Storytelling Not Forgotten at Kingston's Hooley Fest
By Jeremiah Horrigan
Originally published on September 3, 2012, Times Herald-Record, Middletown, NY
KINGSTON — The hot summer air was filled with the sounds of fifes and drums and pipes and pennywhistles, as thousands have come to expect at Kingston's annual Hooley on the Hudson.
But there, under an open-sided white tent in an almost-quiet corner of the festival of all things Irish, Karen Pillsworth played a tune older than the oldest song.
A grand Irish tradition
Pillsworth told stories. She and three other "tellers" were there in The Spoken Word tent to remind their listeners not only of a grand Irish tradition but of an essential human one.
It was a place of respite for wanderers and their children, some of whom had grown a bit weary of the blarney — not to mention the indigestion — that over-exposure to sun, deep-fried Oreos and Guinness can induce.
Leprechauns drop in
Pillsworth, a teacher at George Washington Montessori School, regaled a standing-room-only crowd with tales of leprechauns, witches, silver slippers and a poor wife whom even Death couldn't rescue from a mean and persistent husband. It wasn't just Old School storytelling — it was Ancient School storytelling.
Similarly, fellow teller Jim Hawkins told his stories as a bard from any culture might once have done, by enacting, vocally and physically, the characters who populated his stories — characters like the mischievous boyos Joe and Billy, Johnny the village drunkard and of course the nemesis of all such men, the PP — the Parish Priest.
Pass those stories along
Pillsworth at one point urged the crowd to tell their own stories among themselves, "the family stories that are not written down."
Later, she said a bit more about the importance of stories and why she's a teller of them:
"It's important because a lot of history has been lost over the years. If it's not in books, it gets lost. Even with all the technology we have, we're still losing so much if we don't share stories."