BY INDIANA NASH
SCHENECTADY- The holiday season is full of celebration, gift-giving and, for the members of the Unitarian Universalist Society of Schenectady, reveling.
On Friday, December 9 and Sunday, December 11, members come together to hold a Yuletide Revel to celebrate the shortest day of the year through the medieval tradition of mumming.
“Every Christmas Revels includes a mummers’ play, a farcical death and resurrection play that harks back to a very old seasonal ritual. Mumming springs from an impulse to celebrate, indeed, to act out the transition from death to life in the middle of the winter. There are mumming traditions associated with other seasonal changes (spring and autumn), but most prominent is that connected with the winter solstice,” said Gareth Griffiths, the music director at UUSS.
The mumming can take on many forms: a sword fight, a drama, etc.
But they focus on one cycle: life, struggle, death and rebirth.
Griffiths, who has been a music director for the Society for the past 25 years, brought the idea of the Yuletide Revels back from a conference where she heard about the Washington DC Revels.
Once she brought up the idea, people immediately gave her positive feedback and the Society held its first Revel in 1992.
Members of the Society write, act out and direct the mummings.
This year, several Niskayuna residents are the stars of the show.
Kimberly Kilby, an associate dean at Albany Medical College, will play the Knight Georgina.
Since becoming a member of the Society three years ago, she’s attended all the Revels (and this year her son will be joining in with the choir, dressed in medieval garb).
“Revels brings such a lighthearted, enjoyable experience for anyone looking for something a bit different than the traditional holiday fare. It will make you laugh while also inspiring people to remember to take time to love and care for one another,” Kilby said.
Joel Gomez-Dossi, another Niskayuna resident, will play the jester in this year’s revel.
Although it is his first time participating in the celebration, his background as a mystery writer, theater stage manager and the production manager for PBS’ “Newton’s Apple” will help him deliver a striking performance.
“People come to Revels for many reasons. Foremost, probably is to see their friends and to kick-off the holiday season. It’s a tradition, and you can’t ignore traditions at this time of year,” Gomez-Dossi said.
Robyn Salvin, a teacher at Niskayuna High School, will also be joining in the reveling as the Lady of the Manor.
“I feel like Revels provides a unique perspective on the holiday season. Its metaphorical message of death and rebirth is timely as people make renewed commitments at the beginning of the new year. I also think people return to see it because, although the basic message is the same, the story is re-written each year, bringing new characters and songs to the performance,” Salvin said.
Beyond the mumming, the Yuletide Revels will feature dancing by the Pokingbrook Morris Dancers of the Capital Region. Theirs is a dancing style all their own, mixing English folk dancing styles with Revelry folklore.
Juggling and magic will be followed by the Revels Play at the Unitarian Universalist Society of Schenectady:
When: 7 p.m. Friday, Dec. 9, and 10 a.m. Sunday, Dec. 11
Where: 1221 Wendell Avenue, Schenectady
Cost: $15 for adults, $5 for children