Whatever happened to …

… caroling?

Thanks for the idea for this post, Aviva Dunsiger.  Aviva posted this suggestion on the Padlet.

Christmas carols in schools … or even holiday songs! There used to be a collection of songs that we all knew and all sang at holiday times, and now children know so few of them. This was like our shared culture around music. What might be lost now?



I can recall when it was a significant event in my elementary school.  For at least the week before Christmas, the entire school convened in the gymnasium.   A few of us from Grade 8 went to the music room and we wheeled in the piano for the music teacher.  After the morning national anthem and prayer, we sat down and listened to the announcements.  I don’t recall the specifics of the announcements after all these years except for warnings about snowball fights.

Then, as a school, we sang a number of selections from the Carol sheet.  It looked something like this.  (Pinterest link – not sure of the copyright so won’t include an image of it here.)  After four or five carols, we all returned to our classrooms for the rest of the day.  Except for those of us who dragged our heels returning the piano to the music room, of course.

Thinking back, it was pretty amazing to have the entire school in the gymnasium singing as a community.  Every now and again, there was a student who was picked from the crowd and asked to leave to sit in the hallway and yet I don’t remember it being a big problem.  There were also a few students who didn’t sing or had other academic things to do besides being in the gymnasium with us.

Caroling was more than a school event; I sang in the church choir and it was a big event for the church.  We practiced and practiced to be perfect for the choir service.  It was also my biggest singing embarrasing moment.  I still remember practice being halted because “something was wrong” and a finger was pointed at me.

This adolescent was asked to move from the one side of the choir to the other.  I was now singing with the men because I could no longer hit the high notes.  It was tramatic – and quite boring – I think it marked the end of my signing career.  These days, I just get strange looks from the dog when singing while we walk.

It wasn’t just at church and at school that we sang carols.  As a member of the Boy Scouts, we would also go to the seniors’ home to sing for the residents.  The one thing about a Scout Troup and a school session was that your lack of hitting the high notes didn’t stand out like they did in a church choir.  At least, nobody complained.

Throughout all these experiences, there was one thing that strikes me.  They were all community events where we were drawn together by song.  But, we can’t overlook the fact that many of the carols carried a religious message as well.

Things are different these days and the diversity within the school has led to the disbanding of activities like these.  Christmas concerts in the evening have now become holiday concerts in public schools.  Songs are carefully chosen to make sure that they appeal to a general audience.  Those who look specifically for Christmas carols are better off looking at churches for a solution.

And yet, when you think about it, the same approach and collection of songs could still be used in schools and be inclusive to all students.

On this Sunday morning, what are your thoughts?

  • Does your school still have a community approach to singing carols or winter songs?
  • Do you recall a time when you sang carols together as a school?
  • Does anyone else remember the Simpson’s songsheets?
  • Did you ever have a chance to go to the Simpson’s store in downtown Toronto for their annual caroling event?
  • Is caroling a thing in your community outside of churches?
  • Were you ever asked to move from the Soprano section to the Bass section of a group of singers?  Did you handle it as ungraciously as I did?

I’d be interested in your thoughts.  Please enter them via comment below.

All of the posts from the “Whatever happened to …” series are available here.  They’re fun to write and I really enjoy reading other’s opinions on the topic.

If you have an idea for a topic like Aviva did, please add it to the Padlet.  If you’d like to be anonymous, that’s OK.

OTR Links 12/24/2017

Posted from Diigo. The rest of my favorite links are here.