Getting to Know Sam Payne

Getting to Know Sam Payne

Sam Payne 1Sam Payne, hailing from right here in Utah, is a stellar teller of stories and songs. Each time I hear him I am impressed with his skill and abilities.  A writer, teller, teacher, and radio personality we are happy to have him with us at the festival again this year to share his unique performances with us.

 

1. What is the first story you remember hearing and/or the first story you remember telling?

The first story I remember hearing was Danny Kaye’s musical version of “The Ugly Duckling” from the soundtrack to the movie musical Hans Christian Andersen. I must have listened to it a thousand times. When I was six, in the middle of a bout of stage fright over serving as the ring bearer at my aunt’s wedding, my mom put her hands on my shoulders in the church cloakroom and said I’d be fine as long as I remembered to walk down the aisle like the swan at the end of the Ugly Duckling story I loved, “…with his head so noble and high.” I survived my gig as the ring bearer. That may be when I learned what good medicine stories can be.

The first story I remember telling was an original crime noir piece about a big-city gumshoe on the trail of an international criminal named Bordeaux. I wrote it when I was eight or nine. My mom brought home an old thrift-store typewriter for us bored kids to take apart one summer afternoon. Instead I began a novel. I got through two-and-a-half typewritten pages before I conked out. Some people carry good-luck charms of one kind or another. I carry those two-and-a-half typewritten pages. If you see me with my shoulder bag, ask me. They’re in there.

2. How was the seed of storytelling planted in your life?

My folks shipped my brother and me off to my grandparents’ house in the Bay Area for three weeks one summer when we were small. Every night of that visit, after my grandmother tucked us into bed, my grandfather sat in a chair and read to us from The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn. I love my grandfather, but he’s a crotchety, disapproving, dictatorial old Greek, and there was an enormous gulf between him and us kids. The nightly reading of Huckleberry Finn drew us out in love for one another. Later, when I was in high school, he mailed me a VHS copy of Igor Stravinski’s strange and wonderful work “The Soldier’s Tale,” animated by R. O. Blechman, and it happened again. I think it was through those rare exchanges with my grandfather that I learned how stories can help people find their way to each other.

3. Where does storytelling grow from here? How do you want to see storytelling influencing society?

Fueled by the incredible experiences that people continue to have at festivals like Timpanogos, people are going home and inviting loved ones together to share stories in smaller, more intimate spaces. It’s the era of coffee house storytelling shows and living-room storytelling parties. It’s an era in which prisons and hospitals and churches and at-risk youth programs are trusting storytelling to do the heavy lifting in their incredibly important work. There’s a phrase I like to use: “Never be afraid to think small.” It comes from observing the career of my father, a folksinger who, in the early 1970’s, made record albums of his own music and sold them from door to door. While other artists were working on opportunities to play stadiums, my dad hung on for years to an artistic lifestyle that allowed him to look into the eyes of just about everyone who heard a song or bought an album. What a wonderful thing it is that the storytelling revival of the last half-century has built the kind of bonfire from which people are carrying away embers and lighting fires of their own, across which they can look into the very eyes of the people who are listening.

4. If you needed to start a dance party, what song would you lead with?

Oh my. Much to my chagrin I’m the guy who, just when people are hankering for “Dancing Queen,” suggests “Grapefruit Moon” by Tom Waits. I don’t get invited to a lot of dance parties. Maybe “Magdalena” by Brandon Flowers. I’m listening to it right now. That song just kills me.

Don’t miss out on seeing Sam at this year’s Festival. For more information about Sam’s schedule and the Festival, visit: https://timpfest.org/events/28th-annual-timpanogos-storytelling-festival.

Getting to Know Catherine Conant

 
Catherine Conant grew up in a large Italian family in New Jersey where she learned to stitch together the things of family and of imagination to create powerful and beautiful stories about the world around her. Funny and poignant, you are sure to fall in love with Catherine!

1. What is the first story you remember hearing and/or the first story you remember telling?

The first story I told was one I found when I moved to a new town.  I asked longtime residents what were their favorite stories about the place where they lived. The one they loved best was about a man who lived many years ago.  His name was Bill Baker and he had teams of oxen.  People hired him to plow farms and haul freight as well as any other odd job. (They even had a postcard of him standing with his team!) This is a favorite because it introduced me to the history of my town.

2. How was the seed of storytelling planted in your life?

I had had many different occupations but was still searching for the one I felt spoke to my heart. Twenty-five years ago, I attended a Connecticut Storytelling Festival in New London, Connecticut, and witnessed a storyteller captivate an audience as she told an African folktale. I suddenly realized I had found what I had been searching for and never looked back.

3. Where does storytelling grow from here? How do you want to see storytelling influencing society?

Much of my current work is helping groups and organizations become acquainted with the idea of using stories to create stronger and more vibrant neighborhoods and communities. It is exciting to watch people embrace the use of stories to instill understanding, connection and shared vision.  I believe it is the most effective way to support the meaningful change we need and want.  Stories that help us understand our past are essential for shaping our future.  Stories tell us who we are.

4. If you needed to start a dance party, what song would you lead with?

Hey You (I Love You) Michael Franti and Spearhead

Don’t miss out on seeing Catherine at this year’s Festival. For more information about Sam’s schedule and the Festival, visit: https://timpfest.org/events/28th-annual-timpanogos-storytelling-festival.

 

Getting to Know Michael Reno Harrell

Getting to Know Michael Reno Harrell

Michael Reno Harrell 292x350We are excited to welcome Michael Reno Harrell to the festival for the first time this year! Coming from the Southern Appalachian Mountains his stories and songs have been described best as “like a breakfast of butter and molasses on a warm biscuit… Southern, easy and sweet.” He was so kind to answer a few questions for us to help us get to know him a bit better prior to his debut at the festival.

 

  1. What is the first story you remember hearing and/or the first story you remember telling?

 

The first time that I told a real story, that is, not just an anecdote or a joke was on stage. I had a band and we were working a club in the mountains of Western North Carolina, my ancestral homeland. I had written a song about my grandfather and wanted to tell the audience about the person who had inspired the song. So, in the middle of a music show I told a story about my grandfather and me. All conversation stopped and the late-night revelers sat quietly and listened for what was probably a twelve-minute piece. In that one moment, I realized the power of story.

 

  1. How was the seed of storytelling planted in your life? 

 

The first time that I became aware that storytelling was not only a thing, but was something that one could actually do as an accepted way of performance was around 2003. I was on tour playing gigs across Texas. I walked into my hotel room around 2:00 AM and turned on the TV to unwind a bit after the show. I found the local PBS station and was immediately captivated by a little southern woman talking about taking piano lessons as a small girl in someplace called Thomasville, Alabama. It was the great Kathryn Tucker Windham. I was hooked.

 

  1. Where does storytelling grow from here? How do you want see storytelling influencing society?

 

I was on a tour doing concerts across Michigan, Illinois and Wisconsin and had a Monday night off. My wife called and asked if I would be interested in doing a ten-minute story at a weekly gathering in Chicago. I said that I would like that. There were to be four other tellers also on the bill. The urban audience of perhaps a hundred and thirty was around seventy percent female and the average age was somewhere around twenty-two. I am not urban and was sixty-five years old at the time. After the show, about thirty of them gathered around and asked questions about my performance. I told them that I told stories for a living and they were amazed to find that such a job description existed. Whether or not this phenomenon that has become what we refer to as professional storytelling and the festivals that present it survive, storytelling will be just fine. It just may not be shared in a tent with lots of folks sitting in folding chairs. But, storytelling on any level draws us closer.

 

  1. If you needed to start a dance party, what song would you lead with?

 

Since I’m no kind of dancer or a DJ, I would have to be in the band. And since I grew up playing bluegrass, folk and country, it would have to be a song that presented an opportunity for a good deal of stomping.

 

Make sure to check out Michael at this year’s Festival. For more information on Michael’s schedule and the Festival, visit: https://timpfest.org/events/28th-annual-timpanogos-storytelling-festival.

Getting to Know Bil Lepp

Getting to Know Bil Lepp

Lepp onstage 350x292Bil Lepp is a very candid and soothing storyteller with a desire to instill in all of his listeners the virtues of obedience and honesty. Okay, that wasn’t all true. Bil is a world-renowned liar and a favorite of the Timpanogos Storytelling Festival and my family. He has captured the minds of kids both young and old with his tall tales inspired by his colorful life. I’ve grown up hearing about Buck, Skeeter and Bil’s adventures in West Virginia and practically run to his tent every year he comes to hear more. We are always happy to have him, and hope that our listeners old and new have the chance to visit Bil’s West Virginia.

 

  1. What is the first story you remember hearing and/or the first story you remember telling?

My dad told me messed up fairy tales when I was kid, like Goldie Lox and the Three Pigs.  I was the last of five kids, so I think he was bored with the traditional versions, so he mixed them up for his own pleasure.

 

  1. How was the seed of storytelling planted in your life?

I got my start first watching, then participating in the West Virginia Liars’ Contest.

 

  1. Where does storytelling grow from here? How do you want see storytelling influencing society?

Hopefully storytelling will continue to grow.  It’s a great live event, so I hope more festivals grow, and that more people outside of the storytelling world find their way in.  I like doing events at places where folks haven’t ever heard a professional teller so they can find out that it is out there, and that it is a solid, family friendly form of entertainment.

 

  1. If you needed to start a dance party, what song would you lead with?

Boy Boys Boys by Lady Gaga

 

For more on Bil’s schedule at this year’s Festival, visit: https://timpfest.org/events/28th-annual-timpanogos-storytelling-festival

Getting to know Tim Lowry

Getting to know Tim Lowry

Tim Lowry1-LTim Lowry is back with his southern charm, dry wit and hopefully a Gullah story or two. To listen to Tim is to come to an understanding that he really loves people, I mean really loves people with all of their quirks, their frailties, and their strengths. His respect and admiration is juxtaposed with a playful love of the ironic. We’ve asked him a few questions to help you get to know and love him a bit as well.

 

  1. What is the first story you remember hearing and/or the first story you remember telling?

I remember my babysitter telling me the Wide Mouth Frog. I still tell that story all the time! The first story that I remember telling is the Twist Mouth Family. We were huddled in a basement with friends in Macon, GA waiting for a tornado threat to pass. I was upset and frightened and my mom suggested I tell that story since we were sitting in candlelight. The storytelling kept me from worrying about the tornado and my audience enjoyed the tale. I think I became a storyteller at the moment! I six years old.

  1. How was the seed of storytelling planted in your life?

My mom read books to me, my Sunday school teachers told me bible stories, my first grade teacher told us folk tales and sang folk songs, my fourth grade teacher encouraged me to write stories, my fifth grade teacher was an excellent folk teller and musician, my high school drama teacher ALWAYS had me enter the annual storytelling competitions. It was a team effort. Lots of folks planted storytelling seeds and they all took! I love to read, I tell bible stories, I have over 125 folk tales in my repertoire, I write my own stories, storytelling competitions turned into a storytelling career. I am very blessed to have had such wonderful mentors.

  1. Where does storytelling grow from here? How do you want see storytelling influencing society?

I would like to see the pendulum swing back toward oral, face-to-face communication. Less electronic telling and more real life and in real time telling. As an American society I think we should encourage and participate in movements that foster the atmosphere required for person-to-person communication. The Slow Food Movement comes to mind.

  1. If you needed to start a dance party, what song would you lead with?

We have dance parties at my house all the time! My seven year old and five year old daughters are very into “I Feel Good” by James Brown. Owww!

Storyteller Tim Lowry

timlowry@bellsouth.net

843-324-1366

Business Manager Wes Munn

manager@storytellertimlowry.com

843-642-9510

www.storytellertimlowry.com

Timpanogos Storytelling Institute
5107 Edgewood Drive
Provo, UT 84604

801.426.8660
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