Glen Rock Carolers continue their 172-year-old tradition
It wouldn’t be Christmas without traditions, and in Glen Rock, that means caroling.
On Christmas morning in 1848, five men went out into the streets of Glen Rock to sing Old English carols. It was there the Glen Rock Carolers were born, and the ritual has never died, with the carolers singing through the streets of Glen Rock from midnight Christmas Eve until dawn on Christmas Day.
Darryl Engler, the Glen Rock Carolers’ music director, said the long history of the carolers is something to be proud of — this year being Engler’s 49th with the group.
“Through rain, sleet and snow, we’ve never missed a Christmas,” the 72-year-old Glen Rock resident said.
The Glen Rock Carolers have 50 caped members who are part of the total 122 registered members. The group includes a wide age range, with the youngest member 11-years-old and the oldest 96-years-old, according to Engler.
The repertoire consists of 12 Old English songs and one Austrian song — "Silent Night" — that was added in the 1930s when the Glen Rock Carolers wanted the community to sing along, Engler said.
At midnight, the Glen Rock Carolers will be joined by around 1,000 members of the community, with the numbers slowly decreasing as the night goes on, according to Engler.
In addition to that night, the group sings for a number of nursing homes in the area in November and December, Engler said.
“For local people who were raised here in town, this is the only thing we know,” Engler said. “It’s our obligation to make sure it isn’t messed up.”
One of the things that makes the Glen Rock Carolers special is their extensive written history, according to Engler.
For their first 150 years, the Glen Rock Carolers didn’t have any contact with people back in England, so they didn’t know whether or not the songs they were singing were still sung, Engler said.
In 2000, the Glen Rock Carolers reconnected, according to Engler.
“Some of the songs were the same, and some were different, but they all sounded like they came out of the same book,” Engler said.
In 2002, the Glen Rock Carolers were invited to England to participate in the Festival of Village Carols. In 2022, the group will be singing at the festival for the third time, according to Engler.
Engler said he anticipates around 40 members will make the trip after 38 went for their last trip in 2012.
The Glen Rock Carolers will begin singing at 10:45 p.m. Tuesday, Dec. 24, in Zion Lutheran Church, 49 Hanover St., Glen Rock. They will stay inside for about an hour before taking to the streets until sunrise. All are welcome.