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Free Cheer Served Up By U of I Students

Dial A Carol website

In a world where you can pick up your mobile device and hear just about any song, any time, a group of University of Illinois students is carrying on a tradition that’s definitely old-school. 

In 1960, a secretary at the U of I had a big idea, and the students living in Snyder Hall took her up on it. Anyone, anywhere, anytime, could pick up a phone and students would deliver some holiday cheer. Dial-A-Carol was born.

Today, Dial-A-Carol is still going strong. In fact, it’s bigger than ever. They’ve already blown past last year’s record-breaking 6,800-plus calls.

These aren’t recordings, they aren’t barbershop quartets, and the singers are not necessarily members of the choir. They’re students taking a break from finals or getting ready to head home for the holidays … and they do their best to deliver an a capella version of whatever the caller wants to hear.

I requested an obscure one, at my co-worker's suggestion: "Christmas Wrapping" by the  Waitresses. Volunteer caroler Katie said it's not in their repertoire. She then offered up a rap parody about fruitcake and, this time, it was up to me to say no. We compromised with a short version of Paul McCartney's "Wonderful Christmastime." Katie is a sport.      

For the record, I called back two more times throughout the day: Jenny did a very nice version of "White Christmas," and Phoebe went even more traditional with her version of the 1800s hit "Angels We Have Heard On High."

What’s the most requested carol? "Jingle Bells." But Mariah Carey’s “All I Want for Christmas is You” is a close second. 

You only have until 11:59 Wednesday night to Dial A Carol this year. It’s free as always, but sometimes callers are so grateful, they’ll have some pizzas delivered to carolers at Snyder Hall. 

That number again? (217) 332- 1822.

Susan is an award-winning reporter/writer at her favorite radio station. She's also WNIJ's Perspectives editor, Under Rocks contributor, and local host of All Things Considered.