WADE BABINEAU EDITORIAL CARTOON: Saturday, March 28, 2020
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One of the most informative and exhilarating experiences of my performing career was my four-year tenure as the storyteller-in-residence for the Cape Breton Regional Library.
I travelled to and did workshops and events in all of the branches and the two bookmobiles (one each for Cape Breton and Victoria counties). I participated in events for Girl Guide troops and community gatherings. I also took part in the Celtic Colours International Festival beside Cape Breton master storyteller Jim St. Clair and Sheila Kay Adams, a storyteller from Sodom, N.C. Let’s say I felt a bit out of my league with that one.
I heard tales of faerie lights on the Mira in Grand Mira, heard a story of a mariner who left Gabarus for a solo voyage across the North Atlantic and was never seen again, listened to a miner’s wife as she remembered her husband’s love of cooking her amazing meals from the cookbooks he borrowed from the local library, and learned the name of the terrier, Pounce, in a photograph that stood in front of the first automobile to visit Englishtown. There were people also in the photo but I will always remember the dog’s name.
The regional library, to their credit, has continued with the storyteller-in-residence program and, after Ronald Labelle’s tenure, Bill Conall became the third storyteller.
As a kind of celebration of the program, the regional library has scheduled a session with all three of its storytellers, past and present, to celebrate World Storytelling Day on Saturday, March 21, 2-4 p.m. at Sydney’s McConnell Library on Falmouth Street.
This will be a family event, with free admission, My fellow storytellers and I have been discussing ways to make it a participatory event for all ages. So put that in your calendar or tell Alexa to remind you about it.
Another benefit from my time as the regional library storyteller is being asked to participate in the current series, Songs & Stories, presented by CBRM ConnectArts and hosted by the Cape Breton Regional Library.
The series brings local songwriters together with local storytellers and since, on paper, I qualify as both, I was asked to act as host by program co-ordinator Joe Costello.
Our first session was in January at the new location of the Glace Bay branch of the Cape Breton Regional Library and our guest artist was Northside singer/songwriter Russell Sullivan, who gigs as Rusty James.
Sullivan had some great stories about working the Great Lakes boats, where his dad also worked, and his songs were well crafted and heartfelt. I became an instant fan. He also has an album due out this year.
Our next session in this series is scheduled for Friday, Feb. 21, 7 p.m. at Sydney’s McConnell Library. Our guest will be another great songwriter — and friend for many years — Yvette Rogers, who occasionally gigs as Billie Yvette.
Like our Glace Bay session, I am sure we’ll develop the same connection with our audience where they were a major part of our conversation. It’s Cape Breton: everybody has a story.
Along with her day job as the outreach co-ordinator for Celtic Colours, Rogers also performs all over Cape Breton Island, often with Alicia Penney, another great songwriter, as her bass player and harmony sister, and has been part of several recording projects, including her solo project, “Rooted.”
An online description says her music as “melodic vocal arrangements and lyrics that are thoughtful, poetic, or tongue-in-cheek, songs are a sometimes pure, sometimes quirky, sometimes bluesy, and often a little country-flavoured”.
And I will second that description, so come by and have a listen. Share a story if the spirit moves you.
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The Cape Breton University Boardmore Theatre has two final performances in its run of “The Maritime Way of Life” written by Charlie Rhindress and with a great cast directed by Carolyn Dunn. Performances are set for Saturday at 7 p.m. and Sunday at 2 p.m. This spoof should have you leaving the Boardmore Playhouse still laughing all the way home.
Ken Chisholm lives in Sydney and has written plays, songs, reviews, magazine articles. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.