PITTSTON — Trans-Siberian Orchestra isn’t the only arena-style Christmas music performers. Northeastern Pennsylvania has its own homegrown group of yuletide rockers, and 2016 marks the group’s 15th year of holiday cheer.
Twelve Twenty-Four started as a TSO-inspired show featuring TSO music, but since the band’s formation in 2002, Twelve Twenty-Four released two albums of original music and logged over a decade of holiday performances. Drummer and founding member Rich Kossuth said the band isn’t just a TSO cover act — over the years its lineup, catalog of music and number of crew members have steadily grown, transforming the tribute into what Kossuth said is something more.
“We’re kind of recreating a live event more than just a live performance,” Kossuth said. “We incorporate probably about four songs of our own music in the shows, but even if you don’t know our music you’ll still know melodies. We have our own version of ‘Drummer Boy’ that’s a little heavier than what you’d think it would be, but anybody in the audience knows that’s ‘Little Drummer Boy.’”
Those originals are featured on Twelve Twenty-Four’s 2010 debut release “Miracle on Rock St.,” as well as the group’s 2012 sophomore album “Light in the Dark.” Founding keyboardist Jason Santos is an integral part of the band’s writing process — he said the first CD was written as an introduction to the band’s talents, while the second was a deeper trip into its musical world.
“The second CD was mostly written to show another side of the band,” Santos said. “More than Christmas itself, we’ve got other talents, other styles we excel at. The second CD was a little bit different stylistically. It has Christmas music on it but it went in different directions — different styles of music the musicians in the band can play and perform.”
Santos said he has completed writing for a third album, but recording is a matter of scheduling — a task Kossuth has more than his fair share of experience doing. Along with operating Pittston music store Rock Street Music, Kossuth also books Twelve Twenty-Four tours, provides production services for events at venues like Mohegan Sun Pocono and plays in classic rock act Flaxy Morgan with Santos and fellow Twelve Twenty-Four member Cierra Cellerari.
Kossuth, Santos and Cellerari put Flaxy Morgan on hiatus when the holiday season rolls around. Kossuth’s Twelve Twenty-Four duties begin a year in advance. Practices start in May, while performances begin the week before Thanksgiving and run through the new year.
Hazleton native Darcy Huff, 24, has seen the band on five separate occasions. Her first Twelve Twenty-Four experience came more than a decade ago and she continues to attend performances because the band and its performances stay consistently reliable.
“To be honest, I have more fun than when I went to see Trans-Siberian Orchestra,” Huff said. “I think they just make it more intimate and more personal and more fun than seeing TSO at a really big venue.”
Huff said her parents bought an ornament at her first Twelve Twenty-Four show and some band members, including Santos (her favorite), signed it. She still hangs it on her tree every year — one long-running tradition inspired by another.