Nothing says Christmas like caroling; and few things are more inspiring than caroling at the Cathedral Basilica of the Sacred Heart in beautiful downtown Newark, NJ. “Newark,” you say. Yes, Newark.
This is the second year I’ve been to the Candlelight Carol Sing at the Basilica and it was as magical this go around as the first time. The conductor, John J. Miller, judiciously picked 20 carols for the evening, half of which were song by the choir, the other half with audience participants joining in. It’s a fantastic program with traditional and religious carols and the manner in which Mr. Miller has the choir and audience playing off one another is delightful.
The evening began with the choir strategically placed throughout the Cathedral singing “E’en so Lord Jesus, Quickly Come” and ended with a tribute to the 200th Anniversary of “Silent Night” and, of course, “Hark! The Herald Angels Sing.” In honor of Silent Night’s anniversary, the first two verses were sung in traditional German, accompanied by the harp, and the remaining verses were sung by an audience draped in candlelight.
The Basilica’s Carol Sing started 48 years ago. Then director of music, John Rose, had a concert planned for mid-December. As fortune would have it, the area was assaulted with a storm and the organist was unable to traverse to Newark. Not wanting to disappoint the 50 or so concert goers in attendance, Mr. Rose treated the audience to a preview of the Cathedral’s Christmas mass music and lead a round of carols creating, unbeknownst to him at the time, a long-standing and much loved holiday tradition. This year, there had to be close to 500 people in attendance, if not more.
On that musical note, I’m signing off with the sweat melody of “Carol of the Bells” in my head. And, to you, I wish safe travels, smooth sailings and bon appetite.