Deck us all with telephone carols (with video)
Now in its 53rd year, Dial-A-Carol at Snyder Hall involves spirited University of Illinois students belting out "Rudolph the Red Nose Reindeer" and other songs to callers from around the world. The event, which takes place in the lounge of the residence hall, kicked off at 12:01 a.m. Thursday, and runs until 11:59 p.m. Dec. 18. The News-Gazette spoke with student organizer Adam Joseph and residence hall Director Dan Quock to learn more about this campus tradition.
What should callers do?
Call 217-332-1882. Give your name, where you're calling from, and what song you want to hear. Afterward, the caroler or carolers will ask if you enjoyed the song and then wish you happy holidays.
Most frequently requested song?
On opening day, which was Thursday, the top three songs were classics: "Jingle Bells," "Rudolph the Red Nose Reindeer" and "Silent Night." There was a spike in requests midday for "You're a Mean One, Mr. Grinch."
What is the "Mariah Meter"?
A perennial favorite, students track the number of times pop star Mariah Carey's "All I Want for Christmas" is requested on a bulletin board above the caroling station.
Most unusual request?
"Dominick the Donkey," an Italian Christmas song.
What if you don't know a song?
Lyrics are organized in a binder for volunteers, but occasionally, singers are faced with songs they don't know. If that's the case, they search YouTube and will play the song over the phone. Last year, an Irish radio station requested "Fairytale of New York." The station gave the carolers 10 minutes to learn it and then called back to listen to the students.
Are instruments involved?
It's mostly a cappella, but occasionally a student will drop by with a guitar.
Any requirements to participate? What if you sing off-key?
No need to audition. What's most important is your Christmas spirit, organizers said. Some residence-hall advisers volunteer, but it's mostly students singing.
Who volunteers the most hours?
About 75 students volunteer. Some sign up for shifts, others will drop by the lounge for a song or two. The word Thursday was that a volunteer named Christian had put in something like 12 hours or more.
"I hope he's sleeping now," Quock said.
How many people call?
During the course of the program, which runs 24 hours a day for seven days, thousands will call. Last year, there were more than 4,000 calls to the line.
"A lot of how people hear about us is word-of-mouth and the fact that it's been around for 53 years," Joseph said.
Radio stations and networks, including the BBC, publicize the program by calling in. Also, students are active on Twitter, Facebook and other social media.
Who on earth calls at 3 a.m.?
Usually folks on the other side of the world: China, Australia and thereabouts. On the first day, the operation received calls from the United Kingdom, Germany, China and Australia. Last year, the group got calls from 25 countries and 50 states.
Do you get feedback from listeners?
Usually, people thank the carolers. Some provide honest critiques and only a handful are unkind.
"We do get some grinches that call. But for every one of them there are 100 we are happy to take," Quock said.
One happy woman called Dial-A-Carol from her car while waiting for a tow truck after getting a flat tire.