Communal celebrations known as `revels' are catching on in several US cities
CAROLS and costumes, mythological stories and mimes, dancers and mummer's plays, trumpets and timbals, puppets and poems. Add a good dose of audience participation and what do you get? A celebration called the Christmas Revels that has become a holiday tradition in seven cities across the United States.
The Christmas Revels was started in 1957 when a singer named John Langstaff staged a production in New York City. Although it received critical praise, it was an expensive feat, so plans for future productions were shelved.
But 14 years later in 1971, Mr. Langstaff's daughter persuaded him to put on revels in Cambridge, Mass. Father and daughter organized the event, which was so successful it became a fixture of the community. Since then, Hanover, N.H.; Washington; Philadelphia; Houston; New York; and Oakland, Calif., have formed revels groups. Seattle, Pittsburgh, and Portland, Ore., are in various planning stages. Each community has its own organization but is contractually and artistically affiliated with the Cambridge Revels.
Langstaff emphasizes that the Christmas Revels is really a winter solstice celebration. Each year, it draws more than 50,000 people of many faiths and religions. ``Revels is a nondenominational performance,'' celebrating renewal and light coming out of winter darkness, he says.
While the revels contains some of the same elements year after year - the Abbots Bromley Horn Dance, the mummer's plays, and the Lord of the Dance - each is built around a theme.
Popular ones have focused on medieval, Renaissance, and Eastern European rituals, dances, and songs.