Dial-A-Carol: Real Humans. Really Singing. For Free. Ends Midnight Dec. 20!

I just found out about this great 57-year old tradition at University of Illinois – just call (217)332-1882 and you can request any Christmas song you want, and student volunteers will sing it to you over the phone.

Of course, as soon as I heard about it, I had to call. I requested a song I don’t hear too often on the local radio station that plays Christmas songs all day, so here was my chance. The song? Christmas in Killarney – a great Bing Crosby tune (see a wonderful version of this song by Anne Murray at the end of this post).

I was on hold less than a minute, and then a young woman came on, we chatted for a few seconds, and then she asked me for my song request. When I told her, it was apparent she had never heard of it, and she said she would have to look up the words.

Once she found the words, she said she was ready to go, but she wasn’t quite sure how the tune went. She then began singing, and did an admirable job.

You could tell just from the brief time on the phone that she enjoyed what she was doing, and was happy to be spreading holiday cheer.

I then called back and asked for another one of my holiday favorites, “Oh Holy Night”. This time, perhaps because it is a more well-known tune, the woman who answered said, “Let me get some back-up singers”, which she did. I was then treated to a beautiful rendition of Oh Holy Night.

It was like having Christmas carolers right outside my door, singing a song just for me.

I’d highly recommend you give it a try. It’s sure to put a smile on your face, and put you in the Christmas spirit.

But be aware, it ends Wednesday, December 20, at midnight.

Here is some additional info about the program from its web site:

What the heck IS Dial-A-Carol?

Dial-a-Carol is the longest running tradition in University Housing (57 years – but who’s counting?) The idea is quite simple. For one week only, anyone from anywhere can call us round the clock and request any holiday tune, and we’ll do our best to sing it over the phone. The best part? It’s completely FREE!

Who’s answering the phone?

The phones are manned by student volunteers who are generously sacrificing their study time during finals week to share some holiday cheer. But they do get a cool t-shirt, and there might be pizza involved.

They really sing?

Yes … really!!! No matter what you request, the students do their best to sing it. They have a book of traditional holiday music, but will also take to the intraweb to find the words and tune to even the most obscure song. Check out the video at the end of the post from a few years ago to get an inside look.

Can anyone call?

Everyone and anyone is encouraged to call – whether they are from campus, Champaign-Urbana, or clear across the world. Last year the program logged more than 10,000 calls. All 50 states were covered within the first 24 hours of the event, and calls were received from 75 countries. We get calls from children and adults of all ages including community members, university students, faculty members, and alumni.

What time can we call?

Phone lines open at 12:01 a.m. on December 14 and stay manned 24/7 through 11:59 p.m. on December 20. There are 10 lines available, so please be patient if you can’t get through right away or you are put on hold.

What’s the Mariah Meter?

Every time we get a request for “All I Want for Christmas Is You” by the great Mariah Carey, we track it. Last year, we sang that dang song more than 300 times!

How can I ever thank the students for this wonderful moment of holiday cheer?

We want to let lots of people know about Dial-a-Carol. Like they say, the more, the merrier! If you have a great experience, please share it with your friends, family, and co-workers. Help us go viral!

That number again? (217)332-1882

I know I’ll be calling again to hear Rudolph and Mariah…

And if you want to se a great version of Christmas in Killarney:

2 thoughts on “Dial-A-Carol: Real Humans. Really Singing. For Free. Ends Midnight Dec. 20!

  1. Thanks so much for sharing this information on your blog! I work in the Housing office at the University of Illinois and have helped with the marketing of this great event. I grew up in Norristown, but have been a transplant here for 10 years. It was neat to see a Villanova professor enjoy our event!


    1. The caroling is such a great idea, I’m surprised it hasn’t spread to other colleges. Thank you for helping to get the word out about this tradition; I look forward to using it again next year. Hopefully you are still a Philly sports fan!


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