It was such a wonderful year for the Timpanogos Storytelling Festival and so it is no wonder that we are having a hard time officially saying goodbye. But, alas, all things must come to an end—and besides we have some fun things coming up in the next couple of months. As we make our final goodbye, we offer this look back in pictures at the 24th annual Timpanogos Storytelling Festival:
All photos were taken by two of our fantastic volunteers: Laren Helms and Tom Thurston.
If you had been sitting in the River Trail tent at Thursday night’s “Look Who’s Talking,” you would have seen two small children riveted to the stage. These children were Syd Lieberman’s grandchildren and this was the first time they had seen their grandfather perform on stage.
A few months ago, Syd sent an email with some exciting news. His daughter, Sarah, and her family were coming to our festival. Even though their Illinois home is closer to other festivals, Syd said there was no other one as family friendly as the Timpanogos Storytelling Festival. Sarah was bringing her two young children, Ezra and Zella, to see Syd on stage. He had often told them stories at home and at pre-school, but they had never seen their grandfather perform on stage. Syd couldn’t think of a better or more friendly place to have them come.
When they arrived at the park for the first time, Syd told Ezra he would be telling his stories on stage. Ezra exclaimed, “On stage?!” When Syd began telling his story, Ezra and Zella’s faces lit up. They clapped and smiled and loved hearing Grandpa Lieberman tell a story about their own mom when she was younger.
Besides hearing their grandfather, Ezra and Zella were very excited to hear Ed Stivender in person. They had listened to his CDs several times and when their mom told them Ed was going to be there, they couldn’t wait. Sarah said it was like meeting a celebrity when they met Ed.
What an honor it was to host Syd’s family and create that amazing opportunity for Ezra and Zella to see their grandfather perform on stage many times and be loved and cheered by the wonderful people that attend the Timpanogos Storytelling Festival.
I had arrived at my destination. It was a strange neighborhood, someone else’s home. I parked on the street, turned off the car and sat, listening…listening, smiling, crying, and laughing. My drive may have ended but The Old Man and Other Stories, a cassette tape of recorded stories by Syd Lieberman, hadn’t. I had no choice. Physically I was in my parked car, but mentally I was soaring in a world of hope, surprise, and second chances I didn’t want to leave. I had to hear the last two stories.
This was my introduction to Syd Lieberman; a storyteller extraordinaire, a man who knows life is full of hard knocks but also knows hope is what makes the world beautiful and that you keep hope alive by opening your heart.
Syd’s stories have heart. He can’t help it. It is who he is. He is filled with the wonder of life and its tender mercies. Whether telling Jewish folktales, stories of growing up and raising a family in Chicago, the processes of scientific exploration and discovery, or giving voice to individuals long gone, Syd finds and shares elements demonstrating mankind’s potential for rising above the norm even if it is for only a moment. These moments, like Syd’s stories, build on each other offering us a new and brighter perspective.
But this isn’t all. With enviable panache, Syd tells classic literary tales of the macabre. From Beowulf to Chaucer to Poe, Syd can make your goose bumps pop and your breath gasp. The aura he creates during these stories is so powerful it was no surprise one year when all the lights at Mt. Timpanogos Park shorted out at the climax of his story during the Festival’s Shivers in the Night program!
Syd’s ability to find and share the soul of a story and of showcasing the story rather than himself is why Johnstown, Pennsylvania, the Smithsonian, the National Air and Space Museum, NASA, and the Van Andel Museum each commissioned Syd to tell their stories. Syd, and his wife Adrienne’s collaboration in creating stories about the signing of the Declaration of Independence, the Civil War, and the Gettysburg Address led to their current assignment of creating stories for the US Capitol Visitors Center with Syd teaching their 180 docents and volunteers how to tell those stories.
With four Notable Children’s Recordings awards from the American Library Association, three Gold Awards from Storytelling World Magazine, two Gold Awards from Parents’ Choice, Chicago’s Golden Apple Award for excellence in teaching, and opportunities to teach and perform on stages from Disney World to the Kennedy Center, Syd is the perfect example that it is possible to grow up without losing the magical awe and humility present in childhood.
This summer, enjoy the stories of Syd Lieberman. It will strengthen your heart.
One reason we love story, whether telling or listening, is that story can send us into the past where we learn about where we came from and about how we arrived where we are today. And if we’re smart, we will let that knowledge guide us to where we want to be tomorrow. This year’s Timpanogos Storytelling Festival features three storytellers who will take us back to the annuls of history, teach us a little about how far we have come, and remind us that the bravery and courage that has brought us this far is still required.
Syd Lieberman, a long-time Festival favorite, returns once again and brings with him a special performance of his piece, “Abraham & Isaac: Sacrifice at Gettysburg.” Created by Syd and his wife Adrienne in honor of the bicentennial of President Abraham Lincoln’s birth and recounted this year in honor of the 150th anniversary of the Battle of Gettysburg, the piece is a recounting of the Battle of Gettysburg as seen through the eyes of Private Isaac Taylor. The performance culminates in the speech given by President Lincoln, called “Father Abraham” by the soldiers, to honor the sacrifice of those who fought on that hallowed ground—“my boys” as they were called by the President. Based largely on the detailed diary kept by Private Taylor, this piece will draw you through the horrors of war and its bloodiest battle with compassion, honor, and courage. The sweeping scope and beauty of this piece will be one of the true must-see hours of our Festival.
Additionally, we are thrilled to introduce two new faces to our Festival: Kim and Reggie Harris, a dynamic husband and wife team. Raised in Philadelphia, PA, Kim and Reggie were each introduced at a young age to diverse genres of music—from Classical to Rock to Jazz. After meeting in college, the two began to polish their talents first at local coffee houses and then in schools and concerts around the country. Now as widely acclaimed musicians and storytellers, they have developed a collection of stories and songs chronicling African-American history from the Underground Railroad through the Civil Rights Era. Drawing on historical figures, such as Harriet Tubman, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., and some lesser-known individuals, Kim and Reggie tell these stories and share songs with wit and infectious laughter as well as profound respect.
We look forward to sharing a tent with you at our Festival as we present these tellers of stories and songs recounting some of the history that dramatically formed and changed our country.
This post was originally published in the Utah Storytelling Guild’s newsletter Taleswapper (July 2013)