Art Notes: Revels North seeks funds for new home

Alex Hanson. Copyright (c) Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com.

Alex Hanson. Copyright (c) Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com. Geoff Hansen

Revels North performs

Revels North performs "A New England Midwinter Revels" in December 2022. The organization is fundraising to purchase a property on Old Etna Road in Lebanon, N.H., for programming, rehearsals and storage. (Evan A. Oxenham photograph) Evan A Oxenham—© Copyright 2022 Evan Oxenham

By ALEX HANSON

Valley News Staff Writer

Published: 06-07-2023 3:00 PM

Like a wandering medieval troubadour, Revels North hasn’t really had a place to call home.

In an effort to put the nonprofit arts organization on firmer footing, Revels North’s leadership is kicking off a campaign to raise $400,000 to buy a 3,000-square-foot space in Lebanon that can host rehearsals, an office and storage for costumes and props.

“We’ve been actively looking for a place to call home for a while,” Julia Hautaniemi, executive director of Revels North, said in a phone interview. Revels has always had to rent space for rehearsals and programs.

The fundraising effort starts with an event from 3 to 7:30 p.m. on Sunday at Fairlee Town Hall. The event includes performances by the Revels Community Singers and Morris & More, a group of Morris dancers, followed by a potluck dinner. David Millstone will call a contra dance, with music from an open band featuring Revels North Artistic Director Alex Cumming and the English fiddler Laurel Swift.

Founded in 1974, and now one of nine Revels chapters around the country, Revels North has become a fixture in the Upper Valley’s DIY-oriented arts scene. It emphasizes the power of folktales, music and dance to bring people together.

For decades, Upper Valley audiences could count on attending the annual Christmas Revels at Dartmouth College’s Spaulding Auditorium. But that engagement ended in 2018, when the college planned to renovate the 900-seat hall. The production moved to Lebanon Opera House for 2019.

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The drive for a more permanent home stems from a desire to expand Revels North’s programming. While the winter production has been a constant, the organization’s education effort and other performances have risen and fallen over the years, Hautaniemi said.

“We used to have a program called Revels Kids,” that taught traditional folk singing and dancing, she said. Revels plans to continue its midsummer performance, and to expand its other work, including pub sings.

“All of the things that we have done traditionally, we want to bring back, but bigger,” Hautaniemi said.

The timeline for the new space, at 31 Old Etna Road in Lebanon, and new programs, is ambitious. While Revels North is still negotiating the price on its new space, in an office building behind Wilson Tire, it finished moving in this spring and hopes to complete some needed renovations by the end of the year.

“By fall, we’ll be getting more programs up and running,” Hautaniemi said.

This is the first capital campaign Revels North has held, at least in recent memory. So far, it has raised around $6,000, Hautaniemi said.

The winter production will have to travel, as Lebanon Opera House is expected to be closed for renovations.

The sense of urgency is engendered by Revels North’s upcoming 50th birthday next year. AVA Gallery and Art Center, which is celebrating 50 years this year (see below) is showing other Upper Valley arts groups how to use a milestone to consolidate support and galvanize interest.

For tickets to Sunday’s event and more information, or to contribute to the capital campaign, go to revelsnorth.org.

Hootenanny at River Park

Joe Clifford, the longtime director of Lebanon Opera House, regularly programs events outside the venerable opera house itself. Both Colburn Park and the city’s First Congregational Church have become regular venues.

But it hasn’t yet programmed spaces farther out in the city, particularly in West Lebanon. That changes Saturday, with the planned Hootenanny at River Park, an evening of picnicking and Americana music.

By holding one of the opera house’s LOH on Location shows in West Lebanon, Clifford said he hopes to “open doors to the possibilities across town and start to imagine ways to create an arts ecosystem there.”

The gates open at 2 p.m. for picnicking, and for walking around the 38-acre property off Route 10 north of old West Leb.

The musical acts sound like a lot of fun, starting at 4 p.m. with Beecharmer, one of the many projects of Wilder residents Jes Raymond (banjo and vocals) and Jakob Breitbach (fiddle, upright bass). Following them are Cold Chocolate, a Boston duo that deploys guitar, percussion and vocal harmonies to mix folk, bluegrass and funk, and the Jacob Jolliff Band, an ensemble led by mandolinist Jacob Jolliff, a former member of Joy Kills Sorrow and Yonder Mountain String Band.

Admission is free, though there’s a registration option on the opera house’s website that sends updates about weather. If it rains, the show moves to the auditorium in the former Seminary Hill School in West Lebanon.

The show also offers a chance to walk around the future River Park, which is slated to host around 840,000 square feet of development and another 500,000 square feet of parking garages.

It’s nice of River Park to host, though I’m not sure it’s in the developer’s best interest. Lebanon residents might get used to enjoying all that open land and push the city to scale back the project.

For more information or to register, go to lebanonoperahouse.org or call 603-448-0400.

The ‘80s never ended

As part of its ongoing 50th birthday party, AVA Gallery and Art Center, at 11 Bank St., in Lebanon, is holding a dance party from 6:30 to 10 Friday night. Prepare to be transported back to the music of AVA’s early days, the 1980s. Admission is $20.

And if you want to go to AVA sooner, it holds the latest installment of The Mudroom, its storytelling project, from 7 to 9 Thursday night. Tickets are $12 for AVA members, $15 for nonmembers and $20, if available, at the door.

For tickets and information, go to avagallery.org or call 603-448-3117.

Barn door’s open

New London Barn Playhouse kicks off its season with its annual Straw Hat Revue, through Sunday. The first production, of “The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee,” opens June 14.

For tickets and more information, go to nlbarn.org or call 603-526-6710.

Local pride

By the time my copy of The New Yorker reaches my mailbox, it’s old news. But this week’s has some local flavor and the cover has traveled around social media like wildfire.

That’s because Sasha Velour, drag queen extraordinaire and a graduate of the Center for Cartoon Studies, drew the cover and it’s a stunner. Pride in your face.

There’s a lovely interview on The New Yorker website conducted by Francoise Mouly, the magazine’s longtime art director, who calls Velour “a virtuoso of pageantry on the stage and on the page.” No arguments here.

Happy Pride Month to all.

Alex Hanson can be reached at ahanson@vnews.com or 603-727-3207.