The first Community Carol Sing - called an "Ecumenical Advent Service" - was held in 1998 in response to a growing awareness of the need for a different kind of Christmas event - one in which people would be able to come together to enjoy the singing of Christmas Carols. In contrast to the more formal Christmas plays and performances where people were principally listeners, there would be maximum audience participation in the singing of Christmas Carols.
A group of ministers and music directors from local churches - Church of The Open Bible, Trinity United, St. Andrew's United, Murray Street Baptist, All Saints Anglican, St. John's Anglican, George Street United, The Salvation Army, St. Paul's Presbyterian - met in the fall of 1998 to plan the service. It took place in December of that year and took place in St. Paul's Presbyterian Church. The service was led by local clergy who read lessons and by The Salvation Army Band under the leadership of Stan Ewing. People were invited to bring contributions for the local food bank and an offering was taken for The Salvation Army Hamper Fund.
The Ecumenical Advent Service took place again in St. Paul's Presbyterian Church in 1999 and 2000. Giles Bryant, Music Director at All Saints Anglican, was invited to conduct the massed choir and make a special appeal on behalf of The Salvation Army Hamper Fund. In 2000, it was decided to change the title of the event to "The Community Carol Service".
In 2001, the event took place in All Saints Anglican Church and, in 2002, George Street United Church hosted the event. In 2003, the Community Carol Service again took place in St. Paul's Presbyterian Church.
During the years 1998-2002, the Community Carol Service was well attended with average congregations between 500-600 people. Sums of $2500 - $3000 were raised each year for The Salvation Army Christmas Hamper Fund. By 2003, attendance and income had decreased and it was decided to suspend the event, believing that it had run its course for the time being.
Early in 2011, Dianne Butt, a Peterborough financial consultant and a member of Calvary Pentecostal Church, contacted a group of friends about the possibility of starting an event which she called "Christmas In The City".
The previous Christmas, Diann had attended a community carol service at Yorkminster Park Baptist Church in Toronto. Her enthusiasm rubbed off on all to whom she talked and a meeting was soon held to explore the possibility of starting a similar event in Peterborough. Her enthusiasm grew even further when she discovered that a community carol service had already been held for several years from 1998-2003.
The Peterborough Community Carol Sing, as it was now known, was planned and took place at St. Paul's Presbyterian Church on Sunday, December 11th, 2011 at 2:30 pm. Giles Bryant conducted the choir with Ron Read leading The Peterborough Salvation Army Band and Douglas Schalin at the organ.
Special musical guests were Donna Bennett and Brian Finley, with readings by Graham Hart of CHEX and City Councillor Henry Clarke. An appeal on behalf of The Salvation Army Christmas Hamper Fund in Peterborough was made by Major John Murray from The Salvation Army Public Relations Department in Toronto.
The Carol Sing met with a very positive and encouraging response. A congregation of 500-600 people enjoyed the Christmas celebration with a sum in excess of $3,000 raised for the Hamper Fund.
Plans were made almost immediately afterwards for another Carol Sing to take place the following Christmas, Sunday, 9th December, 2012, at 2:30 pm, in St. Paul's Presbyterian Church. The format of the event was the same as the previous year. Giles Bryant conducted the choir with Ron Reid leading The Peterborough Salvation Army Band. The musical guest was Barb Monaghan, 2012 Peterborough Walk of Fame Inductee.
Readings were given by CHEX broadcaster Graham Hart and comedy actor, Linda Kash. Mrs. Janet Halstead, St. Paul's Session Clerk, welcomed everyone and Rev. Frank Patrick of Calvary Pentecostal Church gave the blessing. A special offering was again taken with all proceeds going to The Peterborough Salvation Army Christmas Hamper Fund.
The 2013 Community Carol Sing took place on Sunday, 8th December at St. Paul’s Presbyterian Church. The welcome was given by St. Paul’s Minister, Rev. Jonathan Baird, and the participants were CHEX broadcasters Graham Hart, Linda Kaszuba and Tyler Calver, along with Hanna Abrahamse (TASSS) and Andrew Burditt of the The Salvation Army who made the appeal on behalf of the Hamper Fund. Pastor Paul Malott pronounced the Benediction. Music was again provided by the Combined Choirs led by Giles Bryant, by The Salvation Army Band under conductor, Ron Reid, and The Timbrels Brigade.
The Carol Sing organising committee met early in 2014 to plan the event for the end of the year. Originally, it was planned to hold the Carol Sing at St. Paul’s again. But at a meeting in the spring, it became evident that, due to structural problems with St. Paul’s sanctuary, it would not be possible to hold the Carol Sing there in December 2014. It was decided, therefore, that the 2014 Carol Sing would be held at The Salvation Army Temple instead. During 2014, plans were under way to invite some of those who had featured in the past but also to add some new participants. It was hoped that the Timbrels Brigade who made a surprise appearance at last year’s Carol Sing would again take part this year.
With St. Paul's no longer available, it was decided that in 2015 the Community Carol Sing would continue to be held at The Salvation Army Temple. Also, it increasingly seemed to be the best place to hold the Carol Sing because a large part of its raison d'être, in addition to celebrating Christmas in word and music, was to raise funds for The Salvation Army Christmas Hamper Fund. The Carol Sing took place on Sunday, 6th December 2015 and again there was a capacity congregation. Among those taking part in the Carol Sing there were familiar faces such as Graham Hart and Teresa Kaszuba but we also welcomed new participants - Christian Harvey, Dan Duran and Sophia Mackey. Giles Bryant and Douglas Schalin joined forces at the piano to play a wonderful duet "Fours Hands Four Carols for Christmas" arranged by Sheila Tyrrell. We again enjoyed the lively performance of the Timbrel Brigade and the The Salvation Army Band's beautiful arrangements of the traditional carols.
Arrangements for the 2016 Carol Sing began with a meeting at the end of April. The date for that year was Sunday, 11 December and again to be held at The Salvation Army Temple. Similarly, arrangements for the 2017 Carol Sing began in the spring of the year with the date being Sunday, 10 December and continuing to be held at The Salvation Army Temple.
As the members of the organising committee met to plan the 2018 Carol Sing, they considered other venues for the event due to the continually increasing popularity of the event and the capacity audiences it attracted. They wondered if a larger auditorium might make things more comfortable for those who attended and attract an even larger audience.
But it was decided that, for the coming 2019 event, the location of the Carol Sing would remain unchanged at the Temple - the main factor being that it meant the Band did not have to move their equipment and, more important, the event's long-standing association with, and support of, The Salvation Army's Christmas Hamper Fund. The possibility of creating an overflow area in the foyer of the Temple was one consideration for the future.
At the time of the 2019 Carol Sing, it was not realised that, due to the emergence of the Covid-19 pandemic, this would be the last live event that we could hold for the foreseeable future. The Committee considered the possibility of suspending the Carol Sing altogether. But in consultation with Cogeco YourTv, it was decided that it would be possible to broadcast a Best of Carol Sing drawing on Cogeco's video recordings from previous years. A schedule of dates and times was produced for viewing over the Christmas season. Those who could not view the Cogeco network were encouraged to watch the short videos from previous years posted on the Carol Sing website.
The Carol Sing was presented in this way for two years during the pandemic, 2020 and 2021. By early 2022, due to the pandemic abating to a certain extent - although the virus and its variants were still present in the community - that it would be possible to hold a live event once again. This was planned for Sunday 4th December at 2:30 pm in The Salvation Army Temple. The issue of masking was discussed and it was decided that, there being no mask mandates in force at the time, those attending the event would not be required to wear a mask. But because the Covid Risk Level in the community was still set at "High", the wearing of masks would be recommended but not required.
The first Carol Sing after the pandemic was held on the date planned, Sunday 4th December 2022, and was deemed to be a successful event despite the circumstances regarding the pandemic and the nervousness of many people about attending public events. Although numbers were down compared with previous years, 185 people attended and $2446.30 was raised in support of The Salvation Army's Christmas Hamper Fund.