Bath Library brings Griot to Garth Newel and Schools

(Singing at beginning)

Students at all three Bath County Schools, and a group of adults had the pleasure of joining in with Dylan Pritchard, story teller and educator on Thursday, that evening, and Friday during the school day. He tells his stories in the tradition of a griot from West Africa who includes singing, some instruments, and praise or themes universal to all.

“Within this griotic tradition the griot asks a lot of questions. So I’m asking a lot of questions, and I’m not asking the questions to see if you’re right or wrong; it’s to see if you heard what was said, or how you interpreted what you heard.”

Dylan offered one very current example of a story being heard in all kinds of media these days, and how many different ways people take it in and respond.

“And all I’m trying to say is, storytelling is the art of listening, and if you really listen to what people say, then you can understand how if you miss one word it can be misinterpreted.”

On Thursday evening Dylan’s stories included one from his own childhood that took listeners to a little settlement of Lucktown, and right into his grandmother’s home. Another more timeless tale used several traditional elements including repetition, and call and response, or audience participation.

“The next day the boy heard another beautiful song, and there on the same limb sat the same bird, singing another beautiful song. And the boy he, admired it, but he noticed the bird was hungry, so he held out his hand. The bird jumped into his palm. He placed him into his pocket, and took him home to feed him. And when the father came home, the father asked, ‘Why are you feeding this senseless bird?’ But the boy was persuasive, so he fed bird, and he let Bird go.”

Even after the story took a less joyful turn, Dylan’s line of questions led listeners to a variety of understandings, and possibly new ways of looking at things not considered before.

“ Mmmm. Why was the boy feeding the bird? Because he was hungry. And he knew that if that bird wasn’t fed because he was hungry, that the music would stop. So, even when you laugh, we gotta feed those things that we love; those things that we admire, we gotta feed them.

Throughout the whole performance laughter alternated with silent almost breathless listening. One happy ending is the generosity of the Friends of the Library, the partnership with Garth Newel Music Center, and the rapt listeners from school age through grandparents will likely make a repeat performance almost guaranteed.

“I want to thank you for the invitation. Thanks to friends of the Library; thanks to Ronda; thanks to those who work in the library, those who support the library, and the community at large. This is a neat place. I do a lot of programs, go a lot of places, see a lot of people. This is a unique and neat place.



Story By

Bonnie Ralston

Bonnie Ralston is the Assistant Station Coordinator at WVLS and a Highland County news reporter. She began volunteering at Allegheny Mountain Radio in the fall of 2005. In 2006 she became an AMR employee and worked in Bath County for eight years as the WCHG Station Coordinator and then as the news reporter there. She began working in radio while in college and has stayed connected to radio, in one way or another, for more than thirty years. She grew up in Staunton, Virginia, while spending a lot of time on her family’s farm in Deerfield, Virginia. She enjoys spending time outside, watching old TV shows and movies and tending to her chickens.

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