Thursday, December 24, 2009

A Carolling Pub Crawl

This past Tuesday evening I had the pleasure of attending a Carolling Party hosted by the lovely Hooper family. It is an annual event full of carols, raising money for the
Foodbank, hanging with friendly people, and drinking delicious mulled wine after a chilly evening singing outside. I know it is not intentional, but the party always seems to be hosted on one of the coldest day of the year. This year was no exception. I am aware of this fact every year and each year I bring more and more layers, however, I still end up being quite chilled at the end of our run! Since it was more of a casual get-together, instead of an intricately scheduled carolling extravaganza, we had a mental list of houses we wanted to hit in the area because they were either were friends of the Hoopers or they enjoyed our singing in the previous years.

The first few houses were very nice, people in their cozy housecoats watched us from behind their screen door (in order to not let the warm air from their home escape). A few houses later we were invited indoors to sing for the Christmas dinner that was going on. They were all so enthusiastic that they beckoned us to enter and a group of 15 or so carollers stepped into their home while trying to shake the excess snow off our boots to avoid leaving mass puddles in their doorway. It warmed my heart to see the eager face of their Grandma listen to us as she held onto the back of the nearby chair for support and listened to us sing. We sang some carols and a man from the stairs proudly announced at the end of our tune: "I have sherry!" He weaved through the mob of carollers in his front hallway to break out the booze, and before I knew it, a plastic wine glass was being offered to me and the sherry bottle was being passed around. It was awesome. The sherry didn't warm my numb toes but it definitely warmed me up inside.

After this home, it was back out into the cold. We did a few more homes, collecting donations for the
Foodbank along the way, but our last stop was a Christmas party we were pre-scheduled to hit. The house was brimming with people and they urged us to come in. Thus, we shook off our boots again and walked down the main corridor all the way into the kitchen at the back of the house. Everybody was excited to see us and we sang a few carols, taking requests, of course. In between songs, styrofoam cups were handed out and a bottle of Baileys was passed down the carolling line so we could top up our cup. As well, once news circulated that we were collecting for the Edmonton Foodbank, actual cash was being placed in our mitten-covered hands. Their generosity was overwhelming! Platters of crackers, cheese, and meat were also being offered to us as well! If I have learned anything in all my years of singing it is that there's nothing better than singing and free food! After the Baileys, I was sufficiently warm, and since we were singing indoors, my feet were warming up as well! We headed back outside and proceeded to go back to the Hooper house for mulled wine and gingerbread cookies. Delicious!

I didn't expect there to be such generous amounts of alcohol available every step of the way for our carolling party but this carolling-party-turned-carolling-pub-crawl was very enjoyable indeed! Plus, we were able to raise money and collect donations for a good cause!

At any rate, I hope you all are having a very happy holiday and take care!

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Carolling at the Hockey Game

'Tis the season for Christmas music and concerts and in addition to that.... 'tis the season for carolling gigs!

As a child, I often sang in choirs without any monetary benefit, however, things have changed now since I actually get paid to sing sometimes. It's shocking, I know! I used to feel a lot of pressure to perform well, since somebody was actually paying me not to screw up... and in many instances I still feel that pressure... but not with carolling gigs anymore. I am not yet a seasoned carolling veteran, as some of my fellow choristers are, but I'm coming pretty close since I've started to go on automatic singing pilot during my recent carolling gigs. The interesting about gigs is that most times you don't really know what you're signing up for.

My first gig of the year was at Rexall Place (which is the large hockey arena in my city). You can probably just imagine the setting... there we were... a strong and mighty group of 6 women tucked away into the corner between a table with silent auction hockey art and a large concrete pillar. Beside us was a young man using his belt-friendly hockey voice to advertise free Oilers blankets if they signed up for a credit card as we sang "Away in a Manger", while in front of us was a huge influx of traffic as we stood in front of the doors from the LRT and busstop. It was a gong-show! Nobody could hear us and I could sense that, as a group, our voices were becoming strained as we attempted to sing over the bustling hockey environment. However, at the same time I couldn't help but smile to myself in regards to how ridiculous our situation was. Out of all the environments where carolling should occur, before a hockey game isn't one of them! People are pre-occupied with buying beer, popcorn, and foamy fingers and aren't really in the mood to hear about how "Mary had a Baby". In addition, I had quite an adventure seeking out the gig entrance since I had to look for the ice-level entry point coming off of the LRT. I had to walk around the arena and go down a sketchy-looking ramp. If it wasn't for all the Mercedes and BMW SUVs parked outside (the car of choice for professional hockey players it seems) I would have thought I was in the wrong spot.

However, it was neat to stand next to the ice as we waited for our guide. Beside us where lots of VIP looking people with special passes strung around their necks and multiple media crews with their cameras and anchormen ready for the broadcast. We waited patiently for the girl who would lead us around. She soon emerged and professionally, but unenthusiastically, greeted and informed us that she would be taking care of us that evening. Once we were all together she walked us over to the scoreboard room to store our things. The scoreboard room was a very neat dark room filled with glittering television sets with multiple hockey channel broadcasts from different locations. Also, since I hadn't changed into my uniform beforehand... and it didn't seem like the men in the scoreboard room were leaving anytime soon, I was able to discretely change as a fellow chorister held up her arms with her carolling cape and it was a very nice makeshift dressing room. If there is one thing choir has taught me... it's how to change discretely and efficiently in public. A big part of it is not being self-conscious and to just go for it! The longer you take and the more tentative you look-the more people will pay attention. As well, it's all about changing with layers ex. putting a skirt on before taking off your pants etc.

Anyway, we gigged for a good hour and a half where it felt like we were shouting the words of carols into hockey patron faces while our guide tapped away at her iphone to kill time. Once the start of the hockey game was approaching, she told us we could wrap it up and she took us back down to gather our things in the scoreboard room before ushering us to the back doors that opened out again on the sketchy ramp parking lot. We had to exit before the hockey players came out. They had already laid out a rubber walking path for the players and a custodian was mopping the walkway so that the players would have a clean walkway on their way to the rink. I do have to admit, it was interesting to see all the behind-the-scenes activities behind a hockey game!

I'm not sure if I would do that gig again... but it definitely was a first and I'm all for experiencing new things :)

Until next time, take care and stay warm! (On Sunday, Edmonton was the coldest city in North America!)