Carols For Community

“Now bring us some figgy pudding, with a cup of good cheer…We won’t go until we get some, so bring it right here.” It’s a nice rhyme, however odd. Many questions come to mind – “Will she really bring us some?” and, “What is figgy pudding anyhow?” Questions aside, it’s a nice carol. This past holiday, a team of four Andover students, Susannah Poland ’07, Christa Vardaro ’06, Jeff Cutts ’06, and I sang at a handful of Massachusetts retirement homes, rehab centers, hospitals, and public venues. The mastermind behind it all, Vardaro planned every aspect of our venture, from putting together the a’capella quartet to Mapquesting each location individually. She spent a week’s labor of love contacting the nursing homes and hospitals, scheduling times for our performances. Sharing her philosophy as a Community Service Coordinator, Vardaro said, “I thought idea of caroling was really cool because it goes along with the idea that you’re giving your time. In a world where it seems like all these organizations are about funding, this is a heartening reminder that we can still contribute.” Luck was on Vardaro’s side when she assembled the quartet at the start of vacation. The only four singers she knew in the area fit the soprano, alto, tenor, and bass parts perfectly. Indeed, in another stroke of luck, on the one afternoon Cutts could not perform, another local tenor, Ben Landy ’07, filled in for him. Borrowing much of the Yorkies’ Christmas music and a few sacred Fidelio pieces, our repertoire covered a wide range of popular carols as well as a few lesser-known songs. The Fidelio pieces acted as nice rests between carols, as many senior citizens enjoyed singing along whenever they could. “The First Noel” and “Hark! The Herald Angels Sing” were particularly popular amongst older audiences. Beyond our scheduled performances, we offered carols from door to door in elderly communities and homes. Singing one or two short tunes a room, some songs received some excessive wear. This became intensely evident in homes like Sutton Hill, where there were four floors of residents to sing for. However, the work was not without its rewards. We received a plethora of impressed looks and nostalgic smiles, holiday spirit and teary eyes. We spent our last day in Boston, exploring larger venues. We picked up gas fare and a couple of free meals in tips when we sang for outpatients at Massachusetts General Hospital, for HIV victims at the Boston Living Center’s annual holiday party, and for tourists at Fanueil Hall. Yet nostalgic seniors and enthusiastic tourists aside, the most memorable experience for me was at the Lawrence General Hospital. To begin, in a work of serendipity, we sang for Herb Morton, Registrar, who had broken his ankle that morning. Continuing on, we visited the children’s and maternity wards. We sang “Joy to the World” for kids sick for the holidays and “The First Noel” for mothers looking to have Christmas babies. Perhaps most memorably, we sang “Silent Night” for a room of newborn babies. The hush that blanketed the room afterwards was the most peaceful sound I had ever heard. While I still haven’t a clue as to what figgy pudding is, I do know that our venture was not in vain. Quite frankly, it was the closest I have ever felt to Christmas.