Five Decades of Tradition
For nearly 50 years, Revels has drawn on the traditions of world cultures to celebrate the seasons with a truly unique blend of music, dance, and storytelling.
A Brief History
The First Christmas Revels
Concert baritone, recording artist and music educator John Langstaff staged his first Christmas Revels in New York City at Town Hall in 1957. The critically acclaimed production with its traditional songs, dances, mime and a mummers' play introduced a wholly new way of celebrating the winter solstice. Ten years later NBC Television engaged him to create a nationally televised "Hallmark Hall of Fame" Christmas special (called A Christmas Masque but using the same framework as today's Christmas Revels) which ran for two consecutive years. In the meantime, Jack continued his active teaching and singing career, instilling the love of traditional and classical music in thousands of young children through televised BBC programs in England where he also made a number of children's recordings with his friend and producer, George Martin. Returning to the States, for many years he was an influential and much-loved Head of Music at the Potomac School in Maryland.
On to Cambridge
In 1971, Jack's daughter Carol persuaded him to revive The Christmas Revels. As a team they pulled together a large group of performers and staged three performances in Harvard's Sanders Theatre. By 1974, an energetic community of "Revelers" was actively involved, a board of directors was formed, and Revels, Inc. was established as a non-profit 501( c )3 organization. Starting as a producer in 1977, Gayle Rich led the growth of the company as Executive Director from 1984-2011.
Through the decades, Revels has grown to become the thirteenth largest performing arts organization in Greater Boston and its signature production of The Christmas Revels is performed for an average of 18,000 people annually. Following the passing of Jack Langstaff in 2005, artistic director Patrick Swanson and music director George Emlen have provided artistic leadership to the organization. (Note: George Emlen retired in 2016 and his role in the artistic leadership of Revels has been ably and energetically filled by Megan Henderson.)
Beyond Sanders Theatre
To further its mission, Revels has produced a significant body of recordings, books and sheet music. Revels education programs provide in-school and after-school programs and workshops, teacher training, classes for home-schooled children, and vacation and summer programs.
In 1975, Revels began to expand with the founding of Revels North in Hanover, NH. Today, there are ten Revels companies scattered throughout North America. Each Revels group has its own non-profit status, but is contractually and artistically affiliated with Revels, Inc.