Tag Archives: Sword Dance

Cambridge Christmas Revels 2016: “Acadian – Cajun Celebration” — Was OUTSTANDING!

by Anura Guruge

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Absolutely brilliant!

Bravo. Kudos & a HUGE Thank YOU.

Made MY Christmas. Feel rejuvenated — which is what these wonderful pagan celebrations of the Winter Solstice are supposed to be all about.

Yes, of course, I am an unashamed sucker for Revels. There is a visceral connection — which is probably not surprising given my truly pagan blood. I love and savor all aspects of Revels. Of course, I get up and dance the “Lord of the Dance” — and let me please tell you, that doing “Lord of Dance” at the stunningly beautiful ‘Sanders Theatre’, with three real buglers bugling on the stairs, is like nothing anywhere else.

That said, I am also fussy about MY Revels. This was at least the 10th I have been to — and for the last 7 years or so we have gone to at least one Revels each Christmas. I know what I like, I know what works, I know what elements need to be there and I know when I am treated to a good performance.

And the Cambridge “Acadian – Cajun Celebrations” exceeded my expectations, and given that this is Cambridge, the ‘Revels Mothership‘ as I refer to them, I had, as ever, very high hopes. This was my third Cambridge Revels, the second in two years.

The music, the songs, the presentation, the costumes, the props were all truly marvelous. It was a good story and they told it well. I learned quite a bit.

The French songs were captivating. The fifth act, ‘La Rose au Bois‘ (The Rose in the Woods) was truly amazing.

The Sword Dance which incorporated some impressive tap-dancing was magical as was the Mummer’s Play.

And this year, for the first time ever, it was POLITICAL. This being ultra-liberal and superlatively educated Cambridge there were at least three digs at the President-Elect, one having to do with his small hands. They had Trump’s doctor starring in the Mummer’s Play and that was appreciated by all. But, the most telling was when David Coffin, the M.C., stressed at the start that the Hallmark ‘Dona Nobis Pacem‘, the Peace blessing, was more important this year than ever before.

Overall it was a BLAST. Loved it. Bought the CD and it got player, in its entirety, twice before we got home (around 12:40am in the morning).

The Cambridge show is on for a few more days. Try and catch it if you can.

Welcome YULE.

Merry Christmas.

Related posts:
>> Cambridge 2016 tickets.
>> Cambridge 2015
Welsh Revels: Pictures.

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by Anura Guruge

Cambridge 2015 Christmas Revels, The ‘Welsh Celebration’ — Absolutely Fantabulous.

RevelsCambridge10182015 .Anura Guruge December 2014 thumbnail


by Anura Guruge

Related posts:
>> Cambridge 2015
Welsh Revels
: Program.
>> Cambridge 2015 Welsh Revels.

** Dylan Thomas & I.
** Dylan Thomas: ‘A Boy With A Note’.

>> Christmas Revels North, 2015Scottish Highland Bash.
>> Christmas Revels 2014: RAVE.
>> Christmas Revels 2013 at Dartmouth.
>> Christmas Revels 2012 at Dartmouth.

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Pictures from last night provided by Revels.

Photographs by (and copyright belonging to) Roger Ide.

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Lavish Production.


Authentic & Empathetic.

Singing bordering on Divine.

Yes, I will readily admit that I love ‘Revels‘ — and have for years. But, I am also a stickler for tradition and class and will differentiate between brilliant, v. good and not so good as I did here.

The ‘Welsh Celebration’ Christmas Revels 2015, opening night performance yesterday, in Cambridge at the elaborate ‘Sanders Theatre‘, was outstandingly good in every facet.

This morning Teischan, Deanna and I, all veterans of Revels past, were debating whether last night was the BEST Revels we have ever seen! That alone is one heck of a testament — since I have been to about 9 and Deanna and Teischan to more than 6.

Yes, the Welshness appeals to me since Wales is one of the 4 places I consider as ‘Home’. That they actually mentioned Cwmdonkin Drive, as to where a Christmas present being delivered, had come from was an added bonus. Not sure how many people even heard the name — Cwmdonkin — or knew what it meant. I would have to think that I was the ONLY person there last night that had actually lived on Cwmdonkin Drive — directly opposite Dylan Thomas’ house.

Very authentic. A lot of men looked Welsh. The slag piles were beautifully rendered.

That they did ‘Sospan Fach‘, a classic Welsh ditty (invariably sung at Rugby matches), was another bonus. It was GOOD (but I share with you, below, my favorite version).

The requisite elements of any Christmas Revels — Morris Dance, Mummer’s Play, Sword Dance, Dona Nobis Pacem, Sussex Mummer’s Carol, Horn Dance — were of an extremely high class. But I expect that from Cambridge Revels — who are THE ‘Mother Ship’ of Revels.

The Sword Dance was exquisite and elaborate. Wow. A girl slipped and fell during it. The audience gasped as one — that was how everybody, at the edge of their seats — was engrossed in the display. She got up at once and continued without a hitch. Given the reaction from the audience they might want to incorporate that slip into future performances.

Musically it was a Master Class, especially the signing. Bravo. THANK YOU.

The singing segments in the Second Half were goose bump inducing. The audience signing Dona Nobis Pacem was WOW! Well it is Cambridge.

Well I do NOT want to appear that I am gushing TOO MUCH since we consider Revels North, at Dartmouth, OUR Revels. So we don’t want them to think that I am glorifying Cambridge too much. SMILE. We go to the Revels North ‘Scottish Bash‘ next week. Yes, TWO (2) Revels for 2015.

Brilliant production. Outstanding performance. Bravo. Kudos.

Thank YOU.

Even MORE pictures by Roger Ide.
Click to access.

MY Favorite rendition of ‘Sospan Fach‘ — and OF COURSE it is by Max Boyce.

Remember I went to University in Wales (in Swansea) and essentially grew up there.


Click to access YouTube video. Sospan Fach starts at around 3:20. This is Sospan Fach at its very best and Max was the master. IF you haven’t heard Max Boyce before THANK ME for enhancing your lfe.

Dartmouth ‘Hop’ Christmas Revels 2013: It Was A Subdued Hoedown Of Sorts, Short On The Expected Yule Revelry.

Anura Guruge, June 8, 2013.

Anura Guruge

Related posts:
1. Christmas Revels 2013 at Dartmouth — Aug. 7, 2013.
2. Christmas Revels 2012 at Dartmouth Dec. 17, 2012.
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Of course, more or less by definition it was good. The HOP (definitely) and Revels North not known for putting on duds — though this show, in my opinion, flirted, dangerously, at times, with that appellation for this supposed Appalachian romp.

It was a good production though this was the most minimalistic Revels set I have ever seen (I think). As far as I can see the only props they had were a few sorry benches. The pseudo psychedelic projected backdrop was neither here nor there and I am at a loss as to what it had to do with Appalachia, the Revels, Yule or even the time of day.

The ameteur cast, with all those wonderful kids, was as ever amazing. Their commitment, dedication and talent is awe inspiring. Over the last two years I have come to appreciate what they achieve each Christmas even more since I have been taking Devanee (our 13 year old) for ‘Clearlakes Chorale‘ practices/rehearsals on a weekly basis. Clearlakes and Revels North both do their Christmas show roughly at the same time (this year on the same weekend) and moreover start their practices/rehearsals at the same time, i.e., early September. What is takes to pull off Revels is a few orders of magnitude more complex than what it takes to do a Chorale performance — and I get to see the effort that goes into pulling Clearlakes off (partly because I invariably end up lending a hand). So, I have nothing but unstinted admiration and praise for the Revels North ameteur cast. Bravo.

The Sword Dance was one of the best in recent years — though given that we were in the front row, center, as usual, I did spot some fumbling.

The Morris Dance was good. The prolonged ‘Lord Of The Dance‘, in which I partook, as I always do, was uplifting as it is meant to be.

The Brass, ‘Heritage Bass‘, was outstanding — and that I noticed them more and actually paid attention to them, at the expense of paying much notice to what little was happening on the stage, kind of tells its own story.


What I am now going to say does border on the sacrilegious and I worry that the gods of Revels will strike me down — though I also get a sneaking feeling that they may be with me on this.

Deanna’s take at intermission is a good place to start. After I came back from going and congratulating the ‘Heritage Bass’ (and getting a wonderful, hands-on tutorial on the Tuba), I asked her, knowing to an extent what I will hear (given that I do know my wife of 11 years quite well) what she thought. She started by saying: ‘I am worried to even say anything because YOU will get mad …’! And that is the crux of the problem. Deanna and the kids know that I am a sucker for Revels and that as such ‘Revels can do no wrong in my book’. Well, that is usually the case and I still continue to be a sucker for Revels. Now, more than ever, given that I feel that I have yet to enjoy a PROPER Revels in 2013, I most likely will have to get tickets and go to the Mother-ship performance by Revels Cambridge.

Deanna and the kids did not like it at all. I knew, 20 minutes in, that that would be the case. They, all seasoned Revelers, like a traditional, very European Revels.

Let me throw a few words and phrases as to what WE felt about Revels North Christmas Revels 2013 before I also explore some thoughts as to what happened.



Lacked the Revels spark.

Unthematic and choppy with the Yule elements appearing to be add ons.

Pete Sutherland is probably an AMAZING musician but he is not a Revels player.

Suzannah Park is IMPRESSIVE (and striking) but I am not sure whether she carried this show.


I fully understand that producers have to experiment, try new things and stretch the envelope.

I also gather that this was supposed to be a tribute etc. That is all very good. But, don’t deprive ME of Revels.

So, I appreciate, that this is very personal. Yes, of course, people loved it. I heard them say it. But, we also got the impression that there were a lot of people with ‘free’ or discounted tickets at our performance.

We had a late lunch at the Dartmouth (over-priced) cafeteria  in the HOP prior to the 5pm performance. There was a visually impaired gentleman who was holding court, in a very loud voice, also having something to eat at the same time — surrounded by a bunch of groveling admirers. You couldn’t but hear him talk … Appears that he was a ‘big shot’ from Revels in New York. He had some interesting things to say about the different shows. He talked about the ‘Irish Revels on a ship‘ from last year, for example. (And that was one heck of a show at Dartmouth.) He had an interesting theory that this Appalachian show proved. He was saying that people just prefer European themed Revels — the more ‘Germanic’ the better. He probably has that right.

I have harped on enough.

Bottom line, this was too ‘cultural’ NOT enough Revels.

I paid ($110 I think) expecting to be Reveled not to get an academic, discourse on Appalachian musical heritage.

Will I go to Revels North next year? Most likely.

I could be wrong but I kind of feel bad for the ameteur cast. I get a feeling that they knew that this was not Revels — and it is NOT their fault. They have to do what the management decides.

But maybe I am going to switch allegiance. Rather than Revels North being the Primary Revels and Cambridge the ‘stand-by’, we might, especially now that the kids are older and can weather the trip to Boston better, do Cambridge as the primary and Dartmouth if we feel we need a second dose for the year.

Happy Yule.