THE CALIFORNIA REVELS CELEBRATE “A Scottish Celebration of the Solstice.” AT THE BEAUTIFUL SCOTTISH
FOR 32 YEARS THE CHRISTMAS REVELS IS ONE OF THE BAY AREA’S BEST KEPT HOLIDAY SECRETS THAT YOU NOW MUST INCLUDE IN YOUR HOLIDAY STOCKING
For 32 years the CHRISTMAS REVELS presented by the California Revels has been one of the best kept holiday secrets of the Bay Area. Usually attracting the same dedicated crowds each season. It is time that the producers of this classic celebration be applauded for their terrific work the past 32 holiday seasons. Under the artistic direction of David Parr, and music director, Shira Kammen they bring together 70 actors and performers from ages 7 to 70, to present a two plus hour festival of celebration.
This 32nd year the Christmas Revels salutes the season taking audiences to Scotland for "A Scottish Celebration of the Solstice." The Revels travel to 1920's Wales and visit the childhood village of the great Welsh poet, Dylan Thomas, this holiday season with a Revels Christmas In Wales. Now on stage through December 18 at the Scottish Rite Theater in Oakland on the banks of Lake Merritt.
The Revels bring a hometown feel to all their pageants; don’t expect a polished theatrical event. Opening night Jeri Reed’s choreography was clumsy but still endearing since most of her talent are preteens. Yet even an adult member of the cast took a tumble opening night during the excellent dance of the Swords. Do not expect pros; it is best to sit back and enjoy the nonstop holiday fun and high spirited holiday cheer.
Photo's by Ellin Barrett
The cast presented by a talented multi-generational spanning 70 generations brings the sounds of the past alive, woven into a simple heartwarming story. With David Parr’s stunning direction and Reed’s choreography, the event brings you right into the celebration of folk theater, traditional music and dance. The Revels’ performers seem to be celebrating their own history as well.
A show stopping team part of the huge force of 70 folks on stage is the professional work of ”The Luper Family”. Headed by the two brilliant brothers on fiddles (violins) Cullen and Zane Luper who steal the Revels whenever they are on stage, along with the young Cassidy Kanner-Gomes. The riveting voice of diva Susan Rode Morris fills the Scottish Temple with the tweed song ‘Haghaid O Haghaid”; she is a main voice on stage. The program includes 36 songs and segments designed for the audience to join in with lyrics in the program or presented on stage with large banners.
The Welsh culture and customs is familiar and comforting to Revelers, but history notes that the Scottish did not celebrate Christmas for over 400 years. In 1640 Scottish Parliament had banned the holiday; “Yule vacation and all observation” was outlawed, including caroling - the law did not change until 1958. But the Scots had away around the laws and celebrated “Yuletide” or the turning of the new year; the welcoming of the return of the light “the Solstice.”
The show brings home the spirit of family gathered around the hearth and villagers singing in the glow of the blazing yule log. The cast ventures from the warmth of their homes to the chill of a winter night as they follow mummers and carolers from house to house through the village. They encounter the rich tapestry of characters that make the Welsh people so colorful when singing such songs as “Winter” from the Robert Burns classic, “The Reel of Tullochgorum”, “The Piper O’Dundee” and many more.
The young ones of the village are central to the performance as they play and dance the traditions in their games, songs and bonding. The on stage band called the Brass West is under direction of Kurt Patzner, and many of the company play harps, pipes, spoons and fiddles. Mummers, and Bardic storytelling are Welsh, who are a nation of poets present a number of dark tales balanced out by humorous stories including the tale of a ghost horse. The Revels regulars include the Abbots Bromley Antler Dance, Sussex Mummers' Carol, and "The Lord of the Dance" that are always a part of the performance. Featured performers are Kevin Carr, who has performed in Revels dating back to 1993; Susan Rode Morris, a centerpiece of the California Revels for over two decades; and singer, Celtic harper and flutist Margaret Davis. Also in this year the fiddler Anne Goess, dancer Jeri Reed, and Shira Kammen, an expert performer on a variety of medieval musical instruments.
Their annual “Lord of The Dance” closes the first act as the entire audience joins the company on stage in a long festive of line of cheers. With the furry of pipes and the swirling of kilts, the 2017 Christmas Revels celebrates the turning of the year in Scottish style. The ancient land of Robbie Burns honors the shortest day in song, written especially for the Revels back in 1977 by Susan Cooper has become a tradition of their yearly event.
Expect many colorful plaids, robes, an old school European dresses for the women designed my costume designer, Callie Floor. She has all the men dressed in fine colorful kilts with the full body scarves wrapped around them. The set uses much of the in house goth feel you get from the mighty Scottish Rites Temple. Serina Serjama’s set is ramp of color and culture that includes steps and ramps while the back set fills the altar of the old Rites Temple. Scots of all ages gather to observe the return of the sun a holiday tradition. Be prepared to sing and dance along, including the back balcony who manages to come down front to join the celebration.
The Christmas Revels have made this a beloved community tradition for nearly three decades. The 32nd annual holiday show and a chorus of 70 adults, teens and children make up the Scottish Celebration of the Solstice. All of the history comes alive in songs that are both catchy and rich with beautifully harmonized texture. In a clever, and beautiful way, the ancient is presented with a relevant sometimes dark context: can a family keep a beloved old home against the odds of economic times. This is the perfect way to celebrate the season, and if you have not explored the amazing Scottish Rites Temple on Oakland's Lake Merritt, then it is a must you attend THE CHRISTMAS REVELS 2017. The tickets are at a good price for you to easily afford your whole family from the Grand Parents to the grand kids.
California Revels Presents
The 2017 Christmas Revels’
“A Scottish Celebration
of the Solstice”
Directed by David Parr
Music Director Shira Kammen, Choreographer Jeri Reed
Must close December 17, 2017
Scottish Rite Auditorium
1547 Lakeside Drive, Oakland Ca
Running time 2 hours 1 intermission
TICKETS www.californiarevels.org box office at 510-452-9334.
About The California Revels
Since 1986, California Revels has brought their unique theatrical, participatory art form to audiences in the Bay Area. Founded by singer, author and music educator John Lang staff in Cambridge, Massachusetts in 1971, The Christmas Revels crosses religious and ethnic boundaries and appeals to young and old alike. The Christmas Revels blends traditional music, dance, ritual and folk plays from many different cultures, presented by a large volunteer chorus of children and adults drawn from the community, accompanied by highly talented professional actors, musicians, artists, directors, and "bearers of tradition."
Photo's by Ellin Barrett