Video: Caroling in Basking Ridge on Christmas Eve, for the 86th Year
Entire downtown filled with people singing and meeting neighbors.
For the 86th year, Christmas carolers were drawn from all sections of Basking Ridge to sing carols around the large downtown holiday tree on Christmas Eve.
Greg Lane directed the brass ensemble of about 20 musicians, who led the festive singers. Singers huddled together starting from the steps of the Presbyterian Church of Basking Ridge, where the brass performed, completely filling the downtown.
Some carried or toted coffee and hot cider along with flashlights to read sheets with the words to 10 classic Christmas carols. The singing began with "O Come All Ye Faithful" and ended with a very rousing rendition of "Joy To The World."
"We come every year," said Anna Maxwell from The Hills, who said she and her family brought hot cider. She said the caroling is a special event in the town.
This year's brass choir included a special guest, former Basking Ridge resident Carl Gerhard, who played trumpet. Gerhard is a lieutenant who directed the U.S. Navy Pops Ensemble at last May's performance in honor of Bernards Township's 250th anniversary.
For the 41st year, the band also included Blake Koop, who grew up in Basking Ridge and has been a part of the local tradition since he was 11 years old. Koop said he now lives in Lopatcong Township, but he returns every Christmas Eve, now accompanied by his family.
"This is one thing that never changed in this town," Koop said. "It's cool. The whole town comes down here and then they break and go to church."
The Presbyterian Church held its annual service immediately following the caroling.
Koop and Lane exchanged memories about past performances — such as the year it was so cold that the valves froze on the brass instruments and the musicians had to play in shifts, rotating time outdoors and defrosting inside the church.
Residents in the crowd had their own memories. Andy Pain, a 2007 graduate of Ridge High School, said his family each year have enjoyed dinner before joining the caroling since before he could remember.
Linda Sadlouskos contributed to this story.