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Singing in the holiday season

Victorian Carolers get early start

Posted: Tuesday, October 09, 2007

 

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  Pat Lytle, Theresa Ramponi, Rebecca Gilman, Heidi Chay, Preston Meche and Bill Switzer sing a Christmas carol together at the Kenai Playhouse on Saturday afternoon during auditions for a Victorian Christmas caroling group that will perform in the area again this holiday season. Photo by M. Scott Moon

Emma Brenner and Mechelle Hibpshman applaud other auditioners during an exercise to gauge how well prospective carolers could sing and walk at the same time.

Photo by M. Scott Moon

Some of the best songs ever composed are Christmas carols; at least that's what Linda Duce thinks.

This might be why she and her fellow singers auditioning for the Victorian Carolers on Saturday weren't deterred from warbling "Silent Night" more than two months early.

"I've been wanting to do this for a couple of years," Duce said. "This is the first time I've seen a venue."

 

Pat Lytle, Theresa Ramponi, Rebecca Gilman, Heidi Chay, Preston Meche and Bill Switzer sing a Christmas carol together at the Kenai Playhouse on Saturday afternoon during auditions for a Victorian Christmas caroling group that will perform in the area again this holiday season.

Photo by M. Scott Moon

Duce has been singing since she was 7 and has several years of choir and solo work under her belt, but she said, she still gets stage fright.

"Barbra Streisand stayed off the stage for 20 years due to stage fright," she said, "so I figure I'm in good company."

Duce and eight other singers showed up at the Old Town Playhouse in Kenai hoping for the chance to don hoop skirts and top hats while lending their voice to the Victorian Carolers this holiday season. Their season kicks off the day after Thanksgiving at the Christmas Comes to Kenai parade and director Crista Cady-Hippchen said they have a lot of Christmas carols to learn before then.

"Our goal is to be able to deliver beautiful music that doesn't show the work that went into it," she said. "That way people's reaction is 'Wow!'"

Throughout December, leading up to the 25th, the Victorian Carolers can be found strolling through the Peninsula Center Mall and caroling at private parties in order to earn money for the Kenai Performers.

"When we're in costume we become a singing Christmas card," said Pat Lytle, who is beginning her fourth season as a caroler. "It's a lot of fun; it sets the mood for the season."

Volunteering for the carolers is one Christmas tradition Lytle makes it a point to fit in with her busy schedule. With her family in the Lower 48, it isn't Christmas for her unless she's singing, she said.

"This way I feel like I'm involved with everyone else's Christmas," she said, adding that even though it's volunteer, the singers take it seriously and do their best to be professional. "A lot of people don't like to give up their free time, but it's well worth it."

Working around varying schedules is one of two big challenges Cady-Hippchen faces when deciding who gets a part in the ensemble and who doesn't. The other challenge is figuring out how many sopranos, altos, tenors and bass singers are needed to create a perfect harmony.

"I'm looking for someone who can carry their own part with three others because we're singing a capella, in other words, we're singing without accompaniment," Cady-Hippchen said, adding it means she has to turn away some singers.

"I feel terrible. I don't like to be the one to say we have too many sopranos."

As one of the two men at the audition, Preston Meche, who sings bass, isn't focusing on the fact that he'll have to wear a top hat if he's chosen to sing.

"I'm going to look past it for the time being, but I've been seen in much worse," he said.

As a newcomer to the Kenai Peninsula from Athens, Ga., Meche said he has experience singing baritone a higher bass in Louisiana.

"I'm trying to meet new people," he said, adding he has lived here for two months. "You can watch only so many reruns of Law and Order."

At the audition, Cady-Hippchen split the singers into groups of four. Two ladies, one singing the soprano part, the other singing alto, accompanied their male counterparts up the stage steps and into a mock party. In order to be a caroler, Cady-Hippchen said they have to master a technique known as the sing 'n stroll.

Duce, who used to sing and act at the same time, said singers just have to be comfortable with their body and their voice.

"Your voice is moving to a rhythm," she said. "Your body has to move in sync."

How do the ladies do this without tripping over their hoop skirts?

"Keep one arm on the guy and one arm on your skirt," Cady-Hippchen said. "and walk slowly."

Jessica Cejnar can be reached at jessica.cejnar@peninsulaclarion.com.



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