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Release: Immediate

Holiday favorites, children's choirs and sleigh share the stage Dec. 6-7

IOWA CITY, Iowa -- Familiar holiday songs, children's choirs and Santa riding in a horse-drawn sleigh will all be part of the performance when the University of Iowa Old Gold Singers present their annual holiday spectacle, "Cocoa and Carols," at 8 p.m. Saturday, Dec. 6, and at 2 and 6:30 p.m. Sunday, Dec. 7, in Hancher Auditorium on the UI campus.

An ensemble of the UI School of Music, the Old Gold Singers will be led by Bret Peppo, a graduate assistant in the choral conducting area. The group consists of 34 singers, plus a nine-member instrumental combo.

"Cocoa and Carols" is traditionally one of the most popular holiday events for area audiences. The program features holiday favorites, including well-known Christmas carols, and a perennial favorite, a "Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer" sing-along.

A different choir of children will sing at each of the three performances: the Iowa City Girls Choir directed by Vicky Arnold at the Saturday performance; the Willowwind Children's Choir directed by Nancy Macfarlane at the Sunday 2 p.m. performance; and the Cedar Rapids Children's Chorus directed by Jennifer Lumpa at the Sunday 6 p.m. performance.

Also appearing on the program will be the Iowa City Chamber Singers directed by Ken Phillips on Saturday, and the Iowa City Old Capitol Chorus directed by former Old Gold Singers director James Berry at the Sunday evening performance. As is traditional for "Cocoa and Carols," Santa Claus will be a guest star and hot cocoa will be served to guests in the lobby after performances.

A special feature of this year's performances, the sleigh will appear in the "Winter Wonderland" Medley sequence, and return with Santa for the grand finale of the show. The sleigh, a renovated antique, belongs to Deep River farmer Chuck Kiner. An experienced animal trainer, Kiner has previously provided extras for UI Opera Theater performances, including a mule team for the 1992 production of "Cavalleria Rusticana."

Other music on the program will include an opening sequence of "One Magic Christmas," "The Most Wonderful Day of the Year" and "Deck the Halls"; a celebrity Christmas sequence with "Frosty the Snowman," "Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer," the popular Elvis classic "Blue Christmas" and Jingle Bells"; and a home-style sequence with "Home for the Holidays," "There's No Christmas like a Home Christmas" and "I'll be Home for Christmas."

The Old Gold Singers will also perform two settings of the Latin "Gloria" text, a part of the liturgy for the Advent and Christmas seasons.

The Old Gold singers are a select musical group whose members are chosen by audition. In addition to "Cocoa and Carols," their campus performances include the annual "Swing Into Spring" and "Fall Festival" concerts. The group also travels throughout Iowa, performing for schools and community groups. Past tours outside the state have taken them to New York, Washington, D.C. and New Orleans.

Tickets for the event will be $9.50 general admission, $6.50 for UI students, seniors and youths. Hancher box office hours are 10 a.m.-5:30 p.m. weekdays, 11 a.m.-3 p.m. Saturday and 1-3 p.m. Sunday. From the local calling area or outside Iowa, dial (319) 335-1160. Long distance within Iowa and western Illinois is toll-free, 1-800-HANCHER. Fax to (319) 353-2284. Orders may be charged to VISA, MasterCard or American Express. UI students may charge their purchases to their university bills, and UI faculty and staff may select the option of payroll deduction.

People with special needs for access, seating and auxiliary services should dial (319) 335-1158. This number will be answered by box office personnel prepared to offer assistance with handicapped parking, wheelchair access and seating, hearing augmentation and other services. The line is equipped with TDD for people with hearing impairment who use that technology.