Credit: Fritz Olenberger (file)

Holiday revelers turned out in force for this matinee performance of The Christmas Revels, a community celebration of the winter solstice and California history. Revels’ Artistic Director Susan Keller and a team of Santa Barbara experts hailing from the disciplines of music, history, and the performing arts came together in 2017 to create an early California celebration of the winter solstice. The show takes inspiration from Richard Henry Dana’s account of the De la Guerra wedding party in Two Years Before the Mast and braids that material into a lively medley. The program also includes several classic Christmas routines, including an audience participation version of “The 12 Days of Christmas,” a singalong of the round “Dona Nobis Pacem,” and the traditional Revels finale of the “Sussex Mummers Carol.”

Joseph Velasco took on the role of narrator this year. Tyler X Koontz played Richard Henry Dana, Bill Egan was Captain Thompson, Luis Moreno was El Tecolero, and Kai Convery was Alfred Robinson, the groom. Isabelle Marchand was a charming bride as Anita de la Guerra, and Paula Lopez Ochoa was on hand to play Maria de la Guerra. Many historically accurate Spanish-language songs reflected the play’s setting in the Californio era. 

No performance of Revels would be complete without the appearance of enthusiastic young people. The Yuletide Youth and Children’s Christmas Chorus sang wonderful old songs and performed El Zapatero, a traditional dance. At the end of Act I, Bill Egan and dancers Sara and Matthew Weitzel led the cast and the audience in another staple of the national Revels movement, the traditional English Morris dance known as “Lord of the Dance.” As audience and cast alike emerged from the theater onto the grand front plaza of the Lobero, all experienced a welcome moment of relief within the round of holiday celebrations. 

This edition of ON Culture was originally emailed to subscribers on February 16, 2024. To receive Leslie Dinaberg’s arts newsletter in your inbox on Fridays, sign up at


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