Shaping Revels Kids

A guest post by Kat Toton
November 19, 2017

Kat Toton has Reveled for 13 years, and has been shaping Revels Kids for 7 years. She is an important figure in the Revels Kid experience, and a testament to the joys that are both given and received.

The first Revels I ever saw was the 2004 production of The King and the Fool. I saw the following year’s Northlands show and somehow (although I don’t remember doing it) signed up for the mailing list. When the audition notice came out in 2006, I decided to try it, and I’ve been with Revels ever since! You could say that I fell in love. I’ve been an adult Chorus member in 5 shows, did makeup for the 2008 Québécois show, and have been the kids’ Music Director since 2010.

Working with Revels Kids is amazing, because they really truly enjoy what they’re participating in, and want to be there. The parents are super supportive, and I love seeing how thrilled they are to become involved as a family. I’ve seen Revels’ kids grow in so many ways. They form lasting friendships, they find their niche or “tribe,” and their lives are enriched by being involved in something so big. Through a Revels show, they learn how each person’s contribution is valued, important, and needed. They see what a community can be, how it grows as the production of the show moves along, and how it teaches lessons about how we all learn and help each other. Revels is a village, and it takes us all!

One thing that is just so cool for me is that in this year’s production, many of the teens were in my previous Kids’ Chorus and I was their Music Director! I have been able to see how they have grown up both vocally and as great young people! As a music teacher in public schools, once my students move to middle school and beyond, I really don’t have contact with them any longer. But here, when we Revel together, they become part of my family and we can stay in touch! I think this is a special form of mentorship for children, because they have adults who can be both an onstage “parent” figure and a friend. We always say “Once a Reveler, always a Reveler”—and when my stage “children” from previous shows come up to me and call me “mom,” it just warms my heart and reaffirms that our connection is still there.

The changing cultural themes of The Christmas Revels provide great new experiences for kids and adults. Productions of The Nutcracker and The Messiah are terrific and I have enjoyed participating in many of them—but you always know pretty much what to expect. Revels is an opportunity to explore unfamiliar traditions and stories, see beautiful costumes, and hear incredible music that expands our horizons. My own cultural background has intersected with several shows, such as the 2007 Elizabethan Revels. I perform at renaissance fairs, so I was quite familiar with some of the music, dances, costumes, and characters. My great-grandfather came over from Ireland as a very young boy, so I had a personal family connection with the 2014 Irish show.

Being a public school music teacher in Alexandria, I frequently bring Revels into my work. I have taught Morris dances, sung sea chanteys and wassailing tunes for concerts—and this year, my fifth graders are singing “Vive la compagnie” in our winter concert! I have utilized several Revels reference books for lesson units, and I am still mulling over ideas about a possible mummer’s play or maypole in the future.

Very soon, it’s going to be time to put up my Christmas tree again. I will bring out all the decorations, and as I place the ornaments I’ve collected from each different Revels show on the tree—I hear the echoes, I remember, and I smile. Welcome Yule!

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