Everyone Can Sing: Holiday Music Brings Community Together in Song

Caroling & Chorus Music During the Winter Holidays

Singing together with family, neighbors and friends is one way of enhancing children’s language learning. Read more in our archived post, “Christmas Singing for Language Skills.”

A fun holiday tradition, caroling events are wonderful intergenerational events that explore choral music with your family and friends. With many songs sung during the holiday seasons rich in history, there is much to learn, plus it’s good for your health and wellness! Download our Nov/Dec issue of Learning Ahead: Cultural Itinerary for Western Massachusetts to discover more about these annual events.

It’s no secret that music is good for your brain. A Chorus America study found that, while participation in a chorus has benefits for everyone, it seems to have a particularly meaningful effect on children. Children who participate in a chorus were found to achieve more highly in school compared to classmates who weren’t involved in chorus – a statistical representation of the deep learning that chorus participation promotes.

In addition to the learning-based benefits of singing in a chorus, being a part of a singing group helps to ward off chemicals that can cause depression and loneliness. Generally seen as a major benefit for adults, the natural production of extra endorphins and oxytocin (a chemical that decreases stress and anxiety) as a result of singing certainly has benefits for children, too. A singing child is likely to be calm and happy more often than not thanks to the chemicals that choral singing helps to release in their bodies. 

Whether your family is made up of chorus participants or not, the holiday season presents a myriad of opportunities to explore choral music in many forms. From vespers services to community caroling, December is jam-packed with chances for families to sink their teeth into choral music – and to perhaps become inspired to participate themselves! Whether or not your children seem to be musically inclined, choral music is worth exploring – especially this time of year. Families can choose from grand college performances, community concerts, informal carol sings, and other exciting musical events through the coming weeks, and can learn about many different types of music and choral performance by attending a concert!

Here is a list of caroling events and choral music coming up this month:

Thursday, December 8, 2016 from 6:30pm-8:30pm
There is a rich, musical community in the pioneer valley including choral groups of all ages and ability levels. You can hear eight local choral groups perform at the 14th annual holiday choral festival at Helen Hills Hills Chapel on Smith college campus. The event brings choirs from schools as well as the larger community. Proceeds to benefit the Northampton Community Music Center’s scholarship fund. 123 Elms Street. Northampton, MA. (DONATION)

Saturday, December 10, 2016 at 2:30pm
Holiday traditions, including songs, lend insight into the values of a culture. Have you ever wondered about the deeper meaning of Christmas carols? Dr. Thomas Bernard, professor emeritus of psychology at Springfield College, has done extensive research into the hidden symbolic meanings of “The Twelve Days of Christmas.” He compiled his research into the carol’s lyrics into a book, titled, The Twelve Days of Christmas: The Mystery and the Meaning. He will be discussing his findings in this talk at the Jones Library. This is a great opportunity to add some historic learning to your holiday season. 413-259-3090. 43 Amity Street. Amherst, MA. (FREE)

Sunday, December 10, 2016 at 4pm; Sunday, December 11, 2016 at 4pm
Do you enjoy singing Christmas carols? Come to the Thompson Memorial Chapel at Williams College for their annual Christmas service. The service will include choral music by the Williams Concert and Chamber Choirs, singing of carols, and a traditional reading of the biblical Christmas story. If you are able, please bring an item of non-perishable canned or packaged food to donate to local emergency food pantries. 413- 597-4277. 880 Main Street. Williamstown, MA. (FREE)

Sunday, December 11, 2016 at 2pm
The Ventfort Hall Mansion and Gilded Age Museum is all dressed up for the holidays! Visit the festive mansion and hear a performance by the eighteen woman choral ensemble, The Berkshire Concert Choir. The group will be singing a wide range of songs including “Ave Maria” by Jacob Arcadelt, “The Sleigh” by Richard Kountz,”“Santa Baby” by Joan Javits, “Silent Night” by David Haas and Lori True, and many more. 413-637-3206. 104 Walker Street. Lenox, MA. ($)

Sunday, December 11, 2016 at 6pm
Spread holiday cheer through music! You are invited to the 27th annual Holiday Brass Concert and Carol Sing, featuring holiday favorites and a chance to sing along. The 22-member Valley Festival Brass, under the direction of Dr. Matthew Westgate. Richard S. Matteson, Minister of Music at First Church will join the brass providing organ accompaniment for the carol sing portion of the concert. Donations will benefit the Amherst Survival Center. This concert will take place at the First Congregational Church. 165 Main Street. Amherst, MA. (DONATION)

Monday, December 12, 2016 at 3:30pm
Stop in at the Westhampton Public Library for a free musical performance! The Jolly Jinglers will be spreading holiday cheer for audience members of all ages. 413-527-5386. 1 North Road. Westhampton, MA. (FREE)


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Think about this:

  • Where do you think the tradition of caroling door to door comes from?
  • How is singing a form of storytelling?
  • How do songs pass down stories of the past within a community or culture?

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[Photo credit: (cc) Charlotte T.]

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