One by one they came stumbling over the snow, swinging their lanterns’ around their heads, shouting and coughing horribly.
‘Come carol-barking then?’
We were the Church Choir, so no answer was necessary.
Laurie Lee ‘Cider with Rosie’
Probably the best known reference to the practice of carol singing in Gloucestershire, but has carol singing changed?
Does anyone in the C21st still go singing around the houses on the nights before Christmas, cadging for a few pennies?
Christmas carols are sung in a variety of situations, church carol services and concerts are pop-up everywhere, but carol singing might break out anywhere during the season. Here are some specific singing traditions in Gloucestershire.
For people who like the challenge of singing carols in harmony, look out for West Gallery groups. The local group is the Gloster Gallery Quire. See our pages on West Gallery to find out more about this tradition.
In addition to West Gallery, there is another tradition of part-singing carols, but this time in pubs. At one time this was popular from Cornwall to Cumbria, but has dwindled. It remains strong in South Yorkshire and North Derbyshire and hence has become known as ‘Sheffield Carols’. However, it can be found in pockets throughout the land. The Prince Albert in Rodborough, Stroud hosts this type of carol singing on Sunday lunchtimes in December.
Singing in the Streets
Singing in the streets still goes on in different ways. Just like Laurie Lee, children still go out for a couple of hours although these days they are usually accompanied by parents. At the other end of the scale one village has a tradition on Christmas Eve where everyone leaves the pubs at midnight to form a huge choir in the High Street.
Start a new tradition
If nothing is happening where you live, then start something. 19 years ago, in a small village in the Stroud Valleys, five carollers went out into the dark frosty lanes to sing to their neighbours. The next year a few people joined them, and more the following year. These days at least 40 singers, young and old, set off with lanterns and song sheets to exercise their lungs and bring good cheer on the night before Christmas Eve. As one of the villagers says, “Christmas starts when the carol singers come to the door”.
There are some carol singing events in our calendar.