Revels Names New Leader

Valley News Staff Writer
Friday, February 02, 2018

Brian Cook long ago forgot what songs he sang, and how many scenes he appeared in when he participated in the Christmas Revels at the Hopkins Center for the Arts in 1981. He was only in fourth grade.

What the Norwich native remembers is the high that he experienced while raising his voice in concert with others — a feeling that followed him through Stanford University, day jobs in real estate and nonprofits and into life as a stay-at-home dad.

On Monday, Cook will start to learn the ropes as the new leader of Revels North, the organization that puts on the annual Christmas and Summer Revels, among other events.

“That’s where it all got started,” Cook said on Thursday of that first Revels performance. “Early on I realized that what I wanted to be when I grew up was too tricky a question, but I was passionate about music. I got into songwriting and guitar playing while I was in college, and knew I wanted it to be part of my life.”

Cook returned to the Upper Valley in 2009 with his wife, Anne McGowan, and their two young children, when McGowan landed a job at Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center. A few years later, he started playing a mix of rock, pop, soul, R&B, country, folk and some of his own compositions with friends Chris Trimble and Katie Bucci. They eventually formed a trio that “started goofing around” at open mics.

“One night Dave Clark heard us and said, ‘You guys should get out there and start playing,’ ” Cook recalled. Clark is a musician who also books acts for Upper Valley venues. “We played venues like Big Fatty’s and The Skinny Pancake and the Norwich Green. It’s been a reintroduction to the joys of music-making. That’s part of the Revels sensibility: people gathering to sing.”

Watching his daughter, Julia, 14, and son, Theo, 11, sing in the Revels program in recent years further reinforced Cook’s interest. So did his volunteer work with Norwich’s Root District Game Club, which maintains the historic, one-room Root Schoolhouse, and his work over the last year with the nonprofit Vital Communities.

“It’s a wonderful thing for me,” Cook said. “It feels like everything has come together like in a mystery novel, where you finally realize, ‘Ah-HAH: This is what it all means.’ ”

Cook’s predecessor, Lyndsay Rose, will train him over the next few weeks, and he’ll take over the director’s job on Feb. 26.

In a news release announcing the transition, Rose, who has served as executive director for a year and a half, wrote that she is leaving to co-run the Z Botancials and Hemp Co., an herb farm and apothecary in Vershire.

“I am so grateful to be leaving the organization in such capable hands, and know under Brian’s leadership, Revels North will continue to grow and prosper,” Rose wrote.

David Corriveau can be reached at dcorriveau@vnews.com and at 603-727-3304.