Art of the Story brings two storytellers to western Washington County

by: COURTESY PHOTO - Storytellers will visit Washington County libraries this month. Two very different storytellers come to western Washington County this week, during Washington County Cooperative Library Services' ninth annual free storytelling festival, “Hearing Voices: Art of the Story.”

'Out of this World'

With a passion to make people understand the power of story and use it in their everyday lives, humorist, storyteller and singer/songwriter Kim Weitkamp offers a mixed bag of stories at the four-day festival.

On April 16, Weitcamp presents “Out of this World,” a collection of hilarious “tall tales” — all original, outrageous fabrications.

Bring the dads along for that one, Weitcamp said. “Everybody loves my tall tales, but for some reason grown men really love them.” It must be the stories about fishing and motorized vehicles, she said.

At the North Plains Library on April 18, Weitkamp presents “A girl named Kimmy,” a collection of stories about the trouble she used to get into as an overly imaginative and creative child.

“I've been kind of a showman from day one,” she said. As the middle child of exhausted parents, Weitkamp was allowed to roam free in the wild outdoors of Amish country, where her imagination ripened.

Nicknamed “Dennis” as in “Dennis the Menace” by her mother, the rambunctious young redhead wrote and performed plays and pageants for her family, impersonated Elvis Presley and Barbara Streisand for guests and frazzled her teachers with grandiose stories of chats with animals and impossible inventions.

“A lot of kids get in trouble,” said Weitkamp, but if that mischievous energy can be channeled properly, “it can be really powerful too.” Lucky for us, her fifth-grade teacher did just that, and now Weitkamp makes a living being herself.

Performing full-time in theaters and at festivals across the continent, Weitkamp has been featured on NPR affiliate stations and Sirius Radio. Her six audio collections include her latest work, "Head Bone Rattles," a collection of original ghost stories and songs.

After Weitkamp's shows, audiences are often moved to tell their own stories. “I hear it in the lobby,” she said. “It's wonderful, they've recognized something — human nature.”

'The Fine Beauty of the Island'{img:11468}

A young boy finds a harp washed up on the ocean shore. Plucking on the strings, he is enchanted by the sound, but finds he doesn't have the skill to play it. His mother tracks down a powerful Irish druid and asks the druid to give her son the gift of music. The druid will grant this only if the mother gives him her soul.

She does, and her son becomes the greatest musician in Ireland, while his mother is cast into the underworld, where she sings songs of lamentation. After playing marvelous, beautiful music during the day, the boy hears his mother singing from the underworld, so that's the music he plays at night.

“Irish storytelling is a very lyrical, musical way of expression,” said Celtic harp player and spoken-word artist Patrick Ball. “The stories themselves are wonderful and quirky, but it's the way the Irish string words together and make music out of their telling that affected me.”

Instead of becoming a lawyer like his father, the part-Irish Ball took a trip to Ireland, where he fell in love with the music and storytelling.

He is among the few who still play the Celtic harp, Ireland's most beloved and legendary brass-stringed instrument, played a thousand years ago by the most honored bards and poets. Touring throughout the United States and Canada, Ball has recorded nine instrumental and three spoken-word albums and earned national awards in both categories.

He tells three different types of Irish stories: literary (written by some of Ireland’s greatest authors), cycle (like the boy-and-his-harp story — Ireland’s equivalent to myths) and fairytales.

According to Irish mystical tradition, said Ball, all Ireland's music came from the fairy people, who used to be the only people living there. Then people like us came and drove the fairy people underground, where they live to this day and play music.

“Certain musicians are believed to be able to hear the music of the fairies,” said Ball, “and some of the music I play is believed to have come from that source.”

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