The holiday season often comes alive with familiar sounds, like the crackling of a burning Yule log, the effervescent jingle of sleigh bells, and the sounds of carolers singing songs almost everyone can remember hearing from childhood–everyone, that is, except those who are deaf or hard of hearing. On Dec. 2 at 7:30 p.m. in the Building E Auditorium, the Santa Fe Chorus reaches out to all audiences, including those with hearing loss, with a free Holiday Concert that is being interpreted into American Sign Language (ASL) by Santa Fe student Joan Freese.
“I’ve used Joan for one or two songs before, when a song was especially poignant,” said Professor of Fine Arts Lynn Sandefur, who is directing this performance. “This year, Joan told one of her professors, who is profoundly deaf, that she was signing a few songs for the concert again. He was so excited, so deeply pleased, that we decided to have her sign for all the songs.”
Sandefur first met Freese as a ninth grader in one of her classes at Gainesville High School, where Sandefur formerly taught. Freese, who has a minor speech impediment herself, began taking ASL classes in high school and has continued to hone her skills ever since. A former scholarship student at Santa Fe, Freese has returned to the college to acquire an associate’s degree with an emphasis in sign language.
“When I found out she signed, she was more than happy to do that for my concerts,” said Sandefur. “She is just drawn to signing and works so hard at getting it exactly right.”
The Candlelight Processional held at Disney’s Epcot theme park, which boasts a mass choir and an ASL expert translating the songs, first inspired Sandefur to include sign language as part of her own holiday concert. To accommodate the hard of hearing, reserved seating will be set aside near Freese, who will have a spotlight on her throughout the performance.
“What she does is a different kind of solo,” said Sandefur. “When you see Joan sign, it shows in her face as well. She does it so beautifully that it adds drama to the songs.”
As a whole, the Santa Fe Chorus is comprised of around 45 student singers who hail not just from the Fine Arts department but from all different majors, including healthcare fields and the Zoo Animal Technology program. Joining the singers will be Steve Bingham’s Jazz Combo, which will provide instrumentals for five songs. In addition, former Santa Fe student and pianist Jonathan Graveley will accompany two pieces, one alongside his former professor, Dr. Sheila Forrester, who will also be playing piano at the event.
“I have always envisioned this as the concert to get everyone in the holiday spirit,” said Sandefur. “I’m exhausted but pleased, because some of the singers have come a long way. Maybe they sang in a performance before or maybe they didn’t, but everybody came because they wanted to sing. Stronger singers have helped weaker ones get better, and it’s become a little family.”
The halls of the E Auditorium will be decked with wreaths and the stage decorated with Sandefur’s personal collection of nutcrackers for the 1-hour concert. Performance highlights include famous jazz musician Dave Brubeck’s interpretation of “God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen,” the upbeat and bubbly song “Sleigh Ride,” and the Santa Fe Chorus men’s ensemble tackling “White Christmas” from the children’s movie Home Alone. Plus, as has been the tradition for the nearly 10 years Santa Fe has held this concert, the evening will end with a jazzy rendition of “Santa Claus is Coming to Town.”
“I hope that everyone leaves happier than when they’ve got there,” said Sandefur. “When people have a rough day at work or are tired of the holidays already, this concert can really help to lift their spirits. People always tell me afterwards how much they enjoyed it.”
~ This press release was written by Allison Griner, Communication Specialist, College Relations
Professor Lynn Sandefur, 352-381-3639 or firstname.lastname@example.org
Julie Garrett, mediarelations, for assistance facilitating your story, 352-395-5430 (office) or 352-870-2924 (cell) or email@example.com