California Revels 
Creating Community Through Celebration
California Revels Newsletter
Oakland, CA
March 2011
in this issue...
Magic in the Air - 2011 Christmas Revels
Reveling All Year Long
Good for What Ails Ya

Christmas Revels 2011 - There's Magic in the Air! 

The Solstice approaches in the court of King Arthur, and as the days grow short, the legendary king summons his lords, ladies, knights and knaves to Camelot There they will pass the long winter evenings regaling each other with song, dance, feasting, and tales of their fantastical exploits. Complete with dragons, magic, and spectacular costumes, this visit to the mythical kingdom is sure to be a Revels classic.

In addition to the brilliant singing and dancing of the Revels choruses, you can look forward to Robert  Sicular returning to our stage as King Arthur.  Revels favorite Susan Rode Morris will portray his Queen, Guinevere, and the famous magician, Dr Kim Silverman (often known as his performance character Merloch Silvermaine) makes his Revels debut as Merlin.

The 26th Annual Christmas Revels is scheduled for December 9-11 & 16-18 at the Oakland Scottish Rite Center.

Robert Sicular
Robert Sicular in the 2009 Christmas Revels

Susan Rode Morris
Revels' Artistic Associate Susan Rode Morris in the 2004 Christmas Revels

Merloch Silvermaine: Merlin in the 2011 Christmas Revels

Revels Events for 2011

 2011 Calendar of Events
(All dates are tentative. See our website for updates.)

April 16  - Earth Day at John Muir House. Revels will be there as a participant. The Solstice Ensemble performs from 1:30-2pm and we will staff a Revels booth all day.

April 30 - Revels' May Day at the Oakland Zoo. The procession begins at 11am.
May 1 - Revels' May Day Celebration at the Pelican Inn, Muir Beach  1:30pm
June 4-5 - Adult and Teen choral auditions for the 2011 Christmas Revels.  
June 11 - Children's (7-12) auditions for the 2011 Christmas Revels.
June 19 - Revels' Summer Solstice Gala. Tickets on sale soon.
June 21 - Revels' new Summer Solstice Sundown Gathering.  Muir Beach. Details to be announced.

September 3 & 4 - Revels Solstice Ensemble appears at the 146th Scottish Highland Gathering and Games in Pleasanton

September 5 - 2011 Revels "Abbots Bromliad" at Oakland's Joaquin Miller Park. Last year's Bromliad was such a success we are making it an annual Revels event.
October 8 - Revels Solstice Ensemble performs at Oaktoberfest in Oakland's Dimond District. 
December 3 - Yule at the Zoo, Oakland Zoo.
December 9-11 & 16-18  The 26th annual Christmas Revels: A Celebration of the Winter Solstice at the Oakland Scottish Rite Theater.
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From the Artistic Director

Artistic Director's Report

Good for What Ails Ya


It's been cold at twilight lately, not winter in-your-bones cold, but summer cold. It's a subtle distinction but one that those of us who live in the Mediterranean climate of Northern California know and understand. We pay attention to it because it means that the seasons are turning. There's no great snowmelt, and the chill winter rains still stream down from the Gulf of Alaska, but we can tell anyway.


We do get a few visual cues. The plums have been blossoming for weeks now and yellow daffodils line the roadways, but these are notorious for pushing the season and are false signals. No, it's the tiny shift in the nature of cold that tells us with certainty that the seasons are turning once again. It's deeply comforting, this regularity of change.


Among the things that recur with great regularity in the Revels universe are of course, feasting, singing, seasonal celebration, but also the query, "Why is Revels necessary?" It's a question that comes up every now and then, and most predictably when senior Revels artists and administrators gather for their annual midwinter enclave. There we sit, every February, circled in a room in Scottsdale Arizona. The last Christmas Revels has just receded over the candlelit horizon behind us, and the next one is nowhere in sight.  And we wonder, "Why on earth do we do this?"


It's not quite the same question as: "Why do I go to Revels?"  That question probably has as many responses as there are merry Revelers, all of whom are quite content with their own version of the answer. But this matter of necessity is something different.  It raises the issue of Revels' role in contemporary American culture. As a matter of fact, it raises the issue of whether we really have any important purpose at all. You will probably not be surprised to learn that I think we do.


Traditional communities are formed by commonality of experience, probably due to some combination of climate, occupation, spiritual beliefs, genealogy, and geography. People grow up within them, are formed by them, and culture is the means by which the community is identified and maintained. Songs, stories, and rituals all express what is special and defining about a particular people. This is the trove that Revels mines. It is our business to celebrate the depth, complexity and power of traditional culture.

This is not the business of modern corporate hegemony. In my view, much of what we accept as modern American "culture" is really a carefully manufactured narrative that has very little to do with either tradition or important values. There is an incessant effort to define us in subgroups that have all the trappings of community but none of the substance.  Of course I'm talking about marketing through mass media as the most overt example, but I think it extends to entertainment and news coverage as well. Virtually anyplace where we find ourselves functioning in our public selves, we are asked to identify with a set of characteristics and opinions that confer on us a subgroup identity.

The purpose of this is clear. If you identify with a group, you are inclined to want what the group wants, or even better, you can be persuaded to behave as the group is supposed to behave. Best of all, if the group is portrayed in a sufficiently appealing light, you can be persuaded to purchase the trappings of membership. This isn't a mystery; it's basic marketing. But under the hegemony of modern corporate plutocracy, it masquerades as culture.

Revels functions as an antidote to this. We reassert the importance of culture as a source of connection, not isolation; as a generator of satisfaction, rather than unquenchable desire; as a pathway to deeper knowledge, not an empty pastime. The Revels community is self-defining. You are here if you want to be here, and you participate in the way you choose.

Revels is inextricably tied to the turning of the seasons and we celebrate the big milestones in the year by evoking the ways they have been celebrated for very many years. What makes our work important and useful is that we are allegiant to these rituals of celebration. We do not seek to take possession of them, to tame them or turn them to profitable gain. We offer an alternative, a satisfying and enriching way of being in community. There has to be a counterpoint to the incessant drone of consumerist cant and the cooption of culture. We are a part of that counterpoint and that's why I think what Revels does is important.


                    - David Parr, Artistic Director

All of David's past columns can be found on the California Revels website under "Dragon Fumets".