NEPA Scene Staff

NEPA’s own holiday rock orchestra, Twelve Twenty-Four, tours local and national venues Nov. 30-Dec. 27

NEPA’s own holiday rock orchestra, Twelve Twenty-Four, tours local and national venues Nov. 30-Dec. 27
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From a press release:

As the Trans-Siberian Orchestra makes its 20th annual stop in Wilkes-Barre tonight, Northeastern Pennsylvania’s own Christmas rock opera band, Twelve Twenty-Four, is preparing to launch its 18th tour next week in Scranton.

Established in Hazleton in 2002, Twelve Twenty-Four includes a six-piece rock band, multi-piece string section, a variety of vocalists, and its own crew. This dedicated group of performers works year-round to deliver a theatrical and memorable Christmas concert experience suitable for fans of all ages in the spirit of the Trans-Siberian Orchestra, playing everyone’s favorite holiday music with a rock edge as well as their own festive creations.

While Twelve Twenty-Four is the nation’s longest running tribute to TSO, they have also released their own music, following up their full-length albums, “Miracle on Rock Street” and “Light in the Dark,” with an EP called “Transcendence” just last year.

Their 2019 tour kicks off next Saturday, Nov. 30 at the Theater at North in Scranton, then visits the Lamp Theatre in Irwin, the Mauch Chunk Opera House in Jim Thorpe, the Musikfest Café in Bethlehem, and the Levoy Theatre in Millville, New Jersey throughout December. This year, the band will also travel as far as Wisconsin, Massachusetts, and Vermont leading up to the holidays.

Tickets for all these shows are on sale now at 1224band.com.

Twelve Twenty-Four tour dates:

Saturday, Nov. 30 at 7 p.m.: The Theater at North (1539 N. Main Ave., Scranton)

Sunday, Dec. 1 at 8 p.m.: The Lamp Theatre (222 Main St., Irwin)

Friday, Dec. 6 at 8 p.m.: Mauch Chunk Opera House (14 W. Broadway, Jim Thorpe)

Saturday, Dec. 7 at 8 p.m.: Mauch Chunk Opera House

Thursday, Dec. 12 at 5 p.m.: Belfry Music Theatre (3601 WI-67, Delavan, WI)

Friday, Dec. 13 at 7 p.m.: Belfry Music Theatre

Saturday, Dec. 14 at 7 p.m.: Belfry Music Theatre – sold out

Sunday, Dec. 15 at 2 p.m.: Belfry Music Theatre

Thursday, Dec. 19 at 7 p.m.: Breakaway (221 Newbury St., Danvers, MA)

Friday, Dec. 20 at 7 p.m.: Paramount Theatre (30 Center St., Rutland, VT)

Sunday, Dec. 22 at 6 p.m.: Musikfest Café (101 Founders Way, Bethlehem)

Friday, Dec. 27 at 8 p.m.: The Levoy Theatre (126-130 N. High St., Millville, NJ)

Create a resounding holiday rock orchestra – that was the 2002 vision of Twelve Twenty-Four co-founders George Houseknecht, Richie Kossuth, Lenny Kucinski, and Jason Santos, a vision that was not only fulfilled, but one that energetically continues to this day.

Since its inception, the band has evolved from a five-piece rock band to a complete rock orchestra. Over the years, Twelve Twenty-Four built upon the core rock band by adding a multi-member string section, several featured vocalists, and a dedicated road crew. Although they only perform during the holiday season, this is a year-round project. Behind-the-scenes production occurs throughout the year, and rehearsals begin during the summer. Their tour season begins in mid-November and continues through the end of the holiday season.

Inspired by the music and stage presentation of some of music’s greatest rock orchestras, Twelve Twenty-Four presents a show that involves high-energy rock music combined with professional stage effects, including theatrical lighting, smoke, and even snow. If it appears to be a considerable effort for a month and a half of shows, music director Jason Santos said there are good reasons the group tours each year.

“The way people come back every year… it’s emotionally charging. It’s uplifting when people are talking and they say it starts their Christmas off or they’re having a bad day and needed some spiritual uplifting,” Santos said.

During their 2009 holiday tour, Twelve Twenty-Four performed their own arrangement of the classic Christmas song “Little Drummer Boy,” which was received with overwhelming enthusiasm by concert attendees. Based on the reception of “Little Drummer Boy,” they decided to record a CD of their own holiday music arrangements.

According to guitarist Lenny Kucinski, “We weren’t even considering doing something like that. Then we started realizing we’ve got some songs building up within us and some people just had to let them out.”

In the fall of 2010, Twelve Twenty-Four released their first CD, “Miracle on Rock Street.” Included on the CD, of course, was their seminal arrangement of “Little Drummer Boy,” which was re-titled to its original name, “Carol of the Drum.”

“Miracle on Rock Street” received exceptional accolades by fans and reviewers alike. Sigourney Soul of Modern Rock Review wrote, “’Miracle on Rock Street’ scores high in all the criteria we use to review albums – musicianship, originality, entertainment, diversity, arrangement, and quality production.” Mike McKenna added in his Valley Beat review, “This is a must for the lover of clean, crisp rock and roll and ELO-sounding orchestration on favorites that you will instantly recognize.”

Shortly after the end of their 2010 tour and motivated by the reception of “Miracle on Rock Street,” Twelve Twenty-Four began working on their follow-up album, “Light in the Dark.” While primarily a collection of Christmas-related music, “Light in the Dark” was crafted to tell more of a story.

“’Light in the Dark’ musically illustrates a journey that begins from a state of promise and passes through a valley of darkness. The journey ultimately finds a path out of the darkness back to an awakening. Throughout the journey, Twelve Twenty-Four emotionally tells their story through a creative blend of instrumental and vocal arrangements,” Santos explained.

Twelve Twenty-Four released “Light in the Dark” in 2012 and again was overwhelmed with the reception received by their new CD. “The resultant product is far beyond your typical ‘Christmas music,’ but a true musical journey that uses real musicians and real vocals from this diverse and talented group,” said Ric Albano of Modern Rock Review. Steel Notes Magazine reviewer Mike McKenna added, “This CD is a holiday must-listen! I think only one word can be used to describe this effort… incredible!”

On Nov. 24, 2018, the band released their latest EP, “Transcendence,” as they prepared for their seventeenth season of holiday touring. By definition, transcendence is the state of excelling or surpassing or going beyond usual limits, which fittingly describes the growth of the band over its long history. With the release of “Transcendence,” Twelve Twenty-Four celebrated their musical journey and talked about their continuous success on the NEPA Scene Podcast.

The group prides itself on its efforts to support charities and worthy causes throughout their touring region. When asked how this motivates the members of Twelve Twenty-Four, bassist Dirk Yahraes commented, “Christmas is the season of giving, and this is the band’s way to give back and pay it forward. We welcome the chance to help those in need. We have donated some of the proceeds from our music sales to the Earthly Angels Autism Foundation, and we have performed free shows for the White Haven Center.”

Over the years, the band has help raise 10s of thousands of dollars. These proceeds have benefited school music programs, fire departments, animal rescues, religious organizations, and arts institutes, to name a few.

“This money goes back into circulation to benefit local communities. It is something we are very proud to be involved with and honored to be a part of,” Yahraes added.

Twelve Twenty-Four has earned recognition for their commitment to community involvement. Their awards include the Respect Award from the White Haven Center, a Letter of Recognition from Pennsylvania Governor Tom Corbett, and the Outstanding Community Member of the Year Award given by The Arc of Luzerne County.

Fan engagement is another area in which Twelve Twenty-Four strives to excel. After each show, they host a meet and greet, which allows the band to interact, up close and personal, with their fans. The meet and greets not only allow fans the chance to get autographs and have photos taken the band, but it also allows the band the opportunity to thank their fans for coming to their show.

Twelve Twenty-Four Fan Lois Vidra‎ exclaimed, “[It] was great that these extremely talented people came out after the show and ‘jingle mingled’ with everyone! Enjoyed every last minute of the show!”

Learn more about the band in an interview with Jason Santos (guitar, vocals, keys) and Frank Gruden (keyboards) in Episode 86 of the NEPA Scene Podcast:

Photo by Charisa M. Yahraes Photography