Productions and Performing Ensembles
Our productions feature both professional and nonprofessional performers, but our volunteer singers—adults, teens, and children—are the heart of Washington Revels.
The Christmas Revels
Washington Revels’ flagship production, The Christmas Revels, is a festive, fully-staged celebration of the Winter Solstice in music, dance and drama that is seen by over 10,000 people every December. This is a unique seasonal celebration that is inclusive and meaningful to the community at large, regardless of background. It draws on traditions and rituals from many eras, lands and peoples—Celtic, Medieval and Victorian English, French, Russian, Roma (Gypsy), African-American, Scandinavian, Appalachian, Native American, Italian Renaissance, Québécois and more.
Professionally staged and directed, each production creates an on-stage community combining local adults, teens and children together with professional actors and musicians as well as “tradition-bearers” from the culture being celebrated that year. We value the presence of new faces in our choruses every year, seeking a variety of ages, ancestries, sizes and personalities to create a realistic “village” on stage. People of diverse cultural backgrounds are encouraged to audition.
Washington Revels now has several year-round performing ensembles celebrating the history and culture of the Washington area and beyond. These groups revive and present traditional material, performing on stages, in museum galleries, during street parades, and at many other venues.
Washington Revels Gallery Voices
Elizabeth Fulford Miller, Music Director
Washington Revels Gallery Voices is a select group of vocalists performing a tapestry of musical styles: Medieval, Renaissance, Early American hymns and folk songs, 19th and 20th-century part-songs, and more. The group, formed in 2002 by Washington Revels music director Elizabeth Fulford Miller, performs at outdoor festivals, concert series and special events.
They perform annually at the U.S. National Arboretum and at the Shakespeare Theatre’s Harman Center for the Arts, and have also appeared at the Washington National Opera Ball, the Corcoran Gallery of Art, and the Washington National Cathedral. Recently, in conjunction with Washington Revels’ new Civil War-era programming, the group has added music of that era to its repertoire, and is featured on Washington Revels' new recording, "Hard Times Come Again No More."
For more information about Washington Revels Gallery Voices, and to explore hosting a performance at your site, contact Greg Magee at 301-587-3835.
Washington Revels Jubilee Voices
Andrea Jones Blackford, Music Director
Washington Revels Jubilee Voices is committed to the preservation of African-American history and traditions–presenting songs and stories of struggle and perseverance, trials and triumphs, as expressed through a capella music, drama and dance. Inaugurated in 2010, the group now performs regularly at heritage sites in Montgomery County and at special events around the Washington area – singing, sharing, and learning the stories of the people in those communities.
Jubilee Voices presents a wide and varied repertoire of music, emphasizing three themes significant to the Civil War era:
- African American Folk Songs and Spirituals, featuring shouts, hollers, poetry and readings. Spirituals include laments that convey the anguish of the “auction block” days and songs of strength and determination in the face of adversity.<
- Songs of Struggle and Freedom from the life of the enslaved and the quest for freedom, featuring code songs, signals, shouts, stories, and Underground Railroad lore.
- 19th-Century Agricultural Life from an African American cultural perspective, featuring field calls, ring shouts, planting songs, children’s songs and games, and seasonal songs.
Along with the music, Jubilee Voices also explores the poetry and writings of the period, along with first- and third-person portrayals of African Americans whose stories are a vital contribution to American history.
Performances are suitable for sites of significance to African American history as well as general programming for non-African American specific sites.
For more information about Washington Revels Jubilee Voices, and to explore hosting a performance at your site, contact Greg Magee at 301-587-3835.
Washington Revels Heritage Voices
Elizabeth Fulford Miller, Music Director; Andrea Jones Blackford, Associate Music Director
Drawing from members of the Jubilee Voices, Gallery Voices, and the larger Washington Revels community, the Washington Revels Heritage Voices is a multicultural ensemble dedicated to the preservation of American music through live performance in historical venues. Heritage Voices specializes in all forms of traditional American music: popular song, patriotic music, parlor music, work songs, spirituals, shape note tunes, and other traditional music. Supplemented by local instrumentalists, Heritage Voices performs in historical venues ranging from large outdoor spaces to the most intimate indoor parlors and concert halls.
The ensemble has performed as part of the 150th anniversary of the first inauguration of President Abraham Lincoln at the Willard InterContinental Hotel, at a special event at President Lincoln's Cottage along with the Roustabout String Band, and at "Life in Civil War Alexandria: A 150th Commemorative Event" along with the Federal City Brass Band. They are performing during the month of June at the Sandy Spring, Maryland Strawberry Festival and as part of Montgomery County's Heritage Days. You can hear members of this group on Washington Revels' new recording, "Hard Times Come Again No More."
For more information about Washington Revels Heritage Voices, and to explore hosting a performance at your site, contact Greg Magee at 301-587-3835.
Washington Revels Maritime Voices
Michael Matheson, Director; Melissa Carter, Music Director
Washington Revels Maritime Voices celebrates the sea—the men who worked the great sailing ships and the women who sustained the shore-side communities. Formed in 2008, this group performs lively songs, instrumental music, dances, folk dramas, and other nautical traditions. Washington Revels Maritime Voices has performed at the Smithsonian Institution (the National Museum of Natural History and the National Museum of American History), Corcoran Gallery of Art, National Harbor, Alexandria Waterfront Festival, Magical Montgomery Festival, and numerous other community events.
In 2008, Washington Revels created a performing group to celebrate the traditions of the men who manned the great sailing ships, and the women who sustained the life of the seafaring communities ashore. Since then, Washington Revels Maritime Voices has become a fixture among the institutions of the Washington area that present exhibits and programs connected with the sea. It has also provided lively entertainment for other groups and occasions.
For example, Washington Revels Maritime Voices helped open the magnificent Sant Ocean Hall at the Smithsonian’s Natural History Museum, and staged 9 concerts in 3 days at the opening of the permanent “On the Water” exhibit at the American History Museum. We also performed at the Corcoran Gallery in celebration of their “Sargent and the Sea” exhibit, and at National Harbor, the Alexandria Waterfront Festival, and various community events.
The group is composed of men and women from the Washington Revels company. We offer songs, instrumental music, dance, folk drama and ritual from the old nautical traditions. We often demonstrate life aboard the sailing ships, including how sea chanteys were used to help work the ship; and we show the life ashore, including the joys and hardships of the women of the ports.
For more information about Washington Revels Martime Voices, and to explore hosting a performance at your site, contact Greg Magee at 301-587-3835.
About "Songs of the Sea and Shore"
Sea chanteys—work songs created by ordinary seamen to accompany various specific tasks—are an important record of life on board ships. Some were sung to the loading of the cargo, like “Pay Me My Money Down.” Others, such as “Away Rio,” “Haul Away Joe,” and “Leave Her, Johnny” accompanied the sailors’ work on board ship. In each case, the tempo and the texture of the song matched the natural rhythm and feel of the work at hand.
The importance of the chanteys went beyond providing a beat for the sailors to follow. As Richard Henry Dana wrote in Two Years Before the Mast: “Many a time, when a thing goes heavy…a lively song…put life and strength into every arm. … We often found a great difference in the effect of different songs. … Two or three songs would be tried, one after the other, with no effect-not an inch could be got upon the tackles-when a new song, struck up, seemed to hit the humor of the moment, and drove the tackles two blocks at once.”
In addition to the chanteys, other songs provide a glimpse into the life of both sailors and the landlubbers with whom they came in contact. Many sailors’ songs describe life on board ship-the pitiful pay, the miserable food, and the hard work-while others complain about the bartenders, merchants, and wily women who took advantage of the just-paid young men who came ashore after a long voyage.