The Winter Solstice is still several days away, but that shortest and often darkest day of the year will be a great treat for anyone observing it, with the crowds who headed last weekend to a packed Lisner Auditorium for the return of The Christmas Revels in this year’s spectacular A Nordic Celebration of the Winter Solstice in Music, Dance, and Drama.
Christmas shows and pageants abound in Washington at this time of year, but the Revels is in a league of its own. Imagine if you will, a cast of over 100 people, ages 8 through 85, taking the audience through traditional material from the five Nordic countries: Denmark, Finland, Iceland, Norway, and Sweden. This show is in effect a repeat performance from 1996 and 2005,under the ever-polished direction of Roberta Gasbarre (Artistic Director), Elizabeth Anne Fulford (Music Director), and Colin K. Bills (Production Manager.)
What do you get for the price of a ticket? A multi-ethnic cast gorgeously arrayed–to say “dressed” would be inadequate–in authentic and eye-ctching native dress. There are too many people to credit with what is worn onstage as the clothes, headdresses, etc., are, in addition to the music and dance, a large part of the enjoyment. The cast also provides interaction with the audience and conducts sing and dance-alongs in the aisles.
In a show with 44 musical numbers, there are some standouts. There is the opening number, the “Brurelat”or “Bridal Song” by Edvard Grieg, Norway’s most celebrated composer, in an arrangement for a brass quintet. To the interest the children in the audience, there are the Solstice Teens and the Northern Lights Band performing a circle dance from Finland, and children’s songs and dances. There is an inventive version of “Silent Night” beautifully sung by two solo voices, joined by a chorus singing the verses in three Nordic languages and, then to conclude it, an audience sing-along in English.
Some of the promised spectacle occurs before and after intermission. There is a figure of Louhi, witch of the Northland, who steals the sun and the moon, leaving the world in darkness. Represented by special effects and at a size several times that of human, Louhi makes her way down the aisle with gasps of awe and admiration from the audience.
The second act produces a different form of showstopper in the form of Tom Lovli, who reprises from earlier Revels the Norwegian hallingdans (halling dance), as much a spectacular athletic feat as dance. His expertise clearly preceded him. Tension and hopes mounted as he danced past a young woman holding a hat aloft with a cane ten feet from the floor. Could any human touch a hat from such a height? Lovli could and did…bringing down the house, hat and audience.
I rate the show five stars for its entertainment, artistry, and its ability to share traditions.
Running Time: 2 hours and 30 minutes, including one intermission.
The Christmas Revels’ A Nordic Celebration of the Winter Solstice in Music, Dance, and Drama plays through this Sunday, December 18, 2016, at George Washington University’s Lisner Auditorium – 730 21st Street, NW, in Washington, DC. For tickets, call 1-800-595-4849, or purchase them online.
Friday, December 16th at 7:30 PM (Family Friday).
Saturday, December 17th at 2:00 PM & 7:30 PM.
Sunday, December 18th at 1:00 PM & 5:00 PM.
Congratulations to the incredible Artistic Staff for all their amazing creative contributions to this mega-holiday production.
Artistic Director/Stage Director: Roberta Gasbarre.
Music Director: Elizabeth Anne Fulford.
Children’s Stage Director: Jenni Voorhees.
Children’s Music Director: H. Katherine Toton
Associate Director: Sam Game.
Assistant Director: Eva Louise Martin.
2nd Assistant Director: Daniel G. Mori.
Assistant Music Directors: Terrance Johns and William Wurzel.
Set and Lighting Designer: Colin K. Bills.
Costume Designer: Rosemary Pardee.
Associate Costume Designer: Rachael Feola.
Children’s Costume Designer: Cecily Pilzer.
Props and Puppet Designer: Alex Vernon.
Make-up Designers: Linda Smith Nissen and Jenni Voorhees.
Brass Arrangements: Elizabeth Anne Fulford.
Nordic Dance Consultants: Linda Brooks and Ross Schipper.
Lord of the Dance Consultant: James Voorhees.
Abbots Bromley Dance Consultant: David Roodman.
And thank you to all the performers:
Merja Soria, ancient songs
of Finland with kantele
Tom Løvli, traditional dance from Norway
Matthew M. Nielson
Sarah Olmsted Thomas
Susan Hall Lewis
Northern Lights Band
Andrea Hoag, fiddle
lydia ievins, nyckelharpa, 5-string fiddle
Loretta Kelley, fiddle, hardingfele
Charlie Pilzer, string bass, pipe organ
Robert Birch, director, trumpet
Bryan Bourne, bass trombone
Jeff Gaylord, trombone
Andrew Houde, French horn
Fred Marcellus, trumpet
Don Spinelli, percussion
Susan Hall Lewis
Alexa Malanos Silverman
Christina Zola Peck
Cutting Edge Sword
Scandia DC Dancers
Linda Brooks, director
Ross Schipper, director
Fiona Alexandra Bondarev
Julia Sigrist Klam
Codruț T. Pintea White
Ava Marian Stebbins