October 28, 2012
When my colleague Eric Zorn and I hosted our first Songs of Good Cheer, a holiday singalong, at the Old Town School of Folk Music, we thought we'd do one and be done.
But it was so much fun we did it a second year. And then a third. Now we're on year 14, and we'd like to invite you.
"Too soon to be talking holidays," you may be muttering. We sympathize.
But in these 14 years, we've learned how many people start plotting their holidays early, and the shows sell out fast. This year, to accommodate the requests, we've extended our usual three shows to four.
So if you've ever whimpered that the holidays are short on peace, joy, love and good will, come sing, and you'll change your tune. No talent required. The band is so good they'll make you feel you're ready for "American Idol."¿
Here's the data:
Who: An eclectic band of first-rate musicians and teachers from the Old Town School of Folk Music. Accordion? We got it. Washboard? Ditto. Plus banjo, mandolin, bass, clarinet, fiddle, ukulele. Eric and I are the amateurs. He plays guitar. I dabble at the piano. You sing and laugh at Eric's jokes.
We'll give you a lyrics book to take home.
Where: Old Town School of Folk Music, 4544 N. Lincoln Ave., Chicago. Lincoln Square — filled with pubs, restaurants, cafes and a couple of bookstores — is scenic, friendly and walkable. Come to Songs early or stay late just to hang around in one of Chicago's most appealing neighborhoods.
Why: Because we all want a way to enjoy the spirit of the holidays, free of the rush and crush. There's no better way than singing in a group.
The songs: We sing classics, sacred and secular, and throw in a few tunes you'll be glad to learn. Last year we did Handel's "Messiah." This year, proving the diversity of the holiday repertoire, we've added Tom Lehrer's "Hanukkah in Santa Monica."
The contest: A singalong without some competition would be like the holidays without fruitcake, and this year we reprise one of our favorite contests, a trivia quiz.
Your challenge (optional, of course): Create up to three quiz questions related to holiday music. Each question should be multiple choice, preferably with four answers. The question should be amusing and mildly informative; one answer must be true.
Example: What are the last words of "Frosty the Snowman"?
A. "Hold my beer and watch this."
B. "Catch me if you can!"
C. "Ahh, I can't wait to get in that hot shower."
D. "I'll be back again someday."
Send entries to email@example.com or to Mary Schmich, Chicago Tribune, 435 N. Michigan Ave., Chicago, IL 60611. Deadline is Dec. 1.
Winners — one each night — will get two free tickets and come onstage to participate in a trivia smack-down and bask in wild applause.
When: Thursday, Dec. 13, Friday, Dec. 14, and Saturday, Dec. 15, at 7:30 p.m.; Sunday, Dec. 16, at 4 p.m.
Kids: We no longer do a special shorter show aimed at little kids, but we welcome kids at any of the shows, which last about two hours, with an intermission.
Tickets: Available from the Old Town School online (oldtownschool.org) or through the box office (773-728-6000). $45 for the public, $40 for school members and $35 for children and seniors. The money helps support the Holiday Giving Campaign, a campaign of Chicago Tribune Charities, a McCormick Foundation Fund.
For updates, photos and history, check out the Songs of Good Cheer Facebook page.
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