Morris men in a ring at the autumn equinox

The Pinewood Morris Men continue a festive dance style from the late middle ages in rural England. The performers wear costumes specific to their troupe, including bells, and often wield sticks or handkerchiefs in their routines. This group frequently appears in Boston Revels’ events throughout the year. Here they are greeting concertgoers to last fall’s equinox RiverSing in the Herter Park amphitheater along the Charles River in Allston.

View from the outdoor stage

Rosi Amador and Brian Amador of the pan-Latin ensemble Sol y Canto joined us on the stage of the Herter Park amphitheater along the Charles River in Allston. Boston Revels hosts events throughout the year to enhance community through folk traditions. This scene from last fall’s equinox RiverSing.

They sound like happy fireworks

The street drum band aNova Brazil joined us last fall to help celebrate the cleanup of the Charles River two decades earlier. Here they are warming up for the Boston Revels’ equinox RiverSing last fall at the Herter Park amphitheater along the Charles River in Allston. They later fired up the procession down to the stage and performed several unbelievably complex and infectious numbers. They’re a hard act to follow, but we did it. Boston Revels hosts events throughout the year to enhance community through folk traditions.

Polycentric community adds up

With the release of Subway Visions, I’ve been returning to considerations of urban affairs. It’s not all New York City, either, even though the novel takes place there.

For me, the big city these days is Boston. I live an hour to the north – or northeast, more technically. I can even take the train in, as well as the hourly bus, which is quite comfortable and also links us to the airport. (You’d be surprised at the number of pilots and other airline personnel who are boarding from here.)

So we can go in for concerts or museums or dim sum on weekday mornings. We’re not exactly stuck in the sticks.

On the other hand, I live in a city of nearly 30,000 – the largest of a cluster of small cities that together form a larger population base to sustain our varied interests.

Portsmouth, 15 minutes to our south, is wealthier and more fashionable. It has probably as many restaurants per capita as Manhattan as well as several theater companies, the Music Hall, and art galleries.

The state university is ten minutes to our west, and about a third of its students rent apartments in our city. The school runs its own buses to serve them and anyone else who wants to pay to ride. Its library, of course, is a marvelous resource for independent writers and scholars.

In other words, I have no reason to feel deprived. Well, sometimes I wish the Harvard Book Store were closer or Symphony Hall. But I still have my choir in Watertown.

Looking at this has me recalling my mentor in political science, Vincent Ostrom, who coined the concept of “polycentric” to describe the overlapping jurisdictions that govern American polity. A city typically falls within a county, for instance, as well as a state and then the nation. Nowadays there may also be special districts to address things like water, pollution, or transportation needs.

As mayor of Baltimore, William Donald Schaefer took the concept in another direction by enhancing neighborhood identity and decision-making to revitalize a big city. Adjustments could be made in neighborhood settings even while having a central tax base, police and fire services, water and sewer system, and so on.

So my city has a much different identity and feel from Portsmouth or Durham or Rochester or Somersworth or the Berwicks over the state line in Maine. And yet we’re all conscious, even proud, of our identity as the Seacoast Region.

Do you see how these many circles begin to overlap, each adding to the richness we enjoy?

As the hippie phrase used to go, “Small is beautiful.” But, in this universe I’m describing, it doesn’t have to be confining or impoverishing, either.

For now, I do feel I have the best of both worlds.

Havin’ a blast

Despite their name, the Dirty Water Brass Band joined us last fall to help celebrate the cleanup of the Charles River two decades earlier. Their New Orleans street-style band packs in soul and an R&B kick. Here they are greeting concertgoers to the Boston Revels’ equinox RiverSing last fall at the Herter Park amphitheater along the Charles River in Allston. They later led the procession down to the stage and opened the show with several numbers.

Today, let’s let them welcome the official beginning of summer.

Welcome spring!

It’s not yet warm enough for New Englanders to return to the outdoors quite like this, but we’re feeling the stirrings. Many of the Boston Revels’ performances celebrate the changing seasons, and the annual Spring Sing concert just took place in the United Methodist church in Watertown, Massachusetts. This scene with Mother Goose preparing to float toward the stage is from last fall’s equinox RiverSing in the Herter Park amphitheater along the Charles River in Allston.
The kids in the procession were lots of fun. We had two excellent children’s choirs participating.