No pics of this week's activities yet, but they'll be coming. My camera has been in one place, the card somewhere else. I have finally reunited them!
It is not easy to describe the experience of being here. Musicians and singers are everywhere. Today I sat in on a session of singing old hymns, unaccompanied. The sound of many voices rising in harmony is like honey to the ears, and the chapel here at Augusta is the perfect place for both its ambience and its acoustics.
My class met for the second day. We're a small and varied lot, but that just makes it more interesting and more challenging at the same time as I strive to meet their needs, from the scholarship student who has never told a story to the museum docent to the experienced teller. We give and take, sharing ideas, experiences, and stories. Always stories. I arrived with a lesson plan and a schedule for the week, but it is constantly adapted to what my students need instead of what I think might benefit them. There is room for it all in the end.
Yesterday we talked about stories in general, what makes a story, the characteristics of Appalachian culture and its impact on the storytelling in the region. We explored some tall tales and discussed the structure of these kinds of stories. The Road Scholars (formerly Elderhostel) students came in the afternoon for stories; I told and talked about stories and one of my students told a tale.
I went to an evening ballad-singing concert with Brian Peters. Brian is from England and treated us to some excellent Child Ballads interspersed with his witty commentary that often had us laughing out loud. It was interesting to hear different versions of ballads I also sing. Following Brian were the crankies! Such simple fun. I was late to bed but it was well worth a little lost sleep.
Today we worked a bit on a story one of the students wanted feedback on, then moved on to ghost stories. I have each of them a story to learn--not perfectly, but the "bones" of the tale. They each told their story in rough form, then we discussed each telling. After lunch they came back and re-told the stories. The changes they had made as they let the story "sit" in their subconscience during lunch were remarkable and showed that they had a good grip on the story's structure. The Road Scholars arrived and I discussed ghost stories and why we tell them before launching into a ballad and then a few stories.
My students were up next. I was so pleased with the way they rose to the challenge; one of them retold a short funny tale I'd told earlier without a bit of rehearsal--he just added it to the story he'd practiced. They all got good applause and appreciations from the audience. We finished with more discussion and a few of the Road Scholars told short stories. Then they left and we reviewed each student's telling and our day was done.
There is much to do this evening: a concert, music jams, singing, probably dancing. The hills around Davis & Elkins College will be ringing with the joy of old-time music and dance, and everyone will go to bed tired, happy, and filled with music, song, and good conversation. And that's exactly why people come here from all over the country for this special week in the mountains.
Copyright Susanna Holstein. All rights reserved. No Republication or Redistribution Allowed without attribution to Susanna Holstein.