Carolers spread cheer during holidays
Daniel Miller of Villa Park (from left), Kris Sandrock of Elmhurst, Lisa Miller of Villa Park, and Alan Weiger and Corey Sandrock, both of Elmhurst, are singers of the Canterbury Carollers. | Jon Langham~for Sun-Times Media
For more information,
go to www.canterburycarollers.com or www.thecarolingparty.com
Updated: December 12, 2012 2:14PM
Dashing through the snow, in a one horse open sleigh ... Joy to the world, the Lord has come … Have yourself, a merry little Christmas …
From the elevator to the radio and the mall to holiday parties, holiday music is unavoidable this time of year, especially when it’s running through your head in a constant loop.
Welcoming all the music in the spirit of the season, two professional caroling groups — Wilmette-based The Caroling Party and the Canterbury Carollers of Villa Park — have been singing Christmas songs and serenading holiday revelers since the late-’80s.
But just because they are two groups that sing carols, doesn’t mean they have the same approach to how they perform.
The Canterbury Carollers is a Victorian-era ensemble dedicated to remaining as authentic to that time period as possible.
“We’ve done a lot of research,” Lisa Miller said. “We wear vintage pieces if we can.”
Wearing frock coats and dresses that could also be worn by Civil War reenactors, the eight member group has a repertoire of more than 50 songs, none of which were written after 1870.
“We don’t do ‘Rudolph [the Red-Nosed Reindeer],’ we don’t do ‘Frosty [the Snowman’],” Miller said.
However, traditional carols including “Jingle Bells,” “O Holy Night” and “We Wish You a Merry Christmas” are time-period appropriate.
The Caroling Party, on the other hand, sings those traditional carols and more modern tunes, like Mariah Carey’s “All I Want for Christmas Is You,” “Dominick the Italian Christmas Donkey” and “Grandma Got Run Over by a Reindeer.”
“This year we’re adding ‘Mistletoe’ by Justin Bieber,” Paul Iams said. “We try to have music that appeals to every age group — kids to 92.”
The group has about 60 members and performs as quartets or double quartets in what Iams calls Dickens wear, which includes top hats and suit coats for the men and dresses for the ladies. The Caroling Party’s song list contains about 140 tunes.
But remembering the songs isn’t at the heart of what makes a professional caroler. Both Iams and Miller say the people invited into their groups need to have a passion for caroling.
Members have to “love the holidays and the music of the holidays,” Iams said. “We always say to the singers, ‘If this music doesn’t lift you, get out of the group. You don’t belong here. Two hours strolling at the country club should be pure fun.”
The two groups aren’t seeking out people who are just good singers either.
“[We] could get a really good singer but they’re not really interested in preserving the tradition, and being a living history,” Miller said. “We tell our audiences about the Victorian time period and the origination of some of the carols, too. It’s not just singing.”
Iams said the Caroling Party, which has more than 60 members, only accepts professional entertainers into its ranks because they want someone who can put the song book down and focus on working the room. People who have worked on cruise ships are particularly good at this, he said, because they can relate to guests.
“You think of carolers as standing in the corner,” he said. “When we’re at the [country] clubs, we go table to table, ask if they have a favorite Christmas song. We go out there and are off book, performing for people.”
For the Caroling Party and Canterbury Carollers, their season usually begins the first weekend of December and runs through Christmas Eve. The groups do spend the preceding months practicing, re-familiarizing themselves with tunes and learning new music.
As for what these professional carolers do for the rest of the year, the members have various positions which are related to the music, theater and entertainment industry, Miller and Iams said.
Iams continues singing as part of an a cappella quartet, Ac•Rock, that sings rock ‘n’ roll. Miller does theater as well as other musical endeavors.