Eight-year-old Kieran Lewis of Takoma Park will make his debut in the children’s chorus at the 37th annual production of The Christmas Revels on stage from Dec. 7 to 15 at George Washington University’s Lisner Auditorium.
Performing along with his father and grandfather in the music- and dance-filled ‘Celestial Fools’ show, the Takoma Park second-grader is following in a decades-long family tradition.
“We’re a big Revels family,” Kieran said.
His grandparents, Greg and Susan Lewis, of Chevy Chase, first heard about the effort to establish the Washington Revels at a party in 1983. “We’ve been involved in it, head over heels, ever since,” said Greg, who has performed in 32 of the past 36 holiday shows and serves as the group’s executive director. His three sons performed as children and teens.
His son, Chris Lewis, of Takoma Park, said the joy of bringing to life traditional music, dance and storytelling from around the world continues to draw him back to The Christmas Revels, provided the demands of career and family allow.
That, and the sense of community the annual celebration instills in both the performers and the audience that numbers around 10,000 over the holiday season.
“First and foremost, it’s community, a multi-generational community that I’ve been a part of for so long,” Chris said. “Doing Revels is a tradition, to the point that Lisner Auditorium is sort of a sacred space for me.”
The Revels is a holiday tradition for the non-actors, as well. “We often see four generations of patrons (in the audience),” he said.
This year marks the return of “Celestial Fools.” When three exotic musicians arrive in a European village where the darkness of the Winter Solstice seems never ending, they lead the villagers — and the audience — on a journey to restore light and warmth to the world. The show is a smorgasbord of world music, ranging from renowned Klezmer instrumentalists to the Washington Revels Brass, and highlights Arabic, Japanese and Jewish music and dance.
“The shows are really on a grand opera scale, with 100-plus performers on stage,” Greg said. “This year’s show is an eclectic mix of East and West with songs sung in six languages.”
The “Celestial Fools” storyline will speak to many, Chris said. “It captures the essence of The Revel, that of confronting darkness so that you can bring back the light. It’s particularly poignant and powerful.”
Between rousing singalongs and a tradition of breaking the fourth wall, The Revels audience plays a vital role in the show. Greg expects the audience will rise to their feet again this year when he leads them in the ever-popular “Lord of the Dance” song.
“The ‘Lord of the Dance’ number is a huge, huge favorite,” he said. “We have 500 to 700 people in the audience joining in. The song turns into a singalong that has the audience linking hands and dancing into the aisles, lobby and even the street.”
His grandson Kieran became a fan of the number at an early age. “From age 2-1/2, Kieran insisted on watching videos of Revels shows. He’d get handkerchiefs that were nearly as big as him and do the ‘Lord of the Dance’ number. He knew all the iconic Revels songs,” Greg said.
Now that he’s old enough to join the 16-member children’s chorus, Kieran is ready to take his turn on stage. “I basically sing every day,” he said. “Now I’m practicing Revels songs, but usually I just make up my own songs.”
On stage or off, Kieran is thinking about the show. “Sometimes we’re off stage for a few minutes or about 10 minutes,” he said. “I just sit back and listen to the adults sing. I listen and sort of get the song into my mind.”
It’s possible his second-grade friends from Takoma Park Elementary may attend the show. “Since it’s such a big crowd, I probably won’t see them,” he said. “But if I do, I’ll just be happy they came.”
The Christmas Revels: “Celestial Fools” will start at 2 and 7:30 p.m. Saturday, Dec. 7 and 14; 2 p.m. Sunday, Dec. 8; 7:30 p.m. Dec. 13, 1 and 5 p.m. Sunday, Dec. 15 at George Washington University’s Lisner Auditorium, 730 21st St. N.W., Washington, D.C. For tickets, ranging from $12 to $65 (plus service charge), visit https://washingtonrevels.secure.force.com/ticket/#/events/a0S3s000006iI3dEAE. For information and group discounts, call 301-587-3835.