Carolers spread yuletide cheer at Prescott Resort
PRESCOTT - Donning Victorian-style outfits and clutching thick black binders full of sheet music, the four members of A Caroling Company sang Christmas carols with flair and grace for two hours Saturday morning at the Prescott Resort.
A group of Prescott-based carolers, the a capella singers performed touching harmonies for their audience, incorporating Old English and traditional songs as well as contemporary carols with jazz styling in their performances.
Darlene Stolle, the company's manager who sings soprano, said the group started 12 years ago with an all-local combination that met through the Prescott Fine Arts Association.
Alto Helen Isdal, tenor Rick Wilson and bass Jerry Leboda join Stolle to complete the professional act.
"I had a lot of music with harmonies, so we decided to get together and sing, and it sounded really good," said Stolle, who made the group's costumes, complete with their traditional Victorian deep green and burgundy red colors. "We were doing shows and some singing (at Prescott Fine Arts), and we all recognized that we had good voices. We love the Christmas season so much that we wanted to do something. So we started singing a few carols."
The group initially sang just in its neighborhoods and for friends before spreading its wings and performing around the city during the holidays.
For example, on Saturday afternoon, the group sang carols at the shops in the Frontier Village shopping center. On Christmas Eve, it will sing to the patients at Prescott's Bob Stump Veterans Medical Center.
"It's something that people don't see very often, and we get to make kids smile and people smile," Wilson said.
"It's nice to know you can touch people's spirits at this time of year," he said. "It raises my spirit."
For its Christmas performances, the group adds new arrangements each year. It has anywhere from 62 to 65 songs from which to choose out of its binders.
The company opens its show with the "The Christmas Waltz" and, from there, branches into traditional tunes like "Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer" and "Santa Claus is Coming to Town" or contemporary songs such as "Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas" combined with "I'll be Home for Christmas."
"If anyone has a request, we've just about got it covered," Stolle said. "Generally we start at the very top of our book and just flip the pages. But then gradually as we sing, people start making requests. Then we just kind of skip all over."
Sitting on a ledge no more than 15 feet away from the singers Saturday at the resort, Wanitta Gray of Prescott listened to A Caroling Company for about an hour.
Gray first came to see the resort's famed gingerbread houses display. Then, when she heard the carolers singing, she strolled over to listen.
"This whole experience has been wonderful," Gray said. "These guys are so good. It puts you in the mood and the spirit of what Christmas is. I remember singing Christmas carols when we were kids, and it brings all of that back."
Gray particularly enjoyed watching the faces of the children who paused in the resort's Eagles' Nest as the carolers broke out in song.
"They'll just stop, and their eyes are mesmerized," she said.
Anne Wightman, 82, from Prescott Valley, said the singers play an important role in spreading the Christmas tradition.
"Music covers all the ages, and it touches your heart," she said. "By sharing this, we're stretching across the years."
While the carolers were singing, dozens of children were decorating large gingerbread cookies with their parents and grandparents at a number of tables inside the Eagles Nest.
From 10 a.m. to 2 p.m., the resort served hot chocolate and hot cider to the participants, who received the cookies and drinks free of charge. However, participants donated money to benefit the local chapter of the Big Brothers Big Sisters charity.
Megan Hanna of Prescott Valley brought her son Bradley, 7, to the event. He covered his cookie with an array of colored frosting before munching down. Bradley was too engrossed with his cookie to talk about the fun he was having, but Megan said she brought her son to the decorating after she saw an ad about it. "I thought it would be fun," Megan said. "It's a kickoff to the holiday season. He's excited for Santa."
Cookie decorating will continue next Saturday at the resort at 1500 E. Highway 69 from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.