The Old World Carolers—history

The Old World Carolers


Since 1985, The Old World Carolers has evolved from a few folks caroling during the holidays to a choir with a repertoire of hundreds of songs, but with the same authentic holiday spirit. We have continued to sing for peace and justice, green energy, human rights, animal shelters, homeless shelters, shut-ins, guide dogs, and many other benefits for the planet and the community, the main benefit being the preservation of rare and beautiful songs in people's homes and lives.

History is an important part of what we do: learning about cultures through their languages, traditions, and songs, including Basque, Catalan, Danish, Swedish, Czech, Ukrainian, Old French, Sicilian, Hebrew, Croatian, German, Russian, Welsh, English, Gaelic, and others. We trade versions of songs, and talk about interesting lyrics, aspects, and traditions. We arrange many of the songs we sing, researching harmonies and styles that are proper for the place and period involved. And of course, we research and share clothing from different periods and regions! Our usual costuming is 19th-century Europe, but we have been known to branch into earlier time periods and exotic locales for special themed events.

The original meaning of carol is a circle dance, and indeed most of our songs are dances; and most of those dances are waltzes! People used to dance a lot more than they do now, and part of our mission is to bring back more dancing. We also have a few schottisches, a polka or two, and a hambo in our repertoire, which we sang at our Silver Jubilee Ball. You don't need to dance to come to our events, but this may help explain why these old songs are so infectious and "hummable." And we love to sing for dancers. Read Barbara Ehrenreich's Dancing in the Streets if you are interested in this subject.


The Old World Carolers singing in a parking garage, masked and distanced, St. Nicholas Night, 6 December 2020


Upcoming events

Singing at The Dickens Fair, San Francisco, California

Our music


Holiday music and traditions links