John Langstaff (December 24, 1920 – December 13, 2005), a concert baritone, and early music revivalist was the founder of the Northeast United States tradition of the Christmas Revels, as well as a respected musician and educator. He attended the Curtis Institute of Music as well as Juilliard. In 1943 he married Diane Hamilton. They divorced in 1947. He was later married to Nancy Trowbridge, a pianist.
Langstaff's lifelong project, the Christmas Revels, began in 1957 with a show in New York. In 1971, the longest running Revels, in Cambridge, Massachusetts, began. The Revels, an eclectic mix of medieval and modern music and dance (primarily English in basis), involves the audience and the community in a continuation of pagan and older Christian traditions. Revels shows, now spread over the Northeast and the world, draw on local talent. Morris dancing, mummers, bagpipers and large choruses of men, women and children celebrate the turning of the Winter Solstice in a cheerful fashion.
Throughout his adult life, Langstaff was a dedicated music educator. In 1955, he became the music director at The Potomac School, in Washington, DC, and later taught at Shady Hill School in Cambridge, Massachusetts. He wrote twenty-five books, including the Caldecott Medal-winning Frog Went A-Courtin'. He hosted the BBC-TV children's program "Making Music" for five years, and produced a series of videos called "Making Music with John Langstaff" for parents and teachers. He also published songbooks, teacher's guides, and production guides for the Revels.
In the later 1970s and early 1980s, Jack, as he was addressed by some, was associated with the Young Audiences organization in the United States, which creates and presents performance arts in educational settings. Langstaff was Executive Director of Young Audiences of Massachusetts, and collaborated with many cultural, educational, health and community organizations in Greater Boston area and New England.
Langstaff's recording career was varied and long. Beginning with English traditional music in the 1950s, he continued with the founding of Revels Records, recording primarily children's and traditional music. Several of his early recordings were made in London, with noted producer George Martin.
On May 17, 2006, David Nath's documentary film To Drive The Dark Away, which chronicles Langstaff's life and work with the Christmas Revels, had its world premiere in Arlington, MA.
- "John Langstaff Obituary". John Langstaff, 84; Founded Modern-Day Christmas Revels Staged in Many Cities. Retrieved December 16, 2005.[dead link]
- "John Langstaff Unofficial Page". John Langstaff 1920-2005. Retrieved December 18, 2005.
- John Langstaff Page from New York Revels site
- John Langstaff page from Revels Inc. site
- John Langstaff (unofficial site by Sheldon Brown)