Monday, December 16, 2013

Caroling in the Caverns 
Blanchard Springs, AR 
December 14, 2013

     This is the Visitors Center at Blanchard Springs in Northeast Arkansas. On a recent trip to Mountain View, Arkansas, we took in Caroling in the Caverns, which takes place 216 feet below the Visitors Center. It's a must-do at the Christmas season. A brief elevator ride takes a visitor down to an entirely different world, where special lighting among the formations casts a magic spell and wonderful singers complete the magic with Christmas songs and carols. It's fairyland down there! It took a mere 70 million years, give or take a few millennia, to produce such natural beauty. Mother Nature really showed out in Blanchard Caverns.

Stalactites/Stalagmites and audience being seated for Caroling in the Caverns

     We were issued cushions to sit on in the bleachers down in the caverns. It's rather damp in a cave. Before we headed down to the caverns and the music, we heard the park ranger's speech about white-nose syndrome among bat populations throughout the country. If we had been inside a cave since the year 2000, we needed to decontaminate our shoes. The State of Arkansas is making every effort to keep the syndrome, which is fatal to bats, out of the caverns. So far, so good. The caverns are dark except for the lighting around the formations. Suddenly, there is the music of the season! One is surrounded by incredible beauty, and a group of fine singers and musicians provides the perfect mood for fans who have gathered on the bleachers.

     Carolers dressed in seasonal splendor strolled in from somewhere behind the bleachers and the scene was set. Behind and beside the carolers were the lighted formations. The following musicians entertained us with delightful Christmas music: Robert Gillihan (mandolin, vocals), Mary Gillihan (vocals), Marion Spear (vocals), group leader Pam Setser (guitar, dulcimer, spoons, vocals) Pati Long (vocals), Ron Haynes (guitar, vocals), and Abby Spinks (vocals). Not only was their music wonderful, they also did a masterful job in moving around in darkness and on a damp cavern floor. The singers moved left, then right, then center somewhere under our bleachers delighting us with their music in the acoustically-perfect cavern room.

L to R: Ron Haynes, Pati Long, Pam Setser, Marion Spear, Mary Gillihan, Robert Gillihan, Abby Spinks

     The carolers selected the following songs: Angels We Have Heard on High; Beautiful Star of Bethlehem; Little Drummer Boy; It Came Upon a Midnight Clear; Just an Ordinary Day; Do You Hear What I Hear; O Holy Night; Silent Night; Away in a Manger; Hark! The Herald Angels Sing; Mary, Did You Know; There He Is (solo by Abby Spinks); Joy to the World, God Rest Ye Merry, Gentlemen; Neighbors (a Charlie Sandage song); 12 Days of Christmas (Ozark style); Let It Snow; Jingle Bells; I Want a Hippopotamus for Christmas; Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas; In the Bleak Midwinter; Go Tell It on the Mountain; and Silent Night.

     This writer recommends a weekend in the Ozarks any time you can get away, especially for Caroling in the Caverns. In addition, the Mountain View Area Chamber of Commerce hosts Cupid in the Caverns (Feb. 14-15, 2014) and Celtic in the Caverns (March 15-16, 2014). Shows are generally at 2:30 and 4:30 pm (Central). There are good hotels, motels, and B-and-B's in Mountain View, AR. Splendid restaurants will suit just about every taste.

For more information:
Mountain View Area Chamber of Commerce: Phone (Tickets/Info): 870.269.8068
Toll Free: 888.679.2859

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