Production features traditional 19th Century-style songs and dances
It's Christmas time in Washington. For hundreds of families in the nation's capital and beyond, that means attending a production of the Christmas Revels.
The Revels, festive Christmas productions featuring traditional songs and dances, have been around for four decades, with affiliated production companies in Washington, D.C. and nine other cities across the U.S. The companies choose a different culture to celebrate each year.
This time it's rural England in the 1830s, loosely based on the books of renowned British novelist Thomas Hardy. Characters in period costume lead the audience through traditional Christmas carols, poems and ancient dances. Many cast members come from the local community. Performers - both professional and non-professional - join together to celebrate the season.
From poignant solos to brass quintets to a ritual horn dance, there is something for everyone. There's a variety of carols and a variation on a sword dance. But the audience favorite by far is the sing along.
Greg Lewis is executive director of The Washington Revels and a lead singer. He and his family have been involved with the Revels since 1983.
"Revels are people connecting and it's connecting through this material that's traveled down through generations, and it's the kind of thing that has bound generations together," says Lewis. "In every show, particularly the Christmas show, we bring in what we call tradition bearers. So these are the people who grew up authentically within their tradition. And they come and they teach us."
For the Connolly family, attending a Revels performance is a yearly tradition.
"The production this year was fabulous," says Craig Connolly. "I think it may be my favorite."
"I liked when we did the whole thing when everybody was holding hands and going around," says 7-year-old Liam Connolly.
"It really gets us in the spirit of what the true meaning of Christmas is," says Kate Connolly.
Every production of the Christmas revels - from New York to San Francisco - is unique in its own way.