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Release: Nov. 15, 2002

Re-Designed 'Cocoa & Carols' will keep audience favorites Dec. 7-8

Yes, Virginia, there will be an audience sing-along!

"Cocoa and Carols," the annual holiday spectacle presented by the University of Iowa Old Gold singers, has been extensively refurbished for this year's performances -- at 8 p.m. Sat., Dec. 7, and 2 p.m. Sunday, Dec. 8, in Hancher Auditorium -- but the most popular traditions, including the audience sing-along and hot cocoa served in the lobby after the performance, will remain.

An ensemble of the UI School of Music, the Old Gold Singers will be led by UI graduate assistant Tina Thielen-Gaffey. The group consists of 26 singers, plus a rhythm section of four. They will be joined for this year's production of "Cocoa and Carols" by Metro Mix -- formerly the Iowa City Sweet Adelines Chorus -- under the direction of Beverly Hamilton, and gospel singer Curtis Gulledge from Benton Harbor, Mich.

The renovation of "Cocoa Carols" is courtesy of the Division of Performing Arts Production Unit and production manager Rick Loula, and includes new sets and costumes designed by Margaret Wenk and lighting by Casey Martin of Hancher Auditorium.

"The Old Gold Singers will introduce the show in typical Old Gold style -- with costumes, choreography, and mood setting Christmas songs," Thielen-Gaffey said. "In one scene we'll have Dickens-era carolers, set amid a New England backdrop of snow covered hills and a glowing fireplace.

"Old Gold will also dig deep into the vocal jazz element in this concert with traditional favorites such as 'Santa Claus is Coming to Town,' 'Wonderful World' and a 'Gospel Hallelujah.' The Metro Mix Chorus will be a sure hit with their spin on holiday favorites, and with gospel singer Curtis Gulledge in the mix, this year's 'Cocoa and Carols' can't miss!"

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 "Fall Festival" and "Swing Into Spring" 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 the Bahamas.

The Metro Mix Chorus was founded as the Iowa City Sweet Adelines in 1964. Singing in one of America's original musical styles, four-part barbershop harmony, the chorus has consistently placed in the top five choruses at regional singing competitions and was named regional champions at a competition held in Omaha, Neb., last April.

Gulledge is a high school choral teacher in Benton Harbor, Mich. He has performed professionally in a variety of venues, including as a soloist with the Edwin Hawkins Gospel Singers. He received his bachelor's degree at Western Michigan University in Kalamazoo.

Tina Thielen-Gaffey is currently pursuing a doctoral degree in choral conducting at the UI School of Music. She is serving a two-year leave of absence from the faculty of the University of Minnesota-Duluth. She received a bachelor's degree in music education from the University of Wisconsin-Green Bay, and a master's degree in choral conducting from Western Michigan University.

While at Western Michigan, Thielen-Gaffey was conductor of the Treble Chorus as well as an ensemble member and soloist with Western Michigan's award-winning Gold Company and the University Chorale. Prior to her studies at Western Michigan, she taught in the public schools of Wisconsin for eight years.

"Cocoa and Carols" tickets are $11 general admission ($7 for UI students, seniors and youth), and are available from the Hancher Auditorium box office. Hancher Auditorium box office business hours are 10 a.m.-5:30 p.m. weekdays and 11 a.m.-3 p.m. Saturdays. From the local calling area, dial (319) 335-1160. Long distance is toll-free, 1-800-HANCHER. Fax to (319) 353-2284.

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.

Tickets may be ordered on-line 24 hours a day, seven days a week through Hancher's website:< >.

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. Information and brochures may be requested by e-mail: <>.

The School of Music is part of the Division of Performing Arts in the UI College of Liberal Arts and Sciences.

For information on UI arts events, visit on the World Wide Web. You may visit the UI School of Music web site at To receive UI arts news by e-mail, contact <>.