by Kat Boogaard
This time of year, I can’t listen to Bing Crosby or Fred Waring without a smile spreading across my face and tears filling my eyes. Why? They were favorites of my grandpa’s.
I remember sitting perched on his knee in his worn recliner while he told me how much better Bing was than Sinatra, or while he chimed in with all of the funny sound effects during Fred Waring and the Pennsylvanians’ rendition of “Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer.”
My beloved grandpa has been gone for many Christmases now, but it’s those very memories that fill me with an overwhelming feeling of warmness every time this season rolls around.
That’s one of the best things about holiday music, isn’t it? Beyond just the comfort of a familiar tune, music has a way of recalling those joyous and sentimental reflections that add so much nostalgia and connection to an already meaningful holiday.
In fact, so many of my most treasured holiday memories are tied to music in some way. I remember visiting nursing homes with my high school choir to carol for the residents, or listening to my grandma’s out-of-tune humming to the Hallelujah Chorus while we rolled out the dough for pepparkakor (a traditional Swedish spice cookie) on her bright red kitchen counters.
I knew I couldn’t be alone in this. Surrounded by so many talented vocalists in newVoices, I was certain that there were many others who—just like me—had sentimental recollections inspired by music.
So, I asked! And just like I expected, the choir delivered. Below are some of the most cherished musical memories from the members of newVoices.
“We were a family that not only watched White Christmasevery holiday season, but we always listened to Mannheim Steamroller while decorating the tree. My mom has to listen to her Johnny Mathis Christmas Album every year, and my father used to wake us up on the weekends with the Peter, Paul and Mary Christmas Album. My sister and I used to torture our mom by always playing The Ventures’ Christmas Record and the Tijuana Brass Christmas Record. When we got rid of our record player, we had those records transferred onto CDs, so now every Christmas Day, once all the gifts have been opened, out comes The Ventures’ album CD. We even sing the parts that used to skip on the record player since the CD won’t skip!” – Kyle Brauer, Bass, eighth season with newVoices
“When I was younger, I remember driving around with my grandmother to look at Christmas lights while listening to Christmas music on the radio. We would drive around for over an hour looking for the best decorated houses then go home and drink hot chocolate. I’ve been continuing this tradition for years. Before I got married, I would sometimes go out by myself or pick up a few girlfriends and make an adventure out of it. Since I’ve met my husband, we look for houses not only in Appleton, but in Marinette/Menominee when we visit his family. We’ll even stop for hot chocolate while driving around. Now we make it a point to find the houses that are tuned up with the radio for a whole music and light show.” – Jessica Cooper, Alto, third season with newVoices
“I started my choir career singing in the children’s choir in Catholic school. I remember singing the carols for the church service and caroling on 5th Avenue in Moline, IL, where our director would stop at Lagomarcino’s Chocolates and buy some for us as a treat for singing. I remember caroling for my high school choirs, having to dress up in several layers (including long johns!) to go caroling in sub-zero weather. I remember caroling for my college choirs, singing for the children staying in the hospital over Christmas. It’s not Christmas without singing.” – Beth Johnson, Soprano, ninth season with newVoices
“I also drove around looking at Christmas lights while listening to Christmas music (lots of Mannheim). It was just my mom and me, and when we would see a house with tons of lights and stuff in the yard, she’d say, “Your grandmother would’ve called that a fruit stand.” Also, all my mom’s family lived in Indiana. We always went to Midnight Mass. There’s nothing like the music at that service, especially when it’s in the Notre Dame Cathedral.” – Jenn Leahy, Alto, sixth season with newVoices
“My favorite musical Christmas memory is singing Handel’s Messiah every year while at Luther College (and for as many years after I graduated as I could make it back). Luther began performing Messiah in 1921 (I was NOT at the inaugural performance) and continued to do so annually into the early 2000s. Alumni, staff, and locals joined with students to make a chorus that during my time there numbered about 800. (Yes, 800. We filled the bleachers on one side of the gym and when we stood up for the choruses, they whole bleacher would creak and sway.) It was a wonderful opportunity for students who weren’t music majors or in a choir to experience choral singing and learn this magnificent work. And it was fun to sing with my older siblings, cousins, and future husband. Singing Messiah really got the Christmas season going for me—and it still does.” – Linda Hash, Soprano, thirteenth season with newVoices
“One of my first songs I learned to sing was “Santa Claus Is Comin’ to Town.” I remember being almost three and playing in my room while singing along with a record on my Fisher Price record player.” – Leah Armstrong, Alto, sixth season with newVoices
“My family tradition has always included watching Emmet Otter’s Jug-Band Christmas, and singing along to all the songs. Last year, after seeing it in the movie theater, my kids and I gave my parents a special gift. We recorded our own version of the “Our World/Brothers” medley. My daughter sang lead, I sang back-up, and my son played banjo. It isn’t Christmas without Emmet Otter.” – Christine Serna, Soprano, fourteenth season with newVoice
My grandmother played the piano and on Christmas Eve we got song sheets and picked our favorite carols. It was sometimes chaotic getting everyone into the piano room, but once we got settled, we huddled around her and the piano and sang. The best part was when my grandfather sang “We Three Kings” in his very deep bass voice. It was usually a solo, because we loved to hear his deep voice. It was the quiet peaceful moments of all of us being together focused on the same thing that was so nostalgic. I loved to watch my grandma tap the piano keys with fingers crippled with arthritis. From there it was time for reading The Night Before Christmas. Singing is still my favorite part of Christmas.”– Lisa Wesenberg, Soprano, eleventh season with newVoices
I’m willing to bet you already have some holiday traditions that help you make the most of this time of year. But, if you’re looking to add another musical ritual to your list, we’d love if you’d join newVoices for one of our Christmas concerts at St. Francis Xavier Cathedral in Green Bay or Lawrence Memorial Chapel in Appleton.
Find more information (and snag your tickets) right here. We’re so honored and excited to be able to celebrate this season with you!