Tim & Leanne's Newsletter Feb 2018

when I started making this newspaper, this is how things looked

trio selfie-- Leanne, Tim, Ivy\

s'All Good

We're still having fun. We haven't been hunting gigs, but (so far) people keep calling us to do shows, and we keep saying yues. We've adapted our programs so that they're still fun and interesting to do, the folks we perform for still seem to think that something special's going on.

Recent shows:
12/30/17 Trapp Family Lodge, Stowe;
1/27/18 Spice on Snow Festival, Montpelier;
1/30/18 Lakeview Union School, Greensboro;
2/1718 Trapp Family Lodge, Stowe

The second law of thermodynamics insists that a day will come when our duo show closes its long run, but apparently that day is not yet here, and we'll keep on going until it is.

The minute any of that changes, we'll call it quits. But so far so good, like the fella said.



Biggest news:

Summit School
registration now open

Folk Tales with Tim Jennings
A folk storytelling course for adults: eight 90 minute workshops 
Mondays at 6:30 • March 19 - May 7

Summit School, Montpelier

Explore the pleasures and challenges of resurrecting folk storytelling as a living art.  Each participant will learn & tell at least two traditional tales, with individual and group coaching in techniques that help capture and hold audience attention and make the stories come alive. We’ll strive to present our stories in their natural form, as our most expressive selves, avoiding kitsch and pose, sharing ageless material with our contemporaries, today.  No experience necessary, no student too advanced.

There will be handouts and links to resources, discussion of folklore theory and practice, audio and video recordings of a wide variety of storytelling styles, exploration of methods and materials, and lots of fun &/or interesting stuff to read. But primarily we will be telling folktales, in class and elsewhere.

All kinds of people— teachers, comedians, parents & grandparents, actors, folksingers, folklorists, students of forensic rhetoric, preachers, toastmasters, etc etc etc— should find something useful to bring to, and to bring home from, this course of workshops.

It should be a good time. We need at least 6 people to make it work; 12 is the limit. Think about it, if it's realistic for you. Feel free to contact me to find out more.

If you want to know about how the school part works, or how to register, click here: Spring Classes / Registration


The Summit School is a non-profit folk music school located in Montpelier, Vermont. Mission Statement: We are dedicated to promoting cross-cultural exchange and celebrating our American heritage through affordable group music and dance programs. Classes are held at the Center for Arts and Learning on 46 Barre Street in Montpelier, VT.

Contact: director@summit-school.org, 802-793-3016 for more info.


Albums & Streams

We are February's featured storytellers on a subscription streaming website deditcated to storytellers, "Beyond Storytime." Aimed at youngsters, it's a presentation of the big international English-language festival in Wales, Beyond the Boarder.

I have always liked the idea of our live albums as a form in which our intrinsically ephemeral work might survive us. It's a concern that grows in urgency as we watch tthe horizon race toward us. But for now at least, folks (inclidng us) seem decreasingly likely to get their audio pleasures from physical CDs.

So we're pleased and excited to be included on a storytelling website which, while not a perfect fit, seems a better bet for us than other post-CD cyber-audio alternatives I'm familiar with.

Personally, I like my CDs. They're backup. They hold memories. They take up very little room. I can sell and trade them, or give them away, the graphics are cool in a small baseball-card sort of way, or use them as coasters. They're said to be ephemeral, but I have never had a problem playing one, no matter how old, no matter how used. This is not at all true of my old records and tapes.

Who knows?

Very likely there'll be some kind of neo-retro-hipster CD revival in 20 years or so, like the vinyl revival of today, or the hillbilly/race 78 collectors of my youth. It's inevitable!

Quite possibly buying our CDs is a smart investment. Small-batch, limited number, highly collectable, money in the bank!

Or, maybe not. But they've held up pretty well so far, don't you think?


====melting driveway


Something About Storytelling

The Spell


melting icycle


The storytelling trance is a real & wonderful thing, measurable by neurologists' instruments. You experience it when some linear narrative form-- perhaps a riveting book or immersive film-- carries your consciousness into a kind of waking dreamstate, an alternate reality full of incident and emotional content.

This alternate world, often operating quite differently from ours, is a joint creation of listeners' and speaker's brains, sustained and enriched by the narrator's artistry, built on the mercurial cultural content of the narrative itself. Upon exiting the trance, listeners are keenly aware of the difference between where they were and where they are now.

At its best, the story trance is a sublimely refreshing experience. But like pizza and sex, it doesn't have to be all that sublime to get the job done.

When we say that certain writers or directors are good storytellers, we're recognizing a distinct skill: the ability to pull us into the storytelling trance. The product may be deficient in other areas: inelegant prose, hokey images, abundant cliches, unpleasant world-view. Still, when narrators can reliably take us out of ourselves, making the mundane world fade away, we'll search out their books, we'll line up for their movies. We're human, we want our storytelling fix.

# # #

Of course the primal storytelling experience is not to be found through reading books or seeing movies.

In its root form, storytelling requires two or more people in in a social setting of real time and space. One speaks, the others listen intently to whole language communication pitched somewhere between high conversation and balladry. The speaker does not pretend to be anybody but a vivid version of him or herself, connecting unselfconsciously with the listeners, relating characters and events with vigor, nuance and aplomb.

An ability to cast and enter the storytelling spell (better word than trance I think) distinguishes the human animal from all others. Rats laugh together, whales and monkeys sing together, many animals can be shown to dream. But we are the ones who figured out how to come together in in dreamtime. Our speaking voices and listening, remembering brains evolved together at least in part for the specific purpose of joining us together in that spell.

Being human, all of us can do this well, sometimes, with our friends. It almost defines what a friend is.How good it feels when it happens, to teller and listener, both!

A good professional storyteller can extend the spell's reach further than that, making an audience of punters--ordinary folks looking for entertainment but harboring no particular affection for the idea of "storytelling" as a form-- jump and shiver, laugh and weep. Less dramatically, a storyteller who is getting the job done will note in the audience a characteristic forward lean, mouths open to varying degrees, shining eyes. Younger children will unconsciously mirror the storyteller's gestures. I recently read that audience members pulses synchronise-- their hearts literally beat as one. These are some physical signals of deep engagement in a storytelling spell.

# # #

Different tellers, different stories. Some tell about themselves, what they've done and what's been done to them. Some tell family stories, or war stories. I've heard some really good history storytelling, and stories made up out of whole cloth.

There are certain kinds of tales that have themselves coevolved with along with storytelling itself, undergoing the same kinds of Darwinian processes to become what they are. I speak, of course, of traditional oral tales, folk tales. Abundantly recorded in print, paradoxically rare in their living form, to many of us they seem self-evidently the best, deepest, most artistic classics of the medium.

The Grimms divided the folk stories they collected into two types: Sage, which translates as legend or legends, and Marchen, which we call fairy tales.

Sage (pronounced Sahgg, with a little "uh" on the end) means something quite different from Saga, so don't think about epics. As used by folklorists, Sage means the kind of oral tale (or tales, these terms are both singular and plural) which gains its interest primarily from presenting as true. Sage are often connected with real places or things: wells, rocks, castles, and so on. Often, the characters do not fare well. Sage may be about UFO or fairy abductions, lovers' leaps, woodland spirits, vanishing hitch-hikers, castle ghosts. St. Francis himself blessed this cross; Perseus rescued Andromeda off that cliff right there; my strong ancestor bravely vanquished foes to gain this bit of ground we stand upon.

The Grimms found many more Sage than Marchen, but few people know, and fewer care about the brothers' Sage collection. The stories I’ve read there were neither interesting nor memorable. Yet they flourish; Sage is a much more lively form today than Marchen. They need to be spoken and received with the sincere urgency of belief, preferably with a real physical element of the story close at hand.

Marchen on the other hand require no belief in their literal reality to make their effect. Highly-evolved colonies of hardy memes, even in the attenuated form of print they are complex and highly structured works of language art, conceived and developed over hundreds of years by generations of artists and craftemen, like cathedrals. Mostly accepted as fiction, they explore a dream world arising from deep levels of personal and social consciousness, or perhaps unconsciousness. Animals are people, birds can talk, objects hold magic, in a mercurial mix of humor, horror, violence, adventure and romance. And-- don't disdain this, it's a valuable quality-- in the end, by and large, the good guys win.

If you can figure out how to tell them right, it's Marchen that deliver the purest, sweetest, cleanest version of the storytelling trance.




"We all love to dream. We don’t live in a particularly attractive world. I don’t really remember, except as a small boy, anything but a pretty grim world. I’m old enough to have seen Hitler in the flesh. I’m old enough to have been in Munich in 1934, on the night of the long knives, when Hitler butchered so many of his own people. I’m old enough to remember the Second World War and all the other things. So I’m not being a Cassandra, who prophesied nothing but evil and misery; I’m simply facing reality. So, yes, let us not lose faith, let us be optimistic, let us believe in the good things, but we still have to face the world as it is. When you live in a world like that, what do you want? You want to escape, to get out of this world from time to time, into another world, a magical world, an enchanted world, where things happen we dream about, a world of fairy stories and wizards. It is like the conjurer, the enchanter, or magician who says, “Look, nothing up my sleeve. When I do this, you will come into my enchanted world!” Dreaming, escaping, that is what we’re talking about. "

-- Christopher Lee: singer, actor, author, spy


"The consolation of fairy-stories, the joy of the happy ending: or more correctly of the good catastrophe, the sudden joyous “turn” (for there is no true end to any fairy-tale): this joy, which is one of the things which fairy-stories can produce supremely well, is not essentially “escapist,” nor “fugitive.” In its fairy-tale—or otherworld—setting, it is a sudden and miraculous grace: never to be counted on to recur. It does not deny the existence of dyscatastrophe, of sorrow and failure: the possibility of these is necessary to the joy of deliverance; it denies (in the face of much evidence, if you will) universal final defeat and in so far is evangelium, giving a fleeting glimpse of Joy, Joy beyond the walls of the world, poignant as grief."

--J.R.R. Tolkien, scholar, author, trench war vet, creator of worlds.


our albums so far

wubbada wubbada wubbada wubbada--- th that's all folks!

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