Reveling in Artistic Tradition
When Lebanon resident Kim Rheinlander saw a Revels performance in Cambirdge, MA in 1973 she remembers exclaiming to herself, “These are my people!” So, upon moving to the Upper Valley, she joined Revels North, the Hanover-based performance organization that focuses on traditional song, dance, story telling, and ritual.
The grand spectacle each year is the Christmas Revel, which takes place at the Hopkins Center for the Arts and is seen by nearly five thousand people each year over the course of a weekend. Auditions take place in Spring and rehearsals begin in September. Most revelers are local amateurs, but each year there are featured professional artists from around the US and world. The 2017 show was a Nordic Celebration of the Winter Solstice and featured traditional songs, stories, and dances of Sweden, Denmark, Finland, and Denmark. Previous years have featured traditions of Quebec, Appalachia, Ireland, and England.
One of her favorite aspects of participating in Revels is the opportunity to meet new people. It was the 1994 Victorian special that led her to meet her husband and fellow Reveler, lifelong Lebanon resident Erling Heistad. They were dance partners for an 1840’s five-step waltz that created uproar in the Victorian world due to it involving the shocking act of touching.
Erling credits Revels for being an excellent way to expand your horizons both locally and internationally. You can find yourself singing with someone from another town in the Upper Valley like Newport and learn that town’s history and traditions, while also learning the history and traditions of faraway lands like Norway.
Revelers are of all ages, and the multigenerational is another highlight of participation. One young girl pronounced “I didn’t know I could have so much fun with old people!” Kim and Erling particularly enjoy the energy and passions that the teenagers bring.
As to why fellow Lebanon residents should join Revels North, Erling says “Challenging yourself can be a lot of fun.” Why be bored watching television repeats or scrolling Facebook, when you can be learning ancient Swedish herding calls, known as Kulning, as Kim did for the last Christmas Revels? Or learn folk songs in Icelandic, one of the world’s most challenging languages?
They insist the Revels is one of the few places where adults can actually get together and play. So, for those who want to play, but don’t want to or can’t commit to the demands of the Christmas Revels, there are year-round opportunities for participation. There’s the Spring Singers who practice in winter and culminate with performances at the spring equinox, and then the joyous Summer Revels Festival. Revels North also hosts informal pub sings at Skinny Pancake, instrumental jam sessions (all instruments from kazoos, fiddles, and contrabass clarinets are welcome) with the Band of Fools, and community dances for all to join. Kim and Erling hope to see you there!