This last weekend I went to the Three Apples Storytelling Festival with my two children - Aidan (8) and Perry (3). It was a bit of an experiment! When Sarah, my wife, comes to an event Perry has acted up, or been too restless to sit through a whole performance, but on the two occasions I have had her with me on my own (and with Aidan) at semi-informal performances, she has not been too bad. So to take her to an all day event for JUST storytelling and sitting around listening, it was to be quite the test. First up was a two and a half plus hour drive to Bedford, MA to be followed by a one hour show (which went over time a little) with three performers.
The opening act was Christie Keegan which, despite being targeted for families, it did not really hold much for a three year old, but Perry behaved and Christie did a fine job. She was followed by storytellers and musicians The Healing Force, a family band of four - see their website - www.thehealingforceonline.com. Aidan and I like the tale a lot - an African version of King Mark's Ears (the King with Donkey's Ears, a tale from Wales I tell). It was great. The Healing Force gave off this love, or happiness that seemed to fill the venue and their obvious joy of what they were doing made it all the more special. This was followed by Odds Bodkin - a HUGE favourite of my entire family. He did the story of Fionn MacCumhaill and the big man and boy did he do a great version. This had Perry standing on her seat, jumping up and down and clapping on the song "Boy That Hurts" which was sung every time the Big Man got injured by Fionn's friend or wife! If you have never seen Odds, see him!
We had a short break then headed to the swapping fields led by the amazing Tony Toledo. It started with Tim Van Egmond, storyteller troubadour who did a wonderful story that all three of us loved. Tim is an extraordinary man and I feel blessed to know both him and Tony. We hung out there for a while and Perry and I did the Three Billy Goats Gruff together - sort of! Perry was very shy in front of so many strangers, but managed to 'trap, trap, trap' in all the right places! Later in the day Aidan joined in with a group story and finished the made-up-as-they-went-along story in such a fine way that many people came up to him afterwards to congratulate him! Bravo Aidan! We spent quite a lot of time with Tony at the swapping ground and watched all manner of tellers, from seasons pros like Tony, Tim, Jim LaChapelle, and Lose Change to beginners who had never told before - kids and adults a like. There is something very magical to see and hear someone who has never done it before come to life as they slip into the story themselves - be it a personal tale, or a folk story - and lead you into the story so you become part of it too.
We went for a walk around the area of the festival and got rained on a little but the fresh air was more than welcome and the kids didn't care. We had a lunch of sorts - mostly snacks with a little proper food - and Perry had a butterfly painted on her face. Aidan and I looked at books carrying Perry, but decided we had plenty to read at home! I did some silliness with Tony and told a story at the swapping grounds and heard a great story about geese from Tim and then we were off to see...
... Odds Bodkin do the family show in the afternoon where, unbelievably (or maybe not) Perry fell asleep. She had been up since 6am and been sitting listening to all this storytelling and running around at lunch and it was now 2pm. Aidan and I were engrossed in his performance. I was happy to hear another story from Odds that I had not heard before. Two new ones in one day! I like hearing stories I have heard him tell before, but am always excited to hear tales that are new to me - in his telling. I knew the Fionn story which he had told in the morning, but never quite like he told it and what appeared to be an original song about some creature that no one knew, exactly, what it was - was it imagination? We got to see Lorraine Hartin-Galardi (I had performed with Lorraine at a preview show for the festival) but I had to take Perry out. She had just woken up from the nap and began to run around and bang on things, talking loudly to Aidan. Aidan loved Lorraine's tale about a piano player and a snake and was telling the story to me on the way home.
Perry and I returned to the swapping ground and listened to some more tales and then, as the day ended, I performed my traveling tale which had died. We listened to the other traveling tales, then headed home. The day had been about my children. There were many other tellers I had wanted to see, adult storytellers I had not heard before, but this was for Perry and Aidan and they had been great. I was so happy. Perry sang "Boy That Hurts" for the first part of the way home as loud as she could until Aidan and I could stand it no longer and then Aidan shared Lorriane's snake story which I had missed. We listened to the Healing Force CD which we had bought, then popped in Angela Klingler's CD - where were you Angela? - for the rest of the trip home, with two very happy and sleepy kids.