Tuesday, December 27, 2011

An Old English Twelfth Night

We've told you about Twelfth Night celebrations on this blog . Now, if you're in the Philadelphia area, you can experience one for yourself.

Saturday, January 7, 2012
3-5 pm
Summit Presbyterian Church
Greene & Westview Sts.
Philadelphia, PA

Germantown Country Dancers will host this festive celebration of music, dance, traditional merriment, singing, laughter and, naturally, refreshments. Besides our Colonial Revelers, who will provide period seasonal songs, expect Morris dancers, country dances, and the crowning of a Twelfth Night King and Queen. Lots of audience participation. Please join us!

Admission: Adults, $5; under 18, $2; family maximum, $15.
For more information, call 610-645-0725 or

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

2011 Holiday Events II -- Colonial Revelers & Victorian Carolers

(Latest events listed first. Scroll down for more.)

Monday, December 19, 5:30-7 pm

The "March-In" at Valley Forge

Valley Forge National Historical Park
1400 North Outer Line Drive
Valley Forge PA 19406

Colonial Revelers will be stationed in the Visitor Center, singing 18th century wassail songs, Christmas hymns and other period music to commemorate the day the Continental Army arrived at Valley Forge in 1777.  Come for the party!

Valley Forge National Historical Park is the site of the Continental Army's winter encampment, from December 19, 1777 to June 19, 1778.  Park rangers and Friends of Valley Forge will be on hand for candlelight tours, a "march" up to Muhlenberg's huts, and other 18th century festivities. Refreshments, holiday shopping and free gift wrapping will be available at the Encampment Store at the Visitor Center.  Free and open to the public.

Information and directions at http://www.nps.gov/vafo/planyourvisit/events.htm or call 610-783-1099

Friday, December 16, 6-8:30 pm

Candlelight Tours
The Mill at Anselma
1730 Conestoga Road
Chester Springs, PA

Our Victorian Carolers ensemble will regale vistors to the mill with traditional holiday songs from Charles Dickens's England.

Anselma Mill on Pickering Creek was operated as a grist mill from 1725 to 1982 and retains its Colonial era power train from 1747. In 2005, the Mill at Anselma was designated a National Historic Landmark. Today, it's the most complete known example of a custom grain mill in the United States.

For further information about the mill or this event, call them at 610-827-1906, email info@anselmamill.org or click here for their website.

Saturday, December 10, 4-6 pm

Marshallton Tree Lighting

Village of Marshallton
559 Northbrook Rd
West Chester, PA 19382

Colonial Revelers will return to Martin's Tavern to provide holiday music for the lighting of the village tree.

Martin's Tavern, also called Center House, was built in 1764.  The inn played a prominent role during the Battle of Brandywine in 1777. The restored ruins of the tavern form Marshallton's village square, where a large evergreen tree is decorated with lights each year.  Refreshments will be served.

Find out about Martin's Tavern events: http://taproom.martinstavern.org/

Saturday, December 3, 3-7 pm

Candlelight Tours of Phoenixville

Historical Society of the Phoenixville Area
204 Church Street
Phoenixville, PA 19460

As a stop on the tour, Victorian Carolers will perform in the sanctuary of the old church that serves as the Society's Headquarters. We'll be there until 5:30 pm, so come early.

Tour beautifully decorated houses and historical churches. Refreshments will be served. Advance Tickets: $20; Day of the Tour: $25.  All proceeds benefit the The Phoenixville Library and The Clinic. On Saturday, meet at the Phoenixville Senior Center,153 Church St. Doors open at 2:30.  For more information, call the Society at 610-935-7646.

Your Servants,

Thursday, November 17, 2011

2011 Holiday Events I -- Colonial Revelers

(Latest events listed first. Scroll down for more.)

Friday, December 2, 6-8:30 pm

Holiday Stroll at Historic Yellow Sprin

West Pikeland Cultural Center and the Lincoln Building
1645 Art School Road to 1685 Art School Road
Chester Springs, PA

Colonial Revelers will provide period music and carols at this free event, hosted by Historic Yellow Springs, Chester Springs Library and West Pikeland Township.

Beginning at the Cultural Center, with the tree lighting ceremony followed by carol singing and refreshments. Then enjoy a stroll to the Lincoln Building where holiday crafts will be enjoyed by the children. A story time with the Chester Springs Library will also highlight the festive activities planned and Santa will be there. Special food treats will be available to continue the celebration.

http://www.yellowsprings.org/holidaystroll.html for more information.

Saturday, November 26 10-4 pm

Brandywine Battlefield Patriots Day

1491 Baltimore Pike
Chadds Ford, Pa 19317

Adults: $6, Seniors: $4
Youth/Student: $3, Under 5: Free
10% holiday discount in the Museum Shop

Colonial Revelers will sing and stroll the grounds for this all-day event.  Living history regiments will present firing and medical demonstrations, 18th century sutlers will sell all sorts of goods and baked items, plus you can tour the historic buildings and museum.

Check out the battlefield calendar for more info.

On September 11, 1777, Washington's troops met the British and Hessians under General Howe at Brandywine for the largest battle of the Revolution.

Your humble servants,

Friday, October 28, 2011

The Pennsylvania Packet - Facebook of the American Revolution

To the free and independent ELECTORS of the City of PHILADELPHIA.

. . The custom has been to deny the right of voting to all persons who have come from Germany, &c. until they have been naturalized, and taken such oaths as men now-a-days much object to; and what seems peculiar to this city alone, all men below the estate of fifty pounds are precluded.  Now I must profess myself of the Forester’s opinion, that every man in the country who manifests a disposition to venture his all for the defence of its Liberty, should have a voice in its Councils. . . .

From an open letter published on April 29, 1776 in Dunlap's Pennsylvania Packet

In this day of protests and rebellions organized through Facebook and other online resources, we wonder how something like the American Revolution could have ever been organized and the word spread.

Every city in early America had a newpaper. These periodicals were small, usually 3 or 4 columns, only one page, and published at most a few times a week. They didn't have investigative reporters, but they would print just about any document brought in to them. These papers were delivered to those who could read and afford subscriptions, but were also read aloud in taverns and other gathering places.

In the 1770s, John Dunlap printed his Pennsylvania Packet three times a week. In 1780, he joined forces with David Claypoole who eventually took over publication. In 1784, the Packet became America's first daily newspaper.

The Pennsylvania Packet was the first paper to print The Declaration of Independence on July 8, 1776 and, in 1787, the first to print The United States Constitution. Throughout the Revolution, Dunlap printed open letters, such as the one above. Many of Thomas Paine's letters were published, which he frequently signed "Common Sense" or merely, "C.S." Paine's essay Common Sense was originally printed as a brochure, but the full text appeared in the Packet at the end of the war.

Francis Hopkinson, signer of the Declaration, wrote many essays and poems for the Packet. His "Battle of the Kegs", a parody describing events of British-occupied Philadelphia, was published in March of 1778 and his tribute to General Washington, titled "A Toast" came out the next month.

"A Toast" can be heard on Colonial Revelers 1st CD, Revelry, Reflection & Revolution, along with  "God Save Our Thirteen States," printed in the Pennsylvania Packet in 1779.

Your humble servants,

Monday, September 26, 2011

October 2011 Events

(latest first)

Saturday, October 8, 9 am - 4 pm - FREE
Downingtown Friends Fall Festival
800 Lancaster Avenue
Downingtown, PA

Colonial Revelers will perform at noon - a lunchtime concert of songs popular between 1700 and 1800.

In 1774, John Downing donated land for the Lionville Friends to build a school.  Friends around "Downing's Town" were granted permission to meet at the school in 1784.  In 1806, Jenu Roberts donated land for the building of a meetinghouse for Downingtown Friends.

For more information about Downingtown Friends and this event, click here, phone 610-269-4223 or email info@downingtownfriendsmeeting.org


Saturday, October 1, 10 pm - 4 pm - FREE
Newlin Mill Fall Festival
219 South Cheyney Rd
Glen Mills, PA

Colonial Revelers will perform two sets of period music at 11:30 am and 1:30 pm. Also on hand will be living history and craft demonstrations and tours of the house and mill.

Newlin Mill is the oldest operating grist mill in Pennsylvania. It was built by Nathaniel Newlin in 1704, the third mill built on the site by the Newlin family, who had come to America in 1683. The mill was run by the Newlins until 1817, then by other owners through 1941. A descendent of the Newlin family bought it in 1958 and began restoring it to its 18th century appearance. Besides the mill, this living history site has two houses, an office, a barn and a grain storage building.

For more information about the park, its history, and this event click here , email
info@newlingristmill.org or call 610-459-2359.

Saturday, August 27, 2011

September 2011 Events

(latest first)

Sunday, September 18, Noon-4 pm
Stafford Heritage Picnic

Manahawkin Lake Park
49 West Bay Ave
(Rte 9 and Main Sts)
Manahawkin, NJ

Colonial Revelers will stroll around the lake and sing at this great multi-era living history event.

In the early part of the decade, Stafford Heritage Days took up a whole weekend and included a reenactment of the Battle of Cedar Bridge, the last engagement of the Revolution (darn those New Jersey loyalists!). Living history groups of all eras showed up, including colonial pirates, temperance ladies, a vintage baseball team, and the most eerily realistic General Grant, Chamberlain and Mr. and Mrs. Lincoln you'd ever want to meet. Then the recession hit, resources were limited and the project was put on hold. This year, we're glad to see a  comeback. Come out and join us. It's always fun.


Sunday, September 11, 11 am - 3 pm
Battle of Brandywine Reenactment
Brandywine Battlefield
Route 1
Chadds Ford, PA

Colonial Revelers will provide period music in the living history area whenever guns and cannons are silent.

The Battle of Brandywine took place on September 11, 1777 and was the largest battle of American Revolution, with Washington's forces numbering about 15,000 and the British with perhaps 17,000 troops. Washington held a decent position on the hills above the Brandywine Creek, but he was in a loyalist/pacifist neighborhood. Deliberate misinformation, poor communication, bad reconnaissance and inexperienced soldiers all contributed to the American defeat, yet they were able to retreat to Chester and regroup. The British were hampered by the heat of the day and the length of time they took to march around the American flank to ford the creek.

Come tour Washington's and Lafayette's Headquarters, view living history demonstrations, eat colonial food and, of course, hear Colonial Revelers sing.

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

In The Good Old Colony Days

by Elena Santangelo

Between the Declaration of Independence in 1776 and the Constitution eleven years later, the United States had no federal government and no federal taxes.  A Tea Partyers dream.

Only a loose Confederation held the states together.  Each state had its own laws, ways of raising revenue, and even its own paper currency.  Then again, not many folks wanted the bills anyway. The only money worth anything was gold and silver coins, and they were hard won. In those years, after fighting an expensive war, the country was broke and in its first economic depression.

Many of the soldiers who fought in the Continental Army weren't given their back pay or pensions. The states had their own militias to worry about. Greedy men took advantage of the situation, like the Morrises, who held a monopoly in trade agreements for tobacco.

Here's an old 17th century song that resurged in popularity during that decade:

In the Good Old Colony Days
When we lived under the king,
Lived a miller and a weaver and a little tailor--
Three jolly rogues of Lynn.

The first line says it all. In the 1780s, lots of folks lamented the "good old colony days" before the Revolution. The song goes on to tell how the miller stole corn, the weaver stole yarn, and "the little tailor, he stole broadcloth for to keep the three rogues warm."  The poor and working classes in America could more than identify with the rogues' need to provide themselves with food and clothing.

However, all sinners must be punished so

The miller drowned in his dam,
And the weaver hung in his yarn,
And the Devil laid his Claw on the little tailor
With the broadcloth under his arm.

Eventually, though, the Constitution provided for a strong and flexible Federal government and decent trade with Europe was established, bringing Americans fancy French imports like flannel, denin and corduroy (giving little tailors a wider choice of fabrics).

Still, while the America of the 1780s wasn't the government-less Utopia some citizens envision today, there was no Capitol Hill, and no Congress as we now know it. So how bad could it have been?

Friday, July 1, 2011


Sunday, July 3 at 9:30 am
St. Matthews United Methodist Church of Valley Forge
600 Walker Road
Wayne, PA 19087

On the eve of the anniversary of our Independency, Colonial Revelers will perform the music of Mr. William Billings and Mr. John Cole during Sunday morning services at St. Matthews.

Saturday, July 30, 10-4
Frederick Muhlenberg House
151 W. Main Street
Trappe, PA 19426

Colonial Revelers will provide 18th century songs from 11 to 1 at the Speaker's House Living History Day, a BBQ fundraiser for the restoration of the Frederick Muhlenberg House.  Lunch will be pork BBQ, cole slaw, corn-on-the-cob and soft drink.  Activities include colonial cooking, music, spinning, dying, weaving, blacksmithing, woodworking, military demonstrations and tours of the house.  Tickets are $10 for adults, $7 for seniors, $5 for kids 6-12, and free for children under 6.

Frederick Muhlenberg became the first U.S. Congress Speaker of the House in 1789. The house was built in 1760 and purchased by Muhlenberg in 1781.  He was born and grew up in Trappe.  The house of his father, Henry Melchior Muhlenberg, has also been restored by the Trappe Historical Society.  Henry was a Lutheran pastor sent to Pennsylvania in the 18th century as a missionary.  Besides Frederick, his sons included Major General Peter Muhlenberg of the Continental Army.  Sons-in-law were also generals and politicians, and one grandson became Governor of Pennsylvania.

For more information, call 610-489-2105 or email info@speakershouse.org

FYI: The Keystone Grange Fair is the same day, not far away on West 1st Avenue, 9 am-7 pm.  Come and spend the whole day in Trappe!

We would be pleased to see you this month.

Your humble servants,

Friday, June 10, 2011

If You Can't Stand The Heat...

"Hide not your talents, they for use were made.
What's a sun-dial in the shade?"

Benjamin Franklin, Poor Richard's Almanack

Dear Patrons,

A suitable reply to the above question today might well be that a sun-dial in the shade would be cooler.

In an effort to provide relief to ourselves and our readers, we list here time-tested methods of dealing with the summer heat.

1.  If you must labor outside, a fresh, damp cabbage leaf placed 'twixt cap and head will keep you cooler.  This is a centuries old method, most recently employed famously by a ballplayer named Babe Ruth.  Change the leaf every few hours.

2.  Dig a hole.  On a hot summer's day, the bottom of a 6 foot hole will be at least 20 degrees Fahrenheit cooler than the top. For those who shy from this solution, likening it to being laid
untimely in their graves, perhaps use the hole only to store perishable food.  Add a large chunk of ice, well-salted and wrapped in flannel, and your milk, butter, and fresh meat will
keep well.

3.  Should digging a hole prove strenuous in the heat, you may lower your jugs of milk and such to the bottom of your well with the same results.

4.  For those fortunate to have a cellar beneath their homes, 'tis a fine, cool place to dwell on a warm afternoon, all the more so if no one thinks to look for you there.  Bring a book and a few pints of good ale (chilled first in the well) to help pass the hours.  If discretion is unnecessary, leave the book above and bring your friends below for an afternoon of song.

Your humble servants,

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Weaving the Maypole

by Elena Santangelo

When I was a kid, and I saw photos of people dancing around a Maypole while holding brightly colored ribbons, I thought it looked pretty silly.  Oh, I didn't have anything against folk dancing--in fact, I liked it.  I grew up in an Italian family and we all learned to do the Tarantella at weddings.  But I didn't get why you needed a pole or a piece of ribbon to hold onto.  Why not just dance?  Of course, I'd never actually seen a Maypole dance performed.

When I finally witnessed, then participated in May Day celebrations, I came to understand that the dance, though fun, was only a means to an end.  The steps are fairly easy.  Children and awkward adults like myself can do them, and often do, because something about Maypole dancing makes you want to join in.  But the gist of the whole thing is to take those ribbons and plait them around the pole, or create a web away from the pole, using only the dance moves.

The great thing is, preteen boys will dance with girls because they concentrate more on making the pattern than on getting cooties.

Spider's Web
In the simplest Maypole dance, the Grand Chain, every other person around the pole clockwise while the rest go counterclockwise, alternately ducking under ribbons and lifting theirs over the next person.  Dancers can walk, skip or do a polka step.  In a variation called Barber's Pole, every other person stands still while the others move clockwise, then they switch and the second group goes counterclockwise.  Dances such as Spider's Web, Gypsy's Tent, Jacob's Ladder and Pyramid form out-from-the-pole patterns.

I've seen Maypole dances where, once the dancers are holding their ribbons out and taut, a green wreath is placed over the top of the pole.  As the plait is formed, the wreath moves down the pole.  If the dancers reverse their steps, the wreath moves back up.

Below is a video of kids weaving a Maypole.  Enjoy!

Historical Harmonies noteOur May Revelers troupe will perform and teach Maypole dances anywhere we have room to set up our pole.  If you're within a few hours drive of the Philadelphia area and would like to host a workshop or May Day celebration next year, please contact us at historicalharmonies@gmail.com

Your humble servants,

Saturday, April 2, 2011

Francis Hopkinson (1737-1791)

Most Americans don't recognize the name of Francis Hopkinson. Some know enough to state that he was a signer of the Declaration of Independence.  Beyond that, he's been more or less lost to history, but this patriot ranks right up there with Franklin, Jefferson, Hancock and Washington.

Hopkinson was born and died in Philadelphia, and lived part of his life in New Jersey, representing that colony in Congress.  He was in the first graduating class of the College of Philadelphia (which merged with the University of Penn in 1791), then studied law.  He also served on the committee that drafted the Articles of Confederation.  Besides becoming a lawyer, statesman, and jurist, he's been described as "a mathematician, a chemist, a physicist, a mechanic, an inventor, a musician and a composer of music, a man of literary knowledge and practice, a writer of airy and dainty songs, a clever artist with pencil and brush and a humorist of unmistakable power" (Tyler, Literary History of the American Revolution).

It's as a writer and musician that we'll discuss him here.  He is credited with being America's first secular poet-composer, having published his first song in 1759 at the age of 21.   Hopkinson also became well-known for his essays, many of which were satirical, such as his "Typographical Method of conducting a Quarrel" and "Essay on White Washing."

He combined his songwriting and satires during the Revolution to produce works such as "The Treaty," "The New Roof:  A Song for Federal Mechanics," and "The Battle of the Kegs."  The latter song was set to Yankee Doodle and comically described an incident that took place in January of 1779, when the British occupied Philadelphia.  The Continental forces were  experimenting with floating mines made from powder kegs.  They sent them down river toward the city in an attempt to damage the British ships docked there.  Redcoats were dispatched to shoot at the kegs, to set them off before they could do harm.  Hopkinson's song told of the brave British troops valiantly waging war against the kegs. Here's a verse:

The royal band now ready stand,
All ranged in dread array, sir,
With stomachs stout to see it out,
And make a bloody day, sir.
The cannons roar from shore to shore,
The small arms make a rattle;
Since wars began, I'm sure no man
E'er saw so strange a battle.

About the same time, Hopkinson wrote a tribute to Washington entitled "A Toast."

'Tis Washington's Health,
Fill a bumper around,
For he is our glory and pride;
Our arms shall in battle with
Conquest be crowned,
Whilst virtue and
He's on our side.

"A Toast" can be heard on Colonial Revelers CD Revelry, Reflection and Revolution. See our website for details.

As always, your humble servants,

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Down with Tyrants

Rebellion to tyrants is obedience to God.
Benjamin Franklin, 1776

The words above were suggested by Benjamin Franklin for the motto to be placed on the Great Seal of the United States.  Six years and three committees later, in 1782, the seal we know of today was adopted, sporting the tamer motto "E Pluribus Unum" or "Out of many, one."

One month ago, most Americans might have had a difficult time bending their brains around what "rebellion to tyrants" actually involved.  Now we've seen it in Egypt, Libya and other parts of Middle East.  More than 60% of Americans polled think we're seeing it in Wisconsin.

Still, most of us are surprised to learn that in the 18th century, most folks had less notion of how to rebel against tyranny than we modern Americans do.  Sure, uprisings had occured since the dawn of time, often by the oppressed poor who got tired of being dictated to by the rich who hoarded all the wealth.  Until 1776, though, you didn't hear much about groups of wealthy, learned men who told their king, "Sorry, we've had enough of not having a say in what you're doing to us, so we're going to form our own country and a democracy at that."  Of course, their idea of a democracy didn't include the non-wealthy, non-male or non-white, but it was a step away from tyranny, at least.

People got behind the idea of democracy.  Who wouldn't?  So they wrote songs about standing up against tyranny.

We'll fear no tyrant's nod,
Nor stern oppression's rod,
'Til time's no more.
(from God Save Our Thirteen States)
Come join hand in hand, brave Americans all,
And rouse your bold hearts at fair Liberty's call;
No tyrannous acts shall suppress your just claim,
Nor stain with dishonor America's name.

(from The Liberty Song)

Let tyrants shake their iron rod,
And slavery clank her galling chains.
We fear them not, we trust in God.

(from William Billing's Chester)

Torn from a world of tyrants,
Beneath this western sky,
We formed a new dominion,
A land of liberty.
The world shall own we're masters here,
Then hasten on the day:
Oppose, oppose, oppose, oppose
for Free America.

(from Free America)

All tyranny needs to gain a foothold
is for people of good conscience to remain silent.
Thomas Jefferson

Your humble servants,

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

'Tis Washington's Health!

Join Colonial Revelers
in a celebration of the General's Birthday!

Where: Valley Forge National Historical Park
            Welcome Center
WhenMonday, February 21 - 11 am to 3 pm

Valley Forge National Historical Park will present special programs all weekend, beginning Saturday, February 19 at 8 am.  This will be the 99th year that the Boy Scouts of America will camp at the park.  Other events include artillery, rifle, musket and medical demonstrations, programs on camp life, African-American regiments and contributions by the Oneida Indian Nation to the cause of Independence.

On Monday, the 21st, visitors will be able to meet the General and his wife at the Welcome Center, listen to music by the Colonial Revelers, and participate in children's activities.  Martha Washington's original recipe Great Cake will be served.  For more information, go to the park's event page.

Many songs were written about General Washington during the Revolution.  Here is one of Colonial Revelers' favorites, penned by Francis Hopkinson (signer of the Declaration of Independence), and first published April 8, 1778 in the Pennsylvania Packet.

A Toast

'Tis Washington's Health, fill a bumper around,
For he is our glory and pride;
Our arms shall in battle with conquest be crowned
Whilst virtue and he's on our side.

'Tis Washington's health, loud cannons should roar
And trumpets the truth should proclaim;
There cannot be found, search all the world o'er,
His equal in virtue and fame.

'Tis Washington's health, our hero to bless,
May heaven look graciously down;
Oh! long may he live, our hearts to possess,
And Freedom still call him her own.

This song can be heard on our first CD:  REVELRY, REFLECTION & REVOLUTION .

Your humble servants,

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