This year the evening performances of The Christmas Revels are over at about 10:15. After the show I hang around in the lobby to chat with any friends who were at that performance, then go upstairs to get out of costume, wash my face, and leave the theater.
Then I have two choices: Go home or go to Bertucci’s. Last Saturday night my choice was Bertucci’s. It’s an Italian restaurant in the lower level of a shopping mall near Lisner Auditorium. For several years, people from the cast, crew members, specialty performers, and friends have been retiring there after the evening performances to eat and drink. They do a great job of looking after us. They even keep the kitchen open late, bless them. (For the past few years, we’ve sung “Happy Birthday” to one of the waitresses – somebody had better remember that tonight or tomorrow.)
This is Revels, so singing is a big part of the event. We sing Revels standards, like “Let Union Be” and “Country Life.” Favorite songs from the shows find their way into the Bertucci’s repertoire; the American-themed Christmas Revels show from 2006 has a particularly large number of very singable songs. Some years the specialty performers lead us in song and dance. In 2008, the Quebecois dancer Pierre Chartrand called some fantastic dances.
Some nights a lot of people go; after a particularly long day (or before a particularly long day) more of us might make the other choice, to go home and get some rest. There’s a risk of messing up your voice or making yourself too tired for the next day’s performances. I don’t know if I’ll have enough energy for Bertucci’s either night this weekend.
This is Revels. I love performing, but our get-togethers at Bertucci’s really get to the essence of the experience: celebrating with your community in song and dance.
Melissa has been my assistant music director for The Christmas Revels for many years, but this year I have finally gotten her back on stage … playing guitar! Because of the theme of the 2011 Andalusian Treasures show, we decided to form a large group of guitarists to play on several of the Spanish pieces. Melissa expressed her interest in being on stage, the fabulous costume folks found her a gorgeous costume, and voila! The group is called “Guitarras Doradas” and includes Melissa, Howard Bass, Bobby Gravitz, Jake Hendren, and William G.M. Hoffman (you can also catch Bobby and Bill in the mummer’s play). Melissa brings her background of both guitar and early music to the show (she is a graduate from the College of Music at Florida State University with a degree in musicology with focus on Early Music).
So, to learn more about Melissa, here are some fun facts:
She grew up in a haunted house (not sure where that was, so you will have to ask her).
She has lived in Ankara, Turkey for three years as a child, and then near Catania, Sicily for three years when she was in her early 20’s.
Her mother was Spanish — the family was from Oviedo in Asturias. Her father is Welsh and English – and her branch of the Carter family is part of the Carters who were one of the “First Families of Virginia.”
She has always been involved in the arts — she danced ballet for 8 years in childhood and adolescence and played the viola starting at age 9. She began guitar at 10, and then switched from viola to violin!
Over the years, she has had a love/hate relationship with the guitar. Melissa says, “At age 11 I put my guitar under my bed for a year, certain I would never be able to REALLY play because I couldn’t make the chord changes in ‘Yesterday’ fast enough. I pulled it back out at 12 and tried again. I got it by the time I was 13.”
By age 15, it was decided… she would learn classical guitar in time to pass an audition to college.
Melissa also sang with various choirs in college, and had the thrill of singing Beethoven’s 9th with the Atlanta Symphony conducted by Robert Shaw. However, after getting nodes on my vocal chords, she joined the Collegium Musicum and learned to play baroque recorder and krumhorn (and she still loves playing the krumhorn to this day).
Don’t miss this year’s fabulous guitarists… only five more performances remain.