Phoenicia holiday celebration comes to town on Dec 23

By Jay Braman Jr.
In spite of having been knocked back on its heels by Irene/Lee flooding and even though the main way into the business district remains closed, Phoenicia’s second annual holiday extravaganza, now going by the name “Ho Ho Holy Night” set for this Friday, promises to be bigger and better than last year’s offering.

Added to the mix of Santa, Christmas carols in the street, a bonfire and hot chocolate and a world class Renaissance vocal performance in a Main Street church, the Shandaken Theatrical Society has jumped on the sleigh with a special free concert featuring area favorite Uncle Rock.
For the youngsters that need their rest, Santa has agreed to make an early appearance at Ulster Savings Bank at 3 p.m. on Friday. That gets their wish lists heard before Uncle Rock, a popular children’s entertainer, takes the stage with friends across the street in the STS Playhouse for a holiday concert at 4 p.m.

At 5 p.m. those willing should head over to the bonfire at Mama’s Boy Market, right next to the community Christmas tree, on the corner of Main and Church streets. That’s when the Phoenicia Community Choir will start the traveling Christmas carol sing along which will bounce up and down throughout the business district until 7 p.m.

If you plan to listen or join in, choir director Maria Todaro says to bring warm clothes and either a real or battery-operated candle. Plus be prepared to eat plenty of cookies and drink lots of cider. Both are being supplied free by Mama’s Boy owner Michael Koegel.

This week Todaro, who is also known as a founder of the Phoenicia International Festival of the Voice, said there is no better time for some holiday cheer.

“Two thousand and eleven had its joys, but certainly represented a challenging year for many,” she said. “May this community event help to renew our bright spirits.”

An opera singer, Todaro said that voice is a social binder, bringing people together in a festive way, but also in moments of mourning, moments of doubt, of quest, prayer and love.
That is something that needs to be remembered.

“Our modern, western civilization is slowly and surely disconnecting from this so important part of our heritage and healing tool,” she added. “Come sing with us and while creating a new tradition in our mountains, maintain an old one.”

At 7:30 p.m. in the Wesleyan Church at the corner of Main and Jay streets, Todaro will be joined by Voice Fest Co-Founders Kerry Henderson and Louis Otey in a special one-hour version of G.F. Haendel’s “The Messiah.”

The free concert features those three along with sopranos Amy Wallace and Brittany Sokolowski and tenors Christopher and Charles Sokolowski.

A special treat, according to Todaro, is the “exceptional participation of Justin Kolb at the piano.”
Kolb, a classical pianist and Fleischmanns resident, has agreed to accompany the vocalists.
For those that wish to give as well as receive this holiday, bring nonperishable food items to the bonfire and Mama’s Boy staff will donate them to the Helping Hands Food Pantry.