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Snow falls as ‘Starry Night’ charity concert raises $12,000

December 14th, 2014 Posted in Arts and Life

By Noelle Johansen

LOGAN —Despite a series of unusually warm winter weeks, snow fell inside the Caine Performance Hall at the third annual Starry Night Christmas concert the first weekend of December.

Though the musical tradition is three years in the making, this year’s “snow” was a last-minute addition.

“We even forgot to tell some of the performers,” said Ian Thorley, a Utah State graduate student who helped organize the concert. “In fact, we pretty much forgot to tell all the performers that it was happening, and most of us who chose to do it had forgotten. So when it got to the middle of that last song and it started snowing, I was a little surprised.”

Thorley is a member of the recently chartered Alpa Tau Omega (ATO) fraternity, which hosts the annual concert and donates all proceeds to the nonprofit organization Racing for Orphans with Down Syndrome (RODS). The event wasn’t always affiliated with the fraternity, however.

Utah State senior Anna James Thorley, Ian’s wife, created the Starry Night concert in 2012. “The first one was not intended to be a charity event, and it was not affiliated with any organization,” Ian said. “Anna just put it together because she had a lot of friends with musical abilities, and she thought it would be fun.”

The first concert, held in a small exhibit hall in the Chase Fine Arts Center, was more successful than expected. “We had invited our friends and our parents, but then 80 people came to that,” Anna said. “We were kind of blown away.”

Though it wasn’t planned as a charity event, the first concert set the trend for what the concert has become.

“That one was free admission,” Ian said. “But as an afterthought, just before the show, somebody thought, ‘Oh we can put out a bowl and say there’s donations for Sub for Santa.’ And we ended up saving almost 200 bucks.”

Fellow ATO member Joseph Hill helped organize the first concert and saw potential in it as an annual charity event.

“It was like the day after we had finished the first one,” Anna said. “Joe was like, ‘This needs to be ATO’s thing,’ because every fraternity has a signature event that they try to do every year that’s their main charity thing. And so, right away Joe was like, ‘This should be something that ATO should take.’ And I was like, ‘Yes, of course.’ So, it just worked out really. It’s a nice marriage between the two things.”

Last weekend, the fraternity raised more than $12,000 for RODS, more than doubling their last year’s total.

However, the marriage between the event and the fraternity wasn’t the only union that flourished after that first performance. Anna and Ian, who had begun dating a couple weeks prior to the concert in December 2012, were married the following year.

“I think I’m extremely biased on our first year because I was so in love,” Anna said. “I was like, yeah, it was perfect because I just started dating this guy. I just keep telling Ian that I think this is the coolest thing that we’ve been able to do this together from the start.”

Working on Starry Night together helped the couple realize the depth of their compatibility.

“We had been dating for only a little bit at that point, but we knew each other very, very well,” Ian said. “Anna’s very humble about her talent, and she’s excellent. … Not everybody knows that she has this unbelievable talent. And that very first year, there were some points in which she would sing and it was so good that people in the audience, my friends, would kind of stop and look at me with this confused look and then nod their heads and say, yeah, that’s pretty awesome and I’d say, yeah, that’s my girlfriend. It was a magical evening. Our families came and they saw the effort that we put into it together and it kind of made sense that we worked together.”

That first Starry Night also set the musical trend for following years. “We had really good people playing,” Ian said. “People put a lot of effort into their numbers.”

And it showed. Mikayla Kapp, a sophomore at Utah State, attended the third Starry Night on Dec. 5, and says she was impressed by the quality of music.

“I kind of expected it to be more of a student-run show,” she said. “I didn’t expect it to be as amazing as it really was, because just the talent was awesome. Every one of the numbers was so well put together and very good.”

Anna said responses like Kapp’s were common.

“I think you think of a student-organized, no teacher involvement, nothing at all, student-run thing, student-performed, I think maybe you can think of it as like a crappy open-mic at a café type thing,” she said. “I think people were just surprised. And I feel bad, because I think people shouldn’t be surprised, because there are a lot of quality musicians, especially in Utah.

“Everybody has some musical talent here or there. I feel like this is the perfect thing for people to be able to showcase this and to be able to work hard for an event where there’s tons of diversity. … It’s not some typical Christmas choir concert that you go to where you’re hearing the same kinds of things and you kind of know what to expect. I think this is a pretty unique event, and I think people are surprised because they’re like, oh, this is different than what I’m used to.”

The musicians, who were nearly all Utah State students and many ATO members, rehearsed for a month-and-a-half, meeting weekly to rehearse the group numbers. The program featured a variety of song styles, from indie folk to blues.

This was the first year that Starry Night sold out completely for both performances. ATO members are unsure whether they will add another night or performance to the event in future years.

“We would like to have this be a prominent event in the community that people make a priority because of the quality of the music and the magic that is involved in the evening,” Ian said. “So it would be nice to add a third show just to try to be able to raise more money for the charity. But we also . . . want it to be important to people.”

“It was really powerful, I thought,” Kapp said. “It was very cool, I was very touched by it.”


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