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Larry H. Miller Family's Sing-Along at ESA draws more than 9,000
First Published Dec 17 2012 09:26 pm • Last Updated Dec 17 2012 09:26 pm

There was only one distressing aspect of the "Christmas Carole Sing-Along" held at EnergySolutions Arena Monday night.

The title.

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Don’t they mean "carol," rather than "carole"? "Choral" could have worked, even. The dictionary says that a "carole" is a medieval European dance that declined during the 14th century.

But diction choices aside, the 28th iteration of the musical event presented by the Larry H. Miller Family and Robert C. Bowden was a perfectly joyful evening.

The night brought together more than 9,000 revelers who were allowed inside the basketball arena for free, all for the purpose of singing traditional Christmas carols accompanied by an orchestra.

Before the concert began, Jay Francis, executive vice president of Corporate Affairs & Miller Family Philanthropy, told The Tribune that the free night was the Miller family’s offering designed to bring the community together in a season when the hustle and bustle of the season can seem overwhelming. It was the late Larry H. Miller’s dream to fill the arena with happy, singing families, and before his death, every time he went to the Sing Along he hosted he had "the biggest smile on his face," Francis said.

The matriach of the family, Gail Miller, brought two of her grandchildren onstage to greet the crowd near the start of the concert, underscoring her brief but poignant remarks about remembering the victims of the Sandy Hook School massacre. But after the sobering moment, Miller turned to the crowd and said, "This is our gift to you ... Thank you for being with us."

So, otherwise, It was the most fun inside the arena since the last time the Lakers lost. (And this comes from someone who just participated in The Tribune’s grueling review of 41 holiday albums released this year.)

Tenors, baritones, sopranos and caterwaulers alike gathered to sing more than 15 songs, including "Joy to the World," "Jingle Bells," "Silent Night," and, mercifully, not Paul McCartney’s execrable "Wonderful Christmas Time." With lyric-books — as well as donuts and other freebies — handed out at the entrance, as well as the words lighting up the Jumbrotron and several large screens positioned around the arena, there were no excuses for non-singers who otherwise would claim that they weren’t singing because they didn’t know the words.

The night was also a good opportunity to learn the words to some of the latter verses of the carols. Most people know that we are supposed to jingle all the way, but virtually no one remembers this puzzling snippet from "Jingle Bells":

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Take the girls tonight

And sing this sleighing song

Just get a bobtail nag

Two-forty for his speed

With multi-generational families wearing reindeer hats, it was apparent that songs such as "Frosty the Snowman" and "Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer" were bellowed more lustily and loudly than poor "O Little Town of Bethlehem." But with the Jazz Bear rappelling from the rafters down onto the floor, Big Budah hosting the event, country singer Collin Raye singing "White Christmas," and a surprise appearance from a surprisngly jolly Santa Claus despite legions of children tugging on his robe as he made his way towards the stage, there was more than enough entertainment.

One of the most enjoyable parts of the evening was the pairing of former University of Utah football coach Ron McBride and former Brigham Young University football coach LaVell Edwards to deliver a fun take on "‘Twas the Night Before Christmas." With both coaches good-naturedly flubbing the names of Santa’s reindeers, the only thing that made the comedic routine even more amusing was when a Ute fan in the audience screamed "Go Utes" after the poem’s line referencing a long winter’s nap.

On Jan. 5, Carly Rae Jepsen of "Call Me Maybe" fame and Justin Bieber will headline the arena from around the same spot former Mormon Tabernacle Choir conductor Bowden led his robust orchestra Monday. While the longevity of Bieber’s career is yet to be determined, as long as the Miller Family owns the arena, there will be many more sing-alongs to come.

Christmas carols don’t die. They live on, even if an "e" is tacked onto them.

Copyright 2014 The Salt Lake Tribune. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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