When the doors open for the Christmas Eve Carol Service on Dec. 24, Alison Hunter can finally relax.
That's because the long-running event marks the end of a busy month that's jam packed with music and singing.
"I am really looking forward to that hour," says Hunter, who organizes the service and directs the Whistler Singers. "Once we get to the hour, all the work is done. What's really important to me is that for an hour people put away their distractions and they just focus on what's important about the season, regardless of what they believe in. I think that's really important."
She adds, with a laugh, "Christmas is kind of relaxing after that."
In total, around 2,000 people usually show up for the service at the Westin Resort and Spa. Heading into its 36 year, the evening's format has been long established. Everyone sings the same seven traditional carols, readers—who are carefully selected members of the community—share Christmas readings, and the Whistler Singers perform a few songs too. (It's at 6:30 p.m.)
This year, readers include retired RCMP Staff Sgt. Steve LeClair, Beth Harlow, who will read with her granddaughter Rebecca Blaser, Donna Savage, Mandy Rousseau, Ryan Grills, and Bill Janyk. "It's a good mix of people from our community," Hunter says.
But before that, you can get in the Christmas—and Hanukkah—spirit with several other musical events in the coming weeks.
If you didn't catch the Whistler Singers carolling through the village last weekend, you can find them in various locations on Dec. 13 and 14, thanks to a new partnership with Tourism Whistler. On Friday they will perform from 5 to 8 p.m. and on Saturday, catch them from 3 to 7 p.m.
"It's our first year doing it," Hunter says. "We're really excited to be working with Tourism Whistler."
On Dec. 15, the Whistler Children's Chorus will put on their concert at 5 p.m. at the Whistler Public Library. Then at 7 p.m. that day, the Whistler Singers will perform their Winter Lights concert at Our Lady of the Mountains Catholic Church.
"We'll be singing ... Hannukkah songs and we'll be singing some traditional Christmas music and seasonal music," Hunter says. "We'll also be inviting the audience to sing. For a couple of the tunes I'm going to accompany the choir on my harp. We have a small vocal ensemble that practice separate from the choir and they're doing a solstice carol."
In another new holiday gig this year, the Whistler Singers and the Whistler Children's Chorus will be singing at the Hanukkah celebration at the Whistler Public Library on Dec. 22 from 2 to 4 p.m.
"Jeanette [Bruce, who leads the Whistler Children's Chorus and directs Barbed Choir] has the Hanukkah celebrations at the library," Hunter explains. "This year we're singing Hanukkah songs—there are a lot out there. We're singing two songs about candles because light is a very integral part of the Hanukkah miracle."
Finally, the Whistler Singers and the Whistler Children's Chorus will head to the Fairmont Chateau Whistler for their annual carolling on Dec. 23. "It's really cool, they have this glass wedding chapel [on the roof]. When they do this Christmas event they have fire pits and you can roast marshmallows, but it is kind of dark. We'll have headlamps so we can see the music," Hunter says.
Looking ahead to the New Year, the group is always interested in adding more singers to their group—which is now at 55 members.
"It's such a growing and vibrant group with such a range of ages," Hunter says. "If there are people out there who are feeling a little lonely and don't feel they have ties in the community, choir starts again in January and we welcome everybody. There's no audition. You become part of a community of people who will say, 'Do you need a ride to choir?' 'Let me help you with that.' I love that part."
For more details on the events visit facebook.com/whistlersingers/.