Such Stories

Towyn Chapel Vestry in New Quay was the scene of an unusual entertainment recently when Peter Stevenson, author and storyteller, joined forces with Corelw musicians; Ceri Wyn Owen on harp and Elsa Davies on fiddle and voice. Between them they brought to life some of the legends, myths and magical tales connected with Ceredigion. Many of the stories, as is the way with all local tales, spring from and relate back to the universal tales of magic, of the ‘fairy folk’, or ‘tylwyth teg’ or ‘the little people’ depending on the tradition that relates to the area. These stories can be, and often are recounted over and over again, but the fact that they are recognisable does not diminish the enjoyment of hearing them. Plus there is almost always some detail that makes them different, one from another, depending on the location.
Peter Stevenson, worked the stories as though he was taking his audience through a maze in a surreal and colourful landscape; beginning with a simple tale of a woman who lived in Panteg Farm. The reality of the location, lulls the audience into easy belief, and when the appearance of the elderly fairy who wants the woman’s baby, is introduced, the audience are already in the land of ‘the willing suspension of disbelief’ and though the stories get stranger, the people and the places remain local, keeping everything on a credible level, and the audience continues to follow the story with interest. The audience in the Towyn vestry, were , in fact happily involved, and following the storyteller’s every word. The mix of fairy tale with genuinely eccentric historical local figures, and the stories which have attached to them throughout the years, created a magical feel.
For instance, the tales of old Siani who lived on the beach at Cei Bach, beneath the sea and the land, where she was able to live out her days without paying any rates to the council, and not a penny in rent because it was already an empty wreck when she moved in, is a story well-known to those who live in the area. Siani was a fortune-teller and a storyteller, and the life she had lived, as she told it to others, was a story so complex and full of exaggeration and illusion that it has become the stuff of legend and she has almost become a magic wisewoman in her own fairy tale. There was also material drawn from the archives ; words and music written in a school exercise book by Mair Evans, who lived near New Quay in the early part of the twentieth century, which gave material not only to the storyteller, but to Corelw, the musicians who took some of the songs, and adapted them for the occasion. Both harpist and fiddler showed considerable skill and sensitivity playing throughout the ninety minute performance. Giving backing to Peter’s voice as the storyteller, their accompaniment offered a gentle continuity, and periodically their voices came forward to sing one of the old songs in a delicate, melodic harmony. The music contributed considerably to the magical quality of an evening which had little in the way of advertising, yet attracted a surprisingly sizeable audience.

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