For the past week, La Cañada High School choral students have gone a-caroling, delivering hundreds of holiday-themed song-a-grams via telephone to raise money for travel scholarships that let students in need attend out-of-state choral events.
About 200 students are participating in the annual fundraiser, selling song-a-grams to friends and family members for $10 each. The customers provide the names and telephone numbers of their intended recipients to the students and indicate their preference for a Christmas or Hanukkah tune and message.
This year, LCHS Chamber Singers will travel on a five-day tour to New Orleans in March, while members of the Concert Choir will visit Seattle for five days in April. Travel scholarships will help students who need financial assistance attend those trips.
"We as a choir are very, very fortunate to be able to travel to places, and we want everyone to travel with us," said sophomore Matthew Baker, who's donated his vocal cords to the cause. "Money raised from song-a-grams goes toward [travel] scholarships — it's a really important thing."
Assembled in small groups across 18 La Cañada homes still in possession of a landline phone, students will deliver some 1,800 song-a-grams, according to choral director Dr. Jeff Brookey. That means each group must call and sing to about 100 people per session.
At a meeting last Thursday evening, held in the home of choral mom Christi Matarese, 13 students huddled around a phone with an extra-long cord, trying their luck at dialing recipients. Some called aunts and uncles, grandparents and best friends. Each landline mishap elicited groans and giggles in equal measure.
When a call went through, singers selected from three options — "We Wish You a Merry Christmas," "Merry Christmas to You All," and "Sevivon, Sov, Sov, Sov."
"It can be a little tedious," senior Bailey Mooney of singing the same songs over and over. "But at the end of the day, for each person we call it's a fresh thing for them. And it really kicks off the holiday season for them, so thinking about that makes it better."
Some listeners were prepared and thanked the singers profusely. Others, perhaps not aware they'd been selected to receive a song, let their phones roll over to voicemail.
Matarese's father, La Cañada resident Charles Ajalat, got a call from 14-year-old granddaughter Ellany and was so charmed he and his wife stopped by the house for a visit.
"I think it's fantastic," Ajalat said of the program. "It sounded like professional singers. We were so happy we were singing Christmas carols all the way here."
Students will sing into a second week this evening, with another evening session planned for Friday and two four-hour daytime sessions on the weekend.