Reporting on Education at Revels

Posted on 5.27.2016 by Emily Williams

We are wrapping up the academic year at Revels, completing many different programs with children and teens who come to Revels every week and are deeply involved in the organization, and thousands of other children who have been introduced to Revels through the David Coffin Visiting Artist Program.


Dance: Morris, Longsword and Rapper Dance

Students in these classes danced every week in class and then had the opportunity to perform at: NEFFA (New England Folk Festival), May Day at sunrise on the banks of the Charles River, in Downtown Boston as part of the Gingerale with 7 other kids teams for the greater New England area, and again in Revels’ joint collaboration with the Perkins School. 

Another highlight of the dancing year was our “Dance Out the Dark” program: an evening of celebrating through dance to drive the dark away during the doldrums of late February and early March.  We start the program in complete darkness, and with every dance add an element of light (using glow materials, miniature lights, and black lights) until the room is lit brightly, and everyone – audience and performers alike - joins together in a celebratory Celidh dance.  Maybe you will join us next year?


Sing with Revels, Homeschool Program:edu_homeschool.jpg

We finished up our year of Sing with Revels with a musical re-enactment of the Russian Folk Tale: The Twelve Month Brothers, complete with costumes and Russian folksongs and Russian dancing!  The group enjoyed combining all aspects of what is Revels – recognition of the turning of the seasons through the story of the 12 Month Brothers, folk music and dance from a different culture (in this case Russia), a bit of acting and story telling, all highlighted by engaging music and dance, and spiced with fun and colorful costumes.


Alumni Youth Chorus: 

The Alumni Youth Chorus gathered again this spring (as we had for Riversing last September) to perform and participate in Spring Sing – a jubilant celebration of the Spring Equinox Revels-style at Revels headquarters in Watertown.  We joined Janice Allen in a rhythm hand game called “Juba This and Juba That”, and also enjoyed combining the traditional African American spiritual of “Oh Mary Don’t You Weep Don’t You Mourn” with the English-roots rapper dancing for a world premiere of Rapper dancing to the singing of that song!  The two traditions blend in a unique way that bent the edges of both folk traditions.


edu_david_2.JPGThe David Coffin Visiting Artist Program:

The Education department has also been spreading the Revels tradition in many local schools through our own favorite David Coffin!  He acts as Revels visiting artist, and brings his gifts of performance and enthusiasm for traditional music to thousands of schoolchildren throughout New England.  He really does “Bring Traditions to Life” for modern students through his two programs: “Life at Sea: A Voyage in Song” and “Music from the Kings’ Court (the evolution of the recorder).  If you are curious to have a sense of his programs, take a minute to visit the Education section of our Website at Revels, and see a video teaser for some of what David Coffin brings to schools in our community.



Our final act of this academic year was a Revels Residency in the Bedford Public Schools.  We designed a full-immersion week of “Learning about Immigration” for fourth graders, including of course songs and dances from various immigrating countries, in addition to writing projects (journals from immigrants, ships’ logs, letters from America etc.) and math problems which focused on the theme of immigration.  Each child sewed a piece of their own costume, and each child was part of a simulated family of immigrants from a specific country.  The 180 fourth graders presented a final performance of all they had learned at the end of the week:  an imaginary boat trip from Liverpool England to New York City, with Captain David Coffin at the helm.  The students presented songs and dances from 4 different countries, and also some of what they had learned about life on a sailing vessel from David Coffin, and performed the work of the ship to a few great Sea Shanteys!! 


This was an amazing week of truly integrated learning.  We have had tremendous feedback from the school and from the families whose children were involved.  This newly developed residency is something we have decided to offer up to other schools which are interested in exploring some non-testing-based-whole-child learning.  Please let friends and family who might be interested in bringing this to their children’s schools know about this option …and, it dovetails with Massachusetts 4th Grade Curriculum, which includes the topic of Immigration.


edu_vaudeville.jpgCOMING SOON:



Last summer we piloted a two week workshop based on the Vaudeville tradition of live entertainment, Revels style.  It was a great success, and we are planning to do it again this summer in July (July 11-22).  Workshop participants, ages 8-18, work together over the two weeks to put together a series of acts for the entertainment of family and friends on the last day of the workshop.  There will be exploration of singing, dancing, acting, juggling, unicycling, hand-bell ringing, body balancing, musical instrument playing, and this year a super-fancy maypole dance!   We still have a few spots available if you know of any young person who might be interested!  There is more information here.