I was very sad to hear, belatedly, that John Langstaff died on December 13th. For those who don't know the name, Langstaff was a brilliant educator, an immensely charismatic singer of the folkish type, and the founder of the Christmas Revels, a multicultural winter-solstice celebration that wove together songs, dances, and poems of various traditions. Langstaff used to teach at the Potomac School, which I attended, and, although he was gone by the time I got there, the music programs at the school were still infused with his philosophy, which combined Kodály and Orff methods with Anglo-American folk music both ancient and modern. Maypole dances, the tale of St. George and the Dragon, "Children Go Where I Send Thee," "Lord of the Dance," pieces by Britten, recitations of Shakespeare and T. S. Eliot, all were somehow joined in a seamless continuum. Langstaff would come back to Potomac at Christmastime to preside over a version of his Revels ritual, and hearing his grainy, noble baritone ringing through the gym was probably my first major experience of what music can do to the heart. Last April, out of the blue, I got a letter from Langstaff, whom I'd never met. I was looking forward to seeing him in person, and expressing my thanks to him, which I'm sure a very large number of people share. A Boston Globe obituary has more about this remarkable and irreplaceable man.
Photo by Roger Ide, from the Revels site.