“Hark how the bells – ”
“How about this note? ‘Haaaaark…'”
“Hark how the – “
“Wait, that was too high for you last time, right? Let’s, um, ‘HAAARK how the BELLS…'”
“Hark how the bells, sweet silver – “
“OK, good, let’s go. Everybody? One, and a two, and a — ”
We slaughtered the rest of the song, off-key and unsure on the timing of trickier bits. Fortunately, the ever-changing flow of admiring shoppers had hit a lull, and only one mitten-clad couple walked a little faster to escape. We had a good comeback with “Jingle Bells,” though, and then “God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen,” our specialty.
I’ve had the honor of singing carols over the past two weeks at The Greene, the giant outdoor mall off 675 in Beavercreek. It’s a visceral joy to me, caroling, the kind of delight that rises when tickling children or falling down a snow-covered slope in a tangle of teenage friends. I love it when voices weave together to make magic of the night air, traditional songs stirring the part of our hearts that longs for tribe and ritual.
And this year, I get to do it as part of a great cause. The Beavercreek Community Theatre invited volunteers to join its Chorus and provide caroling services for three hours a day on five dates throughout the holiday season. The Theatre, in return, will receive a “generous donation” from The Greene.
It’s an amount far less, I’m sure, than it would cost to pay more professional performers to wander the grassy central square, spreading holiday cheer. Even at $5 an hour and only four carolers at a time, that’d be about $6,000 for a month of serenading shoppers, not to mention the costs of managing all the paperwork or providing liability insurance for people singing in the cold for hours on end.
So I figure, if we’re sometimes a little off-key, it’s OK. You get what you pay for. And we’re not really doing it for The Greene, or for the money.
We’re doing it for the fun. Caroling is a LOT of fun. Getting outside with new and old friends. Laughing over songs we’ve loved since kidhood. Wearing Santa hats and elf ears and plush reindeer antlers tangled with twinkle lights.
And we’re doing it for the shoppers. Especially those achingly cute toddlers who come stumbling up in full snow gear, wide-eyed, and yelp and clap and try to sing along to “Rudolph, The Red-Nosed Reindeer.” (We once sang “Rudolph” three times in 20 minutes, just because we kept getting fresh batches of adorable knee-highs coming by, staring at us in awe (or possibly confusion).) And the teenagers! “Too cool” at first, they stand giggling a few yards away until we lure them in, calling out banter and challenges until we convince them that yes, we really do want them to carol with us, and yes, all the cool kids really do join in.
We don’t take donations while caroling, and I doubt the other groups volunteering this year do, either. But we do welcome attendance at plays and direct donations to the Theatre. And even better? We definitely accept walk-on volunteers to join the caroling fun. Our final sessions are 5 to 8 pm Wed., Dec. 14 and 1 to 4 pm Wed., Dec. 21. You might find other groups there at other times, willing to welcome you into their circle of wassail.
Just bundle up warm, follow the lights to the giant tree at the center of the mall, and listen for the sound of (not-so-bad-for-amateurs) joyous singing. The Caribou Coffee hot cocoa’s on us.
“Here we come a-wassailing – “
(“Is that the note?” “Yes! Shh!”)
” – along the Mall so Greene…”