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Christmas Revels celebrates shortest day

by: SUBMITTED PHOTO - The Christmas Revels will celebrate the shortest day of the year, Appalachian style. Audiences can expect to hear American and Appalachian music, dance and cultural traditions. The performances run Dec. 7 through 16 at the Scottish Rite Center Theater in downtown Portland.The Christmas Revels invite audiences to enjoy early American and Appalachian music, dance and cultural traditions as they join the celebration of the shortest day of the year in the style of a small Appalachian mountain community.

Audience members will enjoy early American songs and carols, toe-tapping tunes and high-energy clogging to chase the winter darkness away. Special guest artist Suzannah Park from Asheville, N.C., has traveled the world with Northern Harmony and Village Harmony, and her roots are deep in Appalachina music and dance traditions. The show also includes Dave Macemon of West Linn as the dance captain.

“I have been ‘occasionally’ involved in the Portland Revels since 1999,” said Macemon. “This year the director, writer and Revels staff chose Appalachia in the mid-1850s pre-Civil War. So the songs that are sung are drawn from the rich literature of mountain church music and traditional ballads. ... The setting of the Revels this year is special for me. I grew up in Kentucky and have been involved in learning and teaching traditional song and dance from Appalachia since I was a freshman in high school. Now my wife, son and I go to Berea, Kentucky, for Christmas School. It is a week-long session with classes in traditional dance, song and crafts. The Revels this year takes me home to the songs and dances I love. I feel very fortunate that the Revels asked me to put together the dancing for this year’s show.”

Macemon said the story of this year’s Revels takes place on the Solstice as the community gathers to celebrate the year, share a potluck and pass on songs, dances and stories from elders to children. Two families of travelers plus one stranger join them to escape the weather. The stranger steals the songs as they are being passed along and the songs seem to be lost and forgotten.

“One of the traveling families reminds us that we don’t learn what we love in our heads, we love them in our hearts, and what is in our hearts can never be forgotten,” Macemon said. “I hope the audience takes away not only an enjoyable evening’s entertainment of song, dance and story, but they take away that what is in our hearts will always be in our hearts. Sometimes we just need to go looking to find out what is there.”

Other local performers include Robert Reed, also of West Linn, who has been with the Portland Revels since the group was founded, and the Lake Oswego family of Ben Stutz, Cindy Gulick and their daughter, Suzanna, who sing in the chorus.

As always, audience members will have a chance to sing along and join in the revelry in this family-friendly show.

The show runs Dec. 7 through 16, with Thursday, Friday and Saturday performances at 7:30 p.m., Saturday and Sunday at 1 p.m. matinees and Sunday at 7 p.m. performances. All performances take place at the Scottish Rite Center Theater, 709 SW 15th Ave., (SW 15th and Morrison, with main door on Morrison) in downtown Portland.

Tickets range in price from $18 to $39 for adults, $12 to $32 for students and seniors, and $7 to $16 for children. Purchase tickets online at portlandrevels.org.



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