A Guest Post by Patrick Malone
Attending The Christmas Revels each year with my family was probably my very favorite tradition. I remember vividly riding from our home in McLean, over Key Bridge, past the sparkling December lights of M Street, and stepping into the warm glow of Lisner Auditorium. Attending the Revels was more a part of our holiday ritual than anything else, and the final notes of the Sussex Mummers Carol would reverberate within me for the rest of the season. The rest of the year, even.
In 2013, I lost both my parents, my father in April and my mother in August. I was not a child when this happened, and I cannot overstate the empathy I feel for those who lose their parents as children or teenagers. But, I can say that even as a grown man with a wife and child of my own, the sense of loss I felt was immense. I struggled. The hardest part of that first year was the waves of grief that would roll over me during the happiest moments – my son’s first words and steps, Thanksgiving, the news my second son was on the way – because my parents were not there to share it. I withdrew. I missed Revels that year. It was, simply, too much.
The following spring, I received a note from Susan Lewis encouraging me to audition for that year’s Christmas Revels. “Just wanted you to see the theme of this year’s December production: Irish!!” she wrote, knowing the proper way to sell an idea to someone named Patrick Morland Malone. I had toyed with the idea of auditioning before, but had always found a reason not to. But here, I decided, I would take my first step toward reclaiming the joy in my life. I auditioned. I got in. I smiled
Over the next months of rehearsal, I was embraced, often literally, by the members of a group that I had only known from the outside, but which now held me close as one of their own. I found myself staggered by the talent, compassion, empathy and, above all, sense of community present in every single Reveler I met. Those who have sung in groups know that it is a powerful experience, allowing you to be both an individual and part of something greater than yourself at the same time. I have never had that feeling more than in the rehearsals for, and on the stage of, the Christmas Revels.
My wife told me, only a few weeks ago, that from the time of my parents’ deaths until the time I joined The Christmas Revels, I had seemed a shadow of myself, quieter, sadder, and that it was only when I threw myself into the rehearsals and performance that I became my old self again. That’s hard to hear, but absolutely true. All along, the right answer was never to withdraw from joy, but to fully hold it in my heart.
I learned that I am a Reveler. I was always a Reveler. And I will always be a Reveler. I emerged from my shortest day as promise wakened, caroled, feasted, gave thanks, and dearly loved my friends. I am immensely, and will remain eternally, grateful for the opportunity.
Patrick Malone was a member of the Adult Chorus in the 2014 Irish Christmas Revels. We eagerly await his return to the show when his littlest is out of diapers!