LENOX, Mass. — The first annual Lenox Caroling Festival held Dec. 10 brought in an influx of visitors despite the competition from Great Barrington's 250th birthday celebration the same weekend.
The winning group was the Mount Everett Regional School Madrigal Choir, which received the grand prize of $2,000. (Here's sample of them singing "Good King Wenceslaus.")
Village shops and restaurants reported dramatically increased traffic. Paul Leney, president of B. Mango & Bird, said sales are up 30 percent over this time last year. Purple Plume reported sales up 20 percent and Jim Terry of Villager Gifts said his sales were up 10 percent.
Numbers are always difficult to determine, but 1,100 programs were given out on Saturday, mostly at one of the 20 performances. Some 276 people participated in the popular vote.
"It was the best organized thing I have seen in a long time," said Lynn West at Glad Rags, the oldest village retailer. "It really added a festive spirit."
Restaurants too were pleased, with Shots Cafe, Haven Cafe, Firefly and Dish all reporting brisk lunch business. "We are not normally open for lunch," said Laura Shack of Firefly. "We did 50 lunches."
Streets were so crowded that traffic had difficulty passing at several performances. Retail stores offering complimentary food and beverages were, at times, so overfilled with caroling spectators that there was almost no room to enter. R.W. Wise Goldsmiths passed out more than 100 cups of hot mulled cider.
The caroling competition was held from 10 to 4 with each group performing at least one 15-minute set at one of several street locations throughout the village. Winners were decided by a combination of popular vote and a panel of professional judges. Gene Shalit hosted a capacity crowd for an awards presentation, reception and singalong at Shakespeare & Company's Bernstein Theatre.
Taking second place was Massachusetts College of Liberal Arts' Allegrettos, receiving a prize of $500 and third place was the men's a cappella group Quintessential. Other participating choirs included the Berkshire Concert Choir, the Hudson Valley Choral Society, the Glee Club and an a cappella choir from the Lenox Memorial High School, the Taconic High School honors choir and the Lenox Caroling Festival Choir.
The Mount Everett Madrigals under the direction of first-year teacher Chris Clark is an auditioned group that rehearses before school two days a week. Their literature is limited to sacred and secular music of the Renaissance. They perform in traditional Renaissance costumes that were sewn by parents and perform at a variety of community and school-related functions. This year's caroling festival program includes traditional carols, a sacred motet for Christmastime, an arrangement of a Basque carol, and a few surprises.
Village inns, shops and restaurants offered special festival discounts. More information can be found at the event’s website www.lenoxcarolingfestival.org.
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