LENOX -- The streets will be alive with the sound of music when the second annual Lenox Caroling Festival fills the downtown historic district with at least 200 choristers spreading glad tidings of joy.
The Dec. 7-9 weekend event has attracted groups from MCLA to Lexington, near Boston, and from as far away as Delaware.
Organizer Richard Wise, a long-established local gemologist, said he has raised $18,000 to support the event, in addition to a $3,500 cash infusion from the town, one of the largest grants the Select Board has approved for a cultural event. Wise has also signed up 40 sponsors in a bid to make the festival a signature holiday event for the town.
The event is designed not only to create a festive atmosphere in town but also to build up late-autumn tourism. Several inns are offering promotional discount packages for the weekend.
"We’re trying to have a payoff for everyone involved," Wise told the Selectmen at a recent meeting, listing nonprofits, restaurants, inns, retailers and local residents.
The singers will perform on the front porches of local businesses, offering familiar carols as well as music of the Renaissance and medieval eras and contemporary arran gements of popular holiday-season tunes.
Each group will offer two 20-minute concerts for listeners who will be invited to cast ballots for their favorites, co-organizer Richard Houdek explained.
Their assessments will be given equal consideration with opinions from the official judging panel comprised of professional musicians and critics, he said.
The $2,000 first prize will be awarded to the winning choral group whose name will be inscribed on a "perpetual trophy" created by Berkshire sculptor Andrew DeVries, whose seasonal gallery is in downtown Lenox.
The bronze piece is mounted on a base of antique African wood and is titled "The Singer."
Second and third prizes of $1,000 and $500 will be awarded to the runner-up choral groups.
The annual lighting of the town’s Christmas tree, accompanied by carol singing, will be held in Lilac Park on Friday evening, Dec. 7, at dusk, launching the weekend’s activities with the arrival of Santa Claus by fire engine.
A party for youngsters follows at the Community Center.
An open public reception for the Caroling Festival will be held at 6 p.m. the same evening at Ventfort Hall, featuring a performance by the Allegrettos from MCLA, last year’s runner-up group.
The Allegrettos will be competing again this year, as will last year’s winner, the Mount Everett High School Madrigals.
Other Berkshire entrants include the Berkshire Hills Chorus of Sweet Adelines, based in Pittsfield, and the Lenox Memorial Middle and High School A Cappella Chorus.
The festival competition on Saturday, Dec. 8, will extend from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. and from 2 to 4 p.m. at four downtown locations, followed by a 4:30 reception at Shakespeare & Company’s Elayne P. Bernstein Theatre, a 5 p.m. awards ceremony and a concert featuring all participating choirs.
Related events include dancing at Ventfort Hall and the Shakespeare & Company production of the David Sedaris comedy, "The Santaland Diaries," both Saturday night at 7:30, and the 8th annual Gingerbread House Com petition on Sunday, Dec. 9, from 11 to 3 at the Lenox Library, concluding with a Children’s Tea with carol singing at Ventfort Hall beginning at 3:15 p.m. For information visit www.lenoxcarolingfestival.org