A lot of things we’ve grown accustomed to were heartbreakingly canceled this holiday season – sitting on Santa’s lap, community tree lightings and spending time with loved ones.
But nothing – not even a global pandemic – could stop B101.1, the headquarters for all-things-Christmas, from spreading some needed cheer.
In December, the radio station hosted its highly anticipated Christmas Choir Competition, which invites school choirs across the region to submit their best versions of seasonal favorites. Through public voting, a winner and two runners-up are selected for both the K-8 and high school divisions.
This year, the Council Rock School District had major success at the secondary level. Council Rock High School North’s choir NorthVoice earned first place for its rendition of “The First Noel.” Meanwhile, Council Rock South’s music group The South Vocal Ensemble finished second for “Let It Snow.”
As B101’s morning show hosts Jenn Ryan and Bill Tafrow made the exciting announcement, the 35 members of NorthVoice were together virtually via Zoom, and exploded in cheers when they learned the final result. One student could be heard chanting, “Let’s go!”
Typically, the winning school has the honor of performing alongside the Philly POPS at the Kimmel Center in Philadelphia. It also receives funding for its music department. Since the once-in-a-lifetime experience to sing behind the orchestra wasn’t possible due to COVID-19, Council Rock North will just receive $5,000.
However, instead of keeping the entire check for his school, choir director Ryan Carlin intends to donate a portion of it to a music department that has a bigger need. He plans to consult with NorthVoice members to see where they think the funds should go.
“We would love to give back,” he said.
Council Rock North’s rendition of “The First Noel” was recorded 100 percent remotely.
“Most of our students are virtual. We’re still on a hybrid model right now, so this was all recorded individually at home and kind of in isolation still. We rehearsed over Zoom,” said Carlin, who compiled the 35 separate recordings into one masterpiece. “I could not be any prouder of these students.”
When asked if there were any hard feelings from runner-up Council Rock South, Carlin stressed that there’s always been a friendly rivalry between the two.
“The whole Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday when we both knew we were in the semifinals, the district came together. They were sending out major email blasts to everybody to support both high schools,” he said. “We have a North-South football game every year, and this was just the choir version of that.”
For B101 hosts Ryan and Tafrow, who usually appear on stage at the Philly POPS show to present a check to the winning school, it was exciting to continue the competition during these unprecedented times.
“B101’s Christmas Choir Competition is not only a tournament, but a celebration of music in these schools,” said Tafrow. “Music programs are often under-funded, and the fact that we were able to still provide this competition is something we are very proud of.”
Ryan added that, despite most schools being forced to rehearse and record remotely, the caliber of talent was higher than ever.
“Every single entry we received this year was incredible,” she said.
Samantha Bambino can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org