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Author: Jill Kimball

CU’s annual Holiday Festival brings seasonal joy

Boulder’s most beloved tradition boasts caroling and multicultural delights.

CU Boulder’s Holiday Festival may be a long-standing tradition, but it still has a few new tricks up its sleeve.

With more than 30 years of history, the Holiday Festival is a Boulder institution. Each December, thousands in the community pay a visit to Macky Auditorium to take in the merry atmosphere and the seasonal music performed by students and faculty.

The festival has its beloved traditions—swags of greenery hung from the balcony, a rendition of the catchy Nigerian carol “Betelehemu” and a “Hallelujah Chorus” singalong to cap it all off—but change is always afoot.

One of this year’s most exciting changes? An added matinee performance.

“Due to high demand for earlier performances, we’re offering two Saturday matinees this year,” says Artistic Director Gregory Gentry. “We hope this change affords our audiences the chance to bring more loved ones who don’t want a late night out.”

A lot of beautiful new music awaits audiences, too, including more vocal and instrumental jazz, fresh renditions of “O Holy Night,” “I Saw Three Ships” and “We Need A Little Christmas,” and a whole set devoted to celebrating Hanukkah.

“We’ll have a klezmer tune, a piece called ‘Hebrew Melody’ and more,” Gentry says. “We have such a variety of faith traditions in our community, and we relish the opportunity to celebrate that.”

Though he looks forward to it all, Gentry says one of his favorite parts of the festival happens before each concert begins. About an hour before showtime, festive tunes played by composer and PhD student Kevin Padworski ring out from Macky’s carillon. Then, about a half hour later, student carolers dressed in medieval costume entertain patrons in the foyer while upbeat vocal jazz warms up the crowd in the concert hall.

In Gentry’s opinion, the Holiday Festival is the absolute height of holly jolly: “There’s nothing more beautiful than walking inside on a frosty December night with bells ringing and carolers singing around you.”