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Caroling by Telephone

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The Christmas carol is a classic component of the global holiday tradition; with vocalists everywhere gathering each Yuletide to sing in celebration.

“Caroling is an oral tradition, passed down from generation to generation,” wrote Sam Abramson at How Stuff Works. Carols commemorating the nativity, or birth of Jesus Christ, were purportedly first written in Latin in the 4th and 5th centuries, but they didn’t become associated with Christmas until the 13th century. Saint Francis of Assisi, the Roman Catholic saint of animals and the environment, is often credited with incorporating upbeat Latin hymns into Christmas services. The energetic, joyful carols were sung in sharp contrast to the somber Christmas music of the day. The concept of Christmas carols, and spreading them to the community to celebrate Christ’s birth, is thought to have spread across Europe.”   

The vocal group known as Sweet Adelines is in itself a fixture of tradition, having entertained audiences around the world for more than 75 years. In Hernando and west-central Florida, the group is represented by the Suncoast Harmony Chorus. 

“Christmas caroling is a major part of the Sweet Adeline calendar of events. Providing entertainment throughout communities is a goal of the Sweet Adeline mission – Harmonize the World,” said Barbara Karpay, Suncoast Harmony team leader and spokesperson. “As December rolls around, one can find choruses pulling out their holiday music with the idea in mind of spreading musical cheer wherever they go.”

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Yet during the time of COVID-19, with the cadence of live music performances falling silent in choral halls around the world, how will today’s caroling groups deliver their exquisite version of musical cheer–to people who need it now, more than ever? 

Sweet Adelines has the answer.

“Suncoast Harmony Chorus wants to share a magical, musical Covid-free Christmas greeting with your family and friends!” read a related news release. “The west-central Florida chapter of Sweet Adelines International has the perfect gift solution for 2020. The chorus will telephone your family or friends, anywhere in the U.S., and deliver a LIVE performance of your chosen Christmas carol.” 

These telephone carols are a part of this year’s Sweet Adelines musical Christmas greeting program.  

“Because of COVID, this holiday season will be very different and quite difficult for many as friends and family face the possibility of not being able to gather to celebrate the holidays. We hope that our Christmas music will bring joy, especially to our seniors who are isolated from their families. We will be offering our Singing Christmas Cards – the public can hire the chorus to make a personal phone call and sing one or more of our Christmas songs to the recipient,” said Karpay. “We also are taking our music to senior living facilities in the form of old fashion caroling – walking with candles as we sing Christmas favorites.”  

Calls will be available Monday, Dec.14, from 7-9 PM and on Sunday, Dec. 20, 3-5 PM, and can be ordered for only $10 for one song or $15 for two songs to the same phone number. Those who order are encouraged to choose your time and your favorite Christmas song: Little Saint Nick; Caroling, Caroling; Do You Hear What I Hear?; Carol Medley (It Came Upon a Midnight Clear, Silent Night); Go Tell It on the Mountain: or Angels We Have Heard on High.

“The idea of phoned Christmas carols came about via a Sweet Adelines chorus in Colorado,” said Karpay. “My sister was walking through a park in Ft. Collins when she came upon the Blend Chorus rehearsing outdoors due to COVID. She stopped to listen to their singing as it reminded her of my involvement with Sweet Adelines in Spring Hill. For fun I looked up the chorus website and one of the postings had information on a fund raising project called ‘Singing Christmas Cards.’ I contacted one of their members and with her guidance, Suncoast Harmony was able to create our own version of this plan.”

Karpay said that her chapter’s affinity for Christmas carols is as broad and diverse as the caroling tradition; encompassing traditional carols such as Angels, We Have Heard on High, and Carol Medley (It Came Upon a Midnight Clear and Silent Night), a gospel song like Go Tell it on the Mountain, the Bing Crosby hit, Do You Hear What I Hear?, a Nat King Cole Christmas song from the 50s, Caroling, Caroling, or A Beach Boys Christmas song like Little St. Nick.   

To gift friends and loved ones with these and other carols, access information and an order form for the Sweet Adelines musical Christmas greeting program at www.suncoast-harmony.com. Those with any questions, can call 813-996-4680. Orders and payments must be received no later than Thursday, December 10.

“We always encourage our listeners to sing along with us,” said Karpay. “There is joy when everyone joins together in song.”

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