Storytelling event brings music, laughs for a good cause

  • Greenfield resident Rob Peck performs a juggling act during the 37th annual Solstice Storytelling and Songfest Celebration Saturday night at Temple Israel in Greenfield. STAFF PHOTO/CHRIS LARABEE

  • Greenfield resident Rob Peck performs a juggling act during the 37th annual Solstice Storytelling and Songfest Celebration Saturday night at Temple Israel in Greenfield. STAFF PHOTO/CHRIS LARABEE

  • In a sign of the pandemic times, performers in person at Temple Israel in Greenfield watch David Arfa tell a story remotely during the 37th annual Solstice Storytelling and Songfest Celebration. STAFF PHOTO/CHRIS LARABEE

  • The 37th annual Solstice Storytelling and Songfest Celebration returned to in-person performances Saturday night at Temple Israel in Greenfield. Performers and their families were welcomed in person while the show was livestreamed to audience members on Zoom, YouTube and Facebook. STAFF PHOTO/CHRIS LARABEE

  • Ashfield storyteller Rochelle Wildfong holds a prop horse while performing a one-woman rendition of a Mummer’s Play revolving around the seasons at Temple Israel in Greenfield on Saturday. STAFF PHOTO/CHRIS LARABEE

Staff Writer
Published: 1/9/2022 8:03:16 PM
Modified: 1/9/2022 8:02:24 PM

GREENFIELD — A snow cancellation pushing the annual Solstice Storytelling and Songfest Celebration past the actual winter solstice couldn’t dim the joy and laughs coming from the performers at Temple Israel Saturday night.

Despite the delay, the annual tradition, now in its 37th year, brought a wide variety of performers from around the region to host a charity benefit to raise money for the Food Bank of Western Massachusetts and to support two families of Afghan refugees living in Turners Falls.

As the world deals with the literal darkness of winter and the ever-hanging pall of the pandemic, the solstice celebration sought to bring some light with performances ranging from music and storytelling, all the way to juggling and poetry.

“It’s maybe emblematic of the indomitable nature of performances, but the show must go on,” said Greenfield resident Rob Peck, who put on a musical juggling performance. “Even in the face of a pandemic and a winter storm postponement, here we are, on Jan. 8, determinedly doing it.”

Peck said he’s performed in “close to half” of all the Solstice Storytelling and Songfest Celebration events and it’s always been a great opportunity to have some fun while raising money for great causes.

“It’s really been a heart-warming experience,” Peck said. “None of us earn a dime and we encourage people to be generous.”

After hosting last year’s event in a fully remote format, Colrain resident and one of the event’s organizers, Rebecca Tippens, said it was nice to be back in a hybrid format, with performers and their families present, while the audience watched via Zoom, YouTube or Facebook.

“We missed the camaraderie,” Tippens said. “You can do more together. … We’re able to, this year, to have a couple numbers, duets, quartets.”

Of the heartwarming nature of the event, Tippens said the goal is to shine a light in the darkness and to donate “every penny” to charity.

“That’s the best part,” she said. “There’s something in that giving, that brings warmth to the teller, not just the partaker.”

While there wasn’t a rigid, overarching theme of the event, many of the performances focused on the new year ahead, spreading hope and other joyous themes.

“We wish you all joy and cheer and hope to see you next year,” said Rochelle Wildfong, a storyteller from Ashfield, after her one-woman performance of a Mummer’s Play revolving around the change of the seasons.

While singing her own songs, Shelburne Falls musician Sarah Pirtle said she incorporated themes from national youth poet laureate Amanda Gorman’s poem read during President Joe Biden’s inauguration.

“Closing the divide, climbing up this hill,” Pirtle sang. “We’re building up a new world. Add your voice.”

Greenfield poet Jay Goldspinner chose to read “The Buddha’s Last Instruction” by American poet Mary Oliver. The poem uses the Buddha’s final words of “Make of yourself a light” in conjunction with the daily journey of the sun across the sky as a call to find value in everyday life. Reflecting on those themes, Goldspinner said she finds warmth in knowing that no matter how the day goes, the sun will rise the next morning all over again.

“Every day, I sit in my rocking chair and look out the window toward the West and I watch the sunset. It comforts me to know that every day, the sun comes up, goes across the sky and then goes down,” Goldspinner said before reading Mary Oliver’s poem. “No matter what.”

Tippens said donations are still being accepted and can be sent in two different ways. Donations can be made at templeisraelgreenfield.org/payments or checks made out to “Solstice Celebration” can be sent to Rebecca Tippens, 68 Van Nuys Road, Colrain, MA 01340. Tippens asks that those mailing donations let her know first by emailing storydancing@gmail.com.

Chris Larabee can be reached at clarabee@recorder.com or 413-930-4081.


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