Glen Rock singers salute English caroling custom
The Glen Rock Carol Singers, from left, Jim Kroh, Rodger Smith and Paul Shepperd, sing at the South Central York County Senior Center in New Freedom. The trio collectively has more than 200 years of experience as members of the group. But reinforcements are on the way. (See photograph below). Legendery Glen Rock Carolers to publish history.
For years, the Glen Rock Carol Singers celebrate Christmas Eve with an 11 p.m. concert, then take to the streets of town in song.
That’s happening again this year – the top-hatted group’s 160th anniversary – and they’ll be armed this year with more than a songbook… .
Darryl Engler conducts the Glen Rock Carol Singers at the South Central York County Senior Center for their first engagement of the year. This photograph suggests that the next generation is attracted to this venerable group. The carolers perform in Glen Rock on Christmas Eve.
The carolers have published a revised edition of “Salute This Happy Morn: A History of the Glen Rock Carol Singers.”
The new version includes Charles Glatfelter’s history of the carolers from 1848 to 1972.
The book is available for $25 each at Trinity United Church of Christ, 27 Manchester St., Glen Rock, from 1 to 3 p.m. Monday through Thursday until Dec. 20. Call 235-1906 for more information.
A York Daily Record/Sunday News story (12/3/07) on the group and the new book follows:
The South Central York County Senior Center in New Freedom resounded Sunday night with the music of the holiday season.
More than 200 people braved the cold, rainy weather to hear the Glen Rock Carol Singers. Many of them were from Glen Rock, where they grew up with the tradition of hearing the carolers each year on Christmas Eve.
“I’ve been listening to the carolers on Christmas Eve for as long as I can remember,” said Arlene Houston of Shrewsbury. Her grandson, Bryan Bortner, is the third generation of the family to serve as a caroler.
Others were hearing the carolers for the first time.
“I didn’t know what to expect. They are wonderful. I can’t believe that someone has been doing this for more than 70 years,” said Cathy Clarke of Baltimore.
“It is a wonderful start to the Christmas season,” said Patricia Cumor of Glen Rock.
Cumor first heard the carolers more than 30 years ago. It was Christmas Eve and Glen Rock was in the grip of an ice storm. Cumor wondered why anyone would go out in such weather. Once she heard the men sing and learned about the carolers’ history she understood their dedication.
“We’ve been listening to them ever since,” she said.
Between songs, director Darryl Engler introduced the life members, those with more than 50 years of service:
· Charles Miller, 52 years;
· Donald Slonaker, 53 years;
· Rodger Smith, 62 years,
· Paul W. Shepperd Jr., 66 years;
· and James Kroh, 73 years. Kroh received a standing ovation.
Engler related a bit of the carolers’ history that began on Christmas eve 1848 when Charles, Mark and James Heathcote, Mark Radcliffe and George Shaw observed the English custom of outdoor holiday caroling by going from house to house, singing carols to the seven families living in the village of Glen Rock.
While the faces of the carolers have changed, the tradition of outdoor caroling has continued uninterrupted for almost 160 years.
“We are blessed with the carolers coming to us and singing for us so that the people who don’t have the opportunity to go to Glen Rock on Christmas Eve can still hear them. They have become part of our Christmas tradition and we are so grateful that they include us in their wonderful tradition and that they bring it here to us, the senior center’s executive director Sandra Wehr said.
This year’s route will begin with Baltimore Street, followed by Church Street, Hanover Street and Manchester Street. From there, the carolers will proceed to the community Christmas tree on Water Street and conclude their night with the singing of the Doxology.
The tradition: On Christmas Eve, the Glen Rock Carol Singers will continue their 160-year tradition of bringing the message of the birth of Christ to Glen Rock. They will hold their annual indoor Christmas Eve concert at 11 p.m. at Zion Lutheran Church at Hanover and Water streets. Later they will gather in the town square at midnight to welcome Christmas morning with the singing of “Christians Awake, Salute This Happy Morn,” one of the four original carols, after which they journey through town.
The songs: The four original carols that were sung in 1848 are still used today along with eight more. The most recent addition, “Raise Christians, Raise,” written more than 100 years ago, was introduced last year after many of the carolers visited Micklehurst, England, the home of William Heathcote, Glen Rock founder and a relative of the five original carolers.
The attire: The carolers wear greatcoats with capes made of wool and gray top hats reflective of the English style of clothing from the 1840s.
The caroler organization is limited to 50 caped members and several associates who wait to become a caped member. Fifty-year members receive a life membership that allows them to continue to participate and, while bringing in a new caped member.
The finale: The annual journey ends around dawn with the carolers gathering around the community Christmas tree for a final song, the singing of the Doxology and a prayer of thanks for being able to continue the tradition.