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Project Resilience: Christmas Caroling

Mary Heers

When I was 14 and spending my first Christmas in Rome, Italy, I raced out onto the apartment balcony when I heard my mother cry, "Come, quickly." Below us down in the street was a small band of men in bulky coats playing homemade bagpipes. When they stopped, our neighbors showered them with coins. And then the players strolled off down the street.

We soon found out these men were shepherds from the Abruzzi hills outside Rome, making their traditional sojourn through the Roman neighborhoods playing the Italian Christmas carol, "Tu Scendi dalle Stelle." The song is a lovely celebration of the birth of Christ dating back to the 1700's. Roughly translated, it begins "You came down from the stars, King of the Heavens."

When I turned 30 and was spending my first Christmas in Cache Valley, I recruited my very good friend Jan Green to go on a similar Christmas sojourn. We didn't have bagpipes, but we did have recorders. So off we'd go and ring the doorbell of our friends houses. When the door opened, we'd run through a few Christmas duets. Invariably we'd be invited inside, and ended up eating an enormous number of treats each night.

It's a real testament to the generosity and goodwill of the people of Mendon that one night we went to the wrong house and a somewhat  bewildered woman listened politely to two middle aged women tweeting recorders on her front porch. She even offered us cookies.  

So in honor of the Abruzzi shepherds, my friend Jan, and everyone who has ever gone out caroling, here is the big voice of Luciano Pavoratti singing "Tu Scendi dalle Stelle" from his album Christmas in Vienna.

Mary got hooked on oral histories while visiting Ellis Island and hearing the recorded voices of immigrants that had passed through. StoryCorps drew her to UPR. After she retired from teaching at Preston High, she walked into the station and said she wanted to help. Kerry put her to work taking the best 3 minutes out of the 30 minute interviews recorded in Vernal. Passion kicked in. Mary went on to collect more and more stories and return them to the community on UPR's radio waves. Major credits to date: Utah Works, One Small Step, and the award winning documentary Ride the Rails.