November 27, 2009
Building Spirit with Song: Clemmons quartet to sing before lighting of National Christmas Tree
An a cappella quartet from Clemmons will be among those serenading visitors to this year's lighting of the National Christmas Tree.
The quartet, Carolers of Christmas Past, has been selected to be part of the preshow entertainment at the lighting ceremony, which will be next Thursday in Washington.
"We'll be singing for a full hour before the show to entertain people as they arrive," group member Jennifer Jordan said.
The group -- Jordan, Nate Pendley, Dennis Ramsey and Lisa Ramsey -- was formed in 2001, and it performs in traditional Dickens-era garb. Jordan is the group's costumer. "I did some serious research on costuming from that time period," she said. "We've tried to stay as true to the actual costuming of the mid-1800s as possible."
Carolers of Christmas Past performs 10 or more times each holiday season, mostly at corporate events and private parties. It has a repertoire of more than 70 songs, from traditional hymns to more-recent favorites, such as "Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer" and "Santa Baby."
They have performed at NorthCarolina's governor's mansion, the Dickens of a Christmas Festival in Roanoke, and various local venues. This is the singers' second time performing at the Ellipse, where the National Christmas Tree is displayed, but their first time to be part of the lighting ceremony.
The National Park Foundation organizes the ceremony. In choosing musicians, it looks for "something that will add to the overall color and character of the event," said Mark Shields, a spokesman for the foundation.
Nine musical acts are selected to perform for guests as they arrive and prepare for the lighting ceremony.
"It helps build the spirit of the moment," Shields added.
"We think it's an amazing honor to be chosen," Jordan said. "This is a huge national event. We've been told there could be 10,000 people there."
The main entertainment at the ceremony will include entertainers Sheryl Crow, Common and Celtic Woman. The ceremony is being taped and highlights (not including the preshow) will be broadcast Dec. 20 on UNC TV. The lighting ceremony will be streamed on the Internet at www.thenationaltree.org starting at 5 p.m. next Thursday Dec. 3.
In Winston-Salem, Carolers of Christmas Past will perform Dec. 5 at Reynolda Village from 3:30 to 5:30 p.m. as part of the "Holiday Stroll," and Dec. 22 at the Millennium Center.
Forsyth Family Magazine
Carolers of Christmas Past Wish You a Merry Little Christmas
By Carolyn S. Peterson
For the past 7 years, the crisp winter air has been filled with the songs of Christmases past by the Carolers of Christmas Past. This four part harmony group with members Nate Pendley, Jennifer Jordan, Dennis Ramsey, and Lisa Ramsey, all residents of Clemmons, was established by Pendley as a way to give a little pizzazz to a reading of Charles Dickens' A Christmas Carol. "For Nate, his idea of adding a feel of Christmas past was to add carolers in full-period costumes to local holiday celebrations. After hatching his idea, he called me first because we had appeared together in a local production of The Sound of Music. I brought the Ramseys into the group and the quartet was born," recalled Jennifer Jordan, full-time mom of three, homeschooler, and business manager for the Carolers of Christmas Past, and chief costume seamstress. Each member of the quartet has a life outside of their Dickens' personas: Nate Pendley is an attorney, Dennis Ramsey is a programmer, and Lisa Ramsey, who arranges some of the quartet's music, is a full-time mom and homeschooler, like Jennifer Jordan.
Sharing Holiday Cheer for All Ages
As they enter their 8th season, Carolers of Christmas Past perform throughout the area at country clubs, private parties, nursing homes, Reynolad Village and Dickens of a Christmas Festival in Roanoke, VA, just to list a few of their venues. "It's a delight to bring so much joy to so many people with our music. From the wide eyes of the children who can't pull their stare away from our costumes and are thrilled to hear their favorite Christmas song, to the older gentleman who, one year, began to cry as he heard 'I'll Be Home for Christmas;' it's quite a thrill to do something that you love and to have that kind of impact on people," stated Jordan.
With over 70 songs in their repertoire, the Carolers of Christmas Past sing Old World carols and modern Christmas songs, from religious to secular. Paired with beautiful songs of yesteryear are costumes reminiscent of the mid-1800s. "A great deal of research went into the costumes and they were custom made using authentic patterns. Nate's hat is an antique beaver top hat. Dennis and Nate's ties are embroidered silk and Lisa and I wear poke bonnets and hoop skirts. We add elegant wool cloaks for outdoor performances, " commented Jordan.
As the season wears on and the wind gets a little nippier, Carolers of Christmas Past will be sharing their songs and reflections of simpler times, brightening everyone's holiday and wishing you a "Merry Little Christmas."
For information on Carolers of Christmas Past scheduled appearances, or to check on their availability for your holiday gathering, visit www.CarolersOfChristmasPast.com or contact Jennifer Jordan at Jennifer@CarolersOfChristmasPast.com.
December 7, 2006
Season is in full sing for four performers
By Denise Kasper
What started as a way to “jazz” up a reading of Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol has become a holiday tradition.
Five years ago, in preparation for a reading at the Davie County Community Arts Council, Jennifer Jordan, Nate Pendley, Dennis Ramsey and Lisa Ramsey formed a Dickens’ era choral group. They are now marking their sixth season and are in more demand than ever.
“It is just incredible fun,” Lisa Ramsey said. “Musically, it’s fun to do. It’s a high level of music—not just singing songs from a hymn book.”
Ramsey and her husband, Dennis, both music majors in college, said that singing together is also great quality time they get to spend together after being together for 21 years.
The group, the Carolers of Christmas Past, has a repertoire of songs that has swelled to 70 carols, and they meet weekly starting in September to rehearse.
In 2001, they performed at the White House at the outdoor stage next to the national Christmas tree as part of the Christmas Pageant of Peace—a month long musical celebration held on the White House grounds.
A polished collaboration
Pendley, a tenor, is credited with starting the group, joining efforts with Jordan, a soprano. Jordan, who knew the Ramseys from church, was well aware of their advanced musical talent. Because they were an alto and a baritone, they rounded the ensemble perfectly.
But this is not just four friends singing some Christmas music. This is a collaboration of accomplished musicians singing complicated music. And to make it as authentic as possible, they are fully clad in mostly handmade period costumes.
The pieces they perform, mostly from the Victorian era, include the traditional English carol “Wassail Song” and “The Coventry Carol,” which dates back to the 14th century. There are also some holiday classics such as “Frosty the Snowman” mixed in.
They have developed somewhat of a following, and often get booked a year in advance. They can be found as the main event at holiday parties for doctors’ groups, country club Christmas celebrations and are a staple at the annual Reynolda Village Holiday Hop, which was held last week.
The wow factor
Not just a local sensation, they also travel to Roanoke, VA for the Dickens Festival every year.
Lisa Ramsey said that it is truly enjoyable to be so well accepted by audiences of all ages. Jordan said that the period costumes, complete with wool cloaks and an authentic beaver hat—add drama.
“There is definitely a “Wow” factor,” she said. For at least one reason, Jordan is grateful for some modern conveniences. Full dressed in her costume, complete with an 11-foot hoop slip, she can fit only in a minivan.
The group charges about $250 and hour and performs at private parties and bigger events. They see this as a great way to earn some extra Christmas-shopping money. They put on a benefit for Katrina victims last year that raised about $700 for two families who moved here after the hurricane.
With such a growing fan base, they are considering making a compact disc of their music, but haven’t set a release date.
The Clemmons Courier
January 10, 2002
Carolers of Christmas Past sing at White House ‘Pageant of Peace’
A local quartet had an eventful Christmas holiday—singing at the White House for the “Pageant of Peace.”
The quartet, The Carolers of Christmas Past includes Dennis and Lisa Ramsey, Jennifer Jordan, and Nate Pendley, all from the Clemmons area.
According to Pendley, the group attempts to recreate the spirit and sound of 19th century Victorian England by singing the traditional Christmas carols of the Charles Dickens era in classic four part harmony while dressed in costumes authentic to the period.
The trip to D.C. began in August when groups interested in performing were asked to submit performance biographies, an audition tape, a proposed song list and photographs.
The local singers were notified in November that they had been selected as one of four groups to perform.
“We were ecstatic and honestly a little bit surprised to learn we had been selected from all those who applied,” said Lisa Ramsey, the group’s alto. “Especially since we’ve only been singing together as a group since the spring. But it’s a great reward after all of the hard work.”
Pendley and Jordan had become acquainted while performing together in the Davie County production of The Sound of Music in the spring last year. When he decided to pursue a “Victorian” quartet, he contacted Jordan.
He had been asked to direct and narrate a performance of Charles Dickens’ book A Christmas Carol for production this past December. He initially conceived of a Victorian-attired quartet of carolers as a way of enlivening the production.
“I knew it was asking a lot, because my costuming along was going to cost in excess of a thousand dollars,” Pendley said. “You can’t just pick up a beaver top hat for 10 buck at a yard sale. I suggested that if what we put together for A Christmas Carol was good enough, there might also be a market for the group to hire itself out for private Christmas parties and the like to recoup our expenses and even turn a profit.”
Jordan had performed with the Ramseys a few years previous when they were attending the same church and thought they would be a good fit musically. “They both had college degrees in music and sang very well,” Jordan said. “I had confidence in my own musical abilities, and from having worked with Nate I knew he had one of those fabulous voices that can pull off just about anything. I really thought that with a good effort this group could make the concept work. And I think we did.”
The group booked nearly 20 public and private performances during the holidays, including singing at the Governor’s Mansion.
December 6, 2001
Singers from Clemmons have date to perform at pageant in Washington
By Denise Kasper
CLEMMONS—Getting into the holiday spirit and finding an outlet for their musical talent has four Clemmons residents stepping back in time 150 years.
Jennifer Jordan, Nate Pendley, Dennis Ramsey and Lisa Ramsey make up the Dickens-era choral group called Carolers of Christmas Past. Just months after the foursome got together in July, their journey is leading them north to President’s Park in Washington, D.C.
On December 23, the quartet will perform at the White House at the outdoor stage next to the national Christmas tree as part of the Christmas Pageant of Peace—a month-long musical celebration held on the White House grounds. The pageant is one of the few events held at the White House that will be open to the public this holiday season.
Pendley, a Republican lawyer, used some of his contacts at Sen. Jesse Helms’ office to get the gig at the White House. He had formed the group after he was asked to perform this year at a reading of Charles Dickens’ Christmas Carol for the Davie County Community Arts Council.
“I wanted to add some pizzazz to the reading,” he said. His idea of pizzazz was a four-part harmony of carolers clad in full-period costume. After hatching the idea, his first phone call was to his friend and musical colleague, Jordan. The two singers became acquainted when they appeared together in a local production of The Sound of Music.
Jordan then brought in the husband and wife team of the Ramseys, and the quartet was born. This fab four, however, didn’t meld together right away. All four are accomplished musicians and wanted to make sure their collaboration would work.
“We were concerned about being good,” Pendley said. “We wanted high quality, and this is difficult music.”
Their repertoire includes such traditional works as The Wassail Song and The Coventry Carol, which dates back to the 15th century. There are also some more modern holiday classics such as Frosty the Snowman, mixed in.
“It’s just a great outlet—musically,” Jordan said. “There aren’t too many opportunities to sing challenging music like this. Plus, being able to make some extra money at this was also appealing.”
The group charges about $250 an hour to perform, but can be seen for free at the Holiday Gallery Hop on Friday from 7 to 10 p.m. in downtown Winston-Salem. The event is hosted by the Downtown Arts District Association and encourages people to come to the arts district along Trade Street and “hop” in and out of the 25 galleries, artist studios and shops open for the evening. There will also be carriage rides, refreshments and crafts’ street vendors.
Back in July when the group got started, the members practiced about once every three weeks, but now, in the height of the Christmas season, they try to get together two or three time a week. Helping each other master this century-old music is just part of the work spent making their performances come off with authenticity. Using research gathered on the Internet and from craft and fabric stores, Jordan fashioned their elaborate costumes herself. Her latest creations were striking wool cloaks that will come in handy for the outdoor performance at the White House.
What makes their efforts even more notable is how the group makes time to practice and perform, because between the three families, there are 11 children. As the group sets up in the music room of Jordan’s home, some of the children can be heard playing in the next room.
“It’s just been a great experience for us,” Jordan said.