Wednesday night, the Youngstown State University Dana School of Music hopes to get students in the Christmas spirit with its annual “Carols and Cocoa” holiday concert in Stambaugh Auditorium.
For the past 30 years, “Carols and Cocoa” has invited the campus and community to participate in holiday sing-a-longs, eat cookies and get ready to celebrate the upcoming holidays.
Mike Crist, Dana School of Music director, said that the concert has become a holiday tradition on the YSU campus and also in the community.
“It started in the lobby of Bliss Hall, and we’d bring in about 1,500 people,” Crist said. “We draw a huge crowd every year. People come up to me after the program is over and tell me that they already are looking forward to next year.”
Crist also said he considers the concert very kaleidoscopic in terms of the different types of music, performers and the atmosphere the program has.
“Carols and Cocoa” begins at 7 p.m. in the downstairs ballroom of Stambaugh Auditorium. Small student vocal and music ensembles will perform classic holiday tunes and invite the community to sing along with the songs. To add a more casual setting, Dana School of Music students bake various types of cookies that are later served to the public with hot chocolate and coffee provided by Sheetz.
Students who are involved with one of the many performance groups in the Dana School of Music have the chance to perform in the program with their ensemble or group.
DJ Collella, senior music performance major, has performed in the past two “Carols and Cocoa” and said that he enjoys the atmosphere during the small ensemble portion of the program the most.
“This is truly a community-based concert. Not only do you sit there and listen to prepared music by various ensembles, but you get to participate in the music at some points,” Colella said. “After all, what good are Christmas carols if not everyone gets to sing along?”
Colella also said ensembles such as Jazz Ensembles I and II and the Dana Chorale are just two of many different types of ensembles that will be performing this year.
After “Carols and Cocoa,” the program will then move upstairs to the Concert Hall of Stambaugh and conclude with the “Dana Holiday Concert.” The Dana Symphony Orchestra, Dana Chamber Orchestra and Dana Chorale will be featured, along with guest artists Mishook Yun, the Wilmington Area High School Choral Ensembles and the Stambaugh Chorus. This portion of the night features classical pieces as well as some holiday favorites.
Luke Politsky, a graduate student at the Williamson College of Business Administration, said “Carols and Cocoa” is a great way to bring the community together.
“In keeping with the sentiments of the holiday season, the concert brings a sense of togetherness to combine to lure in the members of the community,” Politsky said. “It is an event that not only offers great music, but also interaction with many members of the Youngstown and YSU communities.”
Laura Eskola, an exchange student from Finland, plays violin in the Dana Symphony Orchestra and said she has enjoyed practicing for the performance.
“I’ve played music like this before; I’ve played [and] sang in different kinds of Christmas concerts every Christmas since I was a kid, and I think it’s kind of always part of every musician’s every-year Christmas schedule,” Eskola said. “We would definitely have a concert similar to this in Finland because our culture is very Western, so it’s not overly different from American culture.”
Eskola also said that ever since the orchestra began to prepare for the performance, she has gotten into the holiday spirit more and more each day. She said this year, the choruses will join the orchestra in their performance of John Rutter’s “Magnificat.”
“Even though we haven’t practiced together yet, I’m really excited to see how it all comes together,” she said. “It’s always exciting to collaborate with another group.”
Students and faculty of the Dana School of Music hope that with the concert, they can get the community and the campus prepared for the holidays.
Eskola said even though Christmas may be a little different in her country, the concert brings everyone together and prepares him or her for the holiday season.
“In my point of view, the whole idea of the holidays, like Christmas, is being together with your family, your neighbors and your friends,” Eskola said. “We are so busy the rest of the year we might not have as much time for that. The holidays give us an opportunity to stop and value the things that are also important.”