'All the programs are folded and ready' 

Two-thousand singers and two Whistler choirs makes a Christmas Eve Carol service to remember

click to enlarge PHOTO SUBMITTED - Hark the Heralds Whistler Children's Chorus on stage at the annual Christmas Eve Carol Service.
  • PHOTO submitted
  • Hark the Heralds Whistler Children's Chorus on stage at the annual Christmas Eve Carol Service.

Two-thousand voices joined in unison, all singing to rejoice in Christmas, is a powerful night out. Sounds like a big-city event, right?

On Dec. 24, Whistler will host such a night with the 33rd annual Christmas Eve Carol Service, led, as always, by the Whistler Singers and Whistler Children's Chorus.

Organizer Alison Hunter says that after rushing to the last minute to ready 1,000 programs for the carollers, the bulk of this year's guide is sitting on her bed with 10 days to spare.

"All the programs are folded and ready to go," she laughs.

Asked how long she takes to prepare for the event, she laughs again and says: "January."

She adds:

"Reaching the 33rd year is pretty amazing. I inherited it. Molly Boyd, who ran the Whistler Singers, was very involved in the United Church, the long-gone skiers' chapel that used to be at the bottom of Creekside. The night was run by the churches, originally."

As Whistler grew, Hunter adds, congregations changed and the carol night broadened.

Hunter says those of every faith and no faith are welcome at the Christmas Eve Carol Service, which takes place at the Westin on Saturday, Dec. 24 at 6:30 p.m.

The Whistler Children's Chorus and Whistler Singers are also performing at the Arrival of Santa on Thursday, Dec. 22, at 5 p.m.

Today, the carol night is co-sponsored by Our Lady of the Mountains Catholic Church, and the choirs share the cost of the venue and sound system.

Admission is by donation. Hunter says it costs around $3,500 to put on the night, but says the expense is completely worthwhile.

Hunter explains the history of the night, which goes back to Whistler's early days.

"Originally, we would have the United Church minister and the pastor of the community church and the Catholic priest all involved and they would do prayers, Lamont Schmidt of the Whistler Community Church sang in the choir. He was awesome," Hunter recalls.

"People like to worship in their own way, and we've grown as a community. There is room for everybody. For many, Christmas is about the birth of Christ, but for others it's the hope that is symbolized by the birth of a baby.

"And it's to celebrate community. Many people spend this time of year alone. I like to think we give comfort to those people."

The service includes Christmas standards, including "Hark the Herald Angels Sing," "Silent Night," "We Three Kings," "O Come All Ye Faithful," "The First Noel," "Angels We Have Heard on High," and "Joy to the World."

Hunter says they perform the same songs every year.

"Our readers tell the stories of the birth of Christ. We do sing traditional carols that aren't sung in schools anymore. We do that... let's hope for a better world," Hunter says.

The evening is hosted by Chris Quinlan ("Actually, one year Chris tripped over a child! Nobody got hurt."), and the choirs are accompanied by Carol Harwood and Allyn Pringle.

And the seven readers are Madeline Blaser, Laurie Cooper, Coun. John Grills, Olympian Marielle Thompson, Jeremy Postal, Simone Crichton and Sarah Ford.

"There are so many really cool things about the night," Hunter says.

"It's lovely to have our community so involved. The choir sings four songs, everybody sings seven carols. We make them stand up to sing because they sing better that way.

"It's a sea of people, which is absolutely fabulous and a great feeling when you look at all these people and they're so darned hopeful."

Hunter agrees that is a great thing, not least because a lot of people have had a rough 2016.

"We all need to be kinder to each other," she says.

"I'm working on that part."

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