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Revels celebrate season with 'Keep Magic'

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For those who are “all Grinched out” this time of year, and for those who feel “we need something new that’s old,” head to the Christmas Revels, said Milwaukie resident Fran Head.

Photo Credit: PHOTO BY DAVID KINDER - Pictured are Ella DeVito, as Noelle, the time-traveling teen, Tobias Andersen, as Wizard Earl,  and Steve Black, as the Yeoman Warder. The three appear in 'Keep Magic,' the latest offering from the Portland Christmas Revels.  This year’s family-friendly event takes place Dec. 18 through 23 at various times at St. Mary’s Academy, 1615 S.W. Fifth St., in Portland.

Founded in 1994 as a nonprofit organization, Portland Revels is dedicated to celebrating the season through music, dance and theater productions. This year’s event is titled “Keep Magic” and revolves around a “modern-day family touring London. They have a teen daughter who doesn’t want to be there and is transported to 17th-century England and encounters some former residents of the Tower of London,” Head said.

Starting a tradition

Head first heard about the Portland Revels in the early 1990s, when she still lived in Central Oregon. She decided to come to Portland and give it a try, feeling “we should have a better Christmas than we’re having.”

Photo Credit: PHOTO BY ELLEN SPITALERI - Milwaukie resident Fran Head displays a selection of costume pieces she wears as a greeter for the Christmas Revels.She decided to volunteer and became an usher in 2000. Eventually, she became a greeter, smiling at people as they came up the stairs at the Scottish Rite Center in downtown Portland.

Head later moved to Milwaukie and still volunteers as a greeter at the Christmas Revels, wearing a costume she put together herself that is reminiscent of the medieval and Renaissance periods.

For her, the Revels are like “an ark of all these old traditions, keeping afloat things people loved hundreds and hundreds of years ago.”

Head added, “I appreciate words, and I have sung all my life. I was raised an old-world Roman Catholic, with all the rituals. Without rituals, where are we? We need something special at Christmas that makes a family of all of us.”

The Revels once hosted a cider press event, but this year Head volunteered to do something different at her home to celebrate autumn.

About 40 people came to Milwaukie on Oct. 18 for a Portland Revels harvest hootenanny. They brought instruments, sang and enjoyed a potluck.

“It was the first time for this event, and I am so glad that the Revels people came to Milwaukie, to this beautiful area,” Head said, adding that the board members liked the event and hope it can continue as a fall tradition.

Preserving cultural traditions

Head said people should attend the Christmas Revels, “to begin to enjoy the Christmas season again.”

There is so much more to Christmas than Santa and materialism, she said, adding that the traditions from the past and from other countries form a “treasure trove” from which to sample.

Christmas traditions come from all different places and times, and the Revels are not just a concert, not just a play, but so much more.

“Even Scrooge said we should cherish the past, present and future, and that’s what the Revels does. It celebrates the ghosts of all those Christmases,” Head said.

For more information about the Christmas Revels 20th anniversary production of “Keep Magic,” visit portlandrevels.org or call 503-274-4654. Portland Revels is an educational arts nonprofit that celebrates the seasons through song, dance, story and ritual of the past and present, creating community across generations and cultures.