Caroling

carolsGrowing up in East Haven, Connecticut, Christmas was a big deal.  For one, East Haven was a largely Italian … and hence a largely Catholic town.  No, we weren’t Italian but we were Catholic.  That is certainly a good start to making Christmas a big deal.   I loved the Christmas story and perhaps more significantly, I believed in the Christmas story.   At some point over the years, I stopped believing but Christmas was better when I did.   I also had a Mom that truly loved everything about Christmas … the faith, the glitter and the traditions.  She lit up our home during the holidays and everyone was welcome, even the relatives no one else invited.   Her Christmas spirit lives inside me.

A few houses down the street lived Mrs. Peck, a warbling soprano who organized neighborhood caroling every year the week before Christmas.   She may have gathered us together just so she could show off her voice but I looked forward to it every year.  We were an odd mix of adults and adolescents but the truth is I can’t remember exactly who went along.  Except Mrs. Peck and that warbling soprano voice.   Given the time in my life, I liked the religious carols the best.  Oh Holy Night and Angels We Have HeardGlo-o-o-o-o-o … o-o-o-o … o-o-o-o … Gloria.  Heavenly.  We didn’t sound like this.

When I started attending my Thursday Night Men’s Group some years ago, one of the guys, Wayne, invited me to his annual caroling in his neighborhood in Fullerton, CA.   It took me some years to take him up on it but now it’s a tradition.  Tonight we had about fifty so-called singers, an odd mix of adults, adolescents and kids.  There was, of course, a warbling soprano, then a few capable tenors and the rest of us.   With fifty people and no rehearsals we typically started out in three keys and several tempos but after verse or so, we were together.  We did a pretty good Silent Night, a decent Oh Come All Ye Faithful but we butchered Oh Holy Night.  We Wish You a merry Christmas was stellar. Wayne’s neighbors loved it and we had a good time.  There is something spiritual about singing right out loud with a group of people you like, regardless of whether you believe the stories or not.  That is to say it was good for this old soul. The neighborhood is beautifully decorated, which makes it even better.

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Holiday spirit, on the rise.

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One Comment on “Caroling”

  1. Jennifer E. Hill Ertmer Says:

    When I was in my teens, the youth group at our church always went Christmas Caroling around the area. It was tradition we went immediately after the end of the midnight church service -piling into cars the older kids had (or had borrowed from their parents.) Another part of this tradition was that at each house, people would invite us in after our couple of songs and break out a bottle of whiskey or wine and those who wanted could partake of a little shot. The end result was usually that some of the older of the carolers would finish up the night with more than just a little buzz.

    Nowadays, there are two things involving music that I look forward to at Christmas. The first is coming up this Sunday evening when our church will have a pot luck supper and then, a pageant honoring St, Lucia, the patron saint of Sweden. The oldest girl in our church, usually a high school senior, portrays St. Lucia with the other girls, ranging in age from a toddler status up through high school and garbed in white choir gowns, they parade into the candlelit church with St. Lucia at the back of this walk, wearing a wreath of candles -lit candles, that is -as her crown! At the end of all the ceremony, anyone present who likes to sing, used to sing in the church choir, etc., is asked to come forward and we all sing a traditional Swedish Christmas Carol that has also become a tradition in our church. THe name of this hymn is “Lyssna, Lyssna” and it means Listen, Listen, Hear the Angels Singing. When we sing this piece at that event, the church organist accompanies us on the piano. But on Christmas Eve, at the late service, the choir sings that hymn without musical accompaniment at the beginning of the service. Hearing that song brings back so many memories for me as it was my Grandfather’s favorite piece of Christmas music. He taught me the words to that song along with another hymn (not Christmas though) -Children of the Heavenly Father -and hearing either of those songs always brings tears to my eyes. Two of my all-time favorite pieces of music for the words, the melody and of course, the memories.


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