Glen Rock Carolers get in touch with musical roots on trip to England
An iconic group from Glen Rock will be trading York County's farmlands for rolling fields and historic pubs in Sheffield, England.
It's a special trip taken only every 10 years by the Glen Rock Carolers to get in touch with their musical ancestors across the pond.
"We had no idea whether they, in England, also continued to sing these carols that were brought over here," said Darryl Engler, the Glen Rock Carolers’ music director. "We found out after 150 years that they still sing, and so we went back to find out where our roots came from."
On a brisk Wednesday afternoon, dozens of carolers loaded suitcases onto a coach bus headed for Dulles International Airport in Washington, D.C. The group would have one layover in Iceland before reaching their final destination in the English countryside.
The Glen Rock Carolers will bar-hop between British pubs during the day while the Sheffield carolers will open their homes at night as places to rest. The various performances throughout the weekend will culminate in the Festival of Village Carols at Grenoside Community Centre in the south Yorkshire city on Saturday.
"We're excited; there'll be a lot of us that have never been there before," Engler said. "The (Sheffield residents) are wonderful people. They're jovial, have fun singing and have stories to tell."
This December will be the Glen Rock Carolers' 175th Christmas. The singing tradition began in 1848 as carolers lined Glen Rock's streets singing Old English songs in Dickens-style top hats, canes and cloaks.
Since then, the group has not missed a single Christmas — even during the COVID-19 pandemic. In 2020, the large ensemble split up into two smaller, mask-wearing groups in order to keep the tradition alive.
This year, the Glen Rock Carolers will once again hit the streets starting at midnight on Dec. 25. This year's route will follow Hanover, Manchester, Church and Baltimore streets and finish at the crack of dawn at 7 a.m. Christmas Day.
Immediately following their flight Wednesday, the Glen Rock Carolers warmed up their vocals and sang "Hosanna in the Highest" in the middle of a foggy, damp town square in the historic caroling village of Foolow.
"The village has 50 homes and is usually booming in the summer as people come to the country to escape the city," the Glen Rock Carolers said in an Instagram post. "Some local residents gathered to hear the Glen Rock Carolers sing this evening around the stone cross in the center of town."
Engler's brother, Glenn, will be returning to England with his wife Linda for the first time in 20 years.
"They have different songs, but the type of sound they make is just like ours," Glenn Engler said. "And I'm looking forward for my wife to be able to see that."
In addition to their trip to England, the Glen Rock Carolers will be opening a museum dedicated to preserving the history of their group.
The exhibit will be open from 2 p.m. to 4 p.m. every Sunday at Trinity United Church of Christ, 27 Manchester St., through Dec. 25.
After that, the exhibit featuring original instruments, outfits and music sheets will be open by appointment only.