Twenty-first century carolling is now a major event on the charity calendar, presented by City Councils and supermarket chains, with modern safety regulations replacing wax and wicks with electronic candles.
While traditional carols such as Silent Night, Good King Wenceslas and O Come All Ye Faithful remain audience favourites, the scope and scale of these community carolling events has come along way since their original incarnation.
The History of carols in Australia
In 1937, Melbourne radio announcer Norman Banks passed by a window and saw an elderly woman in bed listening to Away in the Manger on the radio. Singing along to the classic Christmas carol, the lonesome woman’s face was lit by the glow of a single candle. Inspired to bring people together, Banks organised a group of individuals to gather by candlelight for an evening of carols.
The following Christmas, in Alexander Gardens, some 10,000 people attended the first Carols by Candlelight. Seventy-five years later hundreds of thousands will gather in parks and amphitheatres across the country, and the world, to join the stars of stage and screen in the ultimate karaoke sing-along.
The addition of ‘celebrities’ to the carols line up began in 1942 when Australia’s then ‘Queen of Song’ Gladys Moncreiff performed at the Melbourne event, which included a state-of-the-art radio hook up and greetings from the Mayors of London and New York.
Today’s statewide or nationally televised events feature a line up of guests that span musical theatre, opera, popular music, and choral groups along with a constellation of household names from television’s mass-appeal, audience-voted talent pool.
Perennial favourite and one time Idol Anthony Callea is now joined by the likes of Paulini, Johnny Ruffo, Samantha Jade, Rachel Leahcar, Darren Percival, The Collective, Steve Clisby, Luke Kennedy, Jai Waetford and of course 2013 winners Harrison Craig and Dami Im. (check your local city for who’s appearing near you)
That’s not to say its all talent quest contestants, with big names like Tina Arena and Jimmy Barnes joining music theatre stars Deb Byrne, Marina Prior, Ian Stenlake, Tim Campbell and Lucy Durack lending their vocal talents to the Christmas cause.
For a full line up of artists and booking information check out these capital city events:
Brisbane 14 Dec http://carolsinthecity.com.au
Adelaide 15 Dec http://www.adelaidecarols.com.au
Sydney 21 Dec http://www.carolsinthedomain.com
Melbourne 24 Dec http://carols.visionaustralia.org
Carols by Candlelight may be a 75-year-old Aussie tradition but there’s another popular Christmas performance that harks back a further 200 years. In fact the annual Sydney performance began just two years after Melbourne’s first carols event.
Composed in 1741, Handel’s Messiah is a spiritual choral work best known for its majestic Hallelujah Chorus. Considered a Baroque masterpiece, performances of Messiah have grown in scale and often feature large orchestras, a grand organ and mass choirs.
On December 14 and 15 Sydney Town Hall will host the 73rd annual performance of Handel’s Messiah and the Melbourne Symphony Orchestra Chorus will perform the work at Arts Centre Melbourne. Opera star Teddy Tahu Rhodes joins the Collegium Symphonic Chorus at Perth Concert Hall on Saturday 21 December.
Melbourne 14 and15 December http://www.artscentremelbourne.com.au/whats-on/event.aspx?id=3875
Sydney 14 and 15 December www.handelsmessiah.org.au
Perth 21 December http://www.perthconcerthall.com.au/eventDisplay.aspx?ID=1196
The London Symphony Orchestra perform For unto us a child is born from Handel’s Messiah