Category Archives: Europe

Executive Director – Debby Garman …Prague Astronomical Clocks !…

These days Portland Revels has so many wonderful community programs going on year-round that it’s a constant staff press of planning and event presentation. Especially challenging and FUN is searching for and identifying experts to present the rich cultural information offered at our Salons. I hope you will partake of one of our salons if you haven’t already done so!

One of the staff tasks I most enjoy is the annual quest to find delightful and thematically relevant gifts for our gift boutique store at the theatre. This year the quest began with a wonderful spring trip to Europe to see a brand-new grandson. As long as we had crossed the Atlantic, I wanted to visit the Astronomical Clock in Prague, which was one of scriptwriter Gray Eubank’s inspirations for this year’s show story. Prague was really fun, and the clock was simply amazing. The clock was first installed in 1410, making it the third-oldest astronomical clock in the world – and the oldest one still working! The clock has a mechanical process that takes place on the hour and draws huge crowds to see it in action. There were many tourist goodies based on the clock and I was inspired to see if we couldn’t present some Prague clocks for sale at our gift store. I succeeded in finding a supplier located in Prague, and you’ll be able to shop from our selection of special clock imports in December.

Prague clock

Scriptwriter Gray mentioned that another influence on his creative script process was a delightful book he read as a child. That book is “The Wonder Clock,” written and illustrated by Howard Pyle. We discovered that the book was recently reprinted and will have copies for sale at the gift store.

In addition, our team of staff shoppers has located stunning and whimsical fair trade Revels-perfect Christmas ornaments and toy suppliers in Thailand and Mexico. The gift store will offer books, calendars, greeting cards, as well as party jewelry and cool personal holiday gifts for every shopper’s budget. Be sure to visit us to take a look!

Debby Garman

Debby G by David Kinder Nov 2013

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Music From the Show – Christmas in Old Europe

The Christmas Revels show, A Christmas in Old Europe, restarts, Thursday, Dec. 12th!

Get your tickets now as they are going fast!

Curious about the music in this year’s show? Below are links to snippets of the music you will hear on stage, sung by the groups as listed below.

Shto Mi-e Milo – Bulgarian – sung by the Yale Women’s Slavic Chorus

This Macedonian song says: How happy I would be to live in the village of Struga, where I would have a little shop, and I could sit in the window and watch the women go down to the well, with their many-colored pitchers, to laugh and talk with their friends.


How I would like it,
Like it and love it
In the town of Struga
To have a small shop.
Hurry, young Kalino
In the town of Struga
To have a small shop.

To sit at the window (shutters)
And watch the young girls
Of Struga go by
Hurry, young Kalino
Watch the young girls
Of Struga go by

When the water, they fetch the water
With their jugs,
Their colorful jugs
Hurry, young Kalino
With their jugs,
Their colorful jugs

At this spring, the cold spring
They find their friends
And there they gather,
Hurry, young Kalino
They find their friends
And there they gather

Kol’ Slaven Nash Gospod – Russian – sung by the New Haven Oratorio Chorus

A well-known Russian hymn by Dimitri Bortniansky (1753-1825)


How glorious our Lord is on Zion
The tongue cannot express.
He is great in heavens on the throne
In blades of grass, on earth he is great.
Oh, Lord, Thou art glorious everywhere,
At night, by day Thy shining is the same.

Nevijska Koleda (On a Good Christmas) – Croatian – sung by David Coffin and the Revels Chorus (Cambridge)

Koleda songs are sung by villagers processing from house to house, bestowing blessings on each household. This koleda is from the Croatian island of Pašman: May we have a good Christmas, with wealth, with plenty. After Christmas a New Year, with wealth, with plenty. All the best to our village!


May we have a good Christmas with wealth,
May we have a good Christmas with plenty,

After Christmas a New Year, with wealth,
After Christmas a New Year, with plenty,

For Christmas, Lord, with wealth,
For Christmas, Lord, with plenty,

I sing lovely songs;
There is a fine olive tree with birds sitting in it.

The 1st carries health and joy, with wealth,
The 1st carries health and joy, with plenty,

The 2nd carries grain and wheat, with wealth,
The 2nd carries grain and wheat, with plenty,

The 3rd carries grapevines and olives, …
The 3rd carries grapevines and olives, …

The one that carries grapevines and olives, …
The one that carries grapevines and olives, …

Landed in our vineyards, with wealth,
Landed in our vineyards, with plenty,

All the best to this our village! [2X]

Joc de Leagane – Romanian – sung by Dunava

A traditional Romanian cradle song, honoring midwives. I was caught by longing when my mother sang.


When my mother was rocking me
She was singing of longing

She was singing of longing and she cried,
“I’ve been caught by longing.”

Some grow old and die
Without knowing the good of longing

But I know I have carried it
Since my mother sang.

Ai lai lai lai lai lai la Ai lai lai lai lai lai la

Script Writer – Gray Eubank …the Onrush of Time…

The 2013 Portland Christmas Revels ‘Eastern Europe” script is the 8th Revels show I’ve had a hand in writing. I’m especially proud that Portland scripts Dick Lewis and I crafted have gone on to be adapted by the Revels in Cambridge, Oakland, and Washington D.C. among other Revels cities.

I believe a Revels script balances precariously between theatrical irrelevance and pompous sermon. These shows are about music and dancing and have been since the Revels inception in Cambridge, Massachusetts more than 40 years ago. The script is just a vehicle that gives the songs a ride for a couple of hours on a cold December night. It can’t be trivial, it’s a ride that must plunge us into the darkness of Winter and renew our hope in the coming Spring. Yet too heavy a hand on the keyboard and I’m preaching cliches about tradition and community and romanticizing ye goode olde days. The script has to be a simple story that takes us where we need to go and does so with very little dialog but a lot of heart and no sermons.


Each year I look for another aspect of the returning light to let me write. Sometimes a folk fable will show me the way into a story, something as simple as the gnome characters of the Northlands script disgruntled with a lack of butter on their solstice porridge. Sometimes its the setting that haunts me as in the Ghosts of Haddon Hall. Often my penchant for magical realism gives me a storyline as it did in last years Appalachian Revels when a song stealer crept into a mountain community and tried to make off with the people’s songs. Or in the Spanish show where we rifled through the hidden treasure room until by waking each relic that held a song, dance or story we realized the culture itself was the treasure of Andalusian Spain.

Wandering through sources of music and architecture and stories of the Slavic peoples of Eastern Europe this year I came across the picture of a medieval clock that first graced the town of Prague in the 1400s. Struggling with the construct of the show I came back to this clock again and again. It reminded me of one of my favorite childhood books “The Wonder Clock” with stories and illustrations by Howard Pyle. In that book each hour of the day presented a new story and with that memory I realized I had solved the dilemma of exploring a culture as diverse as that of the Slavs. It isn’t one story – it’s many stories. The clock can unify them and the onrush of time moves us through our journey.

From the clock also comes the crisis of the show. Its workings allow for the humor and darkness and timing of the play. It makes for a magic premise that will bring both the darkness and the hope for the future. But if I say anymore you’ll curse me for spoiling what happens when you see the show. Just wind it up and see where we go this year.


Gray Eubank

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A Kukeri? What is That?

If you are from that Eastern European neck of the woods you might likely know but for the uninitiated…


If that image is not ringing a bell, Wikipedia says:

Kukeri is a traditional Bulgarian ritual to scare away evil spirits, with costumed men performing the ritual. Closely related traditions are found throughout the Balkans and Greece (including Romania and the Pontus). The costumes cover most of the body and include decorated wooden masks of animals (sometimes double-faced) and large bells attached to the belt. Around New Year and before Lent, the kukeri walk and dance through the village to scare evil spirits away with the costumes and the sound of the bells, as well as to provide a good harvest, health, and happiness to the village during the year.

Never knew they existed? Most folks likely will not unless they grew up or visited that part of the world. This year’s Christmas Revels will give the audience member a chance to see several kukeri acting as part of a mumming competition as mentioned in our previous post. (If you are curious about the tradition of mumming, take a look at our webpage that provides some of the Revels traditions, including mumming.)

There was a recent National Geographic Article, Europe’s Wild Men (published April 2013) that provides not only a fascinating read but also some amazing pictures of kukeri, some of which you might recognize.

What do kukeri look like in real life? Below is a YouTube video of a Bulgarian Mummers festival that will show them in action:

A short video about the annual “Shiroka Laka” mummer carnival in Bulgaria. The mummers (called “kukeri”) dress up with spectacular clothes and masks to scare the evil demons. They dance at the sound of traditional Bulgarian music. The whole festival is pretty amazing and we hope you can feel the spirit through this video.

In a future post we will explain some of the details of how the Portland Revels kukeri were made and also provide some photos of the in-process machinations. Come back soon to check out kukeri construction!

Don’t forget, order your tickets now from Box Office Tickets or call the Portland Revels Box Office 10-4 PM Monday-Friday at (503) 200-1604.

Until then we will leave you with a few more photos of the wild and wonderful kukeri!

From National Geographic





Horned-guy2 masked-guys-costume


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Portland Revels and Community Outreach

625663_542032979150267_1205170143_n Community outreach is an important tenet of the Revels organization as shown by our mission statement:

Portland Revels celebrates the seasons through song, dance, story and ritual of the past and present, creating community across generations and cultures.


Traditional Polish dance costumes

Portland Revels recently participated in two distinctly Portland community building activities, the 20th annual Portland Polish Festival (September 21 & 22, 2013) organized by Portland Polonia and the Visegrad Festival (November 9, 2013) at the Polish Hall in Portland. The members of this vibrant community including Polish, Croatian, Czech, Hungarian and other cultures have participated in the Polish Festival for nearly 20 years. This year some of the Portland Revels board attended the Polish Festival to help celebrate these ethnicities and invite them to attend this year’s Christmas Revels production of A Christmas in Old Europe. Several of the board members also attended the inaugural Visegrad Festival held at the Polish Hall to hand out show flyers and raffle away music, tickets to the Christmas Revels show and to the upcoming Eric Stern Concert on Friday, November 22nd.


Margo Norton, Portland Revels Board Member

For the Visegrad Festival, members of the Czech, Polish and Hungarian communities in Portland gathered to celebrate the 95th anniversary (1918) of independence from the Austro-Hungarian Empire. To honor that milestone in their collective countries, these three communities gathered for the first annual Visegrad Group PDX Festival at the Polish Hall in north Portland on Saturday, November 9, 2013, 1-7 PM. There was food, music, singing and dancing and a great time was had by all! IMG_4842


Polish participants


Polish dancers


Czech School children’s choir

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This Friday Eric Stern Explores the Music of the Show!

“Hello, this is Eric!

I’ve been thinking lately of my grandmother Rosetta Stern. She used to sing me songs from the Jewish theater and she had a friend, a professor of archaeology who would joke with her about her name as in “the Rosetta Stone” (this was before the internet when people had to work long hours hand-crafting their own jokes).

Only one week now from today I will be providing the Rosetta Stone for some of my favorite Balkan Music at the University Club of Portland and I wanted to invite you! Have you always wondered about those balkan ornaments? The odd meters? Or have you just enjoyed Roma (gypsy), music, Bulgarian and Klezmer as I have, and want a little more insight into their secrets, the scales, the cultural context, and the history? Sound boring? OH NOOOOO, it’s not as I and my good friend Paul Evans, as well as bassist Peter Whitlist will be playing our a** off (sorry grandma), heating up the room, and just think you’ll be learning at the same time. It will be like a Richard Feynman lecture with incredible music. It’s all being produced by the Portland Revels (more on that later), so here are the details:

When: Friday, November 22, 7pm 
Where: The University Club 1225 SW 6th Ave, Portland, OR 97204

Stern Little Stories

Details and tickets

Portland Revels is pleased to welcome Eric Stern as guest artist for the 2013 Christmas Revels show, A Christmas in Old Europe. In this special pre-Christmas Revels concert, Eric will provide a wonderful introduction to the hauntingly beautiful music of Eastern Europe in an intimate setting at the elegant University Club of Portland.

With vocal and accordion music (and special guests) Stern will introduce his audience to some of his favorite music from Eastern Europe, with emphasis on his own expertise

The concert will musically explore structures of meter and ornamentation common to Eastern Europe through the medium of Stern’s high-energy performance. Stern will also discuss and demonstrate the fascinating cross-migration of musical themes back and forth between American jazz and Eastern European music traditions. In addition, Stern will demonstrate how his own modern compositions have roots dug into the rich textures and themes of Eastern Europe.

Order discount advance tickets online at Box Office Tickets

Discount advance ticket prices are: $18 adults, $15 Seniors and Students, and $40 Family.

Full price tickets will be available at the door beginning at 6pm.

The Christmas Revels 2013: A Christmas in Old Europe

2013 Flyer Art

The box office for the Christmas Revels: A Christmas in Old Europe, is open as of October 23rd!

Tickets are available from Box Office Tickets anytime of the day or night. Tickets are available via phone from the Revels Box Office – 503-200-1604 – Monday though Friday 10 AM to 4 PM PST.

Group sales discounts of 10% are available through the Portland Revels Box Office for orders of 10 or more tickets for a single performance. Check the Revels website at for details on ticket prices.

The shows run from Friday, December 6th and continue through Sunday, December 15th. See below for all 11 show times.

Friday December 6 - 7:30pm
Saturday December 7 - 1pm matinee and 7:30pm
Sunday December 8 - 1pm matinee and 7 pm**
Thursday December 12 -  7:30pm**
Friday December 13 -  7:30pm
Saturday December 14 - 1pm matinee and 7:30pm
Sunday December 15 - 1pm matinee and 5pm **ASL interpreted performance

What’s the show about? It seems there is a wondrous clock built to celebrate the solstice and the cycle of the seasons. It’s so amazing the mayor throws a party to coincide with the town’s annual Mummers competition. Mummers and townsfolk from Romania, Bulgaria, Croatia, Czech Republic, Russia, Georgia, Macedonia, Serbia and Poland gather for the unveiling of the clock before the Empress, who makes a hasty decree which will leave time itself hanging in the balance. Sounds exciting doesn’t it!

Come see the magic that the Christmas Revels yearly offers including their guests for this year:

Get your tickets today!

Related content

  • An Oregon Music News review of the Appalachian Christmas Celebration, the 2012 stage production of the Portland Revels.
  • Another review of the Appalachian Christmas Celebration posted on the blog, ut omnia bene, in 2012.
  • Artslandia (file requires Adobe Reader) article on the Portland Revels


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