While traditional carolers walked from house to house wishing a “Merry Christmas to all,” much in the fashion of those wanting “figgy pudding,” many of today’s modern Cleveland carolers remain stationary as they cry “Joy to the world!”
“Carols in the City” a reverse-caroling experience highlighting the historic churches of downtown Cleveland has become a yearly tradition for many church choirs. Attendees walk from church to church to hear the “angels” sing.
(Except on years like this one, when weather makes the town too soggy for listeners to venture out.)
Broad Street United Methodist Church music director Cynthia Johnson said she thinks her church has participated in the caroling event since it began.
“It was an opportunity to sing for the community and being a downtown church we like to be involved in all the downtown activities,” Johnson said. “The opportunity for the choir to sing for the community we just feel ... gives us a chance to share some of the hope of Christmas and the excitement of anticipating the coming of Christ.”
Johnson said in addition to traditional carols she tries to choose at least one complex Christmas song per year that highlight’s the choir’s a cappella abilities.
Had the festivities gone forward this year, the group would have performed a songful prayer “to God to bring us peace and comfort in this season.”
Johnson said she chooses songs that will encourage the community “to focus on Christ.”
“I also try to choose one or two songs that are very familiar to the people,” Johnson said.
The choir routinely practices selections for a month prior to the night performance.
Many carolers come back year after year to sing in the candlelit streets “that Jesus Christ is born.”
“It’s not quite as prevalent as it used to be, so to be a part of that and keep it going is a wonderful thing,” First Baptist Cleveland choir member Tim Spires said.
“My choir is enthusiastic. They love to come,” Johnson said.
She said choir members have come to look forward to the unique opportunity as a break from their regular schedule.
Caroling provides Johnson a time in the busy holiday season to stop “and offer hope to people.”
“It’s the best part of Christmas for me,” Johnson said.
“It’s great to see the town come together and the sprit of that,” Spires said.
First Cumberland Presbyterian Church choir director Kathy Morelock said she takes a stress–free approach to caroling
“We do make it fun,” Morelock said. “We are real jovial and happy and we always end with “We wish you a Merry Christmas.”
For her the fellowship between the choir members and within the audiences is her favorite part of caroling.
Just as caroling has become a tradition for the churches, Morelock said it has become a tradition for many of the audience members as well.
Morelock sticks to songs that most people would know and be able to sing along with.
Each caroler has their favorite song.
“It’s hard to say one favorite, but probably ‘Angels we have heard on high,’” Johnson said.
Johnson said she likes the song because it makes her feel like she’s the leader of a choir of angels singing Glory to the newborn king.
Spires said one of his favorite Christmas Carols is “Silent Night.”
Spires said he has many memories of singing the song.
Caroling with his church choir also has an air of nostalgia for Spires.
“There have been lots of times caroling in nursing homes, so it’s something that I’ve done probably since I was a teenager,” Spires said.
Morelock’s said favorite carols are “O come, O come, Emmanuel” and “Silent Night.”
“I think the melodies for me (make them my favorite). ‘Silent Night ‘is just beautiful… and ‘O come, O come, Emmanuel’, the lyrics are beautiful. I think it’s kind of a haunting melody, that you are really waiting for the Messiah,” Morelock said.
“I’ve always loved music. As a child I took piano … and somehow it kind of stuck with me,” Morelock said.
Despite the caroling traditions being canceled this year due to rain, choir members still spread Christmas joy with performances at their respective churches.