Sunday, March 09, 2014

Azalea Storytelling Festival 2014 (PART 1)

If you are in comfortable driving distance of LaGrange Georgia tomorrow (Sunday, March 9, 2014), even though it’s time-change morning, come over to the Callaway Theater on the LaGrange College campus for the FREE storytelling finale of the annual Azalea Storytelling Festival --- 9:30 a.m. till noon with a short break in the middle.

The tellers this year are a very balanced group of entirely unbalanced personalities: the irrepressible Bill Harley (my kids grew up on Bill Harley tapes!), the dead-pan Tennessee bad-boy Michael Reno Harrell, the unhinged and earnest Megan Hicks, and that Texas Tornado Barbara McBride-Smith.

Six hours of tales and tunes. We have had us a day!

Emcee Carol Cain brought on Barbara first. She opened with her version of the tale of the poor seamtress who lost a leather thimble and later a husband in the river, and her interaction with the magic fish who came to her rescue. In the end she had the original thimble, plus silver and gold ones, and ... a George Clooney replacement for the old husband!

“If a woman lies,” says Barb, “It’s for a good and honest reason and benefits all around.”

Her Mama saved stuff. Why? “The Depression.” says Barbara. So the Mcbride-Smiths are still re-using Christmas wrapping paper from the sixties. “Lord love a duck! I’m becoming my mother.”

Megan Hicks told her fractured fairy tales. The fisherman who hated fish made a bargain with the devil, but his kindness to a fish got him some help when Satan came for the payment. 


“My son was born,” declares Megan, “and I was thrown into a blender.” And her Christmas cards became Groundhog Day cards... a tradition she has kept since. So when she retells “The Fisherman and His Wife” there’s a very practical groundhog in place of the usual purveyor of magic.

Michael Reno Harrell opens each set with a low-key “Hey.” Reaching down to plug up his guitar, Michael asserts, “I’m to the point when I bend over to tie my shoes I look around to see if there’s anything else I ought to do while I’m down there.”

When he went ot the Saturday movies, he emerged after four hours of Westerns “as blind as a cave fish.” He loved to stop by the Greyhound station on the way home to buy a nickle “Good Time” candy bar from the machine there. His love for the candy bar led him, as a ten-year-old, to take entirely the wrong idea from a scrawled “For a Good Time...” bit of graffiti. Later the Greyhound took him away from his Mama and to his first bout of homesickness. And then to Chicago where he discovered new music. From all that he composed a song that began, “There used to be a Greyhound station…”.


Michael’s song brought a song he’d never sung in public to Bill Harley’s mind. One line of it: “It’s the same road takes me from you that brings me back again.”

Bill followed that with the story of his love, as a kid, for Robert W. Service’s poems. Especially “The Cremation of Sam McGee”. That’s a love I had as a ten-year-old myself. He told the story of the poem and recited a little. Then he recited his own “Dirty Joe” ballad with similar rhyme scheme. This is one we Harley fans have heard before, but never tire of. 


Bill finished up with another of my favorites, his autobiographical story and song “My Father Played The Phonograph.”

Well that is just a taste of justr the first of three sessions today.

More later.

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