Evoking nostalgia: Welcome Yule returns for 39th year with a reprise of best-known songs

The 39th annual Welcome Yule Midwinter Celebration will make its return to the Shea Theater Arts Center from Dec. 8 through 10.

The 39th annual Welcome Yule Midwinter Celebration will make its return to the Shea Theater Arts Center from Dec. 8 through 10. CONTRIBUTED

The 39th annual Welcome Yule Midwinter Celebration will make its return to the Shea Theater Arts Center from Dec. 8 through 10.

The 39th annual Welcome Yule Midwinter Celebration will make its return to the Shea Theater Arts Center from Dec. 8 through 10. CONTRIBUTED

By JULIAN MENDOZA

For the Recorder

Published: 11-24-2023 10:24 AM

It’s been nearly four decades since the inception of Welcome Yule, a theatrical spectacle of song, dance and storytelling that has since become one of the village’s most beloved holiday customs. Before the tradition hits 40 years old, though, those who have helped it grow hope to bring the audience’s focus back to its roots.

“We felt like having a theme that was emblematic about what the show was about all along,” Artistic Director Hattie Adastra said.

The 39th annual Welcome Yule Midwinter Celebration will make its return to the Shea Theater Arts Center from Dec. 8 through 10. The multimedia performance, which weaves together English, Scottish and Celtic solstice traditions, is centered around how “when we move into the dark time of the year, we keep our spirits alive through community, connection, and tradition,” according to the event’s website.

“This year in Welcome Yule, we are focusing on that recurring cycle of dark and light, Sun and Moon, life, death, and rebirth as the wheel of the year marks its repeated turning,” the homepage continues. “Our village is drawing together in this dark time, maintaining itself and its sense of community through song, dance, story-telling and a mummer’s play.”

While recent years have embraced a sub-theme or other twist to keep things fresh, this year’s cast and crew hope to enthrall the audience with a reprise of Welcome Yule’s original and best-known songs. Every song featured in the production will have been sung before, with the intention of evoking nostalgia in those who have enjoyed the show for years.

“I felt like especially after the [COVID-19 pandemic] gap … it was valuable for the cast to do the songs that everybody knows and loves,” Adastra said, referencing the period from 2020 through 2021 where Welcome Yule had to be pre-recorded rather than presented live. “If you haven’t seen it before, they’ll be all new, but you’ll see it feeling nostalgic to us.”

“I really like the old stuff,” said Jinny Mason, a board member, producer and longtime cast member, noting that she might be “biased” being from England. “The audience knows [the songs], can sing along in a lot of places and it just gives it that much more liveliness, I think.”

Mason’s husband, Alan McArdle, who, like his wife, is a board member, producer and longtime cast member, affirmed that the cast similarly enjoys a callback to Welcome Yule’s beginnings. At the same time, however, it’s been “exhausting work” for the aging cast to revitalize the magic to their standards, he said.

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“We’ve done the songs before and we look at them again and we’re like, ‘we know how to do this,’ but we don’t know how to do this,” he explained, adding that the re-learning curve is made sharper by the addition of new cast members. “Trying to work with a different group of people makes it feel different than we’ve done in the past.”

Mason said this year’s production includes about 30 performers and half a dozen background cast members. In addition to herself and McArdle, who have participated in Welcome Yule since 1990, there are two members who have been with the cast for at least three decades, she noted.

“It’s like a family,” she expressed.

Adastra said she hopes those who attend feel “that same kind of energy and that same kinda power.”

“I think it’s a very heartwarming show,” Mason said. “People might come in feeling drab … and they really catch the emotion and it makes them feel better, so when they leave, they almost always leave feeling better than when they came in.”

Tickets for any of the three Welcome Yule shows can be purchased at welcomeyule.org.

Reach Julian Mendoza at jmendoza.press@gmail.com.