Why did I start a Victorian caroling troupe? Well, stay with me on a short journey through my childhood.
When I was a little girl of about 9, we moved to a small neighborhood in the town of Elkins, West Virginia. Our street was at the edge of the campus of Davis and Elkins College. It was a beautiful neighborhood and a lovely little town.
We’d come into Elkins after five years living in Laramie, Wyoming. It would start snowing in Laramie sometime in early October, and would rarely finish until sometime in May. It was very cold and the snow would pile up in drifts way taller than I was. Winters in Elkins were milder.
Our neighborhood was made up of several families that were a part of the nearby Presbyterian church and the college. I was surprised and thrilled when I discovered that there was a delightful tradition of Christmas caroling that had been going on in this group for a few years.
We all gathered on Christmas Eve, and walked around the area singing away. No music books, no word sheets, just a bunch of people and our memories. Fortunately, this was a very talented and musical bunch. Just in my family, we had two sopranos, a tenor and a bass. We quickly added a couple of altos, another tenor and at least one more bass. So a well-balanced choir. Most of us knew the words to at least three verses to all the carols that we could think of.
Then, after we had wandered for an hour or more, we would make our way to one of the houses, where warm food and drinks awaited our pleasure. I have such fond memories of those few years.
We only took part the first two years that we lived there. My mother was engaged in a feud with the family that had done most of the planning. I remember vividly the year the invitation came to the door, and being told that we would not be taking part. I was heartbroken. The group came to our house and serenaded us. I wanted to cry.
I know that our memories of childhood are viewed through a haze that is colored by our emotions. I recall those early caroling evenings through a golden fog. The voices were all trained, the harmonies were beautiful, there was a lot of laughter. I was the only child on these evenings, but I was made to feel welcome. The party afterward was equally golden. I remember hot chocolate with huge fluffy marshmallows. There was a display with fresh cranberries. I’d never seen them outside of the bags at the grocery. I remember an antique Victorian crazy quilt made up of various velvets, with fabulous embroidery everywhere.
I think that’s why I started High Tea Carolers. I wanted to recapture those golden evenings from my childhood. Neighborhood caroling just doesn’t work anymore. People are too insulated in their homes. No one wants to open their doors to a strange group of singing people. But, if you are dressed in Victorian clothing, and performing at parties and events, people enjoy listening. And I love sewing the costumes. We rehearse for several months before the holidays. And we have music in front of us. So it is quite different from those evenings of my memory. But, it also comes the closest to those glorious caroling parties of my childhood; trained voices, perfectly balanced with rich harmonies. And we laugh. A lot.