Professional Storyteller

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What is your favourite Celtic story?

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The Selkie stories are wonderful stories. There's a good example on the following site . It starts about half way down. In this story the Selkie returns to her husband and children but in many versions she doesn't.

Hi, Emma.  Went to the above mentioned site, but it is down.  Any other suggestions? Looking for silkie stories and am desperate for a pronunciation guide. So many of the Irish - Celtic - stories have names difficult to pronounce correctly and if I am going to tell some of them, well, I'd like to be as accurate as possible. Thanks in advance.  Your last posting inspired this one.

Peace and Grace, Denis

Hello Denis.  I find this one very useful You can translate from Scots to English and English to Scots.

Here are some other sites which may be useful:


If you have any other questions just get back to me.  Hope this was useful.  Will take the link off the site.  Thank you for letting me know.  All the best, Emma


One of the stories I dearly love is "The Fate of the Children of Lir". The story is about the transformation into Swans of the Children of the Celtic Sea God Lir, by an evil step-mother. They spend 300 years each at various locations, many of the Children of Dannen listen to the music of the Swans for the first 300 years, and during the next period they spend on the Sea of O'Moyle, which is a cold artic sea north of Ireland. It was written down by Irish monks, the same folks that drew all the illuminated knot work and handwritten uncial characters in the Book of Kells and others. It was preserved as a spiritual object lesson in which the monks added the scene as they died with Saint Parick blessing them now trasformed back into humans at the end of 900 years. My wife and I composed and recorded several pieces of music to the story. One I particularly like is "Silent O'Moyle" by Moore, is a ballad about their ordeal on the Sea of O'Moyle.

Another group of stories I love are the Mabinogian cycle from Wales. The Oldest brother, a giant named Bran, pulled the Welsh fleet of ships on halyards, by wading out into the Irish Sea and thus they invaded Ireland. What imagery! Or the Cauldren of rebirth that was used by the Irish King to resurect dead soldiers to defeat the Welsh.

The Irish book of Invasions is wonderful as well. The great battle between the Fomori (otherwise know as the powers of darkness) versus the Tuatha de Dannen (Fairy folk of the Goddess Dannen or forces of light.) How their great Champion defeated the evil eye of King Balor the Fomori King. It is the quintessencial battle between good and evil. At it's heart lies the reason the Irish people made such great and spiritual converts to christianity by combining the Solar cross of Lugh (Luke) the Sun God with the Cross of Christ. Thus the Celtic Cross as an emblem of Celtic spirituality.

Our home is filled with way to many books, we love them and can't seem to give any of them away to the local thrift store. Celtic people are by nature imaginative, creative and spiritual human beings and they seem comfortable with mixing all those elements into their stories.

I've recently discovered stories and mythology, music and dance of other countries and cultures and find them all to have their own incredible beauty and charm.

Dave Sharp
I would love to hear the music you have composed to the story, "The Fate of the Children of Lir". I really enjoyed reading your reply. It has inspired me to find out more about "Silent O'Moyle" by Moore.
Hi Emma

The song Moore wrote is an analogy for Irish independance using an ancient myth it has lovely words. My wife and I did a whole group of original and traditional material for a project with my sister's dance company, of "The Fate of the Children of Lir". My sister and two niece's composed all the dances and I did the sceanry painted on canvas and some on stand alone 1/4 plywood. My band came and played the music and my sister's friend that was a drama teacher came and narated the story. We had a great time. Every three of four years we do a Celtic theme story with dance and live music. The last one was called the "Birds of Rhiannon" with a child as the central character and the three birds of the Welsh Goddess Rhiannon as caracters in the Alice in Wonderland type of story. My wife wrote the story and composed much of the music with a children's theme or point of view. Our grandaughter danced in the play her name is Aspen, and the child central character in the story was Aspen played by an older girl. Aspen didn't realize at first that grandma wrote the story about her.

Dave Sharp
Hi Emma

You mentioned mortals being traped in the Fairy world as a topic of discussion for the Celtic Tales forum. My wife and I took a tid bit of historical information and wrote a story around it. In David Owen was to Wales what Turlough O'Carolan was to Ireland. He fell asleep next to a standing stone as the story goes and that is how he aquired his gift of composition. In Wales it was said that, "you either wake up a madman or a poet." He took his name from the White megalithic standing stone over the burial mound on his farm, called Y Garreg Owen or White Rock. Thus David of the White Rock. We worte our story around a harping contest and escape from the fairy world while he was asleep or dreaming. I took the idea from an old Turlough O'Carolan legend, but I've always loved stories like Alice in Wonderland and Rip Van Winkle as a child. I like the idea since it allows for a different set of rules from the mortal world you can have a bit of creative license with what goes on there.

Thanks for starting a great discussion group.

Dave Sharp
Do you have any CD recordings of your stories? I've had a look at your website but might have overlooked these.
Hi Emma

So far just "Glastonbury" has about half stories and the rest is music.

David of the White Rock
King Halvar's Cat
Tom the Tailor
The Lobster

We've been working on producing another CD called "The Glashan's Flute" with:
The Glashan's Flute
Donald and the Changeling
Donald and the Water Kelpie
The Silver Spear

We're hoping to have this one out by January 09, I've got most of it recorded and we're just wrapping up a couple of things.

The rest of the recordings are music, but "The Birds of Rhiannon" and "The Song of the Water Kelpie" (should appear on the website in a couple of days.) have stories in the liner notes.

Dave Sharp
Hello David, Thank you for that. I will try to get hold of 'Glastonbury' soon. i.e. Out of next month's salary. I like the look of "The Glashan's Flute". Are all the titles stories or are they stories with music? I'm pretty new to using music with stories. I have told stories and I have sang but I have never put the two together until very recently. I am also thinking of learning a simple musical instrument. I would like it to be medieval and celtic. Any suggestions?
Hi Emma

We used music in all of the stories. For many years we've been admirers of Patrick Ball a Celtic Harp player and storyteller. We felt it would be wonderful to tell stories with music like that, much like the sound track to the imagery the storytelling invokes. In the Celtic tradition the Harp players did a number of different tasks when they would stay with a Lord or a family by playing music to the household in front of the fire or in the great hall, as well as commerate their marrages, deeds, musical portraits, play for dances. They also told stories and punctuated their stories with the language of music, which I have always felt says things in an emotional way that words fall short of. Many world traditions play music with their storytellers and stories with their music the two things were inseperable in many cultures. Baba the storyteller is a member of Professional storyteller as well as Patrick Ball, he plays the Kora, an African Harp with a tradition much like the Irish Bards/Shanchie.

The Harp is a great instrument, it takes quite a bit of dedication. Also the penney whistle, flute, recorders, drum, Tambourine, Dulcimer, voice, are all great instruments to tell stories with. The Penny whistle would be my first choice, then the Bodhran or tambourine for other things. They are much easier to learn and have great possiblities.

I've got a blog in my archives I wrote for our local state storytelling guild's newsletter about the Bodhran and other instruments combined with storytelling. It's called "Soundscapes".

Hope that helps,

Dave Sharp
Hello David, I very much enjoy listening to the Celtic harp but I have not heard any storyteller use it to its full potential in storytelling. I'll follow up the info you have given me. I have just finished reading 'Thomas the Rhymer' by Ellen Kushner - a book inspired by the ancient Scottish ballad by the same name. In this medieval story Thomas makes his living by playing the harp and telling stories to the lords and ladies of the time. It's another story about a mortal being trapped in the Fairy world. I can see that the harp is not an instrument I can dedicate enough time to but I will try the penny whistle and Brodhran. These are instruments I have already been considering but have needed a little push to get going. I'll check out 'Soundscapes'. I haven't had a lot of time recently as it has been Fairy Tale week in the area where I live.




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