Spring descended on Jamaica Plain this past weekend with the annual Wake Up the Earth Festival presented by Spontaneous Celebrations. This was the 35th annual festival, an event that grew out of the “highway revolt” of the 1960s & 70s when local activists opposed the construction of highway infrastructure in Jamaica Plain & Roxbury, leading to the creation of the Southwest Corridor as a system of train lines, bike paths, and parks that we enjoy today. Ironically, some people who want to create new prioritized highway infrastructure for cars marched in this year’s parade which I guess shows that this festival takes all kinds. The festival itself was home to many tents of activists of many causes, food, games, and musical performances. My family and I sang a few songs with the intergenerational chorus SingPositive, JP in preparation for our concert on May 19th. We also danced to Maaak Pelletier’s jam band the Mystical Misfits as they played Grateful Dead classics. Finally, the potato sack slide down the hillside was great fun for everyone.
A peace sign and yin yang grow out of the hillside at Jamaica Pond’s Sugar Bowl.
Peace and flowers!
The Brendan Behan quote seems appropriate to the occassion.
Spanish banner for the festival.
Here comes the parade.
The stilt walkers always impress.
I’m pretty sure this woman participates every year.
The theme of the year is snakes and these folks won the Best Family Costume award.
Hula hooping is another big highlight of the festival.
Mobile percussion unit.
The wolf and the lamb dance in the street.
A rocking marching band and dancing stilt walker.
Scholars from my son’s school march.
The Mystical Misfits lead the dance.
More photos from the parade and festival on Universal Hub and JP Patch.
This afternoon my family and I took in the annual performance of The Christmas Revels at Sanders Theater in Cambridge. The Revels is a family tradition and this marks the tenth Christmas Revels production I’ve attended (including a Washington Revels performance in 1995 and performing as a cast member in the 2009 Christmas Revels). This was also my four-year-old son’s second Christmas Revels and my five-week-old daughter’s first Revels ever. Peter showed exemplary behavior and was deeply engaged by the performance while Kay amazed me by actually appearing to watch the show at times when she wasn’t feeding or napping.
The Revels impress me each year by crafting a show around a theme with consistent narrative that logically incorporates music and dance from various traditions. This year’s production is set in a French fishing village on the Mediterranean that is hosting an annual feast that draws pilgrims from near and wide. Thus we are able to enjoy traditional music from France and other parts of Europe as well as traveling performers from the East playing Arabic music. The Sharq Trio steal the show with sets in both acts of Arabic singing, dance and percussion. The trio seemed to mesmerize my infant daughter at the very least. Salome Sandoval also lends her stunning voice as a soloist.
The center of the performance is three members of the Guild of Fools – Soleil (Timothy Sawyer), Etoile (Sabrina Selma Mandell), and Eclaire de Lune (Mark Jaster) – performing the annual pageant. Amid the music and revelry there is the lurking presence of the skeletal Boney (Linnea Coffin) who seems to be just out of sight of the villagers on stage, but very frightening to at least one four-year-old boy in the audience. At a key moment in the first act, Boney and her skeleton crew seize the light from the world plunging the holiday performance into darkness. The fools thus are given the quest of finding their namesake light sources – the moon, the stars, and the sun – which they do with plenty of song and dance and a nativity play along the way. The Revels crew deserve a lot of credit for the stage design featuring multiple layers of scaffolding for the performers and a Ship of Fools upon which the featured trio sail to fish for the reflection of the moon. The costuming is also brilliant, especially Soleil, Etoile, and Eclaire de Lune’s outfits for the concluding mummer’s play. And the makeup helped make Boney and the other skeletons the scariest things I’ve ever seen in a Revels’ production.
The final performance is Thursday December 29th at 1 pm, so get tickets and go see the show if you can. If you’re reading this after the fact, make sure to check out The Revels’ website for future events.
Author: Jonah Lehrer
Title: Proust Was a Neuroscientist
Publication Info: Brilliance Audio on CD (2008)
Previously read by same author: How We Decide
This book explores the work of eight artists and how their art revealed truths about the human brain that would later be discovered through science. A quick search of Google brings up several reviews that dismiss Lehrer’s work as “popular science” but I think they’re missing the point that readers can learn scientific concepts through an artistic lens. Of course, with my humanities background I’m biased to the idea that the arts have something to offer to scientific study. The artists include Walt Whitman (feeling), George Eliot (malleability of the brain), Auguste Escoffier (taste), Marcel Proust (memory), Paul Cezanne (vision), Igor Stravinsky (music), Gertrude Stein (language), and Virginia Woolf (self). The conclusion of the book is an appeal to end the artificial divide between arts and sciences that I strongly support.
“Nature, however, writes astonishingly complicated prose. If our DNA has a literary equivalent, it’s Finnegan’s Wake.”
Recommended books: Emergence: The Connected Lives of Ants, Brains, Cities, and Software by Steven Johnson, Lost Discoveries: The Ancient Roots of Modern Science–From the Babylonians to the Maya by Dick Teresi, Out of Our Heads: Why You Are Not Your Brain, and Other Lessons from the Biology of Consciousness by Alva Noë, and The Man Who Mistook His Wife For A Hat: And Other Clinical Tales by Oliver Sacks.
Today, Jamaica Plain woke up the earth at the annual festival sponsored by Spontaneous Celebrations. I took my son to soccer practice this morning and afterward we biked to Centre St to watch the parade. Stilt-walkers, bicyclists, drummers, dancers and lots of bunnies starred in the procession. After the parade passed, my son wanted to follow on our bike. I got a bit frustrated with the stop & go and having to put my foot down all the time so I took a shortcut to Stony Brook. There we were able to watch the parade arrive at the festival where all the participants formed a circle with much rhythmic drumming and swaying. The stilt-walkers and puppets were a little scary for Peter but it was cool to feel the drumbeats reverberating in the soil. With a storm and naptime approaching we pedaled home but enjoyed a fun morning.
Anyone who reads this blog regularly knows that I’m a big fan of Revels and their annual Christmas Revels performances at Sanders Theatre in Cambridge. I was excited and honored to attend the dress rehearsal performance of this year’s 40th anniversary production of the Christmas Revels on Thursday, December 16th. Had I better journalistic standards I would have used this scoop to get my review up before the show opened on Friday night, but at least at this point there are still eleven more shows to go.
This year’s Christmas Revels returns to a familiar setting, Haddon Hall, an English manor house that was the scene of the first and many subsequent Revels performances. This time the show is set in the 1920s and the 10th Duke of Rutland with his wife and children are making one last visit to the long abandoned house before it is demolished to make way for a motorway. I never before realized that Haddon Hall is a real place and the characters in these Revels are based upon real people who in fact saved and renovated Haddon Hall in the 1920s. The story told in the Revels performance of course is a beautiful fiction but one that contains deeper moral truths about family, ritual, and place.
In the performance, the spirits of the Duke of Rutland’s ancestors emerge from the walls to celebrate the solstice. This gives the chorus and instrumentalists the very enjoyable opportunity to perform music and stories from various eras – medieval, Renaissance, and Victorian – a Revels’ clip-show of sorts. While building on the historic traditions of England, the show also builds on Revels traditions of the past 40 years. Sanders Theatre is very much our Haddon Hall for the families and friends of the Revels who come each year.
I’ll try not to give too much away, but here are some of the highlights of the show (don’t read if you want to be completely surprised):
- The emergence of the spirits in white shrouds to the “Cries of London” is eerie and creepy in a beautiful way. When the chorus makes it on stage and remove the shrouds so that there costumes are visible for the first time is a big wow moment for me.
- The children’s chorus is excellent as always and seem to be more integrated into performing with the adult chorus, especially on the lovely piece “On Christmas Night.”
- All the actors put in a great performance, particularly Tim Sawyer as the Duke and Emma Jaster as a mute jester.
- Harriet Bridges plays the Duchess and also provides a soaring soprano for pieces like “Down in Yon Forest.”
- The traditional mummers play of St. George in the Dragon is always entertaining and the brand new dragon (part costume/part puppetry) really steals the show.
- A sing-a-long of “Let’s All Go Down the Strand” is joyful and exuberant, and as David Coffin noted they really do make it fit into the show.
- The real showstopper for me is the chorus’ performance of Felix Mendelssohn’s “There Shall A Star From Jacob Come Forth.” The intertwining of voices and the Cambridge Symphonic Brass Ensemble is breathtaking.
I’ll be returning to Sanders Theatre on December 26th to catch a Revels’ matinée with my wife, son, and mother. In the meantime, if you live anywhere near Cambridge and want to celebrate the holidays, go see this show!
Other reviews & articles:
I’m generally skeptical about people posting links in this blog’s comments section asking me to promote things, but I took a moment to consider the following comment Frances Haugen on my Avenue of the Arts post. I looked into it and it appears that Artisan’s Asylum is legit and as a former Somervillian I’m all for supporting the arts. Since that comment had nothing to do with the Avenue of the Arts I’ve moved it to its own post for all the (admittedly limited) promotional power of Panorama of the Mountains has to offer.
Hi Liam –
There’s a new open-access community workshop in Somerville called the Artisan’s Asylum that is trying to make available all sorts of tools (think wood working equipment, welding tools, circuits, sewing machines) so that people can create the things they’ve always wanted to.
We’re trying to measure interest in different kinds of classes that might be offered in August/September and find out what kinds of things people would like to learn about. We’re trying to get as many people as possible to fill out our class interest survey – could you post a link to it on your blog?
The survey is at: http://www.surveymonkey.com/s/werelistening
Thank’s so much!