Storytellers bring community together at Winchester United Church

Storytellers, musicians and other organizers of the show. Zandbergen photo, Nation Valley News

Nelson Zandbergen
Nation Valley News

WINCHESTER — In their own voices, local storytellers held their community’s spellbound attention with poignant personal narratives steeped in the ambience of guitar and piano accompaniment on a Saturday night in North Dundas.

True Stories, An Evening of Life Stories and Live Music represented the first indoor public performance by the rural township’s arts community in 19 months.

Masked and checked for their vaccination status, an audience of more than 80 people occupied the pews in the warmly lit Winchester United Church, venue for the literary occasion organized by A Bunch of People Arts and Events.

With donated Dundas County Players’ theatre lighting shining down on the pulpit and dais from the choir loft, each writer took their turn at the microphone, and in one way or the other, bared their soul — or parts of it. Their personal vignettes and recollections delivered on topics raw, touching, amusing and filled with wonderment.

Amanda Million performs her story, “Memory.” Zandbergen photo, Nation Valley News

Regaling the crowd with her experience of once being mistaken for a person with a peg leg, Harmony Koiter came to an apropos conclusion about hidden identities: “I wonder, how many other mysteries do we all carry with respect to those around us? How many interesting things do people assume of us, when the truth may be so much more ordinary — or maybe, my leg is wooden, you haven’t actually seen it!”

The Chesterville resident’s words possibly summed up the theme of the evening as individual speakers delved into surprising tales about themselves: heart-warming and funny accounts of childhood events, a young man’s intriguing brush with Germany’s military draft; a coming to grips with schizophrenia; the stark loss of both a relationship and a life because of alcoholism; a reflection on a mother and dirty diapers; a beloved pet dog that dies and yet strangely reappears in the visage of a person speaking to her owner; a suicide survivor’s harrowing emergence from despair into gratitude.

Ten storytellers took part, their words punctuated by five musicians who played one by one. On guitar were Steve Wilmink of the Steve Gravel Band, Rick Ventrella (soon to drop his debut CD), Tony Glen and Rachelle Eves. Glen’s standout rendition of Kansas’ Dust in the Wind drew applause by itself.

Michael Trolly played piano, including the cleverly chosen Come Together as intro a fitting nod to the milestone happening after months of pandemic isolation — and Goodbye Yellow Brick Road as organizers bid adieu to everyone at night’s end.

“I was extremely happy. It turned out just the way I imagined it,” said Koiter, producer and co-director of the event with another storyteller, Marie-Therese Robinson. Proceeds raised went to House of Lazarus.

Also speaking that evening were Jed Looker, Patrick R. Burger, Gordon Owen, Daphne Evans, Sandra McNeill, Jo-Anne Barton, Paul Stockton and Amanda Million.

Chesterville’s Railroad Studios donated the audio equipment that kept their voices well amplified in the church sanctuary.

 

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