As the Libertyville-Vernon Hills Area High School District 128 administrative staff readied for winter vacation Friday morning, they took a break to participate in a tradition that goes back decades.
They gathered in a conference room at their Vernon Hills office to enjoy Christmas carols sung by Vernon Hills High's chamber choir.
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The 24 teenagers, wearing matching blue-and-silver scarves and hats to reflect the school's colors, performed a cappella songs both classic and modern.
The audience loved every note.
"It really starts our holiday," administrative assistant Fran Wohlrab said.
The annual caroling visit dates back at least to the early 1980s. Current staffers aren't sure of its exact origins.
When the district office was in Libertyville, choir members from Libertyville High treated the workers to Christmas songs. After the office moved south to Vernon Hills in 2006, that school's choir took over the job.
For the office staff, the performances are magical.
"I get a lump in my throat and a tear in my eye when I hear them sing," said Denise Neal, executive assistant to Superintendent Prentiss Lea.
Choral director Jeremy Little introduced each number Friday, telling the small audience a bit about the songs' geographical origins or composers.
He called the district office "a very nice place to come home to" after a busy season of singing.
Choir member Bobby Knier was surprised to learn the caroling tradition goes back so many years. A two-year veteran of the group, he said performing this time of year "feels really good inside."
"It's really special," Knier said.
Choir member Annie Rumzis enjoyed singing for the staff, too. Music is powerful, she said, and it can bring people together.
"It's really an amazing feeling to come together as a community and share the joy of Christmas through song," Rumzis said.