Join us on Sunday, December 4, 2022, at 2 pm CST for the annual Cave Sing celebration. The free holiday event will feature live musical performances by the Lindsey Wilson College Singers Mammoth Cave Guide Hillary Sward, and the Band Table Singers.
Cave Sing participants will meet behind the park visitor center and depart for the Historic Entrance at 2 p.m. CST. Participants must walk approximately 0.75 miles (1.2 km), round trip, to reach the performance area. The access trail includes a steep outdoor hillside to and from the cave’s natural entrance with a total of 130 stairs.
Participants will then travel along broad walkways inside the cave through some of the largest passageways. The trail is mostly level, but some hilly and uneven areas exist. The performance area is in a natural environment, with low lighting and a temperature of around 54ºF (12ºC). Even though the cave air stays near a constant 54ºF, wind chills near the entrance may be much cooler. There are no seating options, and the performance time is estimated at around 45 minutes to 1 hour.
The 2022 performance will feature the Lindsey Wilson College Singers from Columbia, KY who are returning for their 5th appearance at Cave Sing. The singers, led by Dr. Gerald L. Chafin, are a performing arts ensemble who have toured extensively in over forty states and seven countries. The mixed choir performs repertoire from all eras, specializing in sacred a capella anthem literature.
The Cave Sing audience will also be treated to the trumpet music of Mammoth Cave’s very own cave guide, Hillary Sward. Sward holds degrees in Music Education and Performance and has taught kindergarten through twelfth grade before she joined the park’s guide force in 2022. She has played for both national and international audiences including performances at the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade, the Inauguration Parade for President Obama, and tours through Europe and China.
Light refreshments provided by The Lodge at Mammoth Cave will be served at the visitor center immediately after the performance where there will also be a visit from Santa Claus.
Prior to the Cave Sing event, the Band Table Singers from Glasgow, KY will be on hand to entertain guests as they gather at the park’s visitor center at 1:30 p.m. The local group began by singing catchy songs at their high school breakfast table for friends, but then slowly began to shift towards the gospel music genre. They have been performing publicly for over ten years.
History of Cave Sing at Mammoth Cave
"...the halls of the cave rang with joyous carols and the laughter of happy children."
During the winter of 1883, a group of local residents to the Mammoth Cave area planned a Christmas celebration in the cave. The party consisted of carols, laughter, and even the hanging of the green. A ten foot pine tree was brought into the cave and stood in the Methodist Church area of the cave. Ribbons and popcorn were used for decorating the tree, while lanterns and candles were used to illuminate the surroundings.
After Christmas was over, the tree did not leave. Maybe it was left as a reminder of a happier day or simply a wonderful memory. The tree dried out, but the needles stayed in place. The tree was popular among visitors, they could leave a piece of themselves down in the cave for all the world to know they had been there. Some did this by leaving business cards behind, others simply left their name on a piece of scrap paper and nestled it on the tree's brown, crumbly needles.
As the decades passed, the old tree was moved out of sight from the cave trails where it remained until a misguided flame landed in the dry brush. The tree lit up one last time before it came to its final moment. This later became known as the only forest fire in Mammoth Cave.
The Modern Cave Sing
In 1980, the first of the modern Cave Sing events was held to celebrate the holiday season and relive the old traditions. Several musical groups preform in large rooms in the cave and visitors join in by singing carols to fill the cave passages with music. Today, the Cave Sing is a cherished tradition by area locals and park visitors alike.
Hear a sample of music preformed in the cave during the Cave Sing of 2008 below.
Music in the cave
“My Old Kentucky Home” performed in the halls of Mammoth Cave by former Cave Guide Dr. Janet Bass Smith on piano, accompanied by Klaus Kaemper (descendant of Max Kaemper) playing cello. This recording was made inside Mammoth Cave during the annual Cave Sing in 2008.