Mary Medlicott, Storyteller and Author - Storyworks

Storytelling Starters ~ Voices Beyond Division

cofThe concert I went to on Thursday evening opened with a story – one of those timeless types of stories with an underlying meaning. The concert was  in St James’ Church, Piccadilly and filled with parents and supporters of all the young people taking part. It was appropriately named Voices Beyond Division. The aim was to proclaim the need and desire for peace in the Middle East.

I can’t retell the story fully because it contained four words I don’t know from four of the languages of the Middle East. Essentially, though, this is it: 

A bunch of grapes

Four people who’d found themselves travelling together came to a market in a busy town. Between them they had a little money but no shared language and, faced with the market, each said what he’d most like from the market to eat, naming what he wanted in his own language. But what if their money did not stretch to four different things? Soon they started to squabble, each determined to have what he wanted.

Then another man came along. Hearing what each of the travellers wanted, he stopped their squabbling by saying he’d go and buy it for them. There’d be enough money, he assured them. So he went into the market and when he returned he had with him a huge bunch of grapes. For that is exactly what each man had wanted. They’d used four different words to name it but what they’d all asked for was grapes. 

Same thing: four different languages. And as the storyteller put it, the message of this story can be applied more deeply. Often what we want is the same thing though we may say it differently depending on our language. Bringing together people of different languages and faiths, this particular concert was all about a shared desire for peace.

Voices Beyond Division

cofWhat strong and pointed fare we were given! Young people from the Purcell School provided a wonderful choir and small orchestra. Children from three London faith schools – Iqra Primary School, Akiva School and St Peter’s School – represented the Islamic, Jewish and Catholic faiths. They all combined in a remarkably diverse programme of sung and orchestral music which  concluded with all the performers taking part in the premiere of a big, ambitious new piece, What War?

What War? was a triumph in itself. Its instrumentation was fascinating and its sung music brought together the Koranic, Arabic and Hebrew languages. What made it even more impressive was that it had been composed by a Purcell School 6th former, Asha Parkinson, who was herself responsible for the entire evening. As she herself explained before What War? was performed, it had been her dream since the age of 14.

What an enterprise!  All those young people coming together, all the learning and rehearsing that had taken place over months, all the fund-raising that had made it possible, the proceeds going to Syria Relief  … an inspiration.

Paul and I were glad to be there and I felt especially happy that we’d got to know about it through a long-lasting storytelling connection.  The father of Asha Parkinson is  Rob Parkinson whom I first got to know shortly after the Society for Storytelling was founded back in 1993. And he was the storyteller who began Thursday evening’s concert with the story I’ve retold above.

PS: After racking my brains about what photos to use this week, I’ve borrowed two of Paul’s – a lovely pink rose and an equally lovely almost black rose that was given to me back in October. In keeping with the idea of Thursday’s concert, I hope they show that a rose can be beautiful whatever its colour and whatever different languages call it. 


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