Thursday, December 13, 2012
By James Lomuscio
Braving chilly winds, the carolers came in droves to Westport’s Compo Beach tonight, more than 500 men, women and children all determined to spread Christmas cheer and set a world record.
And after 90 minutes of singing holiday standbys from “We Wish You a Merry Christmas” to “Let it Snow” outside 14 homes in the beach area, they did just that.
Representatives from Guinness World Records awarded the “One Voice” event entry into the international registry for having the most carolers—502—going house to house.
Organized by the Unitarian Church, the event was presented by Stop & Shop that provided free hot chocolate and cider.
Danny Girton Jr. and John Corcoran, Guinness representatives, followed the carolers led by event organizer Jim Keenan throughout the Compo Beach neighborhood.
At each of the 14 homes marked by luminaries outside, music director Erik Paul, sporting a top hat and white tie, led the massive group in the singing of two carols.
Homeowners applauded and the carolers cheered. Stops were made in front of homes on Soundview Drive, Fairfield, Danbury and Norwalk Avenues, and Bradley Street. At each home the singing seemed to get louder, and as Paul noted, better.
“I’m here to make sure all of our guidelines are followed,” said Girton as the event began. “There have to be more than 250 people, and they have to stop at at least 10 houses, and there should be no more than five minutes travel time between each house.”
Keenan, wearing a ragged Dickensean top hat with a green band, brandished a megaphone to make sure the carolers kept on the time. Like a coach, he ushered them from home to home as soon as the last note was sung.
“Are you ready for some caroling?” Keenan asked at the event’s start, to which he heard a resounding, “Yes.”
“We have to get from home to home in five minutes,” he told the crowd.
Each caroler, who paid $10 to participate, wore a cardboard bib with a perforated strip at the bottom, a strip that would be removed at the end of the night a be given to each of the approximate dozen stewards who would collect and count them after the last carol.
“The onus is on the organizer now to give us proof,” Girton said.
When the strips were counted and recounted with 502 confirmed, Girton presented Keenan with a plaque to roars of approval.
Keenan, a Unitarian Church congregant who also organizes the town’s annual Chowda Fest, not only cheered for the recognition but the cause the event served.
He said the money raised will support the Lily Sarah Grace Fund which benefits the arts in under funded elementary schools across America. Lily, Sarah and Grace are three young sisters who lost their lives when their Stamford home burned to the ground on Dec. 25, 2011.
Paul, a Weston High School music teacher and a Unitarian Church congregant, said that when Keenan approached him to conduct the singers, he did not hesitate.
“He asked, ‘Do you want to set a world’s record, and do you want to conduct?’” Paul said. “And I said, ‘Yeah.’”
Among the carolers was the Rev. Frank Hall, pastor of the Unitarian Church.
“It’s amazing,” Hall said as he walked from one house to another along Danbury Avenue, one of the roads hit hard by October’s Storm Sandy. “The singing helps celebrate this area. It’s been pretty dismal down here for a few weeks, but it’s back.”
His sentiments were shared by Terry and Kristin Purcell, whose Danbury Avenue home was on the carolers’ itinerary.
“We’re so excited, and it’s such a great cause,” Kristin Purcell said.
“Look at this street,” Terry Purcell said. “There are dumpsters in front of every other house.”
“We all missed Halloween because of Sandy, but this brought the community back,” Kristin Purcell said.
Posted 12/13/12 at 02:15 AM