Mary Medlicott, Storyteller and Author - Storyworks

Archive for the ‘Chants and songs’ Category

Storytelling Starters ~ Lockdown lifters

Saturday, April 25th, 2020

I’ve been missing my Pembrokeshire sea. I’m going to be missing it more and more. Each time I read in my newspaper about how long Lockdown is likely to last, the predicted length gets longer and longer. It’s vitally necessary but oh dear! Today, looking for distraction in my file-box of Songs, Poems and Sayings, I came across this lovely short poem by the American poet, Carl Sandburg:

The sea-wash never ends
The sea-wash repeats, repeats
Only the old strong songs
Is that all
The sea-wash repeats, repeats

(more…)

Storytelling Starters ~ Expectations

Saturday, March 7th, 2020

Mary, Mary, Quite contrary, How does your garden grow?With silver bells and cockleshells as in the nursery rhyme?

Well, my expectations for this week had been of a blissfully peaceful holiday week in Wales with trips to beaches, lots of reading and plenty of time to recover from the battering my wits and my body have taken from trying to deal with all the niggly health issues that have kept coming up.

Contrary to expectations:

Instead? The warning sign on the car kept coming back after it had apparently been dealt with in London and, in Pembrokeshire, led to the determination from the kindly, straight-talking Reg at the Volvo garage in Haverfordwest that, truth to tell, the car should be regarded as a write-off and he’d buy it off us for £300 and use it for spare parts.

This was more than a disappointment. We loved our old car and had been reassured in our garage in London that the small bump we’d experienced a few weeks ago had not left any problem. And now? If we’d couldn’t use the car to get back to London – and Reg was saying that tootling around locally would be OK but not to take it on the M4 – how would we make the trip with all our luggage at the end of our peaceful week? (more…)

Storytelling Starters ~ What’s new?

Saturday, February 15th, 2020

The Three Bears is so familiar to me as a children’s story that I felt quite delighted when I was recently asked to do a staff training workshop at a London nursery called Les Trois Oursons. It made me think about children’s stories as they are told in languages other than English.

On Thursday when I went to do the training, I found myself surrounded by a wide diversity of Nursery staff including French, Ghanaian and Chinese. We had a grand time (and, for me, it felt like getting back to normal, this being the first such workshop I’d done for a while following  my period of ill-health).  First, I got us doing a number of simple rhymes and chants together, foremost among them Little Bear on the Long Road and Mrs Wiggle and Mrs Waggle. Then I told the folk story of The Tiger and the Mouse and got the workshopees (new word?) retelling it to each other in whatever language they liked.

After that, one of the things  I appreciated most was the comments that were made about storytelling as the people in the workshop had experienced it (or not) when they were children. For one Chinese woman, there’d been no storytelling at all and no story books either. But for several who’d grown up in West Africa, there’d been the regular experience of gathering in the open air and at night to listen to stories being told, usually with great drama. (more…)

Storytelling Starters ~ Too busy?

Saturday, December 21st, 2019

Yesterday morning I needed to look up a song. Early in January Paul and I have a tryst to meet up with some friends in Llansteffan, a village on a Carmarthenshire estuary where I once stayed for a couple of lovely weeks while doing storytelling work in some nearby schools. I told these friends that when we are there, looking out over the sea or, if the tide is out, the sandflats, I shall sing them a Welsh song that I love which tells the story of someone rowing across the estuary to fetch his loved one.

Reminders:

It was a pleasure to be reminded of the song when I found it. But, my goodness, as I searched for it in my file boxes – now would it be in the box labelled Wales, which is full of Welsh stories and stuff about Welsh places, or in the box labelled Songs, Poems, Sayings? – I had such a weird combination of feelings. Past and future swirled around in my mind. Which items had I previously used in my storytelling work? Which could be good in the future? I felt a bit like Janus, the ancient Roman deity who, as my Brewer’s Dictionary of Phrase and Fable reminds me, was the guardian of gates and doors and, for this reason, represented with two faces, one in front and one behind. (more…)

Storytelling Starters ~ A new note

Saturday, November 10th, 2018

My new venture is singing lessons. It’s going well. My singing teacher, Bianca, is tall, Australian, young, good-looking and full of spirit. At least half of every lesson so far has concentrated on the production of voice, diaphragm and larynx, position of head and tongue, the focusing of sound and other such matters.

How strange, I’ve been thinking, that as someone who has worked as a storyteller for three decades – or is it four? – I have never had voice lessons before. A number of voice workshops, perhaps, but not anything continued and concentrated. In my work, I suppose I felt confident that my voice could reach the back of pretty much any audience. I remember being asked to tell a story to 800 pupils in a black school in South Africa. The 800 pupils were seated outside (always more difficult and certainly not very personal) but it went off OK. Big halls at such events as Festival at the Edge also seem to have gone alright. Awful acoustics, surrounding noise: all kinds of obstacles have occurred and there’s been the occasional failure. For instance, I remember one person coming to me after a story I’d told to a crowd of other storytellers standing around me at some festival or other. She was bothered. She hadn’t heard the last word of the story. That felt unforgiveably awful! (more…)

Storytelling Starters ~ Where Corals Lie

Saturday, September 29th, 2018

Years ago in a project at the Commonwealth Institute as then was, the wonderful Kathie Prince was the musician, I was the storyteller. It was a brilliant time and, for me, one of its most enriching aspects was how much I learned from Kathie. For instance, I learned the involvement with audiences of varying age that can be brought about through little songs where the audience can help create new verses by offering fresh ideas t0 fit in the pattern. Or where involvement is deepened through the use of differently fascinating instruments. (more…)

Storytelling Starters ~ Connections

Saturday, August 25th, 2018

And the foot bone’s connected to the leg bone…. And the leg bone’s connected to the hip bone…. And the hip bone’s connected to the back bone….

And so on. We used to chant that song of connection as kids on the school bus coming back from events away. Another similar one comes to mind: the one about the old woman who lived on her own who would sit a-spinning of a night bemoaning about how lonely she felt….

Then in came a pair of great big feet – And set themselves down in front of the fire…. And still she sat and still she span, And still she wished for company…. Then in came a pair of thin, thin legs … etc etc etc.

Also what comes to mind is that wonderful story from Aboriginal Australia about the hand that goes for a walk and when she gets to a hill longs for a leg up. So one leg comes and then another etc etc etc (more…)

Storytelling Starters ~ What’s in a story?

Saturday, July 15th, 2017

What’s in a story? Things that are normally hidden? Things of remarkable beauty? Keys to the future? One of my main occupations at present is writing a book about doing stories  with Early Years children. It’s a subject I’ve thought about a lot about over the years because I’ve done so much of it, not only with children themselves but with their teachers and parents too.  Writing the book has been bringing back to my mind all kinds of little tales. Here are three.

Story One:

This story was reported to me by my storyteller friend, Debbie Guneratne. It’s about an incident that occurred to her some time ago during a period when she was in Australia, working in a hospital for children.

One day, she started telling a little boy in the hospital the story of The Yellow Blob. Debbie had heard this particular tale (it’s one I created) on a storytelling course I’d been running. The little boy was a child who didn’t speak and his attention span was very poor. So Debbie was delighted to see that he kept listening intently as he heard how the Yellow Blob lived in an entirely yellow world until one day when he climbed to the top of a yellow hill and saw a blue lake below.

Suddenly at this point of the story, and much to Debbie’s regret, a nurse turned up to take the little boy for some treatment he was due to receive. Debbie was naturally very sorry he hadn’t been able to stay to hear the end of the story. Come the end of the day, however, Debbie was on her way out of the hospital when she heard a voice calling her name. Turning round, she saw the nurse hand in hand with that same little boy standing at the top of the hospital steps.

‘Debbie, stop,’ the nurse called out. ‘He wants to hear the end of the story.’ (more…)

Storytelling Starters ~ Easter Egg

Saturday, April 15th, 2017

What follows is a rhythmic, chant-like story from Russia which I came across in one of my box-files this week while riffling through them with Easter weekend in mind. It’s been in this blog before on two different occasions but I think it’s worth repeating. I can’t now remember where I found the tale. I do remember telling it – and with lots of accompanying sounds –  in storytelling sessions with children I once did at Somerset House to accompany a fabulous exhibition of Russian art and artefacts that was being held there. The exhibition included some of the gorgeously jewelled eggs made for a number of Russian tsars between 1885 and 1917 by Russian jeweller, Carl Faberge. (Sorry can’t get my computer to do the accent on this name.) Anyway, the egg  in my story is more mundane. But it makes a good tale.

The Easter Egg: a Russian tale

This is a story about a little Russian girl who lived with her father and mother right next to her grandmother’s farm. This little girl would often help her granny by feeding the animals or collecting the new-laid eggs. One day, just before Easter, her mother was making bread in the kitchen while her father, who was the local priest, was in the church preparing his Easter service.

Then this happened. (more…)

Storytelling Starters ~ Time of contrasts

Saturday, December 17th, 2016

EightIt’s a time of contrasts. On the one hand is the thought of coming days of peace and enjoyment. On the other, my mind is abuzz, thinking not only of things that have to be done but also about people who are in trouble, people fleeing bombardment, who haven’t got a home to be at home in, who haven’t got enough to eat, who haven’t got any money to buy things  – people like the woman I met on the street the other day. When she asked for some money for something to eat, I asked what she was hoping to get. ‘Anything,’ she said. ‘You know you can get a packet of crisps for 20p. Sometimes I get four packets. They make me feel full for the whole day.’

Then I had to start thinking about this week’s posting. What could I possibly write about? What my mind settled on – needs must! – is something merry and participative for children, namely the Christmas chant I created some years ago. It’s based on Going On A Bear Hunt, the traditional chant I’m sure you all know. Just change the words a bit and this is how my Christmas chant turns out: 

Going to See Father Christmas: (more…)