“It’s very fun for me to be with my friends and sing,” Luis Loannou, 13, said with a smile after the debut Christmas caroling performance at last Saturday’s Holiday Kids’ Bazaar in Astoria.
Loannou is a member of the show choir Cool Vocals, made up of students 9 to 15 years old from Art House Astoria, a nonprofit music and art conservatory where children and adults can flex their creative muscles.
For the first time in the school’s three- year history, it is organizing community Christmas caroling throughout the month of December. The program is for all ages, with no singing or musical experience necessary to participate.
But instead of singing indoors to a group like during the bazaar — sponsored by The Story Nook and babyNOIR, two Astoria businesses with strong ties to the community, and organized to support local artists with proceeds from a raffle going to support the Queens Library Foundation — the carolers will be hitting the streets to spread holiday cheer throughout the neighborhood, with the hopes of bringing suburban charm to urban living.
“I’m from a really small town; we’d carol around the town from house to house,” Jane Burgess, a cofounder of Art House Astoria along with her husband, Micah, recalled of Christmastime in her native West Virginia. Burgess additionally serves as the choir’s musical instructor and performed Christmas songs at the bazaar, along with about 20 singers after Cool Vocals kicked off the show.
Laura Ware, Art House Astoria’s school administrator and acting coach, was on hand to sing too. She is also the person who was inspired to bring this community-building project to Western Queens.
“I went caroling a couple years ago with a group down in the Village and I thought that would be a really fun community project for Art House Astoria to start,” Ware said.
The self-dubbed “Community Carolers” had several rehearsals during November, when they met to work on harmonies as a group.
“Laura is quite an idea person and said, ‘Why don’t we put the word out there to the community to see if people are interested getting together to carol, reaching out to the community?’” Burgess added.
The Christmas songs were chosen by the carolers themselves, according to Burgess, with suggestions presented during rehearsals when the group was asked what some of their favorites were to sing. Some songs are even accompanied with small instruments, like sleigh bells and wooden tone blocks with mallets to keep the beat.
“We’ve had a really nice turnout of our regular students, folks from our Meetup group, members of the Presbyterian Church and new friends who have found us through Twitter, Facebook and word of mouth,” Ware said.
“We’ve had a great response so far and we hope to make this an annual event,” she added.
Families are encouraged to participate in this community caroling group together.
“They put me in a good mood,” Loannou said of Christmas songs, especially his favorite to perform, “We Wish You a Merry Christmas.”
“I really enjoy Christmas — because it brings my family even closer together than we already are.”
When: Friday, Dec. 7 at 6:30 p.m.,meet at Art House Astoria, 23-35 Broadway, Astoriaat 6:15 p.m. Saturday, Dec. 15 at 5 p.m.,meet on Steinway Street and 31st Avenue Thursday, Dec. 20 at 6:30 p.m., meet on 23rd Avenue and Ditmars Boulevard
Contact: (347) 738-4148