Jamie Spillane: 31 years leading Carol Sing

'I never missed a year because there is nothing like the Seaport Carol Sing.'

In its 70 years, the Mystic Seaport Community Carol Sing has become a beloved part of the area’s holiday traditions. No one understands or appreciates this more than Jamie Spillane, who has been directing the event for exactly half that time, even when he lived as far away as Arizona. Spillane, an Associate Professor of Music and Director of Choral Studies at the University of Connecticut, has been participating in the Carol Sing for even longer – 40 years! He took a few minutes earlier this week to answer some of our burning Carol Sing questions.

Q. Tell us about your day job as Associate Professor of Music and Director of Choral Studies at the University of Connecticut – what does that entail?

A. As Director of Choral Studies, I oversee a choral program that includes eight choirs each numbering between 20-d2010-12-037880 singers. My duties include directing the UConn Concert Choir and Chamber Singers and  teaching undergraduate and graduate choral conducting and choral literature classes.

Q. You were out of Connecticut for a number of years and yet you came back every year to lead the Carol Sing – why?

A. When I went away to pursue my doctorate and then teach at the college level I lived in Arizona, Iowa (for 7 years) and then upstate New York in Rochester. I never missed a year because there is nothing like the Seaport Carol Sing. My family still lives here in Mystic so it was also a homecoming around the holidays. It was always a gift to myself.

Q. What’s your favorite Christmas carol?

A. I don’t know if I have a favorite though there are moments through the Carol Sing that warm my heart: When we sing I’m Dreaming of a White Christmas and get to the line “and hear sleigh bells in the snow” and dozens of people ring the bells they have brought. Or when we sing Santa Claus is Coming to Town and the family comes each year and brings props. Or when we sing Silent Night and friends and families huddle close to each other and gently sway. Or when we sing Joy to the World and truly wish it so. There is no true favorite, they are all loved family members.

Q. What’s the hardest Christmas carol to sing?

A. They are all about the same?  Maybe the higher note in  The First Noel can be a challenge but they are all pretty familiar!

Q. True or false – people only know the first verse and chorus of every Christmas carol.

A. Well…mostly true 🙂  That is why we have carol books!

Q. What’s the best part about the Mystic Seaport Carol Sing?

A. I learned long ago that truly the best part of the Mystic Seaport Community Carol Sing – is the community,  It is a community of people who come together for one day, many for the 40th or 50th year in a row, and join together in song – celebrating the joy of the season. I would think this would be a better country and world if we did that more often.

The Community Carol Sing begins (rain or shine) at 3 p.m., Sunday at McGraw Quadrangle. The Mystic Seaport carolers will perform a holiday concert in the Greenmanville Church at 2 p.m. The Seaport is open Sunday from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., and free admission will be given from 10 a.m.-4 p.m. with the donation of a canned food Item. See other activities scheduled for the day here.