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Machinery used to play carol in YouTube video

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TORONTO -- An Ontario-based photography firm that gained an Internet following two years ago with its video of a festive flash mob has found a new viral way to ring in the holiday season.

A new video created by Alphabet Photography of Niagara Falls, Ont., depicts employees taking a break from producing framed pictures and turning their talents to a more auditory art form instead.

Using machinery and office supplies scattered through the company's production warehouse, the workers take less than two minutes to stage a rousing rendition of the Christmas-time classic Carol of the Bells.

The clip has already garnered nearly 85,000 views in the week it's been posted on the popular video sharing site YouTube, but still has a long way to go to eclipse the success of Alphabet's last holiday campaign.

A 2010 video depicting a flash mob of singers serenading a local food court with a stirring version of the Hallelujah Chorus from Handel's Messiah became a YouTube sensation. The clip has attracted nearly 39 million views and landed the fledgling firm air time on several major U.S. television networks.

For Alphabet Photography president Jennifer Blakeley, the surprise attention gave her a chance to both promote her company and deliver some yuletide cheer.

"Christmas is my favourite time of the year," Blakeley said in a telephone interview. "Everyone's just happy, and people are uplifted and looking for interesting things to look at and pass around."

Blakeley said she's always on the lookout for ways to inject some vitality into the often stale medium of online campaigning, adding quirky videos seemed a good fit for a company specializing in artwork made entirely of letters of the alphabet.

True to form, she said, the ideas for her holiday campaigns often strike her in unexpected places.

The flash mob video concept was born, she said, after an evening of watching The Apprentice and a morning of singing in the shower.

Inspiration for the 2012 offering struck her as she perused shelves of toys for her young daughter and began imagining the variety of sounds the gadgets could make.

Once she decided to focus the video on the nearly 25 staff at Alphabet headquarters, the idea of using company equipment seemed only natural.

The final product opens with a staff member sounding a dial tone before using the keypad to play the four-note refrain that repeats throughout the carol. Colleagues and a smattering of volunteer professional musicians then join in with their ready-made office instruments. Drills, air guns, staplers, coffee cups and pens all come together for a fully harmonized, percussion-heavy take on the holiday classic.

Blakeley said the video was shot for little more than the cost of pizza and soft drinks to jolly the makeshift orchestra along.

The video highlights some of Blakeley's personal values, she said, adding it shines a spotlight on the ordinary people who keep independent businesses afloat.

"I think that it's important, especially at this time of year, when it's so easy to go to Walmart to purchase a gift, to actually see the people our customers are impacting," she said. "The people who create that for you are relying on that for their families and for their income."

Blakeley said the company took a hiatus from holiday-themed video campaigns in 2011 in order to draw attention to another cause. A video of people coming together to form a human alphabet helped raise money for the Canadian Olympic team, she said.

On the Web:


-- The Canadian Press

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition December 1, 2012 G8

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