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Vermont Cynic Article

Tim Jennings and Leanne Ponder

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Rutland Herald

Seven Days

Vermont Times



November 2000
The Vermont Cynic
University of Vermont Student Newspaper

A Tale on Hallows Eve

What better way is there to spend Halloween night than sitting in a dimly lit, warm cafe, surrounded by people, nursing a mug of hot spiced cider or coffee, and listening to great music and scary stories? I'm not talking about your typical campfire ghost stories, I mean the stories that Tim Jennings and Leanne Ponder tell. The type that capture your imagination, catch your breath, and make you wish they would never end. Muddy Waters Cafe, here in Burlington, was the site of this wonderful event, this past Hallws Eve.

"Singing Bones," as the show was titled, consisted of a variety of stories and musical pieces, many of which were descended from Irish folklore. The show began at 8:00 and, including a break for refills of cider and coffee, lasted well over two hours. During this time, the harp of Ponder and the concertina of Jennings filled the room with such songs as "the Dream," and my favorite, "Gow's Lament over the Death of his Second Wife."

As was explained by the artists, each Halloween they learn to perform a new story. This year it was "The Juniper Tree," a twenty minute piece that really screwed with the listeners' emotionsl It changed from funny to sick to terrifying to funny again in the space of a minute, and it continued to do so throughout the entire thing. It is definately a classic.

The performance also included a balled, "The Cruel Sister," and a classic American tale, "The White Bear."

The show was strengthed by its setting amidst the rustic, wooden architecture and atmosphere of the Muddy Waters Cafe. Storytelling is an art that conjurs up images of the past, of crowded inns and old taverns. Like these packwood stops for past travelers, this art has become less common, and almost lost altogether. By bringing this show to the type of setting that it would have originall been performed in, there was added spirit, and it was all the more enjoyable to watch.

As is important in any show, the artists must enjoy what they are doing. This is even more important in a show such as this, where there is only the artist and his/her talent. It was the ultimate in low-tech, and geared to the small (50 or so) audience, so the artist is in continuous contact with the audience. To keep the audience interested, the performer needs to give more of him/her self: they need to make something happen, it must be exciting and the audience needs to participate. Then you have a show. Anyone who has seen a show by Tim Jennings and Leanne Ponder can tell you, they have this ability, and they make their shows both different and exciting.

The pair has just finished their busiest time of the year, performing 15 shows in the past two weeks. Their next performance around here will be First night, on New Years Eve, up at Champlain College. I know this is still far into the future, but I urge you all to go. It will be worth the trip up the hill, even in the middle of winter.