Tim Jennings and Leanne Ponder tell traditional folk tales in overlapping, intertwining voices-- a kind of narrative counterpoint. Between the stories, they play traditional Celtic music on harp and concertina.
This CD received an ALA "Notable Children's Recording" award for age 12 and up, but it is for anybody who likes to hear folk tales "told right." Recorded in "The Upstairs Cafe" in front of an appreciative audience of mostly college students, the stories are compellingly hearable. Tim and Leanne are masters of commanding attention, and are by turns as funny, horrifying, exciting and mystical as any story-- or story-listener-- could require.
In today's hectic world of computers, traffic jams, etc, it is a pleasure to find ancient story telling traditions still alive. Tim Jennings and Leanne Ponder know well the skill to fascinate their audiences with traditional folk tales; and this works not only live, but also on CD.
On this album, the America-based duo tells three tales - 'The White Bear' with Norwegian and Appalachian origins, 'The Juniper Tree' from Germany, collected by the Grimms, and 'The Toe Bone'. Completing the album is a short instrumental on Concertina and Harp - and these instruments are also used during the tales, to get even more atmosphere into the stories.
This is very much a duo story telling album, with exciting arrangements. With this album, you can enter another world where time does not matter - if you don't believe that story telling can be absolutely fascinating, try this duo - they are brilliant!
--FolkWorld Magazine, Germany.
EDITOR'S CHOICE On a live recording, storytellers Tim Jennings and Leanne Ponder perform for a small audience in a setting that suits their tales and music. Reworked from Norse, Italian, and Appalachian sources, "The White Bear" tells of a changeling husband. A second story (also with an interwoven song) is the Grimms' rarely told, murderous and magical "Juniper Tree." Finally, "The Toe Bone" recalls the previous story's gore, but with a lighter tone. Jennings and Ponder's phrases, even single words, trade off, overlap, and converge to create many characters, ranging from scary to hilarious. The natural-sounding banter belies a polished sense of timing. The storytellers also play the Irish harp and concertina beautifully. Involvement of the audience is almost palpable on this recording, making it a first purchase for schools and public libraries.
ALA 1999 NOTABLE CHILDREN'S RECORDING "Important, distinguished, outstanding, and encourages children's interest in exemplary ways." American Library Association
THIS IS NOT SO MUCH A REVIEW AS A CELEBRATION of Tim Jennings and Leanne Ponder's World Tales Live at Bennington College.
My daughter Alice and I have listened to this CD twice. By the second time, Alice had her routine all set. She brought two blankets, her sock monkey and a pillow. I provided the green grapes.
The first story is called "The White Bear." Leanne and Tim have woven together Norwegian, Appalachian, Italian, and original material in a tale that includes motifs from "Beauty and the Beast" and "Eros and Psyche." Tim and Leanne tell in tandem. Their voices overlap, intertwine, and create dialogue as we learn about a young woman who comes to love a being that is a bear by day and a man by night. They way they do it sounds natural and relaxed, but this kind of work is incredibly difficult to pull off.
"The Juniper Tree," from the Brothers Grimm, is the second story. There are variations of this tale all over the world. "The Juniper Tree" is about a stepmother who kills and eats her stepson. Sounds horrible doesn't it? And yet, "The Juniper Tree" is a beautiful, poignant story. The telling transcends the content. Alice says it is her favorite, and quickly learned the song that runs hauntingly through the second half of it.
"Toe Bone," from India, is the last and strangest of the stories. A tiger eats a boy, but the boy comes back to life. It is a comforting tale, with an alien logic all its own; a nice way to end the CD.
As I listened to Leanne and Tim I switched between pleasure in the stories and admiration for their technique. Tim and Leanne made a wise choice when they decided to record in front of a live audience. One of the great joys of traditional storytelling is the interplay between tellers and listeners. Tim and Leanne respond to what the audience finds funny or moving and make small improvisations as they go along.
I really appreciated the honesty of this CD. These stories are free from pretention and preciousness. There is no direct appeal to ancient lore, new age theory, or earth goddesses. The magic comes from the stories themselves, without strain.
I know that good quotes are useful for publicity, so here are some they can use: "A triumph of tandum telling!" "Home-grown transcendence!" "Go out and buy lots of CDs and give them to your friends!"
--Vermont Times, Burlington
THIS IS THE BEST TANDEM STORYTELLING THAT I HAVE EVER HEARD. The tellers share the narration back and forth, then speak together, then talk over each other and always the timing is impeccable. I laughed out loud with the live audience in the first story, felt the chill of horror in the second story, was calmed by the third, and tapped my foot to the concertina and harp music in between stories.
--2nd Story Review, Ontario
Storytelling is somewhat of a lost art. The value of the story is too often lost or obscured , especially in this era of high tech attention grabbing multimillion dollar special effects. If only Titanic had dialog to match the effects.
Jennings and Ponder go the opposite route. You will find no distracting, diluting gimmics in their wonderful storytelling.
For generations, oral tradition was the primary method used to convey information down the generations. The art of storytelling was held in high esteem, and the storyteller played a respected role in society. Tim Jennings and Leanne Ponder have created their own refreshing style of the ancient art form.
This CD is a collection of three traditional tales told by the two performers. The first story, The White Bear, has Norse and Appalachian roots, with a mixture of other elements. It is a tale of love and magic. The second, The Juniper Tree, is one of the most widespread stories in the world, and takes its title from the song that runs through the story. It contains the classiv fairy tale elements of magic, the apple, and the wicked stepmother, and is described by master web weaver JRR Tolkein as "at tale of beauty and horror." The third, The Toe Bone, is an Indian story, which, while related to The Juniper Tree, has a distinctly different style of thought from that story, and a different ending from most tales.
Jennings and Ponder are excellent storytellers. They are both traditional and current at the same time, helping the art form to evolve and survive.
They use vocal loops or rounds, overlapping voices, intonation, harmonizing and vocal volleying to effectively create emotion and atmosphere. The tales fly by smoothly, reminding me of happy childhood days, being read to by my mother.
If there is one thematic element to their stories, it would have to be the mysterious circularity of Karma, which reminds me not to lose track of mine, so that people I know "always go away well... always go away happy." (The Toe Bone)
-- Vermont Review, Manchester VT