Monday, October 8, 2007

National Storytelling Festival: Saturday Night

We got back to town early enough to have dinner with friends Ellouise and Jim, and their travel companions Jane and Cricket. Then Larry fetched our chairs from the car adn we headed for the ghost stories in the park.

Without a doubt, this was the very best ghost stories concert I have ever attended at Jonesborough. The stories started with Heather Forest, who told and sang her version of The Boy Who Drew Cats, along with another tale that warned against greed.

Heather was followed by the inimitable Bobby Norfolk. His telling of Tailypo was hilarious, scary, and unpredictable. Even though we were far away from the gazebo where the tellers were located, his facial expressions and movements were easy to read. And the laughter of the kids who were close by him was infectious--so infectious even Bobby had to stop and laugh with them.

His second tale of the hidden gold was great fun too--scary and funny is not an easy combination to pull off effectively, but Bobby did it well-twice. His set felt like an intimate event rather than a performance for hundreds of people spread out on the grass in all directions. I wondered if he could even tell how many were there--the darkness and the bright lights of the gazebo probably turned us all into shades. Chilly thought.

Next up were the Storycrafters. Although I'd heard of them and seen them on video, the in-person performance was absolutely memorable. We were in awe of their synchronicity--obviously a lot of practice went into the telling of the creepy tale from Europe. Hungary? I can't remember, but the story is one I will not forget. The mental images of the dead mother returning night after night to feed her child, and the father's delight and dread at seeing her was compelling and horrifying at the same time. Then the strange and marvelous rap Dead Fred brought us all back to a safer, happier place--even though Fred was definitely dead!

The Storycrafters were followed by Gene Tagaban, telling stories from the Tlingit culture. I was intrigued by his version of the coming of the mosquito, which then morphed into a longer tale told in his grandfather's voice. The drumming added an effective and entrancing pulse to the stories. I'd seen him do his story of becoming the Raven Dancer when I was in Bellingham, and it remains the most moving experience I've ever had as a listener.

Last was Lyn Ford of Ohio. She's told me before that she had a ghost story about an old lady named Susanna. Now I've heard it and it is creepy! Her version of The Singing Bones was wonderful, great sense of timing; Lyn's voice gave the tale an eerie feeling of being told by a small child, very innocent but at the end vicious and vindictive. Stew, anyone? You won't want any after you hear this story.

Then it was over, too soon. It was hard to believe we'd been there for two hours. The stories flew by, we got nicely spooked, and we packed our chairs slowly and made our way to the car for the drive back to Holly Haven.

The drive to Jonesborough was worth it, just for this one concert.



Great seeing you and Larry in Jonesboro. Sorry I missed the Ghost Story Concert - appreciate your review of the stories and the tellings - Ellouise

Granny Sue said...

Wasn't it fun, Ellouise? I wish you could have heard Dead Fred--it's a rap, weird version of the Golden Arm. Hilarious and perfectly performed.

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