By Lauren Bennett
Special to the Gazette
The holidays can be a stressful time, between buying gifts, decorating the house, and preparing food. But award-winning storyteller Diane Edgecomb has a calming event for people to relax and experience the Winter Solstice. The Winter Solstice in Story and Song performance will be held Dec. 21-23 at the Loring-Greenough House.
“Our performance material has been researched and adapted from ancient Winter Solstice tales and music and developed into a theatrical storytelling with musical accompaniment,” Edgecomb said.
She said that traditionally, the Winter Solstice is a three-day celebration lasting for the three days and nights when the sun rose and set at the same place on the horizon. “Sol” means “sun” and “stice” comes from the Latin sister which means “stand still,” she said.
“At this time the sun appears to set on the same point of the horizon for those three days and nights,” Edgecomb said. “This is a transition time in the world of nature – the course of the world hangs in the balance like a pendulum swing at its apex. Will it return? The people had a part in causing the sun to return by lighting fires and making noise encouraging it to change its course and return to them in the North.”
The performance has been an annual event in Jamaica Plain for about eight years—previously held at the Arboretum— and Edgecomb said that a lot of the same people come every year. “It’s not very often you will find a performance or celebration [about the Solstice],” she said, so people look forward to it.
Edgecomb said she has always been very interested in stories that people have told about nature, because she feels that they give more meaning to the natural world.
“Storytelling can help us to ritualize and find a deeper meaning in the turn of the seasons,” she said. She added that the cultural significance of these events is something she loves to learn about.
She said she looks into what people can think about or experience in a story that will take them even deeper into the experience.
The performance stories are based on a lot of myths about this time of year—times of difficulty, times of pressure, and finding the way through.
“Our bodies are feeling this heaviness,” Edgecomb said. “The stories help us to tune to a journey we can go on spiritually at this time of the year.”
Edgecomb said she’s done research to find the different pieces and develop them over time, comparing myths to bring the stories to life theatrically while still remaining true to their culture and meaning.
“It’s a bit of almost repair work on these old stories because they end up frozen in a time and when they’re written down in a book, [they] have to be learned about and brought to life,” she said.
She said most of the stories are coming from the northern lands, because towards the south, people experience the Solstice at a different time. There are stories from England about the Wassail traditions and giving back to nature this time of year by throwing your cider at the trees to give them health.
“Everyone in the audience takes part in the story,” Edgecomb said. “Hopefully, the whole audience is inspired to throw cider.”
Though they perform the same material every year, Edgecomb said she hears something new every year. “The performance is very dear to our hearts,” she said.
The performance is in two acts, but it constitutes a variety of pieces. “Imagine a concert of music and story,” she said. It may start with a song, then move into a humorous story, then an instrumental piece, then a longer, more thought-provoking piece, she said.
She compared it to her favorite meal—one full of different kinds of appetizers. The variety of the pieces evokes different moods and feelings, and Edgecomb said she has carefully crafted the arc of each act to make it reflective of the Solstice. The stories are accompanied by a harp, synthesizer harp, and keyboard, played by Celtic harper Margot Chamberlain and multi-instrumentalist Tom Megan.
“This performance has been part of this community for a long time and it really attracts people from JP and all over,” Edgecomb said.
On Friday, Dec. 21 and Saturday, Dec. 22, there will be evening performances in two acts from 7:30-9:30 p.m. Tickets are $25 and there will be an intermission with refreshments. On Sunday, Dec. 23, there will be a one hour matinee performance from 2:00-3:00 p.m. followed by refreshments.