Author: Corinne Baud

A timeless holiday tradition for all

The holiday season is a favorite time of year for many of us because it’s filled with old and new traditions for everyone. And one of the most treasured and timeless traditions for the College of Music, CU Boulder and the Boulder community is the Holiday Festival.

This December, the Holiday Festival will celebrate 40 years of connecting the greater Boulder community to the most wonderful time of the year. Joined by the College of Music’s world-class faculty, CU student choirs, bands and orchestras will perform seasonal favorites against a backdrop of twinkling lights. And who knows, Santa may even stop by to listen in!

“It’s an important event for the College of Music. It puts us at the forefront of putting music into the community,” says Director of Bands and festival Artistic Director Donald McKinney.

The community has been coming to the Holiday Festival for decades; generations that grew up welcoming in the season at the Macky mainstay now share the experience with their own families in what is typically a sold-out event.

“Music, in general, brings people together. It gives them a reason to go to the festival with families, friends and even people from all over the country,” says freshmen music education student Michael Batson. “It brings everyone together for one night to celebrate all the different holidays of the season.”

“I’ve watched Boulder residents and families come to the concert for the past three years,” says senior vocal performance major Julieta García. “I’ve seen the same set of twins at the festival each year. It’s a tradition for their family to come, and I get to watch them grow every year. That’s the beauty of it.”

For García, the magic of the festival is in its spirit and flavor. The pieces performed may vary from year to year, but the festival still includes the timeless favorites everyone expects and anticipates (while mixing in new additions and surprises, of course).

This year will be a little different than past performances, as McKinney and Elizabeth Swanson, associate director of choral studies, have been working as a team while longtime artistic director Gregory Gentry, director of choral studies, is on sabbatical. One key difference to note (pun intended) is “Joyful, Joyful,” a gospel tune performed by both the jazz ensemble and choir.

“As a vocal soloist or choral member, I typically wouldn’t be able to work with the brass ensemble or full orchestra. This performance gives us the chance to work together when we may not have before,” says García. “It also brings us closer to the faculty, as they make appearances during the show and perform on stage with us.”

For many students, the Holiday Festival is their first professional experience at the College of Music. It introduces them to the quick turnaround required to learn music, the physical stamina of performing and all the technical aspects that go into preparing for the performance.

As a newcomer to the Holiday Festival, Batson has enjoyed the rehearsals and level of involvement for the concert. “It’s much bigger compared to high school concerts and other performances that I’ve [been in]. It’s also more inclusive, with choir members singing from the rafters, the various choir ensembles performing some pieces together and, of course, the audience participation.”

At the heart of the festival is spreading holiday joy and spirit to everyone in attendance, performers and audience members alike. That’s García’s favorite part. “When I look out into the audience and see everyone smiling and singing along, it’s absolutely magical.”

Come and experience the magic for yourself at the CU Holiday Festival from Friday, Dec. 7 through Sunday, Dec. 9 in Macky Auditorium. Limited tickets are still available and start at $20.