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El Camino

On the road with The Christmas Revels 2017

This year’s Christmas Revelers travel to colorful Galicia. Photo courtesy of Revels, Inc. (the Revels company in the Boston area)

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The current map of Europe is a relatively recent development in that continent's rich history. Spain, for example, wasn't united until 1833. Before that, the region was a collection of kingdoms, counties and dependencies. Andalusia, for example, spanned the southern coast, while kingdoms to the north included (from east to west) Catalonia, Aragon, Basque country and, just north of Portugal, Galicia.

Galicia's a rugged land at roughly the same latitude as Chicago, in the Iron Age home to a Celtic tribe, the Gallaeci. "Galegos" are still a predominantly Celtic, Roman Catholic people who speak both Castilian Spanish and their regional Romance language, galego (Galician in English). The course of European history was somewhat retrograde here: The Statute of Autonomy of 1981 restored partial self-government to Galicia and its political capital, Santiago de Compostela. Among Galicia's biggest tourist draws is the Camino de Santiago, the "Way of Saint James." Each year, about 200,000 Christians follow a network of pilgrim paths to Santiago de Compostela's cathedral, in which James' remains were allegedly interred in the first or second century C.E. The path's travelers include writer Paulo Coelho, Stephen Hawking, Pope John Paul II, Shirley MacLaine and Martin Sheen.

This year, Tacoma's beloved chapter of The Christmas Revels celebrates its silver-anniversary year by "walking" the Camino. As in past years, the Revels deploy over 60 actors, comedians, dancers and musicians in authentic costumes by Alex Lewington under the direction of B.J. Douglas. Unlike previous years, 2017's score includes The Seattle Brass Ensemble, Galician bagpipe (gaita) and four renowned folk instrumentalists alongside adult and children's choruses.

"Often in a Revels," said Puget Sound Revels' executive director, Mary Lynn, "someone or some community has a moment of transformation. ... (It's) heart-enlarging. ... The music around the whole journey is very powerful. There are so many (moments) that you just hold your breath they're so strong and beautiful and moving." Indeed, one of the singers found the real Camino so powerful she traveled it twice. "When she heard about this year's theme," said Lynn, "she just had to audition."

THE CHRISTMAS REVELS, 2 p.m., Saturday and Wednesday, Dec. 16 and 20; 7:30 p.m., Dec. 16 and 19; 1 and 5:30 p.m., Dec. 17, Rialto Theater, 310 S. 9th, Tacoma, $12-$35.50, 253.591.5894. Note: The 5:30 performance Sunday, Dec. 17, will be American Sign Language-interpreted

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