Timpanogos Storytelling Festival

I have just returned from the Timpanogos Storytelling Festival, out in Utah. What a festival! Set in Ashton Gardens at Thanksgiving Point, Lehi, you would not want a better venue. Beautiful gardens, paths, waterfalls, falling water pools surround the huge tents which house some of the best storytellers sharing their craft. From tellers like myself sharing the traditional tales, to the brilliant Bil Lepp with his tall tales, there was the powerful, gracious and witty Carmen Deedy, the clever and humourous Tim Lowery, the musically crafty Anne Rutherford, Don White with his dry wit and heartfelt and funny songs, Antonio Rocha dancing his way gracefully through his stories, both fairy tales and personal stories (I love this guy and his work), Motoko with her amazing craft, school girl giggle and wonderful stories, Andy Hedges telling us stories about the songs his sings (another favourite of mine), the impeccable and immaculate Donald Davis, the cheeky, fun Barbara McBride-Smith, and the sweet, and lovely Sheila Starks Phillips who will surprise you with her tales! I also got to ‘sit in’ with a wonderful duo called Tiny Home made up of Sonya Cotton and Gabe Dominguez, who on Tuesday night played a fabulous version of ‘All the Pretty Little Horses.’ And we got to see Chris Osmond open up the festival on Thursday night. That’s Donny’s son, I think.

Antonio did a set of stories Tuesday night, when I first saw Tiny Home at a wonderful gazebo in town. A large family arrived late so he and I did an impromptu set for them after and ended up getting more people show up to listen. The sunset which happened behind the audience was amazing, and Antonio, of course, wound it into one of his stories. I got to see tellers I have never seen before like Carmen Deedy, who I also got to perform with. What a treat that was. I have been wanting to see Robin Bady’s “Nancy Drewinsky and the Search for the Missing Letter” and was NOT disappointed. She is incredible. I have only seen a little bit of Motoko so had to see more of her craft. She and Eshu Bumpus did a fabulously crafted Jappalachian ballad. So clever, so beautifully sung. Motoko’s Laughin’ Night story was another really clever piece with a brilliant ending, and her Shivers in the Night Story was one of my favourites. I had never seen Barbara or Sheila before and I was not disappointed, their stories were great. They both have a twinkly (sly?!) sense of humour which I loved. Tim Lowery is so clever with his stories and goes so deep. I got myself a good dose of Tim, as I did with Antonio and Andy Hedges. Andy is something else. I have to say that I am not a country fan, nor a fan of Western music. I have been exposed to that genre since I was a kid, so know a variety of styles. Andy Hedges plays cowboy music, which, I think is outside of the realm of C&W. There is something gentle, and at the same time rugged.about the songs he sings and the poetry he recites. Some of the songs can be heart breaking but many are laugh-out loud funny. I am a fan! I have seen videos of Don White but to see him in person is a lot of fun. He runs deep and I was lucky enough to spend time chatting with him about our craft. Anne Rutherford is another clever and funny storyteller musician. I saw her set and was very impressed with what she did. Carmen Deedy. Wow. Carmen Deedy has a very strong fan base, and rightly so. Powerful, funny, irreverent - is it any wonder we got on like a house on fire? Not at all. Go see her. I got to share the stage with Bil Lepp, another honor, and boy is he funny. Tear rolling, belly aching funny. Love the guy. Donald Davis of course, a regular feature at Timp, and so on point and wonderful.

I have to mention the Youth Tellers. These kids come from all over the country and vary greatly in age. I saw a couple of them and was highly impressed and again, many of them at a Q&A, and they asked some great questions of the panel. When Antonio and I performed together for the school groups on Thursday, we were opened by Youth Teller Sohan Bhakta. His timing was impeccable, his wit and humour sharp as a knife. The way he re-crafted the story of the Freedom Bird was creative and clever and his voices were a joy to hear! I think we will be hearing a lot more of him as he works on his craft!

One of the things about performing in an event like this is that you get to hang out with all these wonderful people and their partners and families. Andy’s family was wonderful to have around, and I got to make pirate hats and paper swords for them, and tell them stories in the green room. Little kids light up rooms and many of the tellers had fun interacting with them! And Bil was there was his most of his family, who I met for the first time last year at Jonesborough - which is coming up fast! I got to know Bil and Paula and their daughter better which was great. Love those folks too.

The conversations at breakfast and at the end of the night were priceless. So many stories swapped, and So Much Laughter. Anne’s husband Norm Brekke was there and added another great voice to the after-show frivolity! Eshu Bumpus, a legend in my mind is a fabulous man and had such a deep level of understanding of our craft. I was so lucky to spend time with him. Just driving around with these folks and talking shop was a wonderful addition to the week.

Then on Sunday morning, those who performed over the weekend were invited to see the Tabernacle Choir at the Conference Center. I had no idea how large that space is. I have seen it on tv once or twice, but it is HUGE. The choir and orchestra were amazing. It was a moving experience.

If you have never been to Timpanogos Storytelling Festival then I would highly recommend it. There is food on the site which is wonderful, the gardens are incredible, the organization is remarkable and the stories to be heard are brilliant. There’s a ton of other stuff to do at the festival too. There are puppets galour, jugglers, more music, liars, and pottery tents. This is a VERY family oriented event, so if you ever want to visit Utah, make sure you visit when the festival is on.

A huge thank-you to the organizers, and ALL the volunteers who are the most friendly ‘do anything for you’ people I have met. What a community! I am humbled.

Now it’s time to get tickets for CA, and prep for White Mountain Storytelling Festival and the National in Jonesborough!

Until next time…