A group of Quoddy Voices singers and friends visited Washington Place assisted living in Calais, and Eastport Memorial Nursing Home on December 20, with a program of seasonal music offered as part of EAC’s outreach program. The group met the night before the mini-tour to work out some of the selections in four-part harmony and to finalize a set list; soprano Jenny Gillies led the group with laughter and cheer. Selections included a rousing “Joy to the World”, “Silent Night” (in German and English), “Angels We Have Heard on High”, “Away in a Manger”, “Here We Come A-Wassailing”, “Silver Bells”, “Lo How a Rose E’er Blooming”, and several more.
In both homes, residents borrowed carol books and lyric sheets from the group, and some joined in the singing; others were seen to smile or close their eyes during the music.
Gillies provided lively introductions to the songs, including facts about the pieces, such as that “Silver Bells” was inspired by Salvation Army bell-ringers, and first heard via the silver screen, when Bob Hope starred opposite Marilyn Maxwell in The Lemon Drop Kid, a con man caper in which Bob has a Christmas deadline for his biggest scam.
She explained to the chorus and the musical residents that to “Come A-Wassailing” was to quaff before caroling ‘a hearty combination of hot ale or beer, apples, spices, and mead, with just enough alcohol to warm tingling toes and fingers of the singers.’
Inspiring both the chorus members at her back and the singing residents before her, Gillies recalled the Christmas Eve truce when “Silent Night” was sung by German and Allied troops, in French, German and English. The text (1818), she noted, has been translated into roughly 300 languages.
Singers included Quoddy Voices members Manuela Brice, Ray Fluke, Bill Johnson, Steve Koenig, Barbara Smith, and Margie Whalen; they were joined by Nadine Biss, Jude Kempe and Lauren Koss.
Quoddy Voices’ Director, John Newell, wrote that he was sorry to miss the caroling; he’d already headed out of town for holiday travel. He was also excited to announce that the choir will resume rehearsal on February 20, and will prepare a Maine-themed program for the spring concerts. The repertoire will include many flavors of Maine—a loggers’ song, a sea shantey, the Maine Stein song, Shaker tunes, a childrens’ song, the catchy Maine County Song (for learning the names of all fourteen Maine counties), a medley from the musical Carousel, and original pieces by Gregory Biss, Gene Nichols and Newell himself. Those who’d like to sing may do so without audition; however each singer will need to purchase a ‘singer’s mask’ prior to the first rehearsal. Inquiries about the spring season may be made to Newell at firstname.lastname@example.org.