The Revels Continue the Tradition
Seven years ago, Maureen Burford took over as artistic director of Revels North. Her first shot at the Upper Valley’s venerable, annual Christmas Revels show had an Appalachian music theme.
For Burford, the six Revels shows that will take place this weekend at the Hopkins Center in Hanover come full circle. Not only is the Appalachian theme the same, but several featured players, such as North Carolina singer Suzannah Park, will come back.
“Having those players return is certainly a thread that ties it to the past,” Burford said.
At the same time, this year’s show, the Revels’ 39th in Hanover, has a relatively new hand in the stage director’s spot: Helena Binder, a Thetford resident with a background in directing plays and operas in New York and around the country.
This is Binder’s second consecutive year holding that post for Christmas Revels. She said that initially her sensibilities didn’t totally align with those of the Revels. “I came into this and I was like, ‘What do you mean, you have to have Lord of the Dance? Why?’ ” Binder said. “Well, that’s part of the Revels.”
But she said she took it as a challenge to weave the traditions — the required elements of Revels shows — into new ideas and procedures.
For instance, unlike last year’s show, which followed an Irish family landing at Ellis Island, this year’s Revels weaves together a tapestry of vignettes about, according to Binder, a “patchwork of people’s recollections of Christmases gone by,” all under the umbrella of the music of Appalachia.
“I said to Maureen, ‘I’m not seeing this as a narrative,’ ” Binder said. “‘I’m seeing this as a reverie.’ ”
The stories will be accompanied by musicians from the Upper Valley and far beyond it, from the aforementioned singer Park, to Upper Valley clog dancer Sharon Gouveia Comeau, to banjo and fiddle-heavy music duo Sheesham & Lotus. This year’s cast, according to Burford, includes 95 members of the community, few of whom are professional singers or actors.
With such a high cast turnout year after year, the Revels tradition extends to families. Like Betsy Maislen, whose first Revels was in 1986, and her husband Bill Schults, who started participating in Lyme’s Summer Revels in the late 1970s. Both of their children learned the English folk dance called Morris Dancing while in Revels shows, Maislen said.
“They both grew up with this Revels community, which is this wonderful, caring community,” she said. “There’s something really magical that happens within that community.”
That magic, she said, comes from the connections forged between people swept up in a performance, and the intense lead up to it.
“Even though this is a Christmas Revels, I feel that this is something that people from all religions and cultures can relate to,” Binder said. “It’s the theme of community experience and community joy and community recollection that really can transcend a religious aspect of the holiday.”
Revels North will present “The Christmas Revels 2013: An Appalachian Celebration of the Winter Solstice” tonight through Sunday at the Hop. Adult tickets range from $23 to $38. To purchase tickets and for a list of show dates and times, go to hop.dartmouth.edu.
Gandalf Murphy & The Slambovian Circus of Dreams, a band that employs an eclectic mix of folk, Americana and pop with a hearty dose of weirdness, will play at the Tupelo Music Hall in White River Junction on Friday. The New York-based group will go on at 8 p.m. Tickets are $25, and can be purchased from tupelohallvermont.com.
∎ Pentangle will present Woodstock’s Wassail Weekend this weekend, which includes several musical events. One is Friday’s “Irish Christmas in America,” a touring show that features Irish singing and dancing. General admission tickets for the 7:30 p.m. show at the Woodstock Town Hall Theatre are $35 at the door and $33 in advance. Another show is Sunday’s Messiah Sing, in which a chorus sings portions of Handel’s Messiah , which starts at 4 p.m. at Our Lady of the Snows Catholic Church. That show is free; a $10 donation will be accepted. For more information, go to pentanglearts.org.
New Hampshire drum group Recycled Percussion will visit the Lebanon Opera House on Jan. 10, performing a show that utilizes industrial junk and other tools to make percussive music. The show will begin at 7:30 p.m., and all seats are $25. Tickets can be purchased by going to lebanonoperahouse.org or calling 603-448-0400.
Northern Stage’s production of Irving Berlin’s White Christmas continues this week in White River Junction, with shows every day except for Monday. White Christmas will run through New Year’s Eve. For show information and ticket prices, go to northernstage.org.
∎ Enfield’s Shaker Bridge Theatre continues its run of Tom Dudzick’s Miracle on South Division Street on Friday and Saturday at 7:30 p.m. and Sunday at 2:30 p.m. The show runs until Dec. 22. Tickets are $30 for adults, and reservations can be made by emailing email@example.com or calling 603-448-3750.
∎ The Hop will present Verdi’s Fallstaff, a version of Shakespeare’s The Merry Wives of Windsor, this weekend as part of the Met Opera Live in HD Series. The show will take place at the Black Family Visual Arts Center at 1 p.m. on Saturday and Sunday. Tickets are $26 for general admission, and can be purchased from hop.dartmouth.edu.
∎ The Shadow Box, the latest from Thetford’s Parish Players, has been held over for an additional weekend. The final shows will take place on Friday and Saturday at 7:30 p.m. and Sunday at 3 p.m. General admission tickets are $15, and reservations can be made by calling 802-785-4344.
∎ The Lebanon High School Wet Paint Players will put on performances of FAME at the Lebanon Opera House this weekend. Shows are at 7 p.m. on Friday, 2 p.m. and 7 p.m. on Saturday and 2 p.m. on Sunday. Tickets are $10 for adults, and free for Lebanon High School students with ID. Tickets can be purchased by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.
∎ Also at the Lebanon Opera House, Theaterworks USA will put on a production Wednesday of Skippyjon Jones, based on the children’s book. The children’s show, which follows a Siamese cat who wants to be a chihuahua, will start at 10 a.m. Individual tickets are $6, and can be purchased by calling 603-448-0400.
Randolph’s Chandler Music Hall will present the latest in its “Great Directors” film series on Sunday, with a showing of Stanley Kubrick’s 1963 black comedy Dr. Strangelove. Vermont film historian Rick Winston will open with a lecture at 7 p.m., and the screening will follow. General admission is $9, and tickets can be purchased at the door or by calling 802-728-6464.
Blues performers The Tone Bones, or Todd Mudd and Eric Anis, will kick off the “Blues in the Barn” concert series Saturday at Sharon’s The Idlewood, an old barn converted to a restaurant and event space in 2002. Admission is $16 and includes one drink from the bar. Seating is limited; reservations can be made by calling 802-763-5236.
∎ Rob Zappulla’s Quintet will perform “Sinatra & All That Jazz,” a show in which the trumpeter and his group play arrangements of songs by singers influenced by Frank Sinatra, and singers who were influences on him. The show begins at 7:30 p.m. on Saturday at the Claremont Opera House. Tickets are $22 day of show, and $19.50 in advance. They can be purchased from claremontoperahouse.org.
∎ The Main Street Museum in White River Junction will host a show tonight with the Vermont-based Happy Jawbone Family Band headlining, backed up by The Caring Babies and The Grand Mandibles. It starts at 8 p.m., and admission is on a sliding scale from $4 to $40.
∎ The Counterpoint Vocal Ensemble will perform a series of holiday concerts through the weekend that will make its way down to Randolph on Friday. Nathaniel Lew directs the 12-piece vocal group, which will perform pieces by Benjamin Britten and Giuseppe Verdi. Friday’s show in Randolph will begin at 7:30 p.m. at St. John’s Episcopal Church. Tickets are $20 for adults, and can be purchased at the door. For information on the other shows, which pass through Burlington, Montpelier and St. Johnsbury, go to counterpointchorus.org.
∎ On Saturday, Syracuse, N.Y., soul group Sophistafunk will hit the Tupelo Music Hall. Tickets to the 8 p.m. show are $15, and can be purchased from tupelohallvermont.com.
∎ The Hartland Holiday Concert, put on by Hartland Community Arts, will take place at 7 p.m. on Friday. Performances during the free show will include the town’s community chorus, flute choir and instrumental ensemble, and organizers urge those who attend to bring cans of food for the Hartland Christmas Project. Those who can’t make it on Friday can visit the dress rehearsal at 7 p.m. tonight.
Bar and Club Circuit
Rock and roll outfit Talking Smack will play at Sunapee’s One Mile West on Saturday. The music starts at 9 p.m.
∎ Jim Hollis will harken back to The Beatles with a set at the Salt hill Pub in Hanover on Friday. The next night, Dixie D & The Diamonds will perform a show of rock and soul. Both performances start at 9 p.m.
∎ Rock trio Baldilocks! will play at Salt hill Lebanon on Friday, followed by a performance by the Stone Cold Roosters on Saturday. Both shows are at 9 p.m.
∎ Storyteller and rocker Brian Warren will hit the Salt hill Pub in Newport on Friday. The Boston-based Blue James Band will take the stage the next night, with both shows starting at 9 p.m.
∎ Frydaddy front man Carlos O’Casio will play at Jesse’s in Hanover, starting at 5 p.m. on Friday.
∎ Folk singer and guitarist Gina Logan will perform at Lebanon’s Stone Arch Bakery starting at 11:30 a.m. on Sunday.
Ramunto’s Brick & Brew Pizza in Bridgewater hosts an open mic starting at 7:30 p.m. on Thursdays. Participants get a free large cheese pizza.
∎ Salt hill Pub in Hanover runs an open mic hosted by Chad Gibbs on Mondays at 7 p.m.
∎ At Salt hill in Lebanon, Brian Warren and Seth Barbiero will host an open mic tonight starting at 8.
∎ Brian Warren also hosts an open mic at Bentleys Restaurant in Woodstock. It’s on Mondays, starting at 8:30 p.m.
∎ Bradford’s Colatina Exit hosts an open mic on Tuesdays starting at 8 p.m.
∎ The Seven Barrel Brewery in West Lebanon runs an open mic on Wednesdays, beginning at 8 p.m.
∎ Gregory Brown hosts an open mic at Hartland’s Skunk Hollow Tavern, beginning at 8:30 p.m. on Wednesdays.
Jon Wolper can be reached at email@example.com or 603-727-3242. Send Highlights to Highlights@vnews.com.