‘Ambassadors of the holidays’: A pro caroling group in Denver spreads the holiday cheer

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Bente Birkeland/CPR News
The Caroling Company is performing at a Charles Dickens-themed holiday festival in Denver. The company typically sends quartets to a couple dozen events each holiday season but this year is their busiest yet.

On a recent Saturday evening, Norm Silver, 57, ran through his usual pre-work routine. He secured his top hat, blew into a pitch pipe and checked in with his fellow carolers dressed in Victorian garb. 

“Everyone ready?” he asked. The group nodded back. 

Then Silver and three other singers launched into a cheerful rendition of “Deck the Halls.” 

They smiled and waved as they sang near the entrance of Four Mile Historic Park in Denver — their stomping grounds for the night. The place was packed with attendees of a Charles Dickens-themed holiday festival. 

A small crowd gathered around them as the carolers sang the final “fa-la-las” of their first tune. The audience cheered. 

Bente Birkeland/CPR News
Norm Silver founded the Colorado Caroling Company nearly 40 years ago. He’s getting ready for a performance at the Four Mile Historic Park in Denver and said he loves bringing holiday cheer.

“Hello, folks,” Silver said. “Merry Christmas!”

For Silver, caroling isn’t just a hobby. It’s a job.

He owns and performs with the Colorado Caroling Company, a professional caroling troupe of amateur singers that has been active in the Denver metro area for 35 — or maybe 36 years (Silver has a hard time remembering). He said it started by accident when he recruited some of his community theater friends to form a caroling quartet for a holiday party. 

After that performance, the group’s popularity started to take off. He started getting calls requesting carolers at more live events in the Denver area. 

These days, the company typically sends quartets to a couple dozen events each holiday season. This year is their busiest yet, with over 50 gigs done so far, Silver said. 

“It’s been crazy,” Silver said. “Coming out of last year, I think people want to hear live music again.” 

The arrangements are all in four-part harmony, some acts have choreography and audience interaction is key, Silver said. 

“It’s neat to be ambassadors of the holidays,” Silver said. “It really relates to people. We have had some break down in tears when they hear a song.” 

This year is especially significant for the carolers because they have been out and about a lot more than in 2020. 

“All the people we are encountering are very grateful, very into it, very animated, very excited, just ready to start having fun again,” said Paul Lannon, vocal percussionist and beatboxer with the group. 

Inside a green room at the festival, the carolers relaxed for a short break before an on-stage performance later in the evening. On a folding chair, Silver adjusted his flannel scarf and top hat. 

“We love the costumes because they’re warm,” he said. “Last night it was 20 degrees out.”

Silver considered stepping away from performing recently to focus on running the business, he said. But he decided he wants to keep singing with the group for as long as he can. He hopes to keep the tradition alive. 

“You don’t see people doing this much anymore,” Silver said. “When I was a kid, we used to get together with a bunch of friends and go caroling and wander around the neighborhoods house to house. People loved it.”

After their break, the group walked across the festival to a stage surrounded by trees draped with lights illuminating the night sky. An audience of several dozen festival attendees gathered around as the carolers began their set.

“I think they’re really good,” said Ashley McGregor between bites of popcorn. “I'm enjoying them.”

Her husband, David, added, “Way better than I can sing any Christmas carols — that's for sure ... I’m just grateful for my family and just where life is now with everything going on.” 

For about half an hour, the carolers sang holiday classics like “Hark the Herald Angels Sing” and “Rudolph the Red-nosed Reindeer.” 

A few lines into “Jingle Bells” Silver abruptly stopped the performance. “Woah woah, wait a minute,” he said. “When we sing ‘laughing all the way,’ what do you guys do?”

“Ha ha ha!” the audience yelled. 

“Oh, you guys are wonderful,” Silver said. “Let’s try again. You ready?” 

They started from the top. When the singers got to the right spot, the audience knew what to do.