‘Carol Sing’ hits high note for many
Composer Alice Parker’s annual event a real draw
Alice Parker, artistic director of the Melodious Accord Institute of Hawley, leads carolers in a round of "Angels We Have Heard on High." "Light and soft on the verse, then let the 'glorias' explode!" Parker told those gathered at the Charlemont Federated Church on Sunday.
Alice Parker, artistic director of the Melodius Accord Institute in Hawley, leads carolers in a rousing hymn at the Charlemont Federated Church on Sunday.
Lindy Guttman and Bob Stromberg (front) drove from Round Lake, N.Y. to sing with other caroling enthusiasts during the Charlemont Federated Church's "Sing with Alice" event on Sunday.
CHARLEMONT — A far-flung congregation of music-lovers gathered in the chapel of the Charlemont Federated Church Sunday afternoon for an unrehearsed concert before an audience of themselves in Alice Parker’s annual Carol Sing.
Without practice or musical accompaniment, the 36 singers seated in the wooden pews run through a selection of traditional favorites and a few less-well-known carols with few signs that they haven’t practiced together.
“It’s amazing to me that we can all come together and instantly sing these songs,” Parker said. “Christmas makes that possible because we all want to sing these songs.”
Parker, who lives in Hawley, attributes the quality of the performance to the songs and to the backgrounds of the singers, many of whom she said sing regularly in the Charlemont church or other church choirs.
While many of the singers share Parker’s love for the Christmas songs, Parker herself — a well-known composer in the church world — seems to be the main draw.
“I love her style and her energy and her skill, her sensibility I guess, and I’m a choral leader myself so I’m watching and learning,” said Becky Graber of Brattleboro, Vt.
Graber, who directs the Brattleboro Women’s Chorus, was not the only choral director present nor the only to travel from out of state; a show of hands finds two to three singers from every bordering state but Rhode Island, and one from New Mexico.
For Carol Hoyt of East Hartford, Conn., the event is a welcome break from the helm.
“I direct chorus and hand bells and hand chimes, so an opportunity to do this is a great joy to me,” Hoyt said.
Hoyt is minister of music at her church, and said she prefers to encourage others to sing but makes the drive to Charlemont as often as she can to sing and to absorb Parker’s style.
Bob Weaver of Montague Center normally sings in the Immanuel Lutheran Church choir in Amherst, but said he tries to attend as many of Parker’s group-sings as possible.
“Whenever I hear about Alice doing something I like to attend, she brings out the best in people’s singing,” Weaver said. “She’s a wonderful conductor and she just brings joy to singing.”
With lively movement and a constant smile, Parker encourages the singers to enjoy themselves.
“There’s a phrase in Latin, Ludus Tonalis, ‘the game of tones;’ it’s so silly to always be serious, we need a lot more laughter,” Parker said, instructing the singers in one of her frequent asides between songs, during which she directs attention to the afternoon light on a stained glass window and offers praise, instruction and snippets of musical history.
Parker said she directs five or six group-sings at the church per year, and the post-Christmas caroling is one of the more relaxed.
“This one is very informal because it’s the Christmas songs that everyone loves to sing, so I believe in giving them the chance to do so,” she said.
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