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Daybreak Concert Continues Holiday Tradition of Music, Mirth

Dec. 25, 2008 – Christmas came creeping softly into Charlotte Amalie on Thursday, with the gentle echoes of the choirs who make up the Challenge of the Carols and ending with a bang by the Hapless Hopeless Caroliers, who more than made up for their absence last year.
In between, a new entry captured the hearts of all. While some in the audience shuddered in the cold and rain, they tipped their umbrellas to Cub Scout Troop 156 as the youngsters sang their little hearts out, standing proud in crisp white shirts topped with big red bows.
Cubmaster Doris Davis of Troop 156, from All Saints Cathedral, said the performance was a positive experience for the youngsters, and they seemed to agree, all sporting bright, if slightly shy smiles. "I think the children should know about our culture as they grow up, so they can keep it going," said Davis.
The youngsters are between seven and 11 years old. Cub Scout Omari Greham, clearly liked the attention, but the 10-year-old fifth-grader allowed as to how he had to get up at 5 a.m. "Not a good time for him," smiled his mother.
The annual celebration is no stranger to a bit of rain, as folks shared umbrellas, memories of Christmases past, a bit of sweet bread, ham and tea, and ignored the drops. They've done this before.
And, like before, Addie Ottley chaired a live performance for Channel 12 TV. He was accompanied by a vibrant and smiling Leona Bryant, neither missing a beat. Bryant was the face of tourism in the Virgin Islands for 15 years. She was tourism director from 1981 to 1996. She was recognized with the Governor's Award last year.
Glenn "Kwabena" Davis literally didn't miss a beat either as he led the Voices of Love choir. He and Vernon Finch, of the Party Hardy Carolieres, kept the celebration moving merrily and smoothly.
Linda and Loy Williams appeared totally at home, enjoying the ceremony with their son, attorney and Pistarkle Theater actor Carl Williams.
"This is our fifth year here, and we love this morning," said Loy. "It's just not like any place else – you see people in a different way."
"This is the best part of their visit every year," said Carl.
"Come on," said Linda, "it's time to get some tea and ham and sweetbread."
Togetherness, as always, was the dynamic of the morning, expressed by Gov. John deJongh Jr. as he circulated through the crowd, giving handshakes and hugs, and greeting just about everyone by name.
"This is what community is about," he said, a thought he echoed when he took the stage to present the awards.
"Some of us have been up since last night caroling," deJongh said, "to bring us here together for a day like this, as we go into 2009 giving as much good will as we can to each other."
Everyone got into the spirit, encouraged by Finch. Dressed in the Party Hardy Carolieres costume of white tops and the traditional green and red plaid scarf, he instructed.: "Turn to the right, turn to the left. Hug the person next to you, give them a kiss." The crowd needed no further encouragement. Hugging one another beneath the dripping lignum vitae trees, smiles, hugs and kisses abounded.
Kate Rake, enjoying her fourth Garden Christmas, was laughing. "I bent down and kissed a little lady on a chair in front of me on the cheek, and we both just laughed. It just tickled her and surprised her. I don't know who she is, but we're friends now."
And then the moment came. Sen. Celestino White's answer to the Big Bang. Sort of. The appearance of the Hapless/Hopeless Carolieres.
Bryant and Ottley didn't even bother to contain their laughter.
"If you've never seen them, you're in for something," Ottley said. "And if you have, you know to expect anything. They were at the Fire House across the street at 4 a.m. putting on uniforms, getting ready to make a pistarkle of themselves." "What uniforms?" asked Bryant, with good reason.
The group piled chaotically into the Garden, apparently dressed in whatever came to hand – a few in gray plastic garbage bags, baseball hats, shorts, T-shirts, housedresses, one or two red fireman's hats, one hoisting a small Christmas tree, all laughing aloud, singing a parody to the college beer-drinking song. "Glorious, glorious, thank…. whatever."
It turned out, after all, that it was president-elect Barack Obama and vice president-elect Joe Biden. At least that's what White said. White alone was dressed in a suit and tie with his vice president, looking totally disheveled, in a rumpled suit and tie, wearing something or other on his head. He greeted everyone and simply wished them a Merry Christmas. No politics for him.
No one seemed to know where Biden came from. "I'll bet he's a tourist they picked up," someone ventured, between giggles.
"We just picked him up this morning," said White, or something close to that, whereupon the group launched into a rousing version of Jingle Bells that sounded like: "Obama, Obama, Obama all the time. Obama in 2009. Obama and Biden, Yes we can." (Note: The Source takes no responsibility for accurately quoting the lyrics.)
The crowd was in hysterics. "They've waited all morning for this," Ottley said. The revelers trooped out, the only consistent costume item, their Obama/Biden posters.
This year's honors:
– The Esther Marks Award to the Gladys Abraham Elementary School Choir;
– The Allick Lloyd Award to the CAHS Reunion Class of '68 Choir;
– The Luther Robles Award to the St. Thomas-St. John Chamber of Commerce;
– The Governor's Award to Betty L. Mahoney; and
– The Honorable Choir Conductor to Jo Sandra Jones James.
Participating in the Carol Challenge were the Voices of Love, Bethel Baptist Church Choir, Party Hardy Carolieres, Hapless Hopeless Caroliers, CAHS JROTC Chorale, Cub Scout Pack 156 and Parents, Kean High School Choraliers, Memorial Moravian Gospel Choir, Salvation Army Songsters & Torchbearers, New School of Music, Richard "Mousie" Howard, who also soloed with the CAHS Reunion Class, and Sandra Ann Massac.
DeJongh lauded Mahoney's work for years as V.I. Council on the Arts director.
"We all know her," he said, "the talent she has developed in the territory, the federal grants she has gotten. She is part of a group who has reached out to the mid-Atlantic and Philadelphia."
Also honored was choir conductor James. Davis hailed her years of devotion to music in the territory, since the 1980's.
"Through the decades, she has supported our Christmas tradition. She taught chorale music for year, is a former chorale director of the Caribbean Chorale, and many other choirs."
The celebration wound up about 10 a.m. under now sunny skies., as folks left the park, many arm in arm, all smiling.

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