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The 2000 Christmas Revels Program Book:

Articles:

The Christmas Revels

In Celebration of the Winter Solstice Traditional & Ritual Carols, Processionals & Drama

Patrick Swanson, director; George Emlen, music director

WITH
Sheila Kay Adams
Janice Allen
David Coffin
The Silver Leaf Gospel Singers
The Roaring Gap Chorus
AND
The Rocky River Children
The Stony Point String Band
The Smoky Mountain Dancers
The Sourdough Mummers
The Pinewoods Morris Men
The Cambridge Symphonic Brass Ensemble

Sanders Theatre, December 15 - 17, 20 - 23, 26 - 30, 2000

Dedication

ROBERT J. LURTSEMA (1931 - 2000) was most widely known for his mellifluous early morning radio voice, his impeccable taste in music, and beginning each morning broadcast with the songs of birds. John Langstaff recalls the year of a great weekend snowstorm, when performances were closing all over the city. Revels audiences were mostly local at the time, so we decided to proceed in spite of the weather. Robert J. came on the air and told people to get out their snowshoes and skis and come to the Christmas Revels. They did, by the hundreds, creating a lovely scene outside the theater of stacked skis and poles.

We at Revels have many other memories from our 25-year association with him. Former cast member Barney Duane recently reminded us of a favorite Robert J. story. In 1974 Robert J. was cast in our mummers' play as Old Father Christmas (a part that he played for many years). At the cue "Come in, Old Father Christmas," there was silence on the stage when no one appeared. As the cast ad libbed, the stage manager dashed to the back of the enormous Annenburg Hall (at that time the Revels dressing room) where Robert J. was found, entertaining enthralled children cast members with his juggling prowess. Moments later the cast onstage heard the sound of footsteps bounding up the stairs to the rear of the stage. Robert J., dressed in his long red velvet robe, made a spectacular entrance, cart wheeling across the stage to the very edge, landing on his feet with arms outstretched in a magnificent gesture. "Here comes I, Old Father Christmas, welcome or welcome not!" he boomed. The audience leaped to their feet in a roar of applause. Robert J., we miss thee, but Old Father Christmas will never be forgot.

Introduction

/syzygy n. The nearly straight-line configuration of at least three celestial bodies in a gravitational system./

THIS YEAR at 3:00 p.m. on Saturday, December 23rd, the lights will come up on the stage of Sanders Theatre for the 1000th performance of the Christmas Revels. On the next day, Christmas Eve 2000, John Langstaff celebrates his 80th birthday. And this is the 30th year that you, our Cambridge audience, have packed into this historic old hall to sing and perhaps to dance together; a special year, and an appropriate alignment of significant events as we enter the year 2001.

To celebrate it all we have come home to the simplicity and the raw beauty of Appalachia. We recall a mountain cabin in the last century - a safe house on the Underground Railroad that helped shelter escaped slaves on their way north to Canada, very much like a cabin in our guest Sheila Kay Adams' home community of Sodom, North Carolina. Imagine a Christmas Eve when the lantern is lit and the log-cabin quilt is hung on the fence to show that all is safe. When the guests arrive, we will bring out the fiddles and the hot wassail bowl, and tales will be told - some to make us proud, some to make us humble.

Our friend Janice Allen is back with us this year, bringing many of the African American traditions that are at the center of this year's Revels. There is one more cause for celebration: Roxbury's own Silver Leaf Gospel Singers, who are joining us in our story of the Underground Railroad, have their own anniversary - 55 years of singing old-time Gospel music. Sing syzygy!

The Program. Part 1

1. OVERTURE

Composed in 1986 by George Emlen.

CAMBRIDGE SYMPHONIC BRASS ENSEMBLE

2. BRIGHTEST AND BEST

This tune is from the Ritchie family in Kentucky and arranged here for women's voices by Jerome Epstein. The text is by Reginald Heber and was first published in 1811. SHEILA KAY ADAMS ROARING GAP WOMEN

3. EXULTATION

A folk hymn from the early years of the American South, first published in 1835 in The Southern Harmony.

ROARING GAP CHORUS

4. CAROLS for the SEASON

ALL SING!

JOY TO THE WORLD

Text by Isaac Watts, 1719, set to music by the American composer Lowell Mason in 1836.

Joy to the world! the Lord is come;
Let earth receive her King.
Let every heart prepare Him room,
And heaven and nature sing

Joy to the word! The Savior reigns;
Let men their songs employ.
While fields and floods, rocks, hills and plains
Repeat the sounding joy

THE FIRST NOWELL

An anonymous English carol based on a traditional tune.

The first Nowell the angel did say
Was to certain poor shepherds in fields as they lay;
In fields where they lay keeping their sheep
On a cold winter's night that was so deep.
Nowell, Nowell, Nowell, Nowell,
Born is the King of Isræl.

They lookèd up and saw a star
Shining in the East beyond them far.
And to the earth it gave great light,
And so it continued both day and night.
Nowell, Nowell

5. KENTUCKY WASSAIL

Collected by John Jacob Niles in North Carolina, though it has roots in England.

ROARING GAP CHORUS
ROCKY RIVER CHILDREN
STONY POINT STRING BAND

6. COUNTRY DANCE

A Southern Appalachian running set, to the tune "Hell Broke Loose in Georgia" followed by clogging steps to the tunes "Bonaparte's March" (used by Aaron Copland in the "Hoedown" section of his ballet Rodeo) and "Old Joe Clark."

ROARING GAP DANCERS
SMOKY MOUNTAIN DANCERS
STONY POINT STRING BAND

7. CHILDREN'S SONGS & GAMES

SHOO FLY

Play-party games such as this have been an important form of social entertainment among young people since the early settlements in the American South and Midwest. Even though dancing was considered a "wicked sport" by most religious sects, these "games" enjoyed the church's blessing, largely because they were sung and not accompanied by instruments.

GLORY TO THE MOUNTAIN

A variant of "Go, Tell It on the Mountain" collected in Harlem, New York City.

JANE, JANE

Traditional African American game-song.

ROCKY RIVER CHILDREN

8. A CHRISTMAS MIRACLE

SHEILA KAY ADAMS

9. THE FRIENDLY BEASTS

A children's carol echoing the medieval carol "Orientis Partibus."

ROCKY RIVER CHILDREN

10. I WILL BOW AND BE SIMPLE

This serene, affirmative song from the Shaker sect of 19th-century America is arranged here by Marlene Montgomery and choreographed by Carol Langstaff.

ROARING GAP CHORUS
STONY POINT STRING BAND

11. CHILDREN, GO WHERE I SEND THEE

African American cumulative carol.

JANICE ALLEN, SINGER
SMOKY MOUNTAIN DANCERS
STONY POINT STRING BAND

12. STRING BAND MEDLEY

"Colonel Crockett," "Jenny on the Railroad" and "John Brown's Dream," all popular tunes in the rural South during and following the Civil War.

STONY POINT STRING BAND

13. SACRED THRONE

Possibly derived from a Scottish melody, this hymn was either composed or arranged by Hugh Wilson (1766 - 1824).

ROARING GAP CHORUS

14. STORY of the UNDERGROUND RAILROAD

GO DOWN, MOSES

STEAL AWAY

FOLLOW THE DRINKING GOURD

WADE IN THE WATER

WAY OVER IN BEULAH LAND

Many African American spirituals contained coded instructions for escaping slaves on how to avoid the dangers of the perilous journey northward and to locate sanctuary along the way.

SHEILA KAY ADAMS
JANICE ALLEN
SILVER LEAF GOSPEL SINGERS
ROARING GAP CHORUS

15. THE NEGRO SPEAKS OF RIVERS

Langston Hughes (1902 - 1967).

16. LORD OF THE DANCE

Sydney Carter's modern lyrics to the Shaker song "Simple Gifts" are here translated into dance using a compilation of traditional morris steps by Carol Langstaff and J. Martin Graetz.

DAVID COFFIN
PINEWOODS MORRIS MEN
CAMBRIDGE SYMPHONIC BRASS ENSEMBLE

ALL SING & DANCE!

Chorus:
Dance, then, wherever you may be,
I am the Lord of the Dance, said he,
And I'll lead you all, wherever you may be,
And I'll lead you all in the Dance, said he.
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Intermission

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The Program. Part 2

17. BY 'N BY

Traditional American song from Texas, collected by Carl Sandburg.

ROCKY RIVER CHILDREN

18. BEHOLD THAT STAR

African American spiritual, arranged by John Andrew Ross.

ROARING GAP CHORUS

19. FOLLOW THE DRINKING GOURD

The "Drinking Gourd," or Big Dipper, showed the way north to freedom, and the words of this song provided specific directions. Collected in Texas in 1918 and arranged for Revels by George Emlen.

JANICE ALLEN
DAVID COFFIN
ROARING GAP CHORUS
ROCKY RIVER CHILDREN
STONY POINT STRING BAND

ALL SING!

20. DOWN BY THE RIVER SIDE

A well-known spiritual, sometimes known by "Ain't Gonna Study War No More."

SILVER LEAF GOSPEL SINGERS

21. SHALL WE GATHER AT THE RIVER?

A popular revivalist hymn, written by the Rev. Robert Lowry, a Baptist minister who was also a famous songwriter in the 19th century.

ALL SING!

22. TRADITIONAL GOSPEL SONGS

SWING DOWN, SWEET CHARIOT

SHADRACH

Two gospel songs, one in the jubilee style and one in the biblical style, taken from the singing of the Golden Gate Quartet, one of the oldest gospel singing groups still active today.

SILVER LEAF GOSPEL SINGERS

23. THE CHERRY TREE CAROL

This legend has its roots in the Apocryphal Gospel of Pseudo-Matthew. It appeared frequently in 18th- and 19th-century English broadsides, but was collected in this century by Cecil Sharp and Maud Karpeles in the Southern Appalachians. Sheila learned this version from Cas Wallin, a singer of traditional ballads and songs from her home community of Sodom, North Carolina.

SHEILA KAY ADAMS
SARAH HEBERT-JOHNSON
WILLIAM LODGE
LUIS VISKATIS

24. WATTS' CRADLE SONG

This Isaac Watts text, set to a traditional Tennessee melody, is arranged here for women's voices by George Emlen.

ROARING RIVER WOMEN

25. GO, TELL IT ON THE MOUNTAIN

JANICE ALLEN
ROARING GAP CHORUS
ROCKY RIVER CHILDREN
STONY POINT STRING BAND

ALL SING!

26. TWO ROUNDS

ALL SING!

PEACE ROUND

Jean Ritchie's words, based on Psalm 133, set to an old English canon.

DONA NOBIS PACEM

Anonymous round meaning "give us peace."

27. CAROL OF THE BIRDS

Written by John Jacob Niles in the style of a Southern Appalachian carol.

ROCKY RIVER CHILDREN

28. DANCING ON THE GRAVE

SHEILA KAY ADAMS

29. SQUARE DANCE, HAMBONE AND BAND SET

"Hambone" refers to the food scraps that slaves were often given, but from which they invariably extracted something of value, such as the tasty marrow from the hambone. The song thus reflects the experience of making something from nothing and sharing it with others. The body-slapping tradition developed as a substitute for drums, which slaves were prohibited from playing. The medley of dance tunes that follow consists of "Quince Dillon's High D," "Too Young to Marry," and "Mississippi Sawyer."

JOELEE BAKER-BEY OR JANICE ALLEN AND CYRUS BROOKS,
HAMBONE
ROARING GAP DANCERS
STONY POINT STRING BAND

30. APPALACHIAN MUMMERS' PLAY

A compilation made from several mummers' play traditions, including Appalachian variants collected by Richard Chase, celebrating rites of fertility, death and rebirth. Many of the people who settled the Appalachians came from areas of England where longsword dancing is done; we present a dance to a Southern tune ("Sandy Boys") with simple Appalachian stepping, as it might have looked had sword dancing evolved in an American tradition.

THE SOURDOUGH MUMMERS

31. BETHLEHEM

Composed by the Boston tanner and singing master William Billings to Nahum Tate's popular text, first published in 1778 in Billings' The Singing Master's Assistant.

ROARING GAP CHORUS

32. AMAZING GRACE

The words to this famous hymn, formally known as "New Britain," were written in 1764 by John Newton, an English sea captain who made his fortune in the slave trade before he narrowly escaped with his life in a storm at sea and vowed to repudiate his former life. The tune is a variant of an old Scottish psalm tune and can now be found in one form or another in virtually every hymnal of the Christian world.

SHEILA KAY ADAMS
ROARING GAP CHORUS
ROCKY RIVER CHILDREN
JANICE ALLEN
SILVER LEAF GOSPEL SINGERS

ALL SING!

33. THE SHORTEST DAY

This poem, written for Revels by Susan Cooper in 1977, has become a traditional part of Revels performances throughout the country.

SHEILA KAY ADAMS

34. SUSSEX MUMMERS CAROL

This traditional carol is sung as an ending to the folk play in Horsham, Sussex. Similarly, in each of the eleven American cities where Revels is produced annually, this carol is sung with the audience at the conclusion of each performance. The brass transcription is by Brian Holmes, with descant and final verse hamonization by Ralph Vaughan Williams.

CAMBRIDGE SYMPHONIC BRASS ENSEMBLE ALL SING!

Welcome Yule

ARTISTIC STAFF

Director: Patrick Swanson
Music Director: George Emlen
Lighting Design: David H. Rosenburg
Costume Design: Heidi Hermiller
Set Design: Andrew Barnett, Eric Levenson
Makeup Design: Sharon Phillion, Vicki Morgenstern
Sound Design: William Winn
Sword and Appalachian Dance Choreography: Judy Erickson
Appalachian Set Dance Choreography: Laura C. Allen
Program and Flyer Graphic Design: Ladr Design
Musical Arrangements: George Emlen, Jerome Epstein, Brian Holmes,
John Andrew Ross, Marlene Montgomery

 

PRODUCTION STAFF

Production Manager: Virginia Morton
Stage Manager: Debbie Hazell
Master Electrician and Light Board Operator: Charlie Wise
Technical Director and Master Carpenter: Andrew Barnett
Master Painter: Eric Levenson
Building Assistant: Joseph Janezic
Costume Production: CostumeWorks
Costume Manager: Gail Astrid Buckley
Wardrobe Supervisor: Seth Bodie
Deputy Stage Manager: Elizabeth Locke
Properties Manager: Andrew Hebert-Johnson
Children's Stage Manager: Lynda Johnson
Assistant Stage Manager: Elliott Burke
Teen Coordinator: Judy Erickson
Assistant Choreographer: Tina van Roggen
Specialty Props: Tom Arena
Senior Production Assistant: Susanna Locke
Make-up Assistants: Kristen Saulnier, Julie Duffer
Backstage Revels Production Coordinator: Nancy Hanssen
Backstage Revels Chairperson: Nilah MacDonald
ASL Interpreter: Joan Wattman
Revels Records Sales Coordinator: Harvey Cohen
Photography: Roger Ide
Videographer: William Aydelott
Program Printing: Lighthouse Press
The rental of the shadow puppets seen in this production
was generously donated by Norman and Nora Stevens.
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For more information on The Christmas Revels or to receive a free catalogue of Revels recordings and songbooks, please call 617-972-8300 or e-mail us at products@revels.org.

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Founded in Cambridge, Massachusetts in 1971 by musician John Langstaff and his daughter Carol, The Revels has grown into a national non-profit arts organization, offering a wide Variety of recorded music and theatrical seasonal celebrations using traditional folk materials from around the world. In December 2000, The Christmas Revels: In Celebration of the Winter Solstice will be presented in eleven cities across the country: Cambridge, Massachusets; Chicago, Illinois; Hanover, New Hampshire; New York City; Philadelphia, Pennsylvania; Washington, DC; Houston, Texas; Tacoma, Washington; Portland, Oregon; Oakland, California; and St. Paul, Minnesota.

The Boston Globe
Christmas Revels is supported, in part, by a generous grant from the Massachusetts Cultural Council, a state agency.

Revels would also like to thank the following businesses for their support of the 2000 Christmas Revels:

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You can look at pictures of:

The 2005 Christmas Revels
The 2000 Christmas Revels
The 1999 Christmas Revels
The 1998 Christmas Revels
The 1997 Christmas Revels
The 1996 Christmas Revels
The 25th Anniversary 1995 Christmas Revels

Back Sheldon Brown's Unofficial Revels Index Page

Official Revels, Inc. Site
The 2005 Christmas Revels
The 2000 Christmas Revels 2001 Spring Revels
The 1999 Christmas Revels 2000 Spring Revels
The 1998 Christmas Revels 1999 Sea Revels
The 1997 Christmas Revels 1998 Sea Revels
The 1996 Christmas Revels 1997 Midsummer Revels
The 1995 Christmas Revels 1996 Midsummer Revels

christmas00 Since May 21

Web site by Backstage Revels volunteer Sheldon Brown

Updated Tuesday, January 23, 2001
url http://sheldonbrown.org/revels/christmas00-program.html