John Langstaff, who started the musical and theatrical celebration of the winter solstice known as the Christmas Revels, died Tuesday after suffering a stroke while visiting his daughter in Basel, Switzerland, said Alan Casso, a spokesman for the Christmas Revels. Langstaff was 84.
Langstaff studied music at the Juilliard School in New York before launching a career as a concert baritone. After serving in the U.S. Army during World War II, he made several recordings for EMI records with George Martin, who later became the Beatles' mentor and producer.
Langstaff first staged "A Christmas Masque of Traditional Revels," at New York's Town Hall in 1957, and NBC asked him to direct a similar production as a Hallmark Hall of Fame Special in 1966.
In 1971, he revived his Revels at Harvard University's Sanders Theater. It soon became an annual event and Langstaff presided over its expansion into a national phenomenon.
The productions showcase various cultures through music, song and dance, focussing on themes ranging from medieval England to Appalachian America and incorporate audience participation.
In addition to directing the productions, Langstaff performed on stage until 1995.
Copyright 2005 The Associated Press.
This program aired on December 15, 2005. The audio for this program is not available.