“There was once a time, and a very good time it was too, when the streets were paved with penny loaves, the houses were built with bars of butter and little birds made their nests in old men’s beards, and in that time…”
—an Irish piper and storyteller
There was once a time when the telling of traditional tales touched nearly every child’s life, a time when the tales spoke of things that touched nearly every child’s heart. These tales kindled their imaginations and taught them the pleasures of listening. They gave them a sense of place, of belonging, and taught them many of life’s lessons. They inspired the children to tell these tales themselves and to experience firsthand the power and beauty of the spoken word. These tales gave them joy.
Now these tales and their proper telling have been all but forgotten, and children have suffered the loss of them. For storybooks may hold the old tales, but rarely are they rendered with the music of the traditional speech, and never can they come alive and sing as when they are spoken from one heart to another.
Patrick Ball encountered such storytelling first and most memorably in the West of Ireland, and then later in the hollows of the Southern Appalachian mountains.The stories he heard there were fiery and tender, funny and filled with wild flights of the imagination. The tellers spoke them with a rhythmic charm and a poetry of phrase that was striking and beautiful and a feast for the mind of a child.
Patrick lived in these lands, listened and became a part of the cultural life in which these tales unfold. These stories that were passed down for generations were passed down to him. As a result he tells them with a full measure of authenticity and he presents a vibrant picture of the character and folk beliefs of the Irish and Appalachian peoples.
As an accompaniment to these tales Patrick plays the Celtic harp and offers the children an introduction to this rare, legendary instrument, its music, its playing technique and its place in Irish culture and folklore.