Many friends see the holiday season as an opportunity to get together for a meal or a drink and a catch up.
For a foursome hailing from Langley, however, their chosen venue is often the streets of Vancouver – and they usually get together a few times during December – not to socialize, as much as to sing.
This foursome consists of Tricia Coleman, Katie Henthorn, Dayna Coulter, and Maria Krause. Although they first came together while singing in choir during their high school days at D.W. Poppy Secondary, they still try to get together at least a few times a year to share their gift of song and raise money for less fortunate.
For some members, it’s a bit longer trip than for others. Coulter lives in Langley. Coleman lives in Cloverdale. Henthorm resides in Vancouver. And Krause, well she lives in Kingston, Ont., where she’s pursuing her doctorate at Queen’s University.
Since Krause returns home to Langley a few times a year – during the Christmas season for sure – she takes advantage of the time to reunite with a trio of friends who share her affinity for a cappella.
“None of us sing professionally, just some smaller gigs here and there,” Krause explained.
They began singing together during high school (although they were in different grades), and grew accustomed to spending the entire Christmas season preparing carols and doing tours around seniors’ homes and hospitals etc.
It was easy to keep it going after they graduated, some of them moving on together into university, Coleman said.
“It naturally became something that was a part of the holidays,” she said, explaining that they’ve keep the ritual alive for the past nine years.
“We sing one to two times in Vancouver, and have started singing once [a year] in Fort Langley per Christmas season,” Krause said, noting this year it fell to once in the village and once in downtown Vancouver (outside the Aldo store on Broadway Street) – due to conflicting work and parenting schedules.
“We have mostly performed traditional carols, with a few of the slightly less-known Christmas songs in there (Ding Dong Bell, The Angel Gabriel, and Lo How a Rose Ere Blooming). We used music from high school, and also have gone through a hymn book or two to add to our repertoire,” Coleman explained.
“We have made our own arrangements of a couple of songs (O Little Town of Bethlehem and Sarah McLachlan’s Winter’s Night) but we are usually left wishing we had the time to improve the arrangements,” she added.
Often, while on the street, they take requests from children and have to “wing it” for a popular song like Rudolph or Frosty, Coleman elaborated.
“We still are usually able to come up with a three-part harmony based on our familiarity with each others’ singing styles, though we are limited by our word knowledge.”
A fundamental part of the foursome’s carolling – beyond being a great excuse to reunite with friends – is to give to others, explained Krause.
They usually collect between $300 and $400 each time they sing in public, and that money, while in the early years went to women’s shelters – is now is earmarked for food banks.
“It gives us a reason to gather, and we feel that we are contributing to the community by collecting food bank donations,” Coleman said.
“In a season where, [when] we were all students and felt quite poor, we may not have had a lot of free capital to give away but we were able to use our experience to still bring some relief to a few people through the food bank.”
Keeping the carolling tradition alive, they all agree is sometimes challenging, but incredibly worthwhile.
Coleman shared: “Christmas carols are special to me because I love singing in general, I love being able to pick up our music without practicing and turn out a decent sound (due to repetition and familiarity), and I love catching up with these friends at least once a year.”
The women have recorded a couple of pieces in past, including submissions for the Kiwanis Music Festival back in 2009-2010 that earned them a first-place in the small ensemble category of the competition.
They also produced “a rough album” a couple years ago, and Krause is hoping to record a new one this year or next, which she said could to help raise more funds for the cause.