“I joined the group about 13 years ago and bought the company 9 years later. We have between 45 and 50 singers, depending on the season,” says Angelica Eclar Ryan, speaking with me on a windswept weekend morning. We’re talking about the Full Measure Carolers, along with singer Molly Whittaker. The group takes the Christmas season very seriously.
"Jingle Bell Rock"
...by Rockin' Cranberries/Full Measure Carolers
“We go out in groups of four or five,” Ryan explains, “either as Dickens carolers doing traditional material or as the Rockin’ Cranberries, which is a nod to 1950s doo-wop. Frostbite is a modern, Pentatonix-style group, and the Holly Bells combine bell ringing with either a traditional or doo-wop style.”
“We have everything organized by range,” says Whittaker. “We have a list of sopranos, altos, tenors, and basses. We’re all independent contractors, so we let Angelica know our availability, then she starts scheduling the hundreds of gigs over the month of December.”
What kind of gigs are these? “Of course we do the malls,” says Ryan. “We do everything from the Ritz-Carlton to SeaWorld and Legoland, country clubs, retirement homes, casinos, and private parties.”
The gigs can range from the big spectacle to the intimate, according to Whittaker. “We did a military-base party where Santa and his elves jumped out of a Black Hawk helicopter and parachuted down to the tarmac while we were caroling. On the other end of the spectrum, we sang in a room where a woman was dying. Her daughter hired us to come and sing for an hour every day and we would gather around her bed at the old-folks’ home for almost a month before she passed. That was hard to do but really rewarding because she loved the music....
1100 Third Avenue, Downtown San Diego
“The best part of this job is getting to interact with people with very little distance between the performers and the audience,” says Ryan, who, like Whittaker, has years of experience in more formal settings like churches and opera houses. “The worst part,” says Whittaker, “is on Christmas Eve when you’ve done 20 gigs. There’s a lot of running around and changing costumes out of the trunk of your car. You’re exhausted and you realize you haven’t done anything to celebrate the holidays for yourself.”
The Full Measure Carolers appear at the Las Americas Premium Outlets on December 17 at 2 p.m. and the California Ballet Nutcracker at San Diego Civic Theatre at 6 p.m.