Happy New Year everyone!
The last day of 2013 found me at the Scottish Storytelling Centre hosting Stories Round the Tree, two sessions of seasonal tales for ages 4+. I first trained as a s storyteller in 2007 back in Canada with the Ottawa Storytellers. With just over six years of telling under my belt, I’m still a relative newbie by Scottish standards. Holiday sessions are popular with tellers and listeners alike and usually go to experienced performers, which is why getting this gig felt like a significant milestone for me.
One of the reasons Christmas/Hogmanay sessions are hosted by experienced tellers is because of the size and blood sugar levels of audiences. On wednesday, the Storytelling Bothy was mobbed with shack-happy locals looking to be entertained and wide-eyed tourists seeking an authentic experience, but I’m pleased to say that I rose to the challenge. There were a couple of moments when a couple of younger audience members went a bit squirrelly, but the killer technique of lowering my voice soon got their attention again. Overall, it went wonderfully wondrously. Around Christmas time, audiences are prepared to be pleased, looking to listen and primed to journey into the realm of mystery.
At the end of the session, a young woman in her early teens came up to thank me for the stories. She told me she was visiting from the Isle of Skye and asked if I’d like a Gaelic song in return. Of course I said YES PLEASE. She stood up in the middle of the Storytelling Centre Hall and sang a beautiful, haunting song in a clear, confident voice. It’s reassuring to know there are still communities where children are taught the skills to master traditional art forms and the generosity to share their gifts with strangers—Ceilidh Culture.
As with any storytelling session, in preparing for this one, I searched out stories with an environmental twist. Tante’s Tree is a Christmas story for all creatures great and small. I learned it orally, but I found a similar written version on the Spellbinders website. You can encourage audience participation by asking them what animals Tante would have and what presents she should put on the tree for each of them. (BTW, my German friend who came to the session with her daughter and granddaughter tells me that “tante”, pronounced “tanta”, means aunt in German. Of course pronounced without the final “e”, it also means aunt in French).