As Christmas approaches, the Department of Music at Oklahoma Christian University hosts Cocoa and Carols each year to get everyone into the holiday spirit.
The event, which features the university choir, symphonic band, orchestra and jazz ensemble, starts at 7 p.m. tonight in Hardeman Auditorium. During intermission, hot cocoa and cider will be provided, accompanied by a performance from the steel drum ensemble.
Cocoa and Carols is part of Oklahoma Christian’s Winter Wonderland week on campus. It is a longstanding tradition of the school and is now in its fourth decade. With all the ensembles, choir director Kyle Pullen estimates more than 200 students are actively involved in the event.
Pullen works with Heath Jones, the jazz ensemble director, and Eric Colgrove, the band and orchestra director, to prepare students for Cocoa and Carols, which takes place soon after major department events like the fall concert and Homecoming musical.
“Immediately following those, it’s nice to get into some of the songs that we love, that we sing every year,” Pullen said. “It’s nice to get a little more lighthearted music, relax a little bit and have fun with it. That’s what I love about it.”
Colgrove said he enjoys watching the students come together to participate.
“The ensembles have to work hard in a short period of time to prepare for this event,” Colgrove said. “But because of the Christmas theme and quality of the music, the students seem to enjoy that little extra push to get this music right.”
The main feature of Cocoa and Carols is its finale. All of the ensembles come together to perform “White Christmas” and invite the audience to participate.
For Hannah Tabor, a junior and viola player, “White Christmas” is her favorite part of the event and gives her the opportunity to share her music.
“Cocoa and Carols really brings the music department together and shares their musical interests with the student body,” Tabor said.
With the number of students performing, families and friends create a large audience for the event, according to Pullen. The combination of a Christmas-themed event and an involved audience makes for a unique night of community.
“As a musician, the holiday season can become monotonous with all of the performances of the same holiday classics,” Colgrove said. “But the atmosphere of this concert is so warm and inviting, that it helps me remember the joy of performing beautiful, iconic music for a welcoming audience.”
According to Colgrove, Cocoa and Carols is rewarding for students, too.
“It is a great thing for them to see the joy and happiness they are providing for the audience,” Colgrove said. “It is always enjoyable to perform for a welcoming and happy audience who can hopefully find cheer in our performance.”