Christmas Revels promote community and tradition during the holidays

The marvel of The Christmas Revels is hard to describe. With group members ranging from third graders to senior citizens, The Revels are unique and entertain with an amazing show.

Among a crowd of strangers, The Revels create a feeling of community. With rich music and dance, the interactive show leaves audiences with a recognizable warmth.

The Revels began in 1983. The group sprung from a Cambridge group founded in 1971 by John Langstaff – a singer, musical educator and award-winning author. Using traditions from different countries, The Revels unite people and promote community and the preservation of tradition. The Revels come from all over the Washington, D.C. area, and the vast majority of them are volunteers, with only a few professionals in the 75-member ensemble.

Each year, The Revels choose a particular time period and culture for the starting point of their show. This year’s performance centers on the African-American community of Washington, D.C. at the end of the 19th century.

Through gospel and work songs, as well as lullabies and spiritual works, The Revels take the audience into the back alleys of Washington, D.C. There, African Americans live next door to European immigrants who are searching for jobs in the Washington-Baltimore area. At first, the two groups simply accept the fact that they are neighbors, but as the show continues, they begin to interact and slowly start to share their rich traditions, creating an awe-inspiring community.

Although shows change from year to year, certain elements remain constant. One of the permanent themes is how different cultures deal with the darkness of the season and how they celebrate the new light of the new year.

“Many families find it a good way to start off the holiday season,” associate producer Marta Schley said. The compelling, heartening and jubilant show could thrust Scrooge into the holiday spirit.

The Christmas Revels perform at Lisner Auditorium Dec. 4, 5, 11 and 12 at 8 p.m. and Dec. 5, 6, 12 and 13 at 2 p.m.

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