Holiday Caroling

TAKE YOUR TUNES on the road for some old-fashioned holiday fun

By Heather Shoning

Photo By Marcos Castillo

Christmas carolinghas a long history in England, and many early American settlers brought the tradition here with them. Early American colonists from England, the Netherlands and other European countries celebrated Christmas with music and caroling. Churches played a significant role in promoting Christmas caroling, as congregations would gather
to sing hymns and carols to celebrate the birth of Christ. This religious aspect of caroling remains an essential part of the tradition for many people. 

The 19th century saw the popularization of caroling with the publication of song collections and the idea that caroling was a way of spreading holiday cheer and goodwill among neighbors. Today, it’s a cherished tradition as carolers go door-to-door, sing in public places, or participate in community events, spreading joy and holiday spirit throughout the season.

If you’ve never gone caroling, let this be the year! And if you’re a skilled celebrational crooner, gather the gang and warm up those voices for a lovely season of song. Sophie Lichens, general manager of Neighborhood Music School in Aurora, shares some tips for making your caroling experience one to remember.

AvidLifestyle: How many people do you suggest for a group size for neighborhood caroling? Should there be a particular mix of men and women and children?

Sophie Lichens: Smaller groups (up to 10 or so people) tend to be a little more manageable (and there may be some practical limitations depending on your venue of choice), but don’t let that discourage people from joining in—the more the merrier! If you have a lot of interest, you can always break into a few smaller groups or host multiple dates. Most people don’t get to sing much outside the shower, and caroling is a great opportunity to plug into
the community. 

I wouldn’t worry too much about the mix of voices. While a well-balanced, well-rehearsed choir sounds fantastic in a concert hall, the fun of caroling is simply to get together as a group and sing. If it sounds good, that’s a nice bonus!

Where can I find song sheets for my group?

Most carols are in the public domain, so it’s easy to find lyrics and basic melodies online. In a pinch, you can just print some pages from the internet (a quick Google search will bring up endless options) but creating a “songbook” of your own can be useful, especially if you plan on making caroling an annual tradition. 

How should we warm up our voices?

Warming up your vocals gets your voice and ears ready and helps keep your voice warmer for longer when outside. If you have never done vocal warmups before, try humming first in your mid-ranges, then try to bring the voice higher. After you feel like the voice is warm, try singing through your carols together. Once you’re outside and getting colder, make “zzzzz” sounds into a scarf to keep your voice warm.

Before venturing out, make sure everyone has enough warm clothes, including gloves, hats and earmuffs. Nothing is worse than feeling cold when you’re meant to be singing to put everyone in a festive mood!

During what hours should we go caroling?

The unpredictable Colorado weather and children’s bedtimes can make caroling timing tricky. If you’re going door-to-door in residential neighborhoods, we recommend caroling right after a traditional dinner time—around 7 p.m.—to avoid interrupting meal time. For business districts, we recommend going right when it starts getting dark—around 4 p.m.—while people are still out and it’s a little
less frigid.

Are there any etiquette tips for caroling?

Places like shopping malls may require advanced notification that you’re planning to carol in case they have other events—if in doubt, reach out.  

Generally, we’d recommend three to four songs at each stop—best not to overstay your welcome. However, if your audience is enthusiastic, sing on!   

You may or may not draw much of a crowd, and that’s OK. Remember: The fun of caroling is, first and foremost, getting together to sing. It’s OK if there isn’t a big audience! 

If you do draw a crowd, you’ll probably get some requests. If the requested song is in your songbook, go for it! It’s not a bad idea to designate a spokesperson for your group ahead of time who can announce songs and be the one to politely decline a request if the group doesn’t know it or otherwise feels uncomfortable singing it. 

Neighborhood Music School began in 2012 in the personal home of its founder, Skye Barker-Maa. It now operates out of Stanley Marketplace and offers a variety of in-person and virtual classes, including drums, string instruments, piano and more—in addition to voice lessons.

Neighborhood Music School
2501 Dallas St., Suite 130