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Glen Rock carolers celebrate longevity

Written by Barb Krebs/York Daily Record | Dec 8, 2015 12:22 PM
glen_rock_carolers.jpg

Life members of the Glen Rock Carolers, top row from the left, are: Bill Ehrman, 51 years with the group, Jack Kroh, 50 years, Don Slonaker, 61 years, Dennis Wertz, 55 years, and Bob Kroh, 55 years. Bottom row from the left, are: Charles Miller, 60 years, Paul Shepperd, 74 years, Larry Flemmens, 55 years, and Ken Kroh, 55 years, Paul Kuehnel, York Daily Record

(Glen Rock) -- Jack Kroh, 66, is the newest Life Member of the Glen Rock Carol singers.

On Christmas Eve he will join a group of nine other caped members with 50 years of service to the long-running York County tradition.

"It's a proud moment to make it to 50 years," Kroh said.

Life Member status recognizes older members for their service and allows them to continue to sing with the 50-member group while opening up a slot for an apprentice to become a caped member of the organization.

"To do it for 75 years, that is a milestone," Kroh added, referring to his uncle, Mark Kroh, who achieved that goal in 2004.

"I am glad I have been able to be a part of carrying on our family tradition. It's a sacrifice in a way because you aren't with your family on Christmas Eve and you are tired on Christmas day, and you notice that more as you get older, but your family understands this is what you want to do.

"They understand what it means to you, how important it is to keep on going, to continue to be a part of tradition and the camaraderie you share with the other Carolers," Jack Kroh said.

Caroling is a tradition with many local families but maybe none more so than the Kroh name that has been associated with the Glen Rock Carolers for many years.

The late-James "Jim" Kroh, Mark's brother and Jack's father, served for 73 years and joked that "if they would have counted the five years he served as the torch bearer he would have passed Mark's 75 years," Jack Kroh said.

Jack's brother, Robert Kroh, his sons Robert, Jr., and Todd, are all carolers along with Brent Kroh, Robert Jr's son, who serving in the military.

Mark's son, Loren, has been a caroler since 1972 and in addition to his singing has served as president, vice president and director of the group.

Director Darryl Engler, who has been a member since 1975 recalled Jim Kroh's last Christmas with the Carolers.

"We were at the square and Jim came up to me and said I am singing this song and then I am going home," Engler said.

Kroh said he would not be at the tree in the morning to sing the last hymn and the "Doxology," Engler said, so he called out for the singing of "Oh Jesus, Star of the Morning," Kroh's favorite hymn, he said.

"Jim took his hat off and stood and listened. Someone took a photo and that is the only picture of singing his last carol," Engler said.

The photo is posted on the Caroler's website,www.glenrockcarolers.org under 2007.

For Jack Kroh and many other singers and their families, the last few moments as they gather around the Christmas tree to sing the closing hymn and the Doxology can be the most moving of the whole experience.

"There is just something special about that time. There are a lot of tears. It's an emotional time for the carolers and their families," he said.

History of the Glen Rock Carolers

They all follow a long tradition that began in 1848, that of singing carols in the streets of Glen Rock.

Mark Radcliff, 21, and Charles Heathcote, 28, and George Shaw, 19, newly arrived in Glen Rock and possibly homesick for England and the Christmas traditions of their childhood, convinced Mark Heathcote, 52 and James Heathcote, 61, to join them in serenading their neighbors.

They sang four songs from England:  "Christmas Hymn", "Hark Hark", "While Shepherds", and "Hosanna" all of which are still sung today.

Other songs were added through the years, including, "Raise Christians, Raise" in 2003 to commemorate the Caroler's 2002 trip to Sheffield England's Festival of Village Carols, and "Awake, Arise Good Christians" in 2013 following the 2012 return trip to the Festival.

The singing is done in three-part harmony accompanied by two trumpets and two trombones.

The men have worn various uniforms over the years including a navy cape with a red satin lining and a black high hat.

Today their uniform consists of a greatcoat made of different colored imported woolen tweed with gray hat, gray gloves, black cane and a wool scarf of varied colors.

Their journey through the streets of town begins at midnight at the square when they will sing the traditional opening, the "Christmas Hymn," better known as Christians Awake, Salute the Happy Morn.

The long night will end about sunrise, with the singing of the "Doxology" at the community Christmas tree.

Other Life Members and the year they became a caped member: P.W. Shepherd, Jr. 1942; Donald Slonaker, 1955; Charles A. Miller, 1956; David Garver, 1959; Larry Flemmens, P. Kenneth Kroh, Robert A. Kroh, Jr. and Dennis Wertz, 1961; William Ehrman, 1965 and Jack Kroh, 1966.

The Glen Rock Carol Singers will begin their Christmas Eve with an indoor concert at 10:45 p.m. at Zion Lutheran Church, corner of Hanover and Water Streets.

At midnight they will sing the opening hymn and the town square.

This year's route: Baltimore Street to Church Street to Manchester Street to Hanover Street followed by the closing song and singing of the Doxology at the borough Christmas tree at the corner of Main and Water Streets.

 


This article comes to us through a partnership between York Daily Record and WITF.

 

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