→ How the connection was made ←
UK1 11/27 - 12/2/2002
UK2 11/28 - 12/3/2012
UK3 11/30 - 12/5/2022
By Darryl J. Engler
It is with this background that English settlers from the town of Micklehurst, near the borders of Yorkshire, Lancashire, Cheshire, and Derbyshire, came to settle in the town of Glen Rock, York County, Pennsylvania, among predominantly German immigrants. As Christmas 1848 approached, newly arrived relatives of the Heathcote family were homesick for the way they celebrated Christmas in England. Mark Heathcote (52), Charles Heathcote (28), Mark Radcliffe (21), and George Shaw (19) enlisted the help of their uncle James Heathcote (61) to play the bassoon, as the band of five Carolers serenaded the seven homes in the town of Glen Rock by singing four English carols as they remembered them. The singing of English carols in Glen Rock has continued uninterrupted for 166 years. As the size of the town grew, so did the size of the group, the number of carols, and the length of time needed to complete the rounds. Today, there are fifty caped members of the Glen Rock Carolers who sing fifteen songs from midnight Christmas Eve through 7:00 am Christmas morning.
The Glen Rock caroling tradition endured for more than 150 years without any contact with the singers in England. As Christmas 2000 was approaching, things were going to change, thanks to a website, a folk magazine, and a journalist named Linda J. Morris.
By Linda J. Morris
I began to skim the 28-page notes by Dr. Russell; clearly this was a labor of love. He had compiled 71 minutes of caroling in and around Sheffield - in homes, pubs, streets, and at their Christmas Festival. Some of the titles rang out, "Hark, Hark" and "Awake, Arise Good Christians" ... I got to page 3, and was stunned. "It used to be the custom," Dr. Russell wrote, "of several villages to sing through the night ... Typically, a group would commence their tour at the stroke of midnight on Christmas Eve with "Old Christians" (Christians Awake Salute this Happy Morn ...) and conclude many hours later with a rendition of the Doxology ..."
One advantage to spending a night typing from an endless pile of CDs is that you get first dibs on which CDs you want to review. Interrupting my publisher, Paul Hartman, who was deep into page mapping, I said, "Paul, I think I know something about this one." I told him about the Glen Rock Carolers, and how similar the music and traditions appeared. "So, can I write about them for this issue?"
Not the best timing. Press time was closing in, the pages were mapped. But, after consultation with the managing editor, his wife Sue, he finally said, "OK, 1500 words." Deadline? Yesterday.
I couldn‘t wait to share what I had found with the carolers I knew. I called the late Don Swartz. To say the recording sparked an interest would be a serious understatement. I also contacted Ed Bailey, whose web site appeared in my story. The article and review, appeared in issue #91, as did Ed‘s web URL. I sent the CD to him and Don, suggesting they circulate it among the members. My note simply said, "I hope you all enjoy this CD."
Circulate it did. Ed said it created a bit of frenzy. Who could have guessed what would happen next? Across the "pond," a subscriber, David Eyre, reacted in much the same way, exclaiming to his friends, "I found someone who‘s doing what we are doing!" He wrote to Ed via email, and eventually to me. History was shared, trips were planned, a friendship was forged, and the Glen Rock Carolers finally, November 28, 2002, in Micklehurst, England, received their "Welcome Home."
In one of David‘s emails he claimed, "I hold us both responsible ..." I wonder. That Christmas, only 15 holiday recordings made it to the pages. With a full-time job elsewhere, I wasn‘t usually at the office, but the volume of CDs prompted me to help out that week. Furthermore, publishers on deadline seldom entertain the whims of reporters who want to add copy to an already packed issue. But with a wealth of experience and appreciation of traditional music, these publishers recognized the value of the Glen Rock Carolers and their links to the old world.
So, as we like to say in the news biz: If you want to blame somebody for the events that ensued - please, blame my editors.
By Dr. Ian Russell
It is a great privilege to be able to come to Glen Rock in York County, PA, to sing and share our carols from the Sheffield area in England. Glen Rock is a very special place for us. The Glen Rock tradition is so close to our own that we are "carolling cousins," sharing the same roots in tradition. In fact, the tune of one of Glen Rock‘s oldest carols "Hark! Hark!" results from the inspiration of a Sheffield man called John Hall, who died in 1794 -- not a music teacher or a professor but a humble blacksmith from Sheffield Park, who died in the poor house. Variants of this same carol are still sung in England.
We come, not as a choir or as trained singers, but as representatives of hundreds of folk who love to sing carols in the pubs near to Sheffield, where the tradition has been nurtured for well over a hundred years.
In 1994, a group of us felt that there was a need to celebrate this wonderful participatory singing tradition by getting together and holding a festival that not only promoted traditions from villages near to Sheffield but invited carollers from communities further afield, and thus providing a platform for their carols, emphasising the richness and diversity of the oral tradition.
It was at the 2002 Festival of Village Carols that we first heard the Glen Rock Carolers perform their local repertoire. Not only did we realise that our carols and theirs were closely related, but the full-bodied manner of singing them was very close to our own approach. Ten years after that first historic encounter, Glen Rock Carolers returned to Sheffield to great acclaim. Now for the first time, thanks to the carolers‘ hospitality, we are able to return the compliment. A small contingent of some twenty singers and a handful of instrumentalists have crossed the pond to lead you in our Sheffield tradition, so that you can see what pleasure these carols bring and share in our enjoyment of them.
You may wonder why it‘s we who have come and not others. Well, everyone here is not only a fervent supporter of the singing in the pubs but also closely connected to the Festival of Village Carols. Hence, we have eight committee members, some stewards, and several who have acted as hosts for our Glen Rock visitors. The great thing about our tradition is that it knows no boundaries, and we hope you will come to enjoy it as much as we do.