Tag Archives: Portland Christmas Revels

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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Children’s Director – Hillarie Hunt …13 Charmers!…

When you see the 2013 Christmas Revels show, keep a close eye out:  one of those 13 charming, impossibly talented children you see on stage might just be the next Broadway star – or world leader.

In addition to having lovely singing voices, stage presence, and all-around adorability, these kids have other mad skills – from sports to arts/crafts, and from politics to science to musical instruments (sometimes more than one!).

  • Aria is our resident poet who knits a very stylish hat in a matter of days. 
  • Brooklynn is quite the deep thinker, and both swims AND skis. 
  • Cullen wants to be an engineer, architect, lawyer, or physical therapist – hasn’t decided yet, and I suppose there’s still time. 
  • Ella plays three (that’s right, THREE) different instruments and loves marine science. 
  • Iona adores art of all kinds, but especially drawing, knitting – and the art of playing with friends. 
  • Liam is a lively but compassionate soccer player. 
  • Lila has a huge sense of humor under that quiet exterior. 
  • Madison (Cullen’s younger sister) plays piano at Level 4 and wants to be a pop star and a physical therapist. 
  • Malena is a very good student at school and is, in her words, “very creative in my own way”. 
  • Matthew performs in the Portland Boys Choir as well as Revels and plays the piano. 
  • Molly is a very confident public speaker and enjoys playing soccer. 
  • Sahalie is giving to Revels, in her own words, “my voice, my smile and my good spirit” (they’re all good). 
  • Sophie is a self-professed “craze-amazing reader” who is in her fifth Revels cast, plays piano, and aspires to the Senate one day.
2013 Christmas Revels Children's Chorus

inner ring – Iona, Lila, Aria, Molly, Liam, Brooklyn — outer ring – Ella, Sahalie, Sophie, Matty, Malena, Madison, Hillarie, Cullen, Matthew

This is a deep bench, wouldn’t you agree?

And it’s a good thing, too, because these wonderful children need to hold their own with the likes of Burl Ross, Ithica Tell, Eric Stern, and the rest of the adult Revels cast.  These kids bring freshness and energy and a major “awww…” factor to an already sparkling production full of incredible talent.

So bring your lovely children to see our lovely children!!  Better yet, bring the whole darn family.  I promise you that everyone – even your Scrooge-y Uncle Bob – will be drawn in by the music, comedy, spectacle, and sheer joy that is the 2013 Christmas Revels show.



Bday 51 Girl

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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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Associate Music Director – Betsy Branch …The Amazing Slow Downer…

One of my many jobs this year is to align music with the folk dances in the show. The dance captain, Jamie, has worked with the chorus to teach them the show dance steps.  But underneath all of their work has been a lot of work on the music.  For the Act 1 dance, the show’s clarinetist, Bill Tomczak, contacted his friend Tom, who was part of a Cambridge Revels show years back.  Tom sent Bill his transcription of traditional calusarii music.  Along with that, we are using music that Jamie learned from a Romanian choreographer. Then while poking around on YouTube, I found a different tune yet, one used in Romanian stick dances.  My transcription of that became the third tune in the dance.  It was fun to put together this unique set of Romanian dance tunes with Jamie and Bill.

For the Act 2 Bulgarian dance, the accompanying music is from a ridiculously fast recording Jamie gave me of a gaida, a Bulgarian bagpipe.  A gaida is a goat skin with pipes attached to it–it basically looks like an inflated goat while being played!


When she asked if we could learn this music, I of course said yes.  That committed me to hours of painstaking work transcribing this tune.  It nearly melted my brain.  Fortunately, I bought myself a computer program called the Amazing Slow Downer (it slows down recordings to any speed without changing the pitch), and thus I was able to complete the transcription (with help along the way from Bill and Eric Stern).  The Slow Downer saved my sanity!

One of my other behind-the-scenes jobs (and one of my greatest pleasures) is to write a brass overture which opens the show.  How lucky can I be—I get to take music out of my head, only to have it played by wonderful professional brass players.  A composer’s and arranger’s dream come true!

Hope to see many of you at a show—I’ll be the one fiddling, grinning, and being inspired by our incredible chorus.

Betsy B

October 2010 012

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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 portlandrevels.org 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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