Coziness of the soul brought to the stage

This holiday season Island Stage Left brings back the popular “Omnium Gatherum,” a collection of stories, music and poems in a performance that embodies the Danish custom of hygge, or coziness of the soul.

“I was looking for a program that was malleable, grounded in the holiday tradition of singing, stories and coming together,” Helen Machin-Smith said of the show.

“Omnium Gatherum,” usually staged at the Roche Harbor Pavilion, will be performed at the Fairground’s Marie Boe building this year. The event is free, by donation, beginning at the following times:

• 7 p.m Friday, Dec. 16 and Saturday, Dec. 17

• 4 p.m. Sunday Dec. 18

• 7 p.m. Tuesday, Dec. 20, Wednesday, Dec. 21, Thursday, Dec. 22 and Friday, Dec. 23.

• 4 p.m. and 6:30 p.m., Christmas Eve, Dec. 24. Please make a reservation ahead of time.

Machin-Smith was inspired, she said, to create “Omnium Gatherum,” meaning a gathering of all, because she loved the holiday tradition of music and storytelling, and coming together. Every year Island Stage Left chooses a new collection of stories, poems and music for “Omnium Gatherum.” This year, according to Machin-Smith, the event will weave together pieces from Shakespeare, Robert Lewis Stevenson, Billy Collins, Garrison Keillor and more. The music ensemble features Irish tunes, jazz, folk music including Simon and Garfunkel and even a Hungarian folk melody.

“We will be offering a little bit of everything, ranging from serious to lighthearted,” Machin-Smith said, adding that while performance is varied, the attending community members are what really make the event a gathering of all. As one of the most popular holiday traditions, some have watched the show alone, others with loved ones, there are all ages, and all walks of life who attend the show, she explained.

Machin-Smith has also been drawn to the Danish tradition of hygge, something Danes surround themselves with throughout their daily life, especially during the dark season.

“It is the greatest compliment you can give a host, to say that their evening was hygge,” Machin-Smith said, explaining that roughly it translates to coziness. It can be an evening home alone curled up on the couch in front of a crackling fire, lost in a good book, or having loved ones over for warm drinks, good laughs, and relaxing and forgetting about the problems of the world a while. To the Danes, Machin-Smith said, hygge is a way of life, not just during the holidays. Given that Danes are consistently rated the happiest people in the world, perhaps there is something to hygge, relaxing, being warm and not denying oneself of comforts.

“Candles are often lit along windows sills which are probably a fire hazard, but Vikings have never been too hung up with health and safety,” Machin-Smith read from a definition of hygge.

The set of “Omnium Gatherum” put together with the assistance of theater extraordinaire Susan Williams, will contain the warm welcoming atmosphere associated with hygge.

“I want people to feel like they are in our living room,” Machin-Smith said adding that cookies, cider and hot chocolate will be offered. For the Christmas Eve performances, Machin-Smith hopes to be able to offer wine as well, adding a festive touch.

“Our goal is to inspire, lift the spirit, and make people laugh. This is Island Stage Left’s way of thanking the community,” Machin-Smith said.

For more information, visit Island Stage Left’s website at www.islandstageleft.org or you can call 378-5649 or email stageleft@centurytel.net.