted to include accompaniment, charts would not have benefitted him.
Hearing the piece read once, in our next run-through, as is his wont, Garlan began playing beneath us segueing as if the now-21-song playlist, was scored.
It's not Biblically correct to say adding piano was the magical touch, but for now, run with the idea. You'll just have to see "Carol Story" live in its full 10-minute celebration.
Full disclosure: Of the 21 songs, one is technically not a "carol" according to our criteria. However, we added a sequence from "The Little Drummer Boy" as dialogue when our research disclosed the author's original title was "The Carol of the Drum."
Anecdotes like story behind "The Carol of Drum" inspired us to pen brief historical essays about the carols -- how they came to be, their influence on culture, and upon musicians associated with their development or popularity.
Researching the songs led us to tales of cultural influences, links to history, stacks of visuals, overlooked concert footage, and music videos that not only tell the stories behind the carols, but enhance our appreciation for the songs as performers and theater missionaries. We've combined the stories with associated scriptures in this series of posts that complement the eclectic videos on our KIT Ministries You Tube Channel. The stories and scriptures also begat a sequel, "Carol Story: The Easter Edition," which employs the same conceit reprising some carols with Scriptures to more deeply connect why Christmas and Easter are connected.
Feel free to look at the entire play list, then follow us for the daily video postings of some arrangements along with brief anecdotes.
We trust that through these two methods, the songs of Christmas that you sing with joy or just hear as background white noise while out and about, will have a deeper impact, a kingdom impact, to allow you to hear the Christ of Christmas at times you're least expecting. Like, everyday.
LEARN MORE: The Carol Story and Carol Story Easter Edition Playlist
LEARN MORE: The Songs of Carol Story
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The KIT 'n' Kaboodle Blog
The essays here are culled from our travels, conversations, worship experiences and discoveries.
Many are reprints from our newsletter, The KIT 'n' Kaboodle, or Facebook notes over time.
They're written by our ensemble, Garlan Garner, Michael Edgar Myers or Vikki J. Myers -- solo, or collectively.