Monday, April 19, 2010

2010 Sounds of the Mountain Music and Story Festival

Festival Review by Linda Goodman

I just returned from a weekend at Camp Bethel in Fincastle, Virginia, home of the Sounds of the Mountains Music and Story Festival.

I must warn you: Driving to this festival can be dangerous to your health. Once you exit off of the highway to route 11, the mountain scenery is so breathtakingly beautiful that there is an overwhelming urge to enjoy the view, at the expense of keeping your eyes on the narrow, winding roads.

The staff at Camp Bethel could not been more hospitable. They answered questions with a smile and left no doubt that they were happy to have us. Camp Bethel is a Christian Camp, sponsored by the Church of the Brethren, that services many children who could not otherwise enjoy the camping experience. This festival helps them raise money to do just that.

The Friday night concert began at 7:30 and featured Alan Hoal, Beth Horner, Kevin Kling, and Bill Harley. One of the main reasons that I go to festivals is to hear tellers that I have not hard before. After I heard this set, I felt as though I had struck gold. Alan Hoal, Kevin Kling, and Beth Horner were all new to me. Also in the line-up was Bill Harley, one of my favorite tellers from way back. I was enthralled with each one and could not wait to see what they would do on Saturday.

Alan Hoal proved himself to be a master of tall tales, as well as a philosopher. Alan is the founder of Sounds of the Mountains, and I am sure that the weeks leading up to the festival were extremely busy ones for him. Having been involved in storytelling festival and conference production myself (Three Apples Storytelling Festival, Sharing the Fire), I know only too well how hectic and stressful the weeks (and months!) leading up to such an event can be. After such a grueling prelude, being able to tell a story with the ease and comfort that Hoal exhibited is no small feat. I look forward to hearing him again.

Listening to Kevin Kling was like watching an episode of 24: you could not let your mind wander for even a minute! He told stories of his childhood, of his days hopping freight trains, and of his hitchhiking experiences. He was even brave enough to bare his soul and share the story of his disability and how he came to terms with it. He is a master wordsmith who is highly intellectual, yet accessible. He had people laughing hysterically. He had people wiping away tears. He is an endearing man who captures the hearts of his listeners and makes them believe in the impossible. I have heard people rave about him for years, and now I am raving, too. His stories will stay with me for a long time.

Beth Horner is a delight. She reminded me of a pixie with spunk! Every where I went, there was a buzz about her Civil War story, Silver Spurs (I missed this set – darn it!). I was captivated by her tale of a simple folk singer who wrote a song that saved the Missouri River from being defiled with sewage. I cannot get the chorus out of my head:

“Columbus is building a sewer,
Filled with do-do-do-do-do-do-do”

Beth is now on my radar. Whenever she tells at a site near me, I will be there.

Bill Harley never fails to delight. I first heard him tell was at the Connecticut Storytelling Festival in 1990. After 20 years, you would think that he would have run out of steam, or at least slowed down. Quite the opposite is true, however. He is a little grayer now, but when he takes the stage he is once again that mischievous little boy, that angst-filled teenager, or that befuddled parent trying to figure out how to temper discipline and love when relating to his offspring. He will always be one of storytelling’s grand jewels.

Tim Livengood’s witty pirate version of Cinderella was a tour de force that garnered gut-busting laughter and awestruck wonder. How does he maintain that persona for eighteen full minutes? He is a powerhouse of talent.

Tim and I were at the festival as VASA tellers. I usually do not perform in showcases at festivals, as past experience has taught me that such performances are usually just an attempt to stroke the organization (in this case VASA) as compensation for its support. Such showcases are usually scheduled during lunch or dinner time, or against a national teller that everyone wants to hear. Festival showcase attendance is often so low that it is embarrassing. I am happy to report, however, that Sounds of the Mountains treated its VASA tellers well this year. This is in large part due to the brilliant Kim Weitkamp, the weekend’s emcee (none better!) who ingeniously rearranged the schedule so that the VASA tellers were tagged onto the end of a set featuring Beth Horner and Kevin Kling. The audience, therefore, stayed put, listened to, and (I think) even enjoyed Tim and me. Kim Weitkamp: THANK YOU! THANK YOU!! THANK YOU!!!

Next year’s Sounds of the Mountains Festival will be held during the weekend of April 15-16. It will be the festival’s 10th anniversary, and the featured tellers will be Sheila Kay Adams, Donald Davis, David Holt, Andy Offutt Irwin, and Baba Jamal Koram. I have personally heard all of these tellers except for Andy, and I can vouch for the fact that the ones I have heard are top drawer. Everyone that I know who has heard Andy says that he is the best of the best, so I feel certain you will enjoy him, too.

There are several affordable hotels within 15 miles of Camp Bethel. If you like to camp, you can even spend the weekend on the campground. Mark you calendars so that you don’t miss this storytelling gem.

Sunday, April 4, 2010

The Adventures of Peggy Quiggly - Chapter 2

Chapter One was posted to this blog on February 28.

Chapter Two

A Means to an End

Peggy got home from school that afternoon in a superb mood. She did not even mind doing her homework. “Advanced Algebra is so easy,” she said to herself. “I don’t understand why my classmates think it’s hard.” Once her homework was finished she read her library book, The History of the Cockroach Since Prehistoric Times, by Bart Noble, until her mother called her for dinner.

“Mom, this was the best dinner ever!” Peggy exclaimed after cleaning her plate.

He mother was confused. “Peggy, I usually have to force you to eat liver and onions. Not to mention the spinach. Just what are you up to?” she asked suspiciously.

“Yes,” echoed her father, “just what are you up to, Peggy?”

Peggy wiped her mouth with her napkin. “Mom, Dad, I have to tell you something very, very important,” she said in her most demure and respectful voice.

“Go on honey, we’re listening,” said her mother..

“Well, Mom…Dad,” Peggy was so excited she was finding it hard to speak, “ today Mr. Squiggy was telling me that scientists have discovered this new, pollution-free planet that is able to sustain human life. The government is going to send twelve families to go live on it. Just think! A pollution-free planet! That means that it would be an ideal home for people like me, with asthma! So…I was thinking that our family could go, because I really want my asthma to get better, and I want to get away from all of the mean people here. I was also thinking,” she added sheepishly, “that if we go, we could take Mr. Squiggy with us. He wants to go so badly, but he doesn’t have any family. Please can we go?” Peggy finished talking and looked at her parents expectantly. The only thing she saw was her parents’ dumbstruck faces.

Just then the phone rang. “I’ll get it,” said Peggy.

“Hello, Peggy! I’m very anxious to know how your parents feel about our plan.” It was Mr. Squiggy.

“Hey, Mr. Squiggy,” Peggy whispered into the receiver. “I was just asking my parents about it. They haven’t answered me yet, but it looks good. Can I call you back?”

“Sure,” Mr. Squiggy answered, “Just call me back as soon as you can. I won’t be able to sleep until I know.”

Peggy hung up the phone and returned to the dinner table. “Mom, Dad, that was Mr. Squiggy on the phone. He is so excited about going to the new planet! You can’t disappoint him. He’s an old man. He might keel over!”

Peggy’s father, Robert Quigley, gently took her hand. “Peggy,” he said, “I know you really want this, but you mother and I have jobs here. And your brother Jonas is working on his Eagle Scout badge in space ship engine repair. We can’t just leave this all behind. I’m sorry, sweetheart, but we can’t go.”

“But, Daddy,” countered Peggy. “You always say that we should try new things. This is the newest thing of all. Why shouldn’t we do this together? Don’t you want my asthma to get better?”

“You know I do, honey. Your health is of the utmost importance to me. Maybe next time,” replied her dad.

“But what if there isn’t a next time? How can you do this to me! My health is a lot more important than any old job, or even an Eagle Scout badge! You and Mom never do anything for me!” shouted Peggy

“Now that’s enough, young lady!” her mother scolded her. “You are not going to get away with being disrespectful to your father! I do not want to hear another word about this new planet because we are NOT going! Now go to your room until you have adjusted your attitude!”

Peggy ran upstairs in tears. I have the meanest parents in the world, she thought to herself, as she was getting ready for bed. As she was putting on her pajamas, the phone rang. “I hope that’s not Mr. Squiggy again,” she sniffed. “How will I ever tell him that we can’t go?”

It was not Mr. Squiggy. It was her best friend Catherine Mill. “Hey, Cathy,” said Peggy, between sniffles. “How’s it going?”

“Terrific!” screamed an excited Cathy. “I am thrilled to death! Did you hear about the new planet that was on the news? My father put in an application for us to be one of the 12 families that will be settling it, and guess what! We were accepted! Isn’t that the best news ever? I wish that you could go, too.”

Peggy didn’t know what to say, when suddenly she thought of an idea. “Well, Cathy, maybe I can go. My parents can’t go because my stupid brother Jonas is being selfish, as usual. But they told me that if I can find a good family that is willing to take me along, a family that they know, they will give their permission to let me go with them. What do you think? Do you think your parents will let me go with you?”

Cathy was almost speechless. “You mean your parents would let you go off into outer space without them? That is very hard to believe, Peggy. Are you sure you heard them right?”

“Well,” Peggy lied, “my parents said that it would be a great opportunity for me to get some relief from my asthma. The planet is pollution-free, you know. And they’ll make it up on the next shuttle.”

“Hold on,” said Cathy, “I’ll go ask my parents. The shuttle leaves in two days, and if they say yes, make sure you’ll be ready to go.” The phone line was silent for a minute, and then Cathy was back. “My mom wants to talk to your mom.”

“Okay,” said Peggy.

Peggy heard Cathy’s mother’s voice, “Meggie?”

Peggy did a perfect imitation of her mother. “Hello, Gloria. Aren’t our little girls excited about this new planet?”

“Of course they are, Meggie. Who wouldn’t be? But is this on the level? Are you really willing to let Peggy go with us to settle this new planet?” Mrs. Miller asked.

“Oh, Gloria,” Peggy purred, “we will be so distraught without her, but can you imagine how her asthma will improve in a pure environment, such as the one on this new planet? How could any parent deny her child an opportunity to improve her health? Can’t you just imagine how much better her life will be if she can get rid of all that annoying wheezing and coughing?”

“Oh, my, yes,” said Mrs. Mill. “I would certainly do that for Cathy. Of course, Cathy is in perfect health and has no annoying habits at all. Well, then, if you are sure that this is for the best, have her ready quickly. We leave the day after tomorrow. I will send you of list of what she will need to pack”

Peggy thought fast. “Well…just have Cathy give the list to Peggy at school tomorrow. That way you can spend your time getting everything together. You know that you and I cannot see one another without yammering on for hours.”

“Good idea,” agreed Mrs. Mill. “You think of everything, Meggie.”

“One more thing, Gloria,” Peggy quickly added, “Peggy’s grandfather, Mr. Peter Squiggy, would like to accompany her on this trip. Peggy is so close to him. She wouldn’t get homesick at all if he were with her. Do you think he can go as part of your family?”

“Mr. Squiggy? The school janitor is Peggy’s grandfather?” Mrs. Mill was aghast.

“Well, yes, Gloria, he is,” Peggy quickly explained. “Mr. Squiggy is my father. I can’t believe you did not know that.”

“Meggie, I thought your father was a scientist,” replied Mrs. Mill.

“He’s …. a retired scientist, Gloria,” Peggy told her. “He works as a janitor now so that he has something to do in his free time. I can’t believe that you didn’t know that! Haven’t you ever noticed the resemblance between the him and Peggy?”

“Now that you mention it, Gloria,” Mrs. Mill mused, “I have. Well, I am sure that a scientist, retired on not, will be welcome on this trip. We will be happy to sponsor him.”

“Thank you, Gloria,” Peggy crooned. “How will I ever repay you kindness?”

“That’s what friends are for, Meggie. Good night.” Mrs. Mill hung up the phone.

Great! thought Peggy. I will tell my parents that I’m just going for a sleepover with Cathy, but I’ll really be going with her and her family on the space shuttle. I’ll call Mr. Squiggy right away.

Mr. Squiggy was ecstatic. “I am so honored that your parents trust me enough to take care of you, Peggy. I promise that I won’t disappoint them.”

“I know you won’t, Mr. Squiggy,” Peggy assured him. “My parents think that you’re the best!”

“Wow!” Mr. Squiggy exclaimed. “And they haven’t even met me yet! I should come to your house tomorrow and thank them personally.”

“No need to do that!” Peggy hastily interrupted.. “They read all about you in the school paper.”

“They did?” Mr. Squiggy was astounded. “When was I in the school paper?”

“Gotta go, Mr. Squiggy!” Peggy screeched. “I’ve got a lot of packing to do.”

Oh my gosh! What am I doing? Peggy thought to herself after hanging up the phone. I’m going to cure my asthma, that’s what! There’s nothing wrong about that. My parents never said I couldn’t go. I’ll miss them, though. I really will. Peggy fell into a dead sleep. She had no worries at all.