Thursday, April 28, 2016

Stories in the Round: A Recap

I was on the road earlier this week for a storytelling performance in Hagerstown, Maryland for Stories in the Round, a series coordinated by Fanny Crawford and hosted at the Universal Unitarian Church. It was a fine time--good audience, beautiful venue, and the stories and ballads flowed well. The event is held on the third Monday evening of each month, and I was so pleased to be the kickoff presenter for the third year of the series.

Fanny's husband took photos during the evening. It is so nice to get good pictures to share, from someone who knows how to take them. Thanks so much to Jose for these!

If you're curious about how such a storytelling program might go, here's a rundown on what I presented:

I started with one of my favorite of the Child ballads, a humorous one called Devil and the Farmer's Wife. This video was made a few years back when  sang it for a project on West Virginia storytellers.

Following the ballad, I went into a tall tale, which is really a combination of two traditional tall tales and a joke, woven together into one tale the begins honestly enough with when I moved to West Virginia. One of the stories I made my own in this is The Split Dog. Many storytellers tell their own version of this old saw; I bring along a skinning board (in the photo below) because some people are not familiar with them, and also a bottle of turpentine, just for fun.

I followed the tall tale with the Appalachian ballad Pretty Saro, and then went into a brief version of a new story that has captured my mind recently, that of my grandfather Hagger, my mother's father. He was a man I never met, as he was killed by a car in 1930 when my mother was just a child, but recently my cousins in England, especially my cousin Julie and my cousin Bob, have shared information and stories about him that have fascinated me.

From that story I moved on to the story of my parents' meeting during World War II, sharing some of the letters and other documents we found after they passed away. So this is family history, made into stories that everyone can relate to. That's important; my stories might fascinate me, but how can I make them interesting to strangers? What common chord can I strike so that others will feel what I do, and know these people and events as I do?

Another ballad, Jean Ritchie's West Virginia Mine Disaster, was next on my program, and afterward I discussed the display of mining paraphernalia I had brought with me.

Hat's lamps, the canary cage,  self-rescuers and a methane detector, along with other items. Here, I am talking about a turtleshell hardhat, used in the 1930's and made from tough leather.

In this photo, I am holding a display of scrip, the currency minted by individual coal companies and used to either pay miners in full or to be used as credit at the company store.

I ended the evening with one of my signature stories, The Headless Woman of Brier Creek, and then on request, added another Appalachian ballad, Railroad Boy, which has its roots in England as the song Butcher Boy.

Afterwards, Fanny gathered the storytellers who had come to listen for a group photo. It's a compliment when other tellers come to listen. They're a good audience!

So that's a short recap of the evening. I am still smiling as I remember all the faces, the smiles and nods, as the stories and songs rolled out.

And I am ever so grateful to this lady, Fanny Crawford, for inviting me, and to her husband Jose (whose last name I am embarrassed to admit I cannot recall) for taking such great photos.

If you live near Hagerstown, mark the third Monday in May on your calendar and plan to attend the next Stories in the round. You will be very glad you did.

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


hart said...

Sounds like a wonderful program. That Fanny is a gem.

veryordinary annie said...

Sounds like so much fun, your exhibits sound very interesting too!
Hope you have a great season this year!

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