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(Image: Kendall Rock)

Book a visit from the Carol Van, get holiday joy directly at your doorstep

In need of some holiday cheer this year (and aren’t we all)?

Book a private Carol Van visit from LADIES, a trio of talented women determined to spread holiday joy across Seattle.

Last winter, LADIES sang to a packed crowd at the Triple Door over the holidays. This year, they’re bringing the cheer straight to your door, in the form of curbside carols sung from their bedecked 2003 Eurovan, dubbed the Carol Van.

“The live streaming thing stressed me out and it really doesn’t do it for me,” said Erin Austin, the Contralto of the group.“LADIES is all about connection and joy, so our solution was to go around town in this van and sing Christmas carols.”

LADIES was born over a shared love of Christmas and a vision for a holiday album featuring a women’s three-part harmony. When the women sang together as a trial at a meet-and-greet dinner, shivers descended down the spines of everyone in the room.

“Our voices harmonized together so perfectly,” said Austin. “I’ve never before sung with two other women with such distinct voices that blend so well. It was so strange and magical.”

The group, which only performs together during the holidays, comprises Mezzo Soprano Lydia Ramsey who handles the high notes, Miranda Zickler (Kuinka) who takes the low notes, and Austin (OK Sweetheart) who fills in the melodies in between.

In the fall of 2018, the trio released their first single “Ladies, It’s Cold Outside,” a reinterpretation of the controversial holiday classic and the song was picked up by Apple Music within three days. They have been featured on Seattle NPR affiliate KNKX and most recently on KEXP.

In December 2020, they released their recording of “Blue Christmas,” timely given the lingering pandemic keeping loved ones apart over the holidays.

The women choose the name LADIES as a way to redefine the definition of the word and what it means to “act like a lady.”

“We have a very antiquated association with the word,” said Austin. “We want [the word] ladies to not just be this 1950s proper wife, but rather to celebrate our differences, which extends to men who are allies and advocate for us.”

What exactly can one expect from a visit from the Carol Van?

“We roll up to someone’s house in the van with the Charlie Brown Christmas song playing from the little bluetooth speaker we’ve attached to the roof,” said Austin, with a chuckle.

When their guests emerge from their home to check on the commotion, everyone pops out of the van and their team gets to work setting the scene, complete with a red carpet, “brown paper package tied up in strings,” and with a Charlie Brown Christmas tree, of course.

Meanwhile, LADIES chats with their guests and bestow them with any merchandise they may have purchased (wrapped in brown paper packages and tied up in strings).

“The amount of love and gratitude that we feel, and that we know others feel when we shop up with our deck out van, hopping out with our ukulele, gives us joy,” said Austin. “We need music. We need connection. We need community. And we get to give people that joy in return to help them over this hill.”

Fans can purchase $10 raffle tickets for a chance to win a performance slot on a specific evening. Alternatively, one can pay $300 for a spot on the calendar. The $300 tickets are limited each evening to allow for opportunities for the raffle buyers to nab a performance.

Raffle ticket buyers will know whether they won by midnight the previous night. With a goal of fitting in as many performances as possible, they will select more raffle winners based on how far they are to travel in a given evening.

A portion of the sales is going to KeepMusicLiveWA, a non-profit organization working to save independent music venues who have struggled during the pandemic.

LADIES generally travels throughout the Seattle-metro area, including Bellevue, Bainbridge Island, and Vashon. For those outside of the region, you can gather your neighbors to book a special visit from the Carol Van.