Monday, August 6, 2012

At Augusta: Day One

Well, my word. There is wi-fi available all over the Davis & Elkins campus, so getting online is no problem, Finding time to blog might not be as easy as linking up, though. The schedule is full; there is so much to do here.

This is a combination of Old-Time Week, Vocals Week, and Dance Week, with traditional Appalachian craft classes and culminating with the Augusta Festival. The class I am teaching starts at 9 am and goes until 4pm. Within that timeframe, there is an hour or so for lunch, and the Road Scholars (formerly Elderhostel) folks come for a storytelling presentation. After class there are activities of all kinds: dancing, porch parties, special one-time classes, concerts, mini-courses and more.

I was up early today to shower and get to breakfast, then to the library to set up for my students. It's a small class but that doesn't impact planning. I hooked up the CD/cassette player (some of what I want to share with them was only available on cassette) and my laptop, rearranged the furniture and was ready to begin.

We started, as many things do in the mountains, with conversation. I wanted to get to know my students, their background, why they came and what they wanted to learn. We discussed what they thought "Appalachian storytelling" is and why. We watched some short video clips from Melissa Rogers' West Virginia Storytelling Project and discussed the storytellers and the material on the video. Then it was already lunch time.

After lunch we talked a bit more about storytelling, how to turn an anecdote into a story and I gave some examples. In no time, it seemed, it was 2:30 and the Road Scholars began arriving. What a fun group they are! We again started with a little conversation, and then I told stories, leading from my story of coming to West Virginia with such naive expectations, learning how to live in the old-time way, and leading into a few tall tales, a ghost story and a traditional Jack tale. The time passed swiftly and the hour was over.

My students and I finished the day discussing research techniques to find stories and variations of stories and how to find a story within an everyday conversation.

The first day of class was over. I took a walk along a nature trail to prepare for tomorrow when we will take a nature walk and discuss plant lore and folklore and the impact of environment on life in the mountains and the stories told here. After my walk I returned to my room to write some notes, catch up on email and  rest. Then I skipped dinner and walked down the hill to a class on Appalachian dialect. Fascinating! It was a casual give-and-take conversation between listeners and the instructor, and the room was full. I was glad to meet Bob McMillion who taught the class; he is a storyteller, balladsinger and folklorist from North Carolina, and an interesting man.

I have tried to find balladsingers here interested in getting together to swap songs but so far no luck. There is plenty of singing going on--group and harmony singing which is fun but I had hoped to find other balladsingers too. If they are here I have not found them, but this is only day one and I am still learning my way around.

Now I am resting a bit before going back out to hear some fine old-time music, maybe watch some dancing and then joining a late-night singing circle. Who knows? I may find the ballad singers there.

Copyright 2007 Susanna Holstein. All rights reserved. No Republication or Redistribution Allowed without attribution to Susanna Holstein.


Nance said...

Fascinating! I can't carry a tune in a pail and too bashful to tell stories, but would love to be there soaking it all up and hearing the best of the best.

Wayfarin' Stranger said...

Things do start with conversation in the mountains, don't they! That essential Appalachian question, "Who are your people?," can set the direction of the whole encounter. I get teased a lot by new-comers because I always relate new acquaintances to people and places. But that's what we do in the mountains. It's who we are. Jim (By the way, wish we could have joined you for the singing. We do that in the hills, too!)

Granny Sue said...

Indeed they do Jim--and that is often my first question--where are you from? I've met some great people here from all over the country, and one from close to you named Bobby McCormick who is a storyteller, ballad singer, and folklorist and just an all round great guy.

Sometime I need to get down there and swap songs with you. Wouldn't that be fun?

Wayfarin' Stranger said...

Maybe we can arrange that. I'm on the museum programming committee and we're always looking for programming.

Granny Sue said...

That would be awesome, Jim :) I'd love it.

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