Song of Good Cheer - Perennial Holiday Concert

On Sunday, December 16, the final performance of “Songs Of Good Cheer” took place at Old Town School Of Folk Music. This perennial holiday concert, featuring the talents of Old Town School Of Folk Music instructors, has become a heartwarming and inspirational tradition for anyone desiring to experiences the meaning of the Holidays in communal song.

Bau Graves

The genesis for “Songs Of Good Cheer” was a December 23, 1998 Chicago Tribune column by Mary Schmich. In this column, Schmich lamented the fact that the activity of Christmas caroling had all but disappeared from the holiday landscape – Ms. Schmich wrote:

“Outside churches and the occasional party, collective Christmas caroling has fallen casualty to the peculiarities and sensitivities of our age.” 

Mary Schmich

          Enter Eric Zorn, a fellow Tribune columnist who took up the challenge of reestablishing the tradition of caroling to its rightful place in the pantheon of holiday activities. In the early fall of 1999, he asked those who oversaw what is now Chicago Tribune Holiday Giving if they would assist him and Mary Schmich with the logistics of launching a caroling party to benefit the annual drive. Since the first concert in 1999, “Songs Of Good Cheer” has become a Chicago Holiday tradition, having raised over four hundred and thirty thousand dollars over a fourteen-year period.

For the uninitiated, this was not a typical concert. The very musically talented Zorn and Schmich, along with the Old Town School Of Folk Music ensemble of musicians and singers, lead the audience in song and revelry for over two hours. It was the audience that was encouraged and prodded to step up and sing, and perhaps revive feelings that had been dormant.

The concert opened with the rousing “Christ Was Born On Christmas Morn,” with the musicians streaming into the concert hall, interacting with the audience, and making it clear that on this night we, the paying customers would be expected to take center stage. The second piece was a wonderful song entitled “Gonna Sing” composed by Mary Schmich herself. The lyrics of this song truly spoke to the realities that pervade our lives:

            “Oh it’s Christmas time again

            And I think about my mother

            And I think of my old friends

            Haven’t seen them in so long

            And each year when Christmas comes

            I think about my father

            And I’ll hold him in my heart.”

Zorn, Schmich and the Old Town musicians performed approximately twenty four carols covering a broad spectrum of styles and eras including: Coventry Carol, Mi Y’Malel, Silent Night and Ernest Tubbs’ “Blue Christmas.” You might say that “Songs Of Good Cheer” is a cure for what has become the common Christmas. These performances provide the opportunity to slow down, focus, take a long, deep breath and sing.

Gail Tyler

Perhaps, what is more important – As we gather and sing these lyrics, we are able to reflect.

I strongly encourage everyone to make “Songs Of Good Cheer” part of any holiday tradition – It will not disappoint.

Songs of Good Cheer

The concert concluded with three polka versions of “Jingle Bells” – truly upbeat – leaving us feeling a little giddy … and wishing good will to all.

Old Town School of Folk Music

4544 North Lincoln Avenue, Chicago, IL 60625

Phone:(773) 728-6000

Saturday hours 9:00 am–10:00 pm  -  See all
Transit: Western-Brown



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