Metro Weekly

Editor’s Pick: The Christmas Revels at Lisner Auditorium

An annual tradition, the Christmas Revels are back with a full, live show that celebrates their 40th anniversary.

Christmas Revels -- Photo: Alain L. Gutiérrez Almeida, courtesy of Washington Revels
Christmas Revels — Photo: Alain L. Gutiérrez Almeida, courtesy of Washington Revels

A key characteristic that distinguishes the Washington Revels from other similar arts organizations is its strong sense of community. In fact, it functions as a community-based entity.

“I call ourselves a performance community: We come together as community to perform together,” the group’s Artistic Director Roberta Gasbarre told Metro Weekly at the end of 2019. And this performance community features a diverse mix of artists, both professional and amateur, working collaboratively to create and produce particular shows or programs related to, or reflective of, the larger community — and in ways that are inclusive and LGBTQ-affirming. “We want to make it a welcoming place for everybody to come with their families and friends,” said Gasbarre.

Because of the pandemic, the organization’s flagship Christmas Revels offering was drastically altered each of the past two years — presented as a virtual production in 2020, followed by last year’s modified return to in-person performance though moved to a smaller, airier space.

Both years focused on celebrating the “Winter Solstice.

The organization finally makes a glorious return to longtime host venue Lisner Auditorium with a new professionally staged and directed Christmas Revels production focused on various Christmas cultural customs.

“Celtic Crossroads” is billed as a “homespun celebration” of the holidays with music, dance, and storytelling, enhanced by the organization’s “trademark blend of professional entertainment and community engagement [showcasing] the importance — and joy — of shared celebration,” to quote the press release.

Performers will portray a multi-ethnic mix of denizens in a 19th-century hollow who gather to share music, family rituals reflecting ancestral roots, and stories of their ancestors’ journeys that led them to Appalachia. The musical influences — Scottish, Irish, German, Appalachian, and African-American — create “a uniquely American mash-up of toe-tapping reels, lush ballads, and soaring spirituals.”

Banjoist Byron Thomas will be a featured soloist along with the groups the Highland Pipes, the Washington Revels Brass, and the Whiskey Before Breakfast.

“I am so excited to continue a tradition that brings so much joy to everyone at a time when we are all in need of it,” says Tamara C. Williams, the organization’s new executive director. “Christmas Revels is more than just a theatrical production — it’s evidence that you can create community wherever you are, and I look forward to expanding upon that tradition for years to come.”

Remaining performances are Friday, Dec. 16, at 7:30 p.m., Saturday, Dec. 17, at 2 and 7:30 p.m., and Sunday, Dec. 18, at 2 p.m. GW Lisner Auditorium on the campus of The George Washington University, 730 21st St. NW.

Tickets are $12 to $65 for in-person, or $40 for online viewing between Dec. 23 and Jan. 6. Visit or call 202-994-6851.

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