Thursday, November 18, 2010

A Plethora of Carols

Tonight I guess we officially welcomed the Christmas season by attending the Christmas Open House at Cameron Village shopping center.  While I believe that Cameron Village is the oldest shopping mall in Raleigh, having been founded 50 years ago, it is also the hippest.  It is an open air mall, consisting of over 100 stores or buildings (including a county library, a major grocery store and specialty gourmet market, a drug store, and old-fashioned cafeteria among the trendy boutiques, specialty shops, and restaurants) that are spread over a large six-block area.  So their opening of the season includes roaming entertainment, many different musical groups, a North Pole Express kiddie's train ride, magicians and clowns, a slide of man-made snow, a peripatetic Nutcracker, and, of course, Santa, along with some free cookies and cider and special deals at many of the shops.  Some of the store also get into the spirit by offering additional food and drink or special attractions or such.  Some even have life mannequins in their street windows, wearing fancy clothes and waving to the participants outside.  I particularly liked those because they reminded me of how, when I was a child growing up outside Washington DC, we would come downtown and see the novel Christmas windows that the big department stores of that time and place, Woodward and Lothrup or Garfinkles, had designed for that year.  It's a MAJOR disappointment for me each year when the shopping malls pull out the same old decorations to deck their malls in Christmas cheer.

The particular draw for us was to listen to the highly-acclaimed Raleigh Boychoir, in which a couple of my son's good friends participate.  It is a classic all-boys choir for male singers aged 8 until middle school...that is, until their voice drops.  While most of the musical or performance entertainers stay put, the choir wanders around the entire shopping center, stopping at various points to sing a few carols and then moving on to the next.  So we followed them around, listening to their various songs, sometimes in combination with other musicians.

Of course, the Raleigh Boychoir was fabulous.  But what was also really great was the great variety of Christmas carols sung or played by all the other musicians there.  There were carols done by Dixieland bands, rock bands, and community orchestras.   There were jazz musicians, Victorian carolers, a drum line, and the most unique rendition of carols I've ever heard with a tuba, banjo, and saxophone--the last being played by the musical director of our spiritual community, the incredibly talented Tim Smith.

It was a wonderful place for musical education, because if you wandered around enough, you could hear the same song done from a choir perspective, rock treatment, jazz rendition, country/blues style, and classical orchestra performance.  If those six blocks didn't quite encompass a world of musical interpretations, it certainly presently a nice variety of ways to approach the same song.

It was also a glorious night weather-wise.  We were with friends, we were serenaded, and we were seeing sparkle and tinsel and holiday decorations (novel ones) everywhere we looked.  What a great way to greet the holiday season!

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