36th annual Solstice Storytelling and Songfest Celebration to be held over Zoom, YouTube





  • PECK



Staff Writer
Published: 12/21/2020 8:55:37 AM

Rebecca Tippens, of Colrain, hopes to “bring the light at this time of year,” as has been tradition for 36 years now, with a modified, online version of the annual Solstice Storytelling and Songfest Celebration. Under normal circumstances, it’s held annually in Shelburne Falls.

Tippens, one of the event’s organizers, said the performances will be streamed via Zoom and YouTube on Monday, Dec. 21, the day of the winter solstice, from 7 to 8:30 p.m. While the event is free to watch, organizers are asking viewers to make a donation to the Food Bank of Western Massachusetts.

The celebration will consist of stories read and performed by a dozen individuals. Tippens said the program will include legends from Indigenous traditions, self-scripted stories and poems; music on harmonica, cello and dulcimer; Yiddish songs; and a juggling performance.

An opening ritual will include a lighting of candles and words on how Tippens and the performers are each holding on to the light in dark times. They encourage viewers to light their own candles and join in considering how they carry the light themselves.

Through the performances, the group aims to warm hearts, garner a laugh and maybe roll a tear or two, Tippens said. A core group of the performers have been a part of the annual Solstice Storytelling and Songfest Celebration since it was founded, and others have come and gone over the years.

“Jay Goldspinner ... is the elder of our collective of tellers,” Tippens said. “She is still actively sharing not only stories but her artwork, with a recent exhibit at The LAVA Center in Greenfield.”

Also among this year’s performers is Rob Peck, a storyteller and juggler, and Rochelle Wildfong, a children’s librarian and poet. Another performer is Yosl Kurland, a teacher of Yiddish and an original participant in the nationally performing Wholesale Klezmer Band.

Christy Grecsek normally attends as an audience member, Tippens said, but was invited as a guest artist this year to share her story, “Letters From Home, 1776.” This original story is told in the form of three letters written from a wilderness settlement during the American Revolution, and celebrates the tradition of telling mysterious or supernatural stories during the holidays.

“There’s always room for magic when we gather to share stories,” Tippens said.

Michael Evans will share vignettes from his published books, including oral histories and poems. Evans started telling stories as part of the Solstice Storytelling and Songfest Celebration nearly three decades ago, after he and his wife attended a storytelling concert on Valentine’s Day called “Stories of Love.” He works at Southern New Hampshire University, but “cherishes the solstice events as a chance to make some magic with some very dear friends,” Tippens said.

Tim Van Egmond is a folk singer and storyteller who has crafted his own dulcimers, a fretted string instrument. He is also a member of the band Swallowtail, which has appeared on National Public Radio’s “A Prairie Home Companion” and at the Smithsonian’s National Museum of American History. Egmond has recorded three albums with the band, and played on recordings by other artists as well.

Other performers include storytelling musician Sarah Pirtle, an ordained interfaith minister at the Cummington Village Church, and Rona Leventhal, a storyteller, teacher, movement specialist, actor and playwright.

Tippens, who will serve as the emcee for the Solstice Storytelling and Songfest Celebration, is a storyteller and actor in her own right. She was recently in the short award-winning film “Hank,” and works as a public arts organizer, having helped to orchestrate the Greenfield Veterans Mall mural. She is also a cultural exchange and events producer at the Roundhouse in Colrain, which she worked to design.

In past years, an intermission in the show allowed members of the audience to mingle with each other and the performers. While everyone will be watching this year’s performance apart, Tippens said they will still have a brief intermission.

“We’ll take a five-minute break and they can get up and make themselves a cup of hot chocolate, or add another marshmallow,” Tippens said.

The celebration is usually held at the Shelburne-Buckland Community Center. While it doesn’t have the same feeling as performing to a live, in-person audience, Tippens noted a couple benefits to performing over Zoom. Most of the performances will be live on Monday, but some performances have been recorded ahead of time, and will be spliced into the livestream.

Additionally, people can tune in and enjoy the show from around the globe. Tippens noted her two sons would attend the shows when they were little, but now they live in California and Connecticut. This year, they’ll be able to watch with young children of their own.

Those who are interested in watching the performances must register ahead of time to be sent the Zoom link on the day of the performance. Register at bit.ly/3oS52hO.

Zack DeLuca can be reached at zdeluca@recorder.com or 413-930-4579.

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