Augusta Heritage Center ready for Christmas carol event | News, Sports, Jobs
Editor’s Note: The Inter-Mountain’s Comfort and Joy series will continue in each edition until Christmas Eve.
ELKINS – The Augusta Heritage Center will revive old holiday traditions by leading a group of Christmas carols through the streets of Elkins later this month.
The public is invited to participate in the caroling event, scheduled for December 21. Those interested are asked to assemble in the new building “Commons of the Senate” at the Myles Center for the Arts at Davis & Elkins College at 5 p.m. There will be a quick rehearsal and everyone will receive lyrics.
Augusta executive director Seth Young said the center is carrying on several traditions from the past, the first being the organization of the Christmas carol event itself.
â€œMargo Blevin, the director emeritus of Augusta, used to put together a group of singers who would sing at this time of the year and we are looking to resuscitate this tradition. “ Young told The Inter-Mountain. “But we also want to add to it to celebrate some of the unique cultural traditions that have occurred while on vacation here in the Allegheny Highlands.”
Young said one thing the center wants to introduce alongside Christmas carolers is a little-known custom that was popular around the turn of the 19th century in the Highlands, called belsnickeling.
“Usually how belsnickeling was celebrated is that a band would get together and put on costumes and they would go and sing in a house.” said Young. â€œIf a homeowner could identify a member of the group who was in costume, then the group had to move. But if the owner of the house could not identify a member of the group, then the group was invited for cakes, cookies and holiday treats.
People from the communities would run in front of them and sometimes tell the farm dwellers who wore what costumes. Thus, belsnicklers often changed costumes along the way so that they could not be identified.
“It was a really unique singing style that was popular here, mainly due to the German immigrants found in Pendleton County,” said Young. â€œSo this year we’re going to showcase some of the unique components that have happened here and build on that going forward. “
â€œWe want to celebrate with the community and friends, and celebrate the joy and the spirit of the seasonâ€, said Young. â€œEveryone is invited. No matter your level of singing experience, we can all enjoy the spirit of the song.
Young said he and Emily Miller, Augusta’s artistic director, will both take instruments with them during the outing, which will venture to Elm and Buffalo streets in the historic Wees district.
“We will take instruments with us and some songs will be sung acapella” said Young. â€œFor example, ‘Silent Night’ will be sung entirely without instruments. But Emily and I will both have guitars and there’s a chance I can play the accordion, depending on the weather.
The Carolers will sing classics such as “The angels we heard above” “We wish you a Merry Christmas,” “Here we come A-Wassailing,” “Silent night” and more during the event.
Once the carols are over, the group will travel to El Gran Sabor for a session of classic Christmas carols. Party wear is encouraged and due to part of the walk taking place in the dark, a flashlight is recommended.