Every year Starling Arts choir members get out on the streets to raise money for charities by singing Christmas carols. It works. Starling Arts Co-Director Emily explores why.
I'm quite sure I'm not the only carol singer in the land who isn't Christian. Although carols are obviously a central part of the fabric of religious praise for many people over Christmas, religion isn't what brings me to love carolling.
I sing carols because they're cosy. Carols make people slow down, and they make people smile; carols move people to reach deep into their pockets and give generously to charity. I sing carols because they give of a lot of benefit, that a lot of people can share. More than the classic Coca Cola or John Lewis advert, a carol encapsulates a special kind of nostalgia (one that for me smells like a primary school hall and an orange Christingle candle).
Some of our carolling choir members at Bond Street Station
Time and time again I have watched the pace of commuters and rabid-like Christmas shoppers slow as 'Silent Night' rings out in trains stations or shopping centres. Carols seem to harbour a magical therapeutic effect not only on the singers but those who listen, even fleetingly. Sometimes people stop and join in. Sometimes they stay all evening.
For me, there is little more joyous than singing with others and committing your voices to a charitable cause that needs support. This sentiment triumphs over the subject matter of a song when I'm carolling. The act of singing carols in a busy train station has, for me, less to do with religion than togetherness and community. Everyone will have their own reason for singing - or for donating - and that's why it works.
Throwing small change or even notes into a bucket destined to help others is something that seems to transcend religion too. I'm sure most people don't donate simply because we're singing about snow, or angels, but because they feel moved enough by the public act of singing together to help someone other than yourself. As carollers, we give up our time and get in return the pleasure of singing, whilst those who so wish give up their coppers and might walk away feeling a little more joyful. This feels a very authentic, useful transaction.
Religious or not, I think carols will continue to be enjoyed by many because of what they can do for our souls and the well-being of others. This year, Starling Arts' carolling will support St John's Hospice, Whizz-Kidz and British Heart Foundation.
There's still time to watch us on Monday 9th December as we sing at Charing Cross Station between 6 and 9pm for BHF. For more information, visit our What's On page. Maybe you'll even join in...