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Annual Cocoa and Carols brings symphonies, snow flurries, Santa Claus

The Oklahoma Christian University music department once again brought Christmas spirit to campus for the 40th annual Cocoa and Carols.

Kathy Thompson, chair of the department of music is the director of the orchestra ensemble for Cocoa and Carols. Thompson said the event is a long-standing tradition at Oklahoma Christian. Ken Adams, former choral director for Oklahoma Christian, started the event 40 years ago and since then Cocoa and Carols has been a feature of the holiday season on-campus, according to Thompson.

John Fletcher, professor of music, is the director of the symphonic band. Fletcher said the best description he’s heard of Cocoa and Carols comes from Adams, who referred to the concert as, “Our department’s Christmas card to the community.” Fletcher said he thinks it’s an effective way of describing the function and goal of the event.

“We would like to enrich the holiday atmosphere on campus for our students, faculty, staff and friends from the community to present an evening of holiday music they’ll enjoy,” Fletcher said.

Cocoa and Carols began last evening with Christmas carols performed by the university choirs and the Chamber Orchestra. Thompson said her favorite piece to direct for this year’s orchestra was an instrumental arrangement of ‘Hallelujah Chorus.’

“There are so many different groups performing so many different kinds of music,” Fletcher said. “It’s almost guaranteed there will be something for everybody to enjoy or to discover a new song they want to hear again. Hopefully it will be a time of enjoying things they are already familiar with or that they like, and discovering some treasures they didn’t know they would like.”

Fletcher said he’s enjoyed seeing the excitement the students have for working on Christmas music each year.

“They always seem to get excited when it’s this time of year, when it is time to start rehearsing the Christmas tunes they are going to play,” Fletcher said. “The only time everything happens all together is when the concert happens. When all the groups together perform ‘White Christmas,’ it is a special moment.”

Sophomore Peter Miller, a member of Oklahoma Christian’s jazz band, said he finds the preparation for Cocoa and Carols to be an enjoyable tradition. Miller said he has been excited to be a part of the event since first to exposed to it through his older sister, before becoming a part of the night himself.

“The morale for band practices certainly changes for Cocoa and Carols,” Miller said. “We have the big fall concert with all of our really difficult pieces. It’s stressful because we’re all working really hard for that concert and at Cocoa and Carols we just get to play Christmas music. We have jokes, get to play kazoos and someone is playing the cowbell. We get to have more fun with this event.”

At intermission, the music department served complimentary hot cocoa and cider in the Conservatory. Following intermission, the program continued with Christmas songs performed by the Oklahoma Christian University Singers, Jazz Ensemble and Symphonic Band.

“It’s kind of unfortunate Cocoa and Carols happens right at the end of semester when everyone is so busy,” Thompson said. “This year having two weeks between Thanksgiving and Christmas Break helps a little bit because you still have dead week the next week to catch up.”

According to Thompson, one of the traditions of Cocoa and Carols is Irving Berlin’s ‘White Christmas,’ in which all the choirs and ensembles join together to conclude the evening. Snow flurries and Santa Clause appeared on stage to close the show.

“It’s always an encouragement to the music department for faculty and staff who are a part of the university to join with us in this tradition,” Thompson said. “I love Christmas music so it’s always a special treat to me to hear it each year and get into the Christmas spirit.”

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