Thursday, December 21, 2000

The Merriest

Off to the Revels tomorrow—an event to which I’ve been looking forward since last year. The music is guaranteed great, as always: the Revels (and other artists, spiritual though secular) have been a great source of songs for my choir’s Christmas concert.

The Revels, Inc., organization fascinates me, too—it manage to be a multimedia conglomerate (record label, publishing house, and loose affiliation of theater troupes across America) while:

(a) doing well by doing good—i.e., remaining a non-profit with a primary mission to educate and entertain;

(b) remaining a quick & mobile intelligent collective of small autonomous units;

(c) filling every seat at every performance even while trafficking in a cultural product that by rights should be of interest only to early-music scholars, folklorists, and ethnomusicologists, and;

(d) finding their vision of the future in days long gone, with a spirit not of nostalgia but of reclamation—joining with Shakespeare & Co. to mount a production of the mystery plays, fa chrissakes.

An interesting sidepoint: when viewed through a revolutionary filter, everything looks like a model for the revolution.

Forward into the past!

But the music isn’t all of it; it is ritual, and drama—liturgy, in a way—and the Church I serve could take a lesson from the Revels’ syncretic savvy. By happy coincidence, we’ll be Reveling on the date of the Solstice, which of course has always had religious significance. The attachment of its date to Christian feast was a masterstroke of marketing for a new religion. Some see this as the Church “co-opting” the festival of Yule, and in a sense that’s true. But the Revels approach seems to me a saner response than the attempts of various Christian and pagan groups to “reclaim the season”—rather than making the Solstice a point of contention, the Revels instead takes it as common ground. Which is as it should be: no one group can lay claim to the works of Nature, it rains on the just and the unjust alike, and allah that.

And there’s an eclipse of the sun—62% total, where I live, and smack in the middle of the day—on Christmas Day! How perfect is that, for the closing moments of this weird ghost-year, the real last year of the 20th century? Impending darkness, rebirth, and the triumph of the light as we move into the third millennium.

In America, anyway.

No comments: