Music and story
Storytelling can educate and bring diverse people together, but at root it is great entertainment – possibly its oldest form.
Helen and Rick have developed a very personal and informal style that transports the listener from the everyday world to those of the unseen and the impossible, drawing in comment and reaction throughout the journey. Together they effect a subtle interplay of words, rhythm, movement and music. Drums pace the narrative, melody instruments deepen the atmosphere, and song winds in and out of both.
You can hear a taster of us in performance in Wales here
“A story is like water that you heat for your bath. It takes messages between the fire and your skin. It lets them meet, and it cleans you! Very few can sit down in the middle of the fire itself like a salamander or Abraham. We need intermediaries.” Rumi
Whether it is Helen working solo or both Helen and Rick performing together, programmes are always devised for their specific occasion. Sometimes there is a common theme, for example: Betrayals of Trust, Unrequited Love, The Devil, Women every which Way, Winter Seeds, and The Hidden Folk…
In 2018 we created a new show entitled ‘Of Sea and Shore and the Worlds in Between’. This had its debut at the Roundhouse in the Felin Uchaf Centre at Rhoshirwaun, Pwlheli. The story material is largely drawn from these islands but with other narratives from far and wide.
We perform for the general public as well as for specific audiences such as teachers’ groups and educational conferences. Sessions last from 1 to 1 ½ hours. An ideal audience size would only be limited by the projection of an unamplified voice.
“mythmaking…may even be one of the greatest of arts… it is in some ways more akin to music.. it goes beyond the expression of things we have already felt…arouses in us sensations…as though we had broken out of our normal mode of consciousness…It gets under our skin, hits us at a level deeper than our thoughts ” CS Lewis
Our programmes take account of the mixed age ranges that attend public performances and try to give something special to everyone. Drawing on a very wide store of tales from all over the world, our programmes often feature many animal stories.
Sessions are liberally spiced with music, are great fun and highly participative. Depending on the performance space, 80 – 100 is an optimum audience size.
“I am very sure everyone enjoyed you.” (Child, Barbican Arts Centre)
“You were the best day ever.”(School pupil)
These sessions combine all the elements of adult and children’s performances, allowing subtle shifts of emphasis between the two. Here, children particularly can feel a sense of security which can sometimes allow the unfolding of stories and ideas usually directed towards older age groups. Such sessions have been particularly successful at both large festivals, such as The Big Chill and Solfest, and in more formal settings such as museums and public buildings.
“I wasn’t going to stay, but I was as riveted as the children -maybe more so” (Grandparent, Science Museum.)
TV /RADIO/ THEATRE
Helen has been a featured storyteller on BBC’s’ Zig-Zag’ and ‘By Word of Mouth’, and on Granada and cableTV. She also wrote all the 17 stories for the World Service series ‘Everyday Science’ and has been a guest on Talk Radio speaking about Easter Customs, BBC Radio London on folktales of London, BBC Radio Shropshire, talking about folklore and cattle cures, BBC Radio Cambridgeshire talking about truth and story, and many local radio stations.
Apart from many radio interviews throughout Europe whilst touring as a rock musician, Rick composed, performed and recorded original music for the Radio 4 play ‘White Horse Hill’ and has also presented ‘Record of the Week’ for the World Service.
Helen’s picture book ‘Dora the Storer’ was adapted for the stage and performed at the Unicorn Theatre in 2013, with Hannah Boyd in the title role. In the words of one reviewer: ‘Dora is a genuinely sweet play that combines plenty of laughter with a surprising ending that will delight any child.’ More reviews and photos here.
Both Helen and Rick have devised and performed in a variety of presentations – using story, music, shadow play, and dance in ‘One Helluva Day’ (a Millenium Commission project in Shropshire), ‘A Giant Party’ (London), ‘Under Standing Stones’ (Garden Festival Wales), ‘The Poothan’ (London), ‘ Journey of Tales’ (Tyneside), ‘The Ramayana’ (Shropshire) and ‘The Trodden Path’ (Surrey). Rick was both musical director and musician for the Unicorn Theatre’s ‘Rama and Sita Path of Flames’.
Helen also created a Story, Food and Taste installation in Battersea Park in collaboration with the Apples and Snakes poetry organisation.
Helen has undertaken many different projects in this area including work at historic sites for the National Trust, Halloween events in woods and forests and a narrative interpretation for the Toledo exhibition at the Whitechapel Gallery. She has told stories from her book ‘London Folktales’ in their original locations and told Islington stories in situ as part of the borough’s ‘Festival of the Word’. She specialises in rural and urban storywalks where stories unfold in their original settings.
Rick has worked with Glydebourne Opera Education on the ‘Walking the Downs’ project which culminated in a large scale community presentation at Newhaven Fort. As part of Red Earth’s ‘Enclosure’, he was a featured musician in a vast fire and ritual piece at Hambledon Hill Iron Age fort in Dorset. He also played solo on a small boat amongst a fire and light spectacular as part of the River Severn project. His created the installation ‘3 Amazonian Stories’ for Mythstories Museum, Shropshire to be set amongst appropriate flora and fauna. He was both sound designer and performer for Theatre Rites’ other worldly ‘Finders Keepers’ and was the solo musician within the large maze of books at Shrewsbury’s Remembrance Park Installation, devised by Wren Miller and Ray Jacobs.