ESU Musical Theatre Students Mark Holiday Season with Community Caroling
Students from East Stroudsburg University’s Musical Theatre Organization (MTO) took time from their crowded end-of-semester schedules to carol at several community events.
“We enjoy singing so this is a wonderful time to share our enthusiasm with others,” said Angelica Ramirez, a junior musical theatre major from Effort, Pa., and president of MTO.
The group’s first holiday appearance was at the reception for the art + design department’s Holiday Market which preceded the Al Cohn Memorial Jazz Collection’s presentation of Duke Ellington’s Nutcracker Suite on Dec. 2.
“MTO even created a wreath for the Holiday Wreath Contest, and won a prize for ‘most musical wreath,’ added Sam Kashefska, a junior musical theatre major from Cape Fear, North Carolina.
The following day, more than 20 members of MTO participated in the Tree Lighting Celebration at Stroudsmoor Country Inn for the fifth consecutive year. During the afternoon event, members of the group greeted visitors dressed as a variety of holiday characters, read stories, posed for pictures, and sang with the choir from East Stroudsburg High School North at the tree lighting ceremony.
“Seeing how the kids react is always great,” Kashefska said, “because they always love it. The whole event is like something on a holiday card.” “The fireworks right after the tree is lit are so gorgeous,” added Ramirez.
The MTO carolers made an appearance December 7 at the Live Advent Calendar in Bethlehem, an 11-year old event sponsored by the merchants of the Downtown Bethlehem Association (DBA) of the Greater Lehigh Valley Chamber of Commerce and Historic Bethlehem Museums and Sites. Billed as the “only one of its kind in the country,” the event happens at 5:30 p.m. from December 1-23 in front of the Historic Goundie House on Main Street.
At the event, a town bell ringer selects one or two children from the crowd gathered around the house and they knock on the door of the building to reveal the surprise for the evening, which includes candy, cookies or another holiday treat.
ESU’s Lehigh Valley Center sponsored the December 7 calendar where the MTO carolers, wearing red and black ESU scarves, sang several carols to a crowd of about 50 people before cookies were handed out. William Bajor, director of Graduate and Extended Studies, arranged for MTO’s participation in the event.
The group then caroled at the ESU Lehigh Valley Alumni Association reception at the Lehigh Valley Center. “Everyone was so nice to us,” Ramirez noted. “In addition to the scarves, we also got hand-crafted paper Moravian stars.”
Some of the MTO carolers who performed at East Stroudsburg’s Winterfest and Tree Lighting on December 9 had an unexpected adventure while singing on the Santa train ride from the Dansbury Depot to Delaware Water Gap.
“We were going through the cars entertaining people, and everyone was having a good time,” Ramirez explained. “At one point, all the light were turned off except for the Christmas lights, so we could watch the falling snow and it was beautiful. But we got delayed in Delaware Water Gap, because a freight train had the right-of-way on the track.”
“It was a bit confusing at first. We ended up singing for more than an hour,” Kashefska added, “and everyone on the train knew all the carols at that point. The tree lighting at the Depot had to be delayed because we were late getting back.”
For the carolers’ final appearance on Thursday, December 14 at the Shirley Futch Plaza apartment complex, the group altered their program a bit. In addition to Christmas carols, each of the MTO singers soloed on a musical theatre classic of their choice.
“We’ve sung there before, and really enjoy performing for this audience,” said Kashefska, “everyone knows the words, especially to the musical theatre selections, and it becomes a sing-along.”
“I love seeing our students doing what they do best, performing and connecting with the community” commented MTO’s advisor, Margaret Ball, D.M.A., chair of ESU’s theatre department. “They have a chance to interact and entertain all types of audiences – from children to senior citizens while serving as ESU ambassadors during the holiday season.