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Carolers bring holiday spirit to Old Niskayuna

Carolers bring holiday spirit to Old Niskayuna

Annual fundraiser benefits Niskayuna Friends of Music

Niskayuna High School singers and musicians spent Monday night spreading holiday cheer door to door.

In a light Dickensian fog, quartets of vocalists from the Bel Canto Voices and Studio Singers, dressed in Victorian garb including top hats for the boys and long, jewel-toned faux-brocade skirts for the girls, rang doorbells, sang carols and raised money for Niskayuna Friends of Music.

The is the eighth year for the fundraiser, which helps pay for music festivals, guest artists and trips to see Broadway shows.

Every year, it’s an old-fashioned Christmas-caroling event. Students pick a holiday song from a book of pieces they’ve been rehearsing, ring a doorbell and when the resident opens the door, perform a song. Afterward, students introduce themselves and ask if the homeowner would like to donate.

This year for the first time, members of the concert band and symphonic bands, under the direction of Phil Pandori, also knocked on doors and serenaded homeowners. 

In total, 55 students took to the streets. They broke up into groups of four vocalists or four to six instrumentalists.

“This is a really special night,” Christina Pizzino-Catalano, director of choral studies at the high school, told the group before they set out. She further advised the students to smile and say thank you.

On Clifton Park Road, a mom and her three young boys came to the door. The youngest boy watched the instrumentalists with interest all the while holding his blanket and sucking his thumb. His older brother donated $1 of his own money.

“You guys are awesome!” exclaimed a resident on Lexington Parkway after a vocal quartet sang “Jingle Bells” in four-part harmony.

A Golden Retriever named Lucy came to the door with her owner and seemed to thoroughly enjoy another rendition of “Jingle Bells.”

Parents drove along with the groups, providing a watchful eye and a place to warm up. All told, the students sang and played for nearly two hours.

The students had dozens of pieces of music to choose from. Jillian Margolies likes “Up On the Housetop.” Abby Auster prefers “Silent Night.”

Senior Julia Sexton has been caroling for three years and loves seeing the little kids. 

Fellow senior Paul Tan admitted that even though the groups usually limit songs to one per house, one year a 4-year old girl was so excited and full of joy they bent the rules and sang a second number.

Waiting at the end of the route was Jessica Hollenbeck, owner of Union Cafe. Hollenbeck opened the doors for the choirs and bands as she has for the past four years. She had a plate piled high with chocolate chip cookies and steaming hot cocoa and coffee to help the students thaw out a bit.

“I’m just in awe of their talent,” Hollenbeck said. “I commend (Pizzino-Catalano) for all her work. The kids are so passionate.”

The students then took to the restaurant’s front patio and performed more carols for their parents and passersby. 

By the time the counting was done, the choral and instrumental groups had raised $2,360, more than $300 more than last year. 

Pizzino-Catalano said their success is due to the many hands that work to pull off the event. She thanked costume creator and manager Lauren Fox, and Christina Vassolas and Christina Flaspohler, who helped with the costumes. She also thanked Hollenbeck for opening the restaurant when it normally would not be. She went on to thank the parents who volunteer to drive the kids to the neighborhoods and to Union Cafe.

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