Dashing through the songbook

Posted: Wednesday, November 26, 2003

Peter Anderegg grew up in Juneau and graduated from Juneau-Douglas High School in 1973. When he moved back from Seattle in the early 1990s, he decided he knew what the town needed: Victorian holiday carolers.

Public performances

• Wed., Dec. 3 - Governor's House, 5 p.m. (time is tentative)

• Fri., Dec. 5 - Gallery Walk, 6-8 p.m.

• Sat., Dec. 6 - Mendenhall Mall, 2-3 p.m.

• Sun., Dec. 7 - University of Alaska Southeast, Song Fest, Noyes Pavilion, 4-5 p.m.

• Tues.-Wed., Dec. 9-10, 16-17 - Baranof High Tea

• Fri., Dec. 12 - Juneau Pioneers' Home, 6-6:30 p.m.

• Sat., Dec. 20 - Mendenhall Mall, 2-3 p.m.

• Mon., Dec. 23 - Wildflower Court, 4-6 p.m.

"I thought this was the perfect town for that sort of thing," Anderegg said. "The town dates back to 1880, and some of the older buildings are wonderful. You stroll through downtown Juneau, and you can imagine what that looks like with the snow falling."

So Anderegg, who had some experience caroling with groups in Seattle, started his own group.

The Victorian Carolers, with Cricket Curtain, David Moe and Leslie Rehfield, began strolling through downtown, singing holiday songs, in 1992.

The group has gone through 16 members since then, but still includes Anderegg (tenor), Curtain (alto) and Moe (bass). Sixth-year member Janet Sanbei sings the soprano parts, and rotating alto Jill Geering will fill in for Curtain during the last few days of December.

During December, you may see the Carolers any number of places - Mendenhall Mall or Nugget Mall, browsing at Gallery Walk on Dec. 5, popping up at private parties or enjoying a cup of tea downtown.

The Carolers' first public performance this year will be Wednesday, Dec. 3, at the Governor's House, tentatively at 5 p.m. The group will not be making its annual appearance during Public Market weekend, because Anderegg is out of town.

"It all starts with musical or street theater," Anderegg said. "We're interacting with the people we're singing to, and we try to present an impression that we just came in from a snowy evening. We're supposed to look like two couples out for an evening stroll."

The Carolers have more than 100 songs - traditional tunes, scores and spirituals - they've gathered over the years. They can sing for more than two hours without repeating a tune.

"It's difficult to find people with the ability to do what we do," Anderegg said. "There are a lot of people in town who sing well, but for this group there are a couple things that have to happen. You need to have people who are also able to have that presence of standing in front of people and interacting. And it also helps that the musicians can read music."

That's not easy to find. At the beginning, Anderegg asked Curtain to join because he knew her from plays they had acted in during the mid-1970s.

"When we first started, my daughter (Alix) was in first grade, so I would dress her up in outfits and her little muffs and she would sing carols along with us," Curtain said. "Now she's a senior in high school."

Anderegg knew Rehfield from high school. Moe was suggested by an acquaintance.

"We used to have some little kids that were kind of like groupies - they'd follow us around," Moe said. "Now they must be in middle school."

"I hadn't sung with Dave before, and of course, he looks great in his costume," Anderegg said. "There are a lot of people who sing bass parts who aren't basses. He's what I call a basso profundo - a really solid bass. He keeps us on pitch. With a group like ours, the bass is the foundation and you build from the bottom up."

Anderegg started the Carolers two years before he met his wife, Cathy.

"Almost every year over the last six years there's been a time where he's said, 'I don't want to go out this year,' " Cathy said. "And then the weather turns cold, and of course, he wants to do the group. It's part of our Christmas now. Some people trim the tree, we sing Christmas carols."

"This has done exactly what I wanted it to do," Anderegg said. "There are folks who have grown up with the Carolers. We've been part of their tradition."

• Korry Keeker can be reached at korry.keeker@juneauempire.com.

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