December 1, 2011

Gettin figgy: UW students go caroling for a cause

Good singing counts at the Pike Place Markets annual Great Figgy Pudding Caroling Competiton, but it isnt everything. Showing Christmas spirit — and a little silliness — can help a lot, too.

Outlandish costumes are part of the fun at the Great Figgy Pudding Caroling Competition.

Outlandish costumes are part of the fun at the Great Figgy Pudding Caroling Competition.

Each year the carolers croon on street corners in and around Westlake Center while judges — usually representatives of area arts organizations — mingle and listen in.

This year, the competitions 25th, there will be three teams from the UW among carolers trying to out-fa-la-la each other the evening of Friday, Dec. 2.

So if you go and want to root on fellow Huskies, look (and listen) for the groups Snow Dawgs, Unleashed A Capella and the UW Chorale Carolers, who hail from the School of Music.

The caroling competition is held each December as a fundraiser for the Pike Market Senior Center and Downtown Food Bank. About 40 teams compete most years, drawing crowds of up to 10,000, said Jeannie Falls, acting director of the center and food bank. She said the event raised about $70,000 last year, providing about 500,000 pounds of groceries and about 40,000 hot meals.

Its all family-friendly entertainment, Falls said, and many groups come in costumes — like the Beehives, who wear giant beehive hairdos covered with Christmas lights and rewrite songs with funny lyrics.

Groups register in advance and the pre-event show begins at 5 p.m. Caroling is from 6 to 7:15 p.m. The teams the judges pick — two from each category — will have a sing-off on the Figgy Main Stage. Winners will be announced and the evening will wind up at about 8:30 p.m. with a sing-along parade.

Teams that have raised $750 or more get the chance to be judged and possibly win. The judges give awards for the best choral performance and the most creative performance, but theres also the Peoples Choice Awards, where spectators can vote on their favorite team. And then there are three Figlanthropy Awards, given to the teams that raised the most money. Finally, theres the Getting Figgy With It Award, which goes to the team that raises the most money in its box during the event itself.

Student Emily Taylor, organizer of the new, 10-member UW team the Snow Dawgs, said shes from the Seattle area and has been to the event in the past, but has never participated. “So this year a bunch of us got our friends together to form a team. A few of us have a musical background so we’ve been in musical groups, but I don’t believe any of us have been in any sort of choral group.”

The Snow Dawgs are rehearsing a set of the usual holiday standards — of winter wonderlands, drummer boys, jingle bells, silent nights, silver bells and more —  but theyre also adding a more locally focused tune theyll call “The Twelve Days of UW.”

Meanwhile, students Jenny Glusman and Sullivan Valaer of the UW Chorale Carolers say their group, too, is rehearsing for its Figgy Pudding Competition debut.

“Typically, were not the competitive type, but the energy, dedication, and talent that is required of UW Chorale members makes for an extremely spirited group!” Glusman wrote in an email. “Our coursework mostly focuses on classical music, but the occasional holiday outing is always a treat for us.”

Valaer said, “Its just great to get out and sing in the community. We have lots of time onstage but sometimes tickets to get in are too expensive for students. I am excited to be part of something free. Its so great to see smiles on peoples faces when they hear a different take on a time-honored classic.”

Unleashed, on the other hand, is a student organization founded in 1999 as a non-audition choir for anyone who loves a capella music, said member Matt Heid. They are Figgy competition veterans, having sung in previous years, “which is something weve always enjoyed doing.” (By the way, theyll be performing their own concert at 2 p.m. Saturday, Dec. 3, at the Ethnic Cultural Theater on campus.

To learn more about the Great Figgy Pudding Caroling Competition, visit its website or Facebook page.