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Soon-to-be-priest sings tunes for tots with captivating joy

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Deacon James F. Waalkes’ YouTube channel is full of fun videos to share with the little ones.

On the hit TV show Parks and Recreation, there is a character named Andy Dwyer, played by Chris Pratt, who discovers that he has a natural gift for entertaining children through song. Over the course of the show Andy develops his gifts to create a character called Johnny Karate, who performs high-energy live performances at kids events.

We always thought that Johnny Karate would have been a great character to spin off for a kids’ show, but now there’s no need, because there’s a new act entertaining children with the same exuberance as the fictional character. Deacon James F. Waalkes has been putting up songs for kids on the St. Philip Catholic Church YouTube channel since the beginning of the coronavirus pandemic.

The young deacon, who will soon be ordained as a Catholic priest, gears his videos towards the very young, with songs such as “Bingo,” “Old MacDonald,” and “I’m a Little Teapot.” As a musician, Waalkes is quite talented on the guitar and harmonica and his voice is pretty good too, but he doesn’t place too much emphasis on the technical aspects of singing, which gives his songs an off-the-cuff feel that is bound to get the children laughing and singing along. On “Old MacDonald,” his voice even cracks a little on the higher notes, showing the kids that perfection is not important when having a good time.

While Deacon Waalkes’ videos are similar to other isolation recordings, where he is standing alone in a room, he takes it a step further by adding other clips to emphasize the subject matter. In “This Little Light of Mine,” he takes a candle and walks around with it, and in “I’m a Little Teapot,” he adds clips of him doing the standard teapot dance in an open field.

We especially liked how much fun he had with “This Old Man,” where he nearly falls over while trying to lift his foot for the line “He played knickknack on my shoe.” The videos are so charming because Waalkes brings to them the enthusiasm of a child. Even though he is playing the most basic songs, he is obviously thrilled to be doing just that and his authentic love for entertaining is mesmerizing to watch.

We hope that Deacon James continues his efforts, even after the isolation ends, for his videos are a wonderful outlet for little kids. In an interview with the Catholic Herald, he noted that his normal clerical duties have been upset by the isolation orders, which has allowed him the time to record his songs. Still, however, he looks forward to his ordination. He said:

“It’s such a strange time to get ordained; it’s unclear what ministry will even look like,” he said. “I’m just embracing the uncertainty and accepting the fact that everything can go in a different direction at any minute. I have no plans. I am just walking forward.”

Click here to watch more of Deacon Waalkes’ songs.

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