Although shoppers may get a bit weary of the typical holiday tunes piped through department stores every year at this time, one Peninsula-based vocal ensemble is offering a time-tested cure for holiday tedium. The GryphonCarolers have been lifting audience spirits and calming the effects of turbulent times for the past 35 years.
This year’s concert will take place at Cañada College on December 17 at 7:00 pm. The theme is “Global Harmony,” featuring a diverse collection of seasonal songs and instrumentals from around the world. The music of many countries will be represented: Celtic melodies from Ireland and Scotland, a vintage wassailing song from England, “Chantons Noël” from France, a Ukrainian carol from the Balkans, “Mundo Feliz” from Mexico, several well-known, but colorfully arranged versions of holiday songs from the U.S., among others.
Thirty-five years ago, local jazz musician and composer Ed Johnson and folk singer-songwriter Carol McComb recruited some students from their harmony singing classes at Gryphon Stringed Instruments and strolled along the streets of Palo Alto singing and spreading holiday cheer.
“We’ve come a very long way since those early days,” says Ed, who lives in Menlo Park. “We’ve matured as musicians, and those simple, traditional carols we once sang have evolved into much more intricate and interesting pieces.
“We have a fairly stable group of singers, many who’ve been with us since we started. About 20 to 25% are new each year.”
Adds fellow Menlo resident and Gyphon singer Benita Kenn: “I’ve been with the group since 1999 and can speak for the greater percentage of carolers. It’s so rewarding for us. It’s a labor of love.
“Ed’s arrangements are unique and go way beyond the regular Christmas stuff.”
Photo courtesy of Gryphon Carolers