On the job: Tom Andolora of the Dickens Victorian Carollers
Pro caroler Tom Andolora shares the secrets of successful yuletide sing-alongs, including the perfect ditty to bust out at your next Christmas party
Wed Dec 18 2013
Photograph: Luciana Golcman
When Tom Andolora was a struggling actor, he joined some friends in serenading partygoers with seasonal ditties. Three decades later, he’s still at it, and his tight-knit group, the Dickens Victorian Carollers, has performed at glamorous venues ranging from private clubs to corporate towers—even the White House.
How did you get started with caroling?
I moved to the city, and a girl asked me if I wanted to carol with a group she was throwing together for a party. We didn’t have costumes or anything, but after I did that, I thought, Wow, that’s a great idea, to create a company that provides carols. When you’re in singing, music, anything, you have to be creative. The more you can create your own employment, the better off you are.
Why do you think caroling connects with people?
Some people are so nostalgic for Christmas music that they will come and stand and weep listening to us. Not because we’re so brilliant, but because they don’t hear these songs anymore. It brings them back to their childhoods. We’re supposed to bring joy to the world—I think caroling does that.
What have been some of your favorite gigs?
In 2006, a guy called us because he wanted people to burst into song when he proposed to his girlfriend at the tree at Rockefeller Center. I had never met him, but I thought it was such an amazing idea. He and his now-wife still send us Christmas cards!
What about White House high jinks?
When we sang at a White House tour, George W. was there with the twins, who were just little girls. They heard us singing and started coming down the stairs, and broke the laser beams or whatever, and security started coming. We could see Barbara Bush upstairs wearing what appeared to be jogging clothes. And then she got dressed in a beautiful pantsuit and came downstairs to listen.
Do you think people caroling in NYC would get heckled?
You have to use your brain and go where you think you might want to be heard. Even when I was a kid in the ’60s, caroling in Jamestown, New York, there were people who would slam their doors in our faces.
HOLIDAY TIP: If your holiday parties always end in a drunken sing-along, try getting the crowd to harmonize on “Jingle Bells.” According to Andolora, it’s the perfect caroling tune, because “it’s nostalgic and elicits the fun of the season, plus its zippy lyrics are fast and fun to sing.”
The Dickens Victorian Carollers are available for private events; call 718-392-0327 or visit carollers.com for details.
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Editor: Marley Lynch (@marleyasinbob)