The Tribune Democrat, Johnstown, PA

December 7, 2013

Symphony planning 'Joyful Holiday Celebration'


JOHNSTOWN — Christmas is coming and the Johnstown Symphony Orchestra is preparing a musical gift for its audience.

“Joyful Holiday Celebration,” the fourth concert of the subscription season, is a holiday-themed performance.

The symphony orchestra will be joined by its chorus and dancers from Le Dance Academie in Salix at 7:30 p.m. Saturday at Pasquerilla Performing Arts Center, 450 Schoolhouse Road, Richland Township.

Maestro Istvan Jaray, symphony conductor and music director, is eager to present one of the symphony’s most anticipated concerts of the season.

“The musicians and the audience have come to expect a high-spirited program,” Jaray said.

“That spirit generates a type of electricity that goes from the orchestra to the audience and that excitement continues back and forth throughout the evening.”

When Jaray is ready to select a Christmas musical program, he pictures himself sitting in the audience.

“As the audience settles in, they are anticipating a delightful evening of music and saying to themselves, ‘OK, give it to me,’ ” Jaray said.

He has no plans of disappointing anyone.

“Along with the secular and sacred music, the most important part of the concert is showcasing the chorus and the dancers,” Jaray said.

“It’s an opportunity for a large audience to experience their talents. All we need is a fireplace, a sweater and a cup of cocoa.”

There may not be cocoa to drink, but choral director Samuel Coco will have the symphony chorus performing some cozy selections.

The 75-member chorus will sing a number of pieces, including “O Holy Night.”

Other Christmas carols are on the program.

“We also will present an uplifting and joyful selection titled ‘Everywhere Christmas Tonight,’ ” Coco said.

“It’s a contemporary tune that is a great mood setter.”

The program will feature a medley of Johnny Marks compositions.

Marks, a popular composer in the 1950s and ’60s, wrote “Rudolph, the Red-Nosed Reindeer,” “I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day” and “Rockin’ Around the Christmas Tree.”

“Maestro has been generous to include the chorus in a number of performances, such as Opera Festival, Mozart’s “Requiem” and the Christmas performance, and we will be participating in the symphony’s May concert,” Coco said.

Johnstown Symphony Board president Dennis McNair said the concert resounds with a variety of music offering a sample of everything from Handel to Hanukkah.

“There will truly be something for  everyone – popular songs and carols with the chorus, orchestral favorites, and maybe even an early visit from the jolly elf himself,” McNair said.

He pointed out that seats go fast for this holiday favorite.

“It’s the JSO family’s gift to everybody as we enter this wonderful season of joy and giving,” McNair said.

The tradition of standing for the “Hallelujah Chorus” will again be one of the highlights of the performance.

Jaray introduced the symphony audience to Handel’s “Hallelujah Chorus” decades ago.

The custom of standing while the “Hallelujah Chorus” is being sung began in 1743, when Britain’s King George II was so moved by the overwhelming impact of the chorus that he rose to his feet – and a respectful audience rose to join him.

“Everyone loves it and it is something that the audience has come to expect,” Jaray said.

The performance will feature a crowd favorite in the form of several sing-alongs.

“Years ago, people were a little shy about joining in,” Jaray said.

 “Now, when the lights go up, the audience really belts out these songs, especially the ‘12 Days of Christmas.’ ”

Another crowd-pleaser is a piece Jaray likes to call “Johnstown Christmas Memories.”

“It harkens to those cute black-and-white animations that are seen on WJAC-TV each Christmas season,” Jaray said.

“We perform, ‘Suzy Snowflake,’ ‘Frosty the Snowman’ and everyone’s favorite elves, ‘Hard Rok, KoKo and Joe.’ We ask people to sing along and they do.”

Le Dance Academie is under the direction of Anita Lorek.

The dance company will be made up of eight males and 11 females.

“We will be doing two numbers with original choreography,” Lorek said.

“The dancers range in age from 13 to 18.”

The songs are a ballet number titled “Belle of the Ball.” The second selection will be a jazz and tap routine to the music of “Brazilian Sleigh Bells.”

For other more formal ballet, the males will wear tails and the girls will be dressed in long gowns with a ballet influence,” Lorek said.

Ticket prices for the concert are $42 for premium seating and $37 for regular seating. Senior and student discounts are also available.

For tickets, call 269-7200 or visit

Tom Lavis covers Features for The Tribune-Democrat. Follow him on LavisTD.


What: “Joyful Holiday Celebration,” featuring Johnstown Symphony Orchestra, its chorus and Le Dance Academie of Salix.

When: 7:30 p.m. Saturday.

Where: Pasquerilla Performing Arts Center, Richland Township.

Tickets: $42 and $37. Senior citizen and student discounts available.

Information: 269-7200, 535-6738, or