Monday, December 7, 2009

December Story: La Befana

I just finished a gig at a Yule Fair last weekend where Shayne and I performed the Winter Tales show. Unfortunately, I couldn't get the laptop to work properly, so it couldn't be recorded. On December 12th at 6pm (Cafe 92 degrees in NDG), we'll be doing a full version of that show including a couple of invited tellers, so I will definitely record that show one way or the other.

But about this story posting, La Befana. I picked this story up from a collection by Carolyn McVickar Edwards called The Return of the Light. The word "Befana" means Epiphany: that moment when seemingly disconnected ideas come together. Not only is it a beautiful story for the season, but it reminds us how the promise of beauty can inspire us to spread beauty to others.

Happy Yule, Happy Winter Solstice, Merry Christmas.

La Befana (6:10 minutes)

Thursday, November 12, 2009

EVENT: 92 Degrees of Winter

Join us for an evening of music and storytelling as we explore the joys and perils of winter with tales from around the world.

Cafe 92 degrees is NDG's newest hotspot for a warm cup to keep the chill of the night air out of your bones. They are our hosts as we offer you this magical evening of story and song.

Date: December 12th (Saturday), 6pm
Location: Cafe 92 Degrees
Street: 6703 Sherbrooke St. Ouest
City/Town: Montreal, QC

Visit the Facebook Event Page

Monday, October 26, 2009

Next Storytelling Performance: Samhain/All Saints Celebration in NDG

I've managed to double-book myself on this evening, but I'll be telling Halloweenish stories about ghosts, goblins, and maybe even the Devil on October 30th (Friday), 6.00-10.30 pm.

The Anglican Church of St. Columba
4020 Hingston Avenue
(corner Notre-Dame-de-Grace Ave)
Montreal, Quebec
(514) 486-1753

(Welsh Supper & Ceilidh)
$15.00 entrance includes supper, Celtic musical guests, seasonal storytelling, craft fair; cash bar will also be available.  Children are always welcomed free of charge. Please consider dressing up  for the party: you might come as your favourite character from Celtic tradition!

Monday, October 19, 2009

Guest Teller: The Boy Who Drew Cats (Roman Pylat)

 The second story post for October 2009 is by fellow Montreal teller Roman Pylat. I have always adored Roman's stories and the raw power of his voice. This story was recorded during a fundraiser I helped organize for the Montreal Children's Hospital back in 2005 called "Through a Child's Eyes".

This story is quite popular, and you can find many versions of it on the Internet. I have told it several times in the past year, but I have yet had a chance to record it. Hopefully, I will have several recordings of by the end of this month!

My heartfelt thanks to Roman for giving me permission share this story with you on this site. I hope you enjoy it!

The Boy Who Drew Cats (18 minutes)

Also, on Monday night, I had the enormous pleasure of enjoying an evening of stories from Allan Shain and Kim Kilpatrick called "Kissing That Frog: Disabling the Disability Myth". Such wonderful stories from two talented tellers from Ottawa. Loved it! But, if you don't mind the ego booster, when I went up to thank both tellers, Kim recognized my voice and remembered my "You Don't Know Jack" performance in the Ottawa festival from four years ago. I was floored and pleased to peaches.

There are English and French tellers performing all this week for the 10e Festival Interculturel du conte du Quebec, which the final English show being at Hurley's pub on the Sunday night. I'll be telling tales there, as will many others. I'll running all over the city, trying to take in as much of the English and French shows as I can.

If you can make it out to any of these shows, don't squander your opportunity! You will not regret it, mark my words.

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Ghost Story for October: The Dead Don't Pay

I've been sitting on this recording for soooooo long! This recording was done when I visited Our Lady of Pompei elementary school way back in February of 2009.

Within every story, there are a few kernels of truth. In this story, I decided to use my old school chum Ted as the protaganist. I made this decision many years ago when I started learning this story, but I recently reconnected with Ted and was pleased to have the chance to share this story with him.

Update: I found the nice thing Ted said!
The fascinating thing about the story, for me, is the marvelous mix of fact, fiction, and perspective I find in it. The tale is so compelling that I could think it was true, or that my actual memories of that time in my life were somehow wrong, FSM knows they're foggy enough. I might even believe that "Ted" was the name I was Christened with--and it isn't, lest the Avid Fans (all five of them) wonder.
October is usually quite a busy month for me as a storyteller, and so far, I've got about 4 gigs starting to take shape. When I figure out the wheres and whens, I'll be posting them here and in my various other spots on the web. Stay tuned!

Before we begin, I want to give a shout-out to fellow storyteller Marie B. who just started her own storytelling podcast. I would love to say I inspired her to do this, but that would be lying, and I never lie. Never, never, ever.

The Dead Don't Pay (10 minutes)

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Story for September: Summer Nostalgia

This post is a bit of an experiment. I tried recording the piece I wrote in the last post and mixed it with some music. Any feedback you would have would be appreciated. Is the music too much? Does it suit the story?

You can read the text version of this story by clicking here.

The piece of music is by a band called Scatter the Mud. The album is called In the Mud (pronounced "mood") and the track is A Bad Day for Brittany / Flying Plate / Whelan's Reel.

Monday, September 7, 2009

Summer Nostalgia

**This is reposted from my livejournal and Facebook Notes. I've been getting lots of great feedback on it, so I thought I'd post it here. You can listen to a reading of this piece with music by clicking here.  **

I was just listening to CBC's Definitely Not the Opera where the host, Sook-Yin Lee, asked "If you could take back something from your youth, what would it be?" (the show was about nostalgia).

So I dusted off those rusty memory boxes, cracked them open with much squeaking and clouds of dust, and padded through pictures, trading cards, and Star Wars action figures until I found a set of keys. House keys, to be exact. One key for a deadbolt, the other for the door. They are discolored green and brown, worn with age, but they slid easily in the the locks of Little House where I spent many happy, youthful days in the summers past.

Every couple of weekends, my family would drive out to the town of St. Malachie, near Frampton. This was a wee pocket of Irish and Scottish families where four generations of my father's side of the family lived after arriving from Ireland via Grosse Isle. Living alongside the Tremblays and the Langlois' were the proud Irish family names like Hickey, Murphy, O'Rourke, O'Farrell, O'Grady, and Beatty.

The Little House was owned by The Aunties, who were my grandfather's sisters. At any one time, Madeleine, Bertha, and Dot could be found bustling in the kitchen, serving tea, and catching up on the news and gossip about the far-flung members of my hoary-old Irish family. It was a tiny, two-storey house with a rickety porch and fake brown-brick panels covering the exterior walls, some half-cracked and hanging on by rusty nails and much love.

As the wooden screen door SMACK-Smack-smecked shut, it announced to the room of people that new company had arrived with the promise of news and more good conversation. Bertha would be up in a flash for a hug and a kiss, with Dot dashing down the creaky stairs, and Madeleine wiping her hands on her apron as she pulled another fresh strawberry pie from the oven. I was a shy, awkward boy in those days, but I knew to shake hands with everyone in the room and grin on cue when they ruffled my hair or commented on how tall I was. I would run my hands along the textured, dark flowers that rambled across the upholstered couches like muted wildfire. I would pick at the flaking paint on the walls until I became aware of people watching, then laughing as I tried to be nonchalant about my low-grade destruction habits.

I tried to enjoy the adult conversation, but it centred about the local news, politics, the damn Tories, and whose gall-bladder needed removing. I would eventually wander away from the living room to talk to Madeleine and maybe get a slice of her mystical strawberry pie (it frustrated my mother to no end that she could never quite duplicate that pie perfectly). She would shoo me away, promising me a slice after lunch, or send me into the basement for something she needed.

I both dreaded and loved the basement of that house. It was dark, old, and musty. I could still hear the endless conversations above, but they were muffled and distant, disconnected voices that were strange, yet familiar. I always feared basements: although I was always curious to discover the treasures that were lost in storage, I feared the creatures that might be guarding them, their eyes tracing my every move and dreaming of how delicious my muffled screams would be. I would start out bravely searching for what Madeleine needed, but tear up the stairs in a mad panic once I found it. She would then shoo me out of the house again, laughing off the sinister possibilities of toothed potentialities in her basement.

The property was tiny: just enough space for a few cars to park in the matted grass, a small wooden shed, and a couple of picnic tables. The tall grass and weeds behind the house was so thick, I wondered if I would ever find my way back to the house if I wandered into it. I spent many summers rummaging in the wooden shed, searching for a way that I could explore the jungles behind the Little House and discover their secrets.

The second floor of the Little House was filled with beds. Ornate metal bedframes, squeaky bed springs supporting squishy mattresses and soft linens that invited lazy afternoon naps. The doubled-paned wood-framed windows welcomed warm sunbeams that inched across the pages of a favourite book as I spent afternoons lost in worlds of dragons, bold knights, and the odd papercut. Even the air seemed filled with dusty denizens that were only revealed with warm sunlight as they drifted from room to room, ghosts that could only be temporarily exorcised by an expertly-wielded feather duster.

When I wasn't exploring the Little House, sipping tea, and stealing extra slices of strawberry pie, I was visiting with my cousin Andrew, who lived only a few houses away. He seemed to regard every inch of the country-side with a lackadaisical attitude that bewildered my city-based sensibilities. Whenever I visited, we read comic books and we swung in the hammock, ducking away from the occasional crab apple that would be shook loose from the constant swaying. We went fishing, explored the back woods, and debated the mystery of girls, their wildish ways, and how cool it would be if we had the nerve to prove how cool we were. We put too much ketchup on our hotdogs while we watched scrap metal wrench and fly at the local demolition derby. We dodged the angry francophone kids who despised our English-speaking ways and warned us that we should go home or else. Mostly, we assured our parents that we were keeping out of trouble and rarely got into as much destruction as they always feared we would.

And then it would be Sunday, with the sun setting in the distance. My Dad would drive up to my cousin's house to pick me up and we'd be off to the city again. I would watch the old houses disappear in a cloud of dust, wonder if the old Targ video game in Hotel Paradis had changed as we drove past, and wait to see the familiar white and green bridges that connected the South shore of Charny to the North shore of Quebec city.

Those days are precious to me. Now that I've written this, I need to go back and visit, even though the Little House has been empty for many years and lists dangerously in the wind. Maybe I can get Bertha or Dot to lend me a key and I can unlock my past one more time.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

No Substitutes

I'm realizing that there is no substitute for a live audience when it comes to recording a storytelling performance. I've tried to recreate that energy in my mind when recording a story at home and I keep being dissatisfied with the results. The story is fine, the pacing is good, the volume is steady, but the performances are just flat. Argh.

It's getting to the point that I'm thinking about inviting people to my house and recording a private house concert, just so I can tap into the magic of a live performance. I'd done some storytelling this summer, but the performances were done in spaces where I could not have recorded them (firepits mostly).

I need to start my self-promotion again as an artist, sending a fax to the schools and placing ads in family-based magazines. I've been chatting with a couple of cafe owners in NDG about putting on some shows in the Fall: there's definite interest there, but still waiting for the commitment.

Wait... where have I heard that before... ? *grin*

With October's creepy-crawlies around the corner, I should be able to get a few gigs going soon, and my microphone will be there to record them all. In the meantime, I'll go through the files and see if I can find something to offer for September.

Thanks for staying with me on this. I hope to reward you with a new story soon.

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Leonard Cohen visits a friend in Verdun

This is a story told by Montreal poet Leonard Cohen sometime in the early 1960s. I heard it while listening to the NFB documentary on Leonard Cohen called Ladies and Gentlemen... Mr. Leonard Cohen.

I realize that posting this story may bend the original focus of this storyblog (I was supposed to be posting stories told by me, myself, and I), but I do think it stays in line with its spirit: celebrating good stories in all their forms.

If you want to hear the story, I may post it later at the end of this post. Enjoy!

The other time I was in quarters such as these was when I visited the Verdun Mental Hospital in Montreal. I was visiting a friend. He was on a top floor and I asked him, while he was still lucid, where I could get a coffee. He said downstairs, which was one of those famous last words.

I commenced the decent of several similar stone corridors and I found myself in a kind of arena, which was surrounded by closed doors. It had been a hot afternoon and I removed my jacket as I have been moved to do. I left it with my friend who, though mentally ill, was no thief. I suspect he wasn't even mentally ill: he was doing this instead of college.

I stood watching the four or five doors, wondering about all the possibilities except for the one that occurred.

A door opened and two large men in white uniforms walked out. And they said "Where are you supposed to be now?"

I said, "In the cafeteria."

They nodded to each other. "WHERE are you supposed to be now?"


Well, as their questions continued, my answers continued. And although they started out innocently enough, now began to sound as though I were protesting too much. In fact, after being interrogated three or four more times, I was shouting and pushing them aside, causing them to run after me down the corridor.

It was only after a guard identified me that I was able to go back to the room of my friend, who had eaten my jacket.

-- Leonard Cohen
Ladies and Gentlemen... Mr. Leonard Cohen
National Film Board

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Jurgen goes to Heaven

Jurgen goes to Heaven,
but he can't get in because he's already there.

Why is he already there?
It's because his grandmother is already there.

And Heaven would not be Heaven
If Jurgen was not already there.

About which, no more.

Monday, July 13, 2009

The Silence of Summer

I'm sorry to say I haven't posted very much this summer (only one post in June and already July with nothing to show for it). Just like the storytelling community in Montreal, summer seems to force us to rest.

Storytelling really is a fall-winter activity, best suited to fireplaces and intimate spaces. In summer, people want to be out there and experiencing stuff. The only exception to this seems to be the summer camp campfire. I've performed at a couple of summer camps and they are fun, especially when you show up out of the gloom of the night to tell a tale, maybe in a mask and cloak, and then disappear, existing only for the story.

I've picked up a couple of new books and I've been searching for that new story to learn. I also promised a charming lady that, for the price of a kiss, I was to write a new story based on a celtic legend. I'm still searching for a celtic tale that suits me, so I should have something soon.

Thanks for your patience and I hope you're enjoying the summer!

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

June Story: Black Fly

This song was recorded in 2007 in Montreal in an excellent cafe/bakery called Le Gryphon D'Or (specifically at the corner of Monkland and Royal). I can't remember why I wasn't there, but Sarah, Dylan, and Jack were definitely in attendance (I will be posting their stories later this summer), as well as the rest of Jack's band The What Four (or the Four Hoarsemen, or The Golden Oldies, or Groupe Du Jour -- They can't decide on a name).

The song was written and orginally recorded by the late, great Wade Hemsworth and was animated by the NFB (specifically Christopher Hinton) in 1991 (watch the animated version at the NFB website). Whenever Jack turns up at an event or a storytelling evening with his guitar, I always ask him to play it.

So since June tends to be black fly month, I present to you Black Fly by Wade Hemsworth and performed by The What Four.

Black Fly (2:49 minutes)

Monday, June 1, 2009

June Story: Jack's Tall Tale

This is a story that is included on my book/CD You Don't Know Jack, but it was recorded earlier this year at Our Lady of Pompeii Elementary School in Montreal.

This is one of the first stories I learned, certainly the first Jack story I learned. As the story nears its end, there's a part that is so outrageous, the audience often cries out their incredulity at the tale, which gives me no end of satisfaction.

What I love about this story is how Jack, once he decides what he's going to do, refuses to give up. Even when his first story fails to trick the King, he tries it again from a different angle. All the Jacks that I know, and even those I've only heard about, have this unyielding desire to continue to push forward. It's a quality to which we all need to aspire.

Jack's Tall Tale (15:46 minutes)

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Truth and Story have a Contest

Exceptionally, I am posting the text for this story from Jewish tradition that I will record in the coming days. Stay tuned!

Once upon a time, there were two exceedingly beautiful women who lived together in small house at the end of a village. One day, the two women were having a discussion, that became a debate, and then turned into an argument. They could not decide which of the two of them was the most beautiful and which one would be the most accepted by the villagers.

When the argument became too heated, they decided to settle it by having a contest. The contest was that each woman, one at a time, would walk through the village and see which one had the most friends.

Truth was the first to try as she walked out of the house and down the village street. The villagers who were tending to their gardens and chatting to each other along the road noticed Truth walking towards them. Slowly, they began easing back into their houses until there was no one on the road, no one in their gardens, and finally no one in sight. Even the people who were seen in their windows pulled the shutters tight. By the time Truth reached the end of the road, there were very few people left outside.

When Truth reached the end of the road, she realized that she was going to lose this contest. "What can I do to make myself even more attractive?" she wondered. She realized there was only one solution left to her, so she removed her robe until she stood there completely naked.

She turned and walked back to her house thinking that the people would surely flock to her now. But in actual fact, the opposite occurred. What few people that were left outside fled back to their house, closed their shutters, and locked their doors. Truth walked that whole path back to her house completely alone.

When Truth walked back into her house, she was greeted by her friend, Story. Story grasped her hands and asked "So? How did it go?"

"I can't believe it," cried Truth. "There was no one there! Everyone hid themselves away from me!"

So Story said, "Here. Let me try." She put on her finest robes and jewelry and left the house, walking down to the village. As she walked down the village street, the doors and the shutters flew open and the people came out in droves, smiling and chatting with each other happily. As Story walked down the village street, the people streamed behind her. When Story turned and walked back through the village, all the people gathered together in the centre of the village and celebrated her visit.

When she returned to her house, she found Truth sitting there, quite humbled. "You win," she said. "It's obvious to me now that Story is more powerful than Truth."

But Story took Truth's hand and said "It's not that Story is more powerful. It's just that nobody likes the Truth, and especially they don't like the Naked Truth. If you want to get your point across to your listeners, what you need is the mantle of Story."

Story removed her robes and her jewelry, adorned Truth with them, and sent her out into the village. This time, the people opened their doors and windows and flocked towards Truth because now they were open to what she had to say.

Monday, May 4, 2009

Birthday Story: The Hall of Wonders

Today is my birthday: I'm 40 years young today on International Star Wars day. May the 4th be with you!

So to mark this special day, I've decided to post one of my favorite stories. I first heard this tale on The Moonlit Road as told by its author Thomas E. Fuller. I'm very excited to say that I received official permission from the late Mr. Fuller's press agent to retell this story as much as I like as long as I give credit to the author (which I do already).

Serendipitously, the permission letter is dated May 4th 2009. I love it when a plan comes together.

I recorded this story in studio today; when I visited Gerald McShane Elementary school in April, I had told this story as well, but the recording was corrupted slightly. I would rather record a live story with an audience, but this studio recording came out not too badly. Special audio effects were provided by Rikki Lacoste.

Friday, May 1, 2009

A Ghost Story for Children

This story is written and told for a much younger audience than previous stories presented on this storyblog. I first heard this story from Priscilla Howe on one of her storytelling CDs.

Telling to very young children (3 to 6 years) has always been very challenging for me. The stories are simple, repetitive, and very short, which is very different from the stories I tell to adults or older children. I only have three stories I tell to this age group and I have difficulty finding more stories that appeal to my telling style and suits their needs.

But all kids love a good ghost story and this tale is entertaining and not scary at all. I love how the kids get to jump in with this tale and it takes almost no time for them to recognize the pattern.

This is a simple story that you can tell to your kids over and over again. Enjoy!

Monday, April 27, 2009

Recent Gigs and News

Already at the end of April and I've been able to post one story! Apologies dear listeners, I was hoping to release the telling of a story based on Oscar Wilde's The Selfish Giant, but the computer malfunctioned on the day that I tried to record that story. *grumble*grumble*

The good news is that I did record a show I performed at Gerald McShane school in Montreal last week: I just need to make some time to review it and pull out the stories that really worked.

And the big news this weeks is ... *drum roll* I got tentative permission to retell and record a story called The Hall of Wonders. Ever since I heard this story (back in the early 2000s), I've been telling it at shows and festivals (always giving credit to the author, Thomas Fuller).

But now that I'm recording my shows, I was hoping to be able to include it on my next CD project. Unfortunately, the author has passed away, so I wasn't sure who to contact. I finally got in touch with the creator of The Moonlit Road (the inspiration for this storyblog) and he has put me in touch with Mr. Fuller's press agent. They have given me tentative permission to include the story on the CD, but I need to contact the agent for written permission. Still... very exciting!

Also, this past weekend I attended the Montreal Beltane Fair and listened to a panel discussion with 8 authors about the publishing business. It was one of the most honest discussion about writing and publishing I have ever heard, which was a bit depressing and heartening at the same time.

Dr. Brendan Myers explained that modern publishers do very little to promote their writers these days (with few exceptions). The time, effort, and expense of promoting and marketing of a book is left mostly to the writer. I've toying with the idea of going to a bigger publisher with my next book, but if they're not going to help me with the promotion of it, I might be better off with sticking with my small publisher and simply selling the books at shows.

However, it was heartening to hear that my efforts over the past four years to promote and sell my book/CD You Don't Know Jack are quite standard now, which means I haven't been doing it wrong all this time.

I need to root through my things, but I thnk I might actually be down to my last 25 copies of the book (from the original printing of 500 copies back in 2005). I may do a second printing of You Dont' Know Jack in addition to my new CD and future book/CD. Money is tight for everyone nowadays, so everything must be carefully considered.

And lastly, keep an eye out for our new show taking place in the next two months. It's likely to happen on a Sunday night at Hurley's Irish pub. Musician Shayne Gryn and I have been rehearsing a show since December and hope to put it on sometime in May or June 2009.

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

A Wise Fool story for April

The Wise Fool is a classic theme in storytelling. I've always been a fan of underdog stories, and Jack has always had great things to teach us. Even in modern storytelling, we always root for the underdog because he embodies our greatest fears and hopes. Somewhere, lurking in our psyche, we fear that we're not good enough, but we hope that we can carry the day just by being who we are.

Our hero Jack shows us that if we just trust in ourselves, we can rise to any occasion. No ghost is too terrifying, no dragon is too big, no quest is too impossible, unless you don't try and Jack always tries.

In this story, Jack Cures the Doctor, everyone seems to be trying to trick everyone else. Everyone is playing the fool, challenging the others to out-fool, to out-wit. This story is featured on my book/CD You Don't Know Jack, but I really like this recording of it because you can hear the children's reaction to Jack's solution.

I love it and I hope you do too. Happy April Fool's day!

News: This story was published on my new CD "The Bard's New Hat". Read more about it on my website.

Jack Cures the Doctor (11:17 minutes)

Friday, March 20, 2009

Podcast Alley test

To be able to be listed at Podcast Alley, I need to post this:

My Podcast Alley feed! {pca-a1debb0d59e87b2c762264d1ae8e33ed}

Monday, March 16, 2009

St. Patrick's Day story: The World's Greatest Thief

This is a story taken from my book/CD You Don't Know Jack called The World's Greatest Thief. It remains one of my favorite stories to tell because when the secret is revealed, first there's confusion, then there's amazement.

The World's Greatest Thief (4:41 minutes)

One of the first times I was contacted by the CBC to tell an Irish story for St. Patrick's Day, I told the producer that I had a story, but it was about 6 minutes long. "Oooooh," he said. "Six minutes is a long time for radio. Can you shorten it?" I said I would try to get it down to three minutes.

So I worked on shortening the story, but I took many details out and had to practice speaking as quickly as I could without stuttering. I finally got it down to three minutes and made my way to the Old Dublin pub where the live broadcast was to take place.

I met with the host, Ms. Anne Lagace Dowson, and we chatted briefly off the air about the story I was to tell. She asked me how long it was and I proudly replied I could tell it in three minutes. "Ooooh," she winced. "Three minutes is a long time for radio. Can you shorten it?"

Happy St. Patrick's Day to all.

Monday, March 2, 2009

Telling Tales in Schools

Last Friday, I had the immense pleasure of telling stories in Our Lady of Pompei elementary school in Montreal's East End. I had three groups: Kindergartners, Grades 1-3, and Grades 4-6. Each group had about 60 to 80 kids in attendance.

It was immensely fun. The kids were very receptive and excellently behaved. I brought my laptop and my microphone to record each show, so I'll be working on those clips and will post the highlights from those shows to this blog.

Just to give you a taste, here's a sample to what my introduction to each group sounded like.

Our Lady of Pompei: Introduction (1:38 minutes)

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

February Story #2: Ti-Fleur and the Fiddler

In honor of Mardi-Gras (which is today), our second story for February is a Quebecois cautionary tale about the devil called Ti-Fleur and the Magic Fiddler. This story is a variation on the classic tale Rose Latulippe when a mysterious dark stranger turns up at a Mardi-Gras celebration and tempts the beautiful girl to dance with him for all eternity.

This story was told to a modest audience during a Yule fair in Montreal in December 2008. Shayne Gryn is accompanying on guitar.

I read the first version of this story in a book called Ghostwise (collected by Dan Yashinsky), as told by Chris Cavanagh. Several years after I first started telling this story, I was asked to retell it at an event. It had been so long since I had told it last that I need to review the tale, but my version had evolved so much from the Cavanagh's version, the book was of almost no help!

I hope you enjoy this story, and if you do, please pass the link along to your friends!

Ti-Fleur and the Magic Fiddler (12 minutes)

NEWS! I'll be performing a collection of Celtic tales in NDG on Saturday February 28th 2009 (my father's birthday!). Click here to visit the Facebook Event page for it.

Here's the info about that:
    Saturday, February 28
    from 6:00 pm until 10:30 pm.
    Tickets $12 for adults (children free)

    The Anglican Church of St. Columba
    4020 Hingston Avenue
    (corner Notre-Dame-de-Grace Ave)
    Montreal, Quebec
    (514) 486-1753

    The evening will start off with a dinner including Irish Stew and Oatbread, and a special Irish dessert. Beer and wine will also be available for purchase.

    John David Hickey, a professional storyteller, will entertain us in the time-honoured Celtic tradition. Also included in the festivities will be a Celtic band led by Jim McDermott who will invite us to share in the excitement of a traditional Celtic ceilidh, including music, dance, jokes and stories.

    There will be an opportunity to admire and purchase the works of skilled craftspeople at a mini-marketplace at the beginning of the evening.

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

February Story: The Dark Princess

This story was told in the River's Edge church in NDG during a fundraiser we had put together for the Montreal Children's Hospital called Through a Child's Eyes. Unfortunately, the fundraiser was a flop because, although we advertised lots, we had an audience of 6 people.

But the storytelling itself was fantastic. It was video recorded and miked, so we got a DVD of the performance afterward as a keepsake.

So in honor of the upcoming holiday of Valentine's Day, I offer you this story told by Sarah A. Comrie (originally penned by Richard Kennedy). We hope you enjoy it.

News: This story was published on my new CD "The Bard's New Hat". Read more about it on my website.

The Dark Princess (15 minutes)

Monday, February 9, 2009

Neil Gaiman on Fairy Tales

On Thursday February 5th 2009, CBC's Jian Ghomeshi interviewed British writer Neil Gaiman about his upcoming book-to-film Coraline, during which they discussed the purpose and the point of fairy tales.

Click here to visit CBC's Q podcast page (February 5th, 2009).

As you can imagine, as a storyteller, I was pleased, relieved, and excited to hear such talk. Too many people in our North American society regard fairy tales, fables, and myths as only frivolous entertainment. Because they are not literally true, they are (at best) a distraction and (at worst) contain no useful information or serve no constructive purpose.

At the beginning of Gaiman's Coraline, he presents the following quotation:
“Fairy Tales are more than true; not because they tell us that dragons exist, but because they tell us that dragons can be beaten.”
G. K. Chesterton
Here's part of what Gaiman had to say about that quote:
I think what I love about that is that it talks about what you are taking away with you from a fairy tale, and what the real morals are, and what functions these things serve. And Chesterton wrote this wonderful essay in which he talks about fairy tales and he says:

"They do not tell children that there is a bogeyman out there. Children know that there is a bogeyman out there. They know that there are monsters out there. They know that there are dangerous things. What is important is to tell them that the bad thing can be beaten."
It's important for kids to be taught that, but it's even more important for adults to be reminded of that. Our lives are filled with beasts, but known and unknown. Myth reminds us that we can beat our dragons if we take a stand, hold our own, and allow our courage to fuel our actions.

In this way, stories can inspire us to move forward, take risks, and enjoy our victories. I hope as you visit this site, and when you can, come see a show, that you find inspiration in the adventures of our heroes as they face their challenges.

Monday, February 2, 2009

Two stories coming up in February!

Next week, in honor of Valentine's Day, I will be posting a new story: a love story. But this story will not be told by me, but by my gracious guest teller. My lady Sarah has agreed to have a story she told a few years ago posted on this blog. Yay Sarah!

And then, at the end of February, I will be posting a Quebecois devil story that is appropriate for the season. Come back and check out the storyblog during the last week of February.

See you all then!

Monday, January 26, 2009

The Passing of Toby Kinsella

Last night at storytelling, I got the news that my friend Toby Kinsella passed away the Sunday previous in Ireland after a relatively short battle with cancer. He was diagnosed with a malignant tumor that had formed around the base of his spine back in August 2008, and although there were some successful operations, the cancer had spread too quickly to stop it's rampage upon this gentle and talented man.

Toby was a musician and storyteller who lived and loved his passions. He could play over 40 different instruments (often several at the same time!) and managed to combine his musical talents with storytelling to great effect. He performed in schools, festivals, pubs, everywhere, anywhere. He was well-known in Montreal, but also across Ireland.

He is one of my many inspirations to becoming a storyteller myself. He always gave me honest and encouraging advice and always pushed me to put my fears aside and live my artform. I will always be grateful to him for his kind words.

So as a tribute to Toby (and with permission from his daughter Isabeau), I am posting one of his musical stories, which is a collaboration with his son Django.

King of Fools: Toby Kinsella and Django Doucet (3:08 minutes)

Good night Toby... Until we meet again.

Update: You can share your Toby stories at This blog was set up by Toby's children Isabeau and Django.

Friday, January 9, 2009

Upcoming Gigs and New Postings

I was chatting with a friend last night and she pointed out that posting once a month is not a good way to build an audience. Many podcasters post once a week or more, but that's a bit heavy for me. I don't really have enough material to post once a week, but twice a month might be interesting.

I've got a gig at the Our Lady of Pompei elementary school at the end of February which entails doing three shows and telling about 8-10 different stories. It'll be fun to record these shows with children and will certainly increase my repertoire of postable podcasts. In the meantime, it's likely I will post another story in January. Truth be told, I was itching to post The Month Men in December.

In February, I will be posting a love story told by Sarah, a telling she did a few years ago, called The Dark Princess. I also have a Japanese story told by Roman Pylat entitled The Boy Who Drew Cats, but I'll need his permission before I put it up.

St. Patrick's Day is coming up, so if you know of anyone who would be interested in having a storyteller to come and tell a few tales, be sure to let me know! If you like the stories posted here, please help me advertise this site and pass the word along!

Sunday, January 4, 2009

January story: The Month Men

This month's story was recorded at Chateau Ramezay in Montreal with a modest audience of a dozen people.

I first heard this story years ago as told by montreal teller Molly Walsh at a Storytelling Swap evening (hosted by the Montreal Storyteller's Guild). I've told it a few times since then, experimenting with different elements and structures, and I finally got it into a format that I really like.

The ending has always been a bit tricky because there are several ways to end it, but not all of them are suitable to the audience. I had children in my audience, so I stuck with the "tea" metaphor, although the adult members of my audience seemed to understand what the "tea" metaphor could also mean. It's a good balance, I think.

News: This story was published on my new CD "The Bard's New Hat". Read more about it on my website.

The Month Men: A Russian story (11 minutes)

I hope you enjoy this story! Please leave me a comment and pass this story link to anyone else you think might enjoy it. Thanks for listening!
Copyright© 2010 John David Hickey