Here's an insider's secret... typically, when you hear Michael Barone's voice at the beginning the Christmas Eve broadcast of a Festival of Nine Lessons and Carols from King's College Chapel in Cambridge, England, his voice is coming from our studios here in Minnesota.
But last year, for a first time, he actually WAS in Cambridge for the Service, and in the few hours before its 3 p.m. beginning, on a particularly chilly afternoon on the heels of a particularly slushy evening, talked with a number of people who had stood in line ... some for hours, others for a few days ... despite the inclement weather, to gain access to this very popular event.
These are their stories:
1. Reggie Thompson, local resident of Cambridge, England, who has been in the queue three years in a row, and arrived this year at 4PM...on December 23.
2. Charles Leonard, from Dallas, Texas, an organ builder working with Robert Sipe who enjoyed the broadcasts until, nearly two decades ago, his local station did not air the service and he decided he'd come to hear it live ... and has been coming ever since, for 17 years. And he's a regular Pipedreams listener, too.
3. Jacomijn van der Kooij, from Amsterdam, a first-time auditor ... enjoying the queue's sharing.
4. Julia, from Australia, possibly the prize for farthest distance, and a first-timer.
5. Mike Taylor, with wife Dawn, with daughters Faye and Eve, coming since 1977 when the older daughter was two, and they were almost kept from attending that year because the authorities were worried that the baby would cry ... they sat near an exit.
6. Jim Adams, from Saratoga Springs, New York, a first-timer, who has listened to the local broadcast on WMHT-Schenectedy, NY, and has been listening ever since he was a little boy.
7. Michelle Packer and Brian Frankey, USA residents who have lived in London the past two years.
8. Ben Edwards, an Anglican priest from Australia, living in Cambridge, a first-timer ... saw it on television in Australia, runs his own little lessons and carols services at the church back home
9. Kate Tolland, from Cambridge (for the past 10 years), though this is her first time to queue for the FONLAC service, is moving away next year.
10. Ryan Brunhaysen, from New Zealand, student at Corpus Christie College, Cambridge ... loves the queue.
11. Elizabeth Whitborn, from Huntington, near Cambridge, England, for which this is very much the start of the Christmas experience.
12. Katie Fairhathem, from Rhode Island, whose parents retired to Cambridge (where her father went to grad school).
13. Megan Simmila, who is an American (Alaska-Idaho) grad student in Cambridge, with her parents, who have brought over a stool from her housing.
14. Christine and Clark Jenkins, from Cambridge area, who were shopping and, because there seemed to be a last-minute opportunity to get in, decided to join the queue at @12:30 p.m.
15. The Porter (unidentified) at the King's College Gate, overseeing the incoming foot traffic of people who have come to attend the service.
16. Angeline Kanagasura, from Canterbury, whose youngest son is in his final year as a choral scholar (and whose oldest son, Jonathan, also in line with her, was a former choral scholar at Kings who toured with the choir to Saint Paul some years before for a concert at the Cathedral (which was broadcast live by MPR). He recalls being housed across the street at the Nicholson's mansion ... with an organ in it. But this is the last year for them to be able to stand in the shorter 'family queue'.
17. Jane Thompson and Jan Rabbers, from Minneapolis, MN, here in fulfillment of a dream ... Jane's way paid by her friends back home as a 60th birthday present.
18. Ian Thomassini, from Cambridge, who has been queueing for 33 years since 1977... and uses this time to focus on the meaning of Christmas.