Music and stories come alive at DVC



Talking animals, shape-shifting snakes, Malaysian pirates, knights, a woman born from a melon, and a dragon appeared onstage Feb. 18 in the Performing Arts Center.

But the building did not burn down from such a gathering, since these peoples and creatures came from the mouths of guest storytellers Charlie Chin, Patrick Ball, and Carlos Baron.

Despite starting later than planned, anthropology professor Steve Johnson welcomed the audience with a brief lecture on traditional storytelling, the earliest form of entertainment and education.

“Stories penetrate your subconscious,” Johnson said. “They enrich our lives and let us glimpse the world through someone else’s eyes.”
The role of music in stories was featured more than in previous storytelling festivals.

“Music can change the consciousness of the audience,” Johnson said before playing an ocarina, which was a replica of a 4,500 year-old instrument found in Mexico and shaped like a woman with three eyes and three mouths. It filled the air of the modern theater with an ancient, meditative melody.

Johnson also played “Roadhouse Blues” by The Doors and “Lodi” by Creedence Clearwater Revival on an African guitar, encouraging the audience to sing and clap along.

Chin began the first story of the event by playing a traditional Chinese banjo to create the mood of ancient China.

 His story was in the traditional Chinese storytelling form, wherein the teller begins a tale with characters who also tell a tale within a tale. These stories, although seeming unrelated, eventually come together in the end by returning to the first tale with an overlying moral.

In his performance Chin used a fan as a prop and visual aid, representing everything from a boat to a bottle of wine.

Ball, the next performer, played a brass, stringed Celtic harp while telling the medieval tale of Tristan and Isolde, a story of romance and chivalry.

Much like Chin’s banjo, the crystalline melody of the harp transported listeners to another place and time. From the back rows, the strings of the harp were nearly invisible, making Ball’s hands seem to conjure the music out of thin air.

Baron, a professor of theater arts from San Francisco State, did not tell one story, but several varying in length and subjects ranging from Latin American folklore to personal experiences living under a military dictatorship.

The Ethnic Storytelling and Musicology Festival concluded with a night performance featuring musical groups Andrew Carriere and the Cajun All Stars, The Frank Samuels Band, and The Spirit Roots Ensemble.


Contact David Matteri at [email protected]