Welcome Yule! chases darkness away

  • Fred Momaney of Welcome Yule! rehearses with another character. Recorder Staff/Paul Franz

  • Welcome Yule! will be at Shea Theater on Avenue A in Turners Falls on Friday and Saturday at 7:30 p.m. and Sunday at 2 p.m. Recorder Staff/Paul Franz

  • Fred Momaney (right) of Welcome Yule! is the narrator for this year’s play. Recorder Staff/Paul Franz—Paul Franz

  • Characters in Welcome Yule! rehearse for the upcoming production. Recorder Staff/Paul Franz

  • Characters rehearse for the upcoming Welcome Yule! The event was founded in 1985 by Rose Sheehan. Recorder Staff/Paul Franz

Recorder Staff
Published: 12/7/2016 2:34:44 PM

You’ve never seen this “Welcome Yule!” Then again, no one has — the production is tweaked every year. The 32nd installment of this midwinter celebration tells the tale of Chanticleer the Rooster and Reynard the Fox, a medieval story.

Cast members say “Welcome Yule!” always represents the intertwining of darkness and light. This year’s production features the villagers and animals of a mythical hamlet enacting the symbolic death of the year, the coming of winter, and the spring’s rebirth, all while the cunning fox and the proud rooster pursue each other throughout the countryside.

An adaptation of the story is in “The Canterbury Tales” by Geoffrey Chaucer.

Jinny Mason described the story as one of flattery and trickery, and said roughly a half-dozen elements of the production are consistent from year to year.

This production will be at the Shea Theater on Avenue A in Turners Falls. It begins at 7:30 p.m. on Friday, 7:30 p.m. on Saturday, and 2 p.m. on Sunday.

“Welcome Yule!” was founded in 1985 by Rose Sheehan.

The board of directors chose this year’s theme and Creative Director Kate Richardson said she used pre-existing songs and “some ‘Welcome Yule!’ standards” to musically illustrate the story.

“I’m really excited about the musical selection and I hope that the cast is feeling happy with it,” she said. “As creative director, being someone who’s never done a theater show before, I sort of felt like I was stepping into an amazing support system because I can say, ‘These are my ideas,’ and people say, ‘OK. I know what to do with that.’”

Several cast members recently congregated in the St. James Episcopal Church’s Whiteman Room to give The Recorder a taste of what’s on tap this weekend.

Player Fred Momaney is a parishioner who secured the room for a sneak peak.

Members of the community donned homemade tunics and tabards, and toe-tapped to a couple of merry tunes in the show, with Alan McArdle playing his penny whistle. Some dressed in costume to playfully act out some scenes. Mason sported the rooster costume, made with nylon for bright, colorful feathers and worn with a tomato cage underneath the material.

Rehearsals are held at the Shea, though work to its HVAC system made the building unavailable last week.

Puppets, border dancing and a mummers folk play will also be included in the performance, along with the passing of the Yule log and the Abbots Bromley Horn Dance, an English folk song that dates to the Middle Ages.

Cast members say they don’t want to give away too much of what is in store for this weekend. According to the “Welcome Yule!” Facebook page, the cast endured a six-hour rehearsal last Sunday.

General admission tickets are $12, and children and senior citizens get in for $10. Children 4 years old and younger are free.

Tickets are at Jones Library in Amherst, Broadside Books in Northampton and World Eye Bookshop in Greenfield. They can also be purchased at: bit.ly/2haHYMA.

The show is expected to run just short of two hours each time, with a 10-minute intermission.

More information can be found at: welcomeyule.org


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