With this newsletter we dip into a whole different field where storytelling, singing and the arts step out of the class room and help people from different cultural backgrounds and religions to meet, share, sometimes heal and experience themselves as greater than just themselves. Ashley, Roi and Dvora will lead you into 3 different worlds.
I wish you an interesting reading and new inspiration!
With warm wishes,
WHERE TWO WORLDS TOUCH ~ World Premiere at the Salisbury International Arts Festival May 21st 2011
by Ashley Ramsden
Where Two Worlds Touch in full song with Whirling Dervish Ziya Azazi throwing caution to the winds
This May my love affair with the stories and poetry of the great Sufi teacher Jelaluddin Rumi bore some surprising fruit. For many years I have wanted to bring together two friends, both remarkable composers in their own right: Helen Chadwick, whose work has been featured all over the world, most recently in her work ‘Dalston Songs’ featured at the Royal Opera House and Howard Moody who regularly conducts leading orchestras in the country. It was a joyous occasion when they called me two years ago with the news that they had finally met in Salisbury Cathedral, where Howard trained as a chorister, and that Maria the festival director was so excited about the two of them working together that she was prepared to commission a new work to open their 2011 festival.
The question was, ‘What should we take as a theme?’ My first thought was Rumi, as Helen had set a number of his poems to music and we had already collaborated together on a CD of his work.
Imagine my delight then when I discovered that Salisbury Cathedral was being built at the same time that Rumi was alive! A plan soon began to take shape. Why not use this as an opportunity to bring together a meeting of East and West, of Christianity and Islam?
Festival patrons and sponsors were immediately swept up with the idea. As the programme notes were later to describe “While Salisbury Cathedral was being built another cathedral of sacred poetry was being erected to the East: a cathedral of sacred poetry. It was pouring through a great teacher in the Islamic world, JelaIuddin Rumi (1207-1273). At Rumi’s funeral, the representatives of all the great world religions were present reading from the Koran, the Gospels, the Pentateuch and the Zenda-vesta. The event, which we titled, WHERE TWO WORLDS TOUCH would celebrate the spirit of these two cathedrals in poetry, story and song with newly composed works from Helen and Howard, featuring brass, percussion and over 200 voices singing sacred texts. As the months rolled by I also saw the need to balance the programme with other voices, particularly women. This led us to include the words of Teresa of Avila, Catherine of Sienna, Lalla, and Hildegard of Bingen.
As the storyteller ‘in residence’ on the night they chose to put me in the gallery above the choir where I emerged from behind a pillar to open the concert with the words “I called through your door/ The mystics are gathering/ Come out, come out!/ You answered “Leave me alone, I’m sick”/ I don’t care if you’re dead, / Jesus is out there and he wants to resurrect somebody! “
As you will read in one of the reviews, we were fortunate enough to find an astonishing dancer, Ziya Azazi, out Rumi’s whirling tradition who also was part of the event and lifted it to still greater heights. Both shows had the audience of 1400 strong on their feet at the finale and four star reviews from three leading newspapers.
As storytellers we will always walk in two worlds. This was a magnificent celebration of the spirit of our work Below is also the link to the financial times review
St Ethelburga’s Centre for Reconciliation and Peace
by Roi Gal-Or
On the 6th of June I had the opportunity to experience one of the most extraordinary moments of my journey as a storyteller. I was invited to tell a 3-minute story on the theme of embracing diversity at the opening of a special service dedicated to reconciliation and peace at St Paul’s Cathedral in London.
It felt like a wild and exciting dream, to be speaking in front of around one thousand guests and visitors in this beautiful sacred space. It was also a magical experience for me to hear Naamah, my wife and our singing teacher on the storytelling courses, lead the whole audience in the cathedral in song as part of the event.
The service celebrated the work of peace making and of people reaching out across difference and divisions to build relationship with others, in particular the work of St Ethelburga’s Centre for Reconciliation and Peace where I am a contributor to the development of storytelling work.
After surviving the great fire of London (1666) and the Blitz (1941-3), St Ethelburga’s church was devastated by a massive IRA bomb on April 24 1993. With a strong support from the Bishop of London (who gave an inspiring address at the service), St Ethelburga’s church has been rebuilt in a new form and is now used as a space to serve promoting understanding of the relationship between faith and conflict as well as celebrate religious diversity and peace through the arts.
The centre has recently published a narrative-resource which may be of interest to you storytellers. It presents a wide range of tools and methods which use personal narrative as well as traditional story to help build community. There are over twenty tried and tested methods, each with case studies, points to consider and follow up resources. My work with Autobiographical Storytelling is one of the study cases presented in this resource. You can find an online version of it here: www.stethelburgas.org/narrative-resource
Here is the story I told at St Paul’s :
Once upon a time, on a dark and cold winter night , a great spiritual master was sitting together with his disciples around a long table. They had finished eating and praying together, singing and telling stories, when the master looking out- side through the dark window, asked his disciples:
“Tell me, when will this dark night come to an end?”
One of the disciples answered: “Clearly master, it will be when we’ll see the morning star in the east just before sunrise.”
“No...no,” said the master.
Another disciple suggested: “Is it when we see the sky changing it’s colour or when we first see the sun rising above the horizon?” The master shook his head.
“I know!” called one of the younger disciples. “The night ends when there is enough light for me to see the lines on the palm of my hand.”
“Not quite...” laughed the master. “Then please, master, give us your answer!” they all pleaded. The wise man looked at them for a long moment in silence and then spoke:
“When the day will come, and we will all look at our neighbours, at our enemies and friends, and recognise each one of their faces as a reflection of our own, only then we shall know for sure that the long and dark night we all live in has come to an end.”
“We were prisoners of the siege but we were not prisoners spiritually. We fought with culture against barbarism. We cherished the people...who risked their lives to reach our city to give us the gift of music, art and words. If everybody did what is in their power to make peace happen... numerous small individual actions would create a never ending solid chain of peace.”
This is an excerpt from Farida Musanovic’s speech when she received the Dayton Peace Prize for her activism during the siege of Sarajevo between 1992-1995.
Farida Musanovic holding her Dayton Peace Prize award.
In May this year, I went to Sarajevo, to make a documentary film about Farda Musanovic and her experiences during the Bosnian war and its aftermath. Farida told me many stories of genocide, atrocity and human depravity. She also told me many stories of extraordinary bravery, beauty and resilience. During the siege of Sarajevo Farida was principal of the High School Music Academy, which became known as the War School. Farida and her students risked snipers shooting at them on the way to and from school every day. Most schools closed down during the War, but Farida said she was determined that her students wouldn’t miss out on their education because of the War. Continuing to run the school and to teach piano was her way of fighting the War, her resistance.
Even in wintertime, when it was 20 degrees below zero, and their pens wouldn’t write because the ink had frozen, and the windows were smashed and there were holes in the walls from the shells, Farida and her students did their lessons in their coats, jumpers, shawls and hats. They cut the tips off their gloves so they could still play the pianos, the violins and the cellos.
Farida organised music concerts for her students. The concerts gave them a goal to focus on and work towards. Farida said they couldn’t watch TV or use computers because there was no electricity. They couldn’t go outside because of the snipers. Music helped to sustain them and bring them together. Farida taught her students to express their feelings through the music. The preservation and expression of their feeling and spirit was what mattered most to her.
Through meeting Farida and bearing witness to her stories about the worst and best of humanity, I have come to deeply understand that we are all part of a great universal story of suffering and healing.
Dvora was a student on the Now of Storytelling in 2001. She works now as a storyteller, performer and filmmaker.
Sue Hollingsworth will be in Cape Town during the later part of October 2011 should you wish to have a conversation with her about possibly joining The Storyteller in Community, starting on 21 January. She will run a weekend course for beginners at Erin Hall in Rondebosch on Oct 22nd and 23rd and will also be performing there on Friday Oct 14th and 21st. You will be able to book for the workshop from September 1st by calling 0027 736 054070.
Under the guidance of Jim Pirrie, SkillWorks Ltd, we have re-developed our website to allow you to book courses online and pay through paypal. We hope that this will be easier for you, but as always - do email me or ring if you have got any queries.
Thank you Jim for all your hard work and technical knowledge!
Lee from yellowfish design is another of our very important invisible helpers. She is the artistic creator of our original website design and all our publicity material - business cards, leaflets, print newsletters and lots and lots of beautiful posters. Thank you Lee!