Downtown Binghamton was aglow last Thursday when the city’s first Ivory Christmas celebration took place on Washington Street. From 5 p.m. to 7 p.m., Hawley, Washington and Court streets were decked out in Christmas lights and tinsel. Families huddled around painted pianos to hear renditions of Christmas songs, rosy cheeks were warmed by free hot cocoa and carolers were dressed as if they’d stepped out of a Charles Dickens novel.
Hundreds of people attended Ivory Christmas to indulge in the offerings of Christmas carol singalongs, hot chocolate and holiday decorations. The inspiration for a community holiday celebration grew out of a discussion between Joshua Bernard, creative director of BingPop, and Robert Murphy, director of economic development for the city of Binghamton, about the idea of street pianos.
“Downtown revitalization has been underway for a number of years — but in all that time, we haven’t created a new holiday event that gels with the vibrant new scene,” Bernard said. “We thought, ‘What a great way to celebrate the holidays. We could team up with artists and build this new event.’”
Four pianos were painted and decorated by local artists and displayed in front of Stephen’s Vintage Clothing, Cafe Oasis, Binghamton Hots and Parlor City Market. The pianos were accompanied by heat lamps to keep the performers and attendees warm. Performers sang a multitude of songs including, “It’s the Most Wonderful Time of the Year,” “All I Want for Christmas is You” and “Hark! The Herald Angels Sing.” Even “Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star” and a rendition of Frozen’s “Let It Go” made the cut.
Some performers sang opera-style, while others played instruments like flutes and saxophones. Kids and adults alike smiled and sang along with the carols.
Devin Jensen, a senior majoring in environmental studies, said the live performers made the night feel cozy.
“I really enjoyed the pianists that were playing on the sidewalks and how they were able to captivate the crowd with their performances,” he said.
Binghamton City Councilman Conrad Taylor, a senior majoring in political science, played the piano in front of Binghamton Hots.
“I’m friends with one of the organizers of Ivory Christmas, Joshua Bernard, and when he said he was looking for pianists, I volunteered,” Taylor said. “It’s also a nice thing to do in the community because of my position on City Council, to be out there. I thought the event went incredibly well. It was so nice to see hundreds of people out and about enjoying the music and the holiday spirit. The free hot chocolate didn’t hurt either.”
The event also promoted local businesses. Strange Brew served gourmet hot chocolate and Parlor City Market provided Glühwein, a German warmed wine. In a tandem event, Court Street was transformed into the Downtown Christmas Market, where street vendors sold goods like scarves, jewelry and cupcakes.
Binghamton resident and singer-songwriter Devinne Meyers was one of many community members who participated in the event. Meyers performed an acoustic guitar set of Christmas classics. She said that for her, the event sparked nostalgia.
“Holidays for me has always been about getting together and community, so this had a special place in my heart, among many other community projects that blossom from the creative minds we have in this town,” Meyers wrote in an email.