'The big robust sound we’re used to hearing': Glen Rock Carolers back as one group for 2021 gig

Tina Locurto
York Dispatch

The Glen Rock Carolers will be back — as one cohesive group again — ready to sing a variety of iconic Christmas songs until dawn.

At the stroke of midnight on Christmas Eve, dozens of members will gather at the town square to continue a tradition missed by many amid the COVID-19 pandemic last year.

“There was just something missing having a small group last year," said Darryl Engler, the Glen Rock Carolers’ music director. “We’re excited to hear the big robust sound we’re used to hearing."

More:York Factory Whistle Concert: A unique Christmas tradition returns

More:'Tradition of the year': Nutcracker returns to Appell Center stage

More:Christmas Magic, a York County tradition, opens Friday

As they have for the past 171 years, the Glen Rock Carolers take to the streets of Glen Rock on Christmas morning, Tuesday, December 25, 2018.
John A. Pavoncello photo

In order to mitigate the spread of the virus, the Glen Rock Carolers last year divided their troupe into two smaller groups. Each group took half of the caroling route.

While the performers will be back as one group this year, indoor performances at churches and nursing homes were not scheduled.

The 174-year tradition, featuring 70 to 80 singers dressed in Dickens-style top hats, canes and cloaks will take to the streets for upwards of six hours.

Darryl Engler, the Glen Rock Carolers’ music director, stands by the caroler's monument in Glen Rock Borough Wednesday, Dec. 16, 2020. He said the caroler's tradition will carry on this year with COVID-19 modifications. It is his 50th year to participate. Bill Kalina photo

Engler, who joined the group in 1971, became a "lifetime" member after his 50th performance in 2020. His brother and assistant music director, Glenn, will be inducted as a lifetime member this year. 

Throughout the night, 15 songs will be performed, including "Silent Night" and "Ye Faithful." 

This year, the carolers' route will follow Manchester, Hanover, Baltimore and Church streets before finishing at 6 a.m. Christmas morning at the Glen Rock Carolers statue. At this time, Engler predicts a crowd of 200 will show up to join the performers in song.

As they have for the past 171 years, the Glen Rock Carolers take to the streets of Glen Rock on Christmas morning, Tuesday, December 25, 2018.
John A. Pavoncello photo

“We owe it to the community that this tradition has lasted for 174 years," Engler said. 

Also happening this year will be a remembrance of Paul Shepperd, formerly the troupe's oldest member. 

Shepperd died just three days after the Glen Rock Carolers' 2020 performance, at the age of 97. He joined the ensemble from  his front lawn to sing — a safe way for him to take part of the festivities, Engler said.

More:COVID won't stop Glen Rock Carolers — but there will be big changes this year

This year, the carolers will once again converge on Shepperd's front lawn for a moment of silence — before breaking out to sing his favorite song, “Hosanna in the Highest."

The Glen Rock Carolers are  one year short of a monumental milestone, and Engler said plans are already underway for how they will celebrate 175 years.

In 2022, Trinity United Church of Christ will dedicate a room in the chapel for a permanent museum installation featuring all things Glen Rock Carolers. 

Engler said the exhibit should be open by Dec. 25 next year.

As they have for the past 171 years, the Glen Rock Carolers take to the streets of Glen Rock on Christmas morning, Tuesday, December 25, 2018.
John A. Pavoncello photo

Additionally, the Glen Rock Carolers are expecting to hop "across the pond" to England to take part in the 2022 Festival of Village Carols, located in Sheffield.

With exciting ventures planned next year, Engler can only look forward to what's to come soon: another year of delivering Christmas carols to the community.

“We would not be out singing all night if we wouldn’t have the community support," Engler said. "Who wants to go out all night and sing songs  if nobody was there to listen to it?"

— Reach Tina Locurto at tlocurto@yorkdispatch.com or on Twitter at  @tina_locurto. Please consider subscribing to support local journalism.