Festival of Carols brings tradition to Englert


All ages get into the holiday spirit for the Festival of Carols.

By Natalie Betz

Children laughed as they ran to greet Santa, people gathered around a table of cookies while sipping hot cocoa, and snowflakes coated the walls of the auditorium of the Englert, creating the holiday atmosphere of the sixth-annual “Festival of Carols.”  

“I wanted to come because it sounded like fun, and music makes me happy,” attendee Violet Hess said.

Vandello kick-started the event with its upbeat folk rendition of “Sing, We Now, of Christmas Noel.” The group also sang a collaborative version of “Here Comes Santa Claus” with the crowd, because everyone all joined in to sing along, while children squealed with excitement as Santa Claus paraded the aisles.

“I was feeling extra festive, and this is a way to kick off the spirit,” attendee Erin Netolicky said.

The Festival of Carols not only included Christmas carols but Hanukkah and Kwanza songs as well.

Attendee Cindy Coffin said that she has gone to the festival about every year. She used to take her kids when they were younger, but she still enjoys it, so she continues to go with her husband.

Not only were the songs inclusive, so were the performers. The Quire, a local choir of LGBTQ individuals, as well as LGBTQ allies, sang traditional songs from several different holidays.

Coffin said she thinks it is nice how all of the performances are so different from each other.

Performance group Friends of Fire was made up of a couple and their two young children performing various light-up yo-yo and hula-hoop tricks in the dark.

University of Iowa graduate student and performer Tempestt Farrar said she was performing at the fest to, hopefully, bring love and warmth to everyone this holiday season.

“Tempesst had an amazing voice,” Hess said.

Farrar sang an a cappella version of “O Holy Night,” which, she said, she used to sing to her family. Her voice sent “oohs” and “ahhs” throughout the audience.

Actor Barrington Vaxter rhythmically retold the classic Christmas tale, “ ’Twas the Night before Christmas” along with Jeff Charis-Carlson’s piano melody of Christmas carols.

The Festival concluded with the Old Capitol Chorus, which sang classic carols such as “Jingle Bells,” “Walking in a Winter Wonderland,” “I’m Dreaming of a White Christmas,” “Hanukkah, O Hanukkah,” and “We Wish You a Merry Christmas.”

“I really liked the Old Capitol Chorus finale,” Coffin said.

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