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University of Iowa News Release

Nov. 17, 2003

Annual 'Cocoa And Carols' Extravaganza Will Have Two Performances Dec. 6

"Cocoa and Carols," the annual holiday extravaganza of the University of Iowa Old Gold singers, will be presented at 2 and 8 p.m. Sat., Dec. 6 in Hancher Auditorium. Featuring a popular audience sing-along, an appearance by Santa Claus and hot cocoa served in the lobby after the performance, "Cocoa and Carols" has been a revered UI tradition for more than 40 years.

The costumes and sets for "Cocoa and Carols" were renovated for last year's show. The renovation -- courtesy of the Division of Performing Arts Production Unit and production manager Rick Loula -- features sets and costumes designed by Margaret Wenk and lighting by Casey Martin of Hancher Auditorium.

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 32 singers, plus a rhythm section of three. They will be joined for this year's production of "Cocoa and Carols" by the Quintessential Brass, a quintet of local music teachers and professional musicians, and gospel singer Curtis Gulledge from Benton Harbor, Mich.

The Quintessential Brass -- Nate Ersig and Beth Villhauer, trumpets; Rebekah Rusch, horn; Tom Nelson, trombone; and Troy Marble, tuba -- will perform "Pachelbel's Christmas" and a group of traditional Christmas songs including "I Saw Three Ships," "Jingle Bells," "O Come, O Come, Emanuel," "Deck the Halls" and "We Wish you a Merry Christmas."

Gulledge will sing both solo numbers and with the Old Gold Singers.

"The Old Gold Singers will introduce the show in typical Old Gold style -- with costumes, choreography, and mood setting Christmas songs," Thielen-Gaffey said. "For our second set we'll have Dickens-era carolers, set amid a New England backdrop of snow covered hills. Songs will include "Infant Holy, Infant Lowly," a medley of Christmas favorites titled "Renaissance Christmas," and "Deck the Halls."

"Our concluding set will consist of gospel and traditional African music, including "I'm Gonna Sing 'til the Spirit Moves in My Heart," "Betelehemu" and a gospel "Hallelujah," performed with our guest soloist Curtis Gulledge."

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.

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 ($8 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, which 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.

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

STORY SOURCE: University of Iowa Arts Center Relations, 300 Plaza Centre One, Suite 351, Iowa City, IA 52242-2500.

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