“We have traveled many miles, over hedges and stiles.”
That’s a line from “Please to See the King,” a song in this year’s Christmas Revels.
I’ve been singing in the Christmas Revels chorus since 2004. Being involved with Revels has changed a lot about my world. It has brought me beloved friends, fulfilling performances, and connection with strangers, in the Christmas Revels and other events through the year.
It has also made me think more about my relationship with nature. Living in the city, like I do, it’s easy to ignore the natural world. But almost everything we do in Revels relates to the seasons. As the days get shorter and winter approaches, I treasure the weekly opportunity to sing and dance with my village, the Christmas Revels chorus. Then, in summer, I get to sing about the joys of the growing season, instead of cursing the humidity.
“Please to See the King” is one of many songs that make me think of the British countryside. In this case, it’s quite a direct connection: the landscape of much of Britain is crisscrossed with hedges. They’re practical, living fences. If properly maintained, they’re dense enough to keep livestock in the correct pasture. Gates and stiles are built into gaps in the hedges so people and dogs can pass through.
In July 2013, my friend Kate and I spent a week walking through the Cotswolds, a lovely patch of England that is particularly pastoral. We walked along a lot of hedges and climbed over a lot of stiles. This was the first one.
Revels is so woven into my mind that when I cross a stile in a hedge, I think, “hey! that’s a hedge and a stile!” and the familiar song starts, then continues on. “In search of our King, unto you we bring. Old Christmas is past….”
Photo: Helen Fields