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Tuesday, May 21, 2024
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Photo Focus: Celebrating Community at Annual Christmas Challenge of the Carols

In Emancipation Garden on Christmas Morning, a festive crowd enjoyed each other’s holiday presence. It was time for the 47th Challenge of the Carols. Close to 300 early risers came to hear choirs, traditional and new, perform holiday favorites in the David Monsanto Bandstand in downtown Charlotte Amalie.

Gathering in the Garden for Christmas (Photo by Judi Shimel)

Many came dressed for the occasion; fur-ringed red hats, red dresses, tree light neckwear. And while some at other events donned sweaters they wouldn’t wear anywhere else, Diane Gibson and her crew showed up on Christmas morning decked out in pajamas

Diane Gibson and the Pajama Day Gang. (Photo by Judi Shimel)

The Voices of Love kicked off the morning’s music at dawn with echo caroling. Bethel Baptist Choir, Merry Caroliers, and the Party/Hardy Caroliers came with traditional hymns and melodies. Fans turned out to hear solo performances by accordionist Oleik Ledee, and singer Lorna Freeman-Woodley. Louis Taylor and Friends added jazz accents to the musical fare.

Then came the new generation sounds of Three G Christmas, and the musical youth of SPARKS…

Three G renders a tune. (Photo by Judi Shimel)

… all to the delight of Myron Jackson and Vernon Finch from Emancipation Garden Christmas Card, Inc. In between announcing the next acts, they basked in the mild sunshine, savoring the holiday spirit.

Challenge of the Carols emcees Myron Jackson and Vernon Finch (Photo by Judi Shimel)

It was also their duty to announce the 2023 honorees — Charlotte Amalie High School Rotary Interact Club for the Esther Marks Award; Ledee for the Alexander Lloyd Award; Edwin Davis and Family winning the Luther Robles Award, and the Community Foundation of the Virgin Islands taking home the Governor’s Award.

Lt. Gov. Tregenza Roach conveyed the season’s greetings on behalf of Gov. Albert Bryan Jr., wishing everyone a safe and festive Christmas.

The tradition of Christmas caroling began with the serenades when neighbors strolled from house to house from midnight until dawn. By the 1970s the tradition continued in a new venue and a new concept of competing neighborhood choirs.

“Competition between the choirs was not the purpose, yet they all rehearsed in secret for weeks before Christmas. This supposedly precluded a choir from knowing what any others were planning,” according to The Legacy (of) Caroling in the Virgin Islands, found in the event’s program booklet.

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