November 16, 2018

BY JOSH PEDERSON
While listening to a captivating story, whether it be a fictitious old wives’ tale from grandma or remembering that hysterical Dr. Seuss book that was read to us before bedtime, our imaginations propel us into the universe of what we’re hearing, taking us on an entertaining extravaganza.


To truly dazzle a listener, one must project oneself in such a way that not only grabs a person’s attention, but gives him a sense of presence, as if he is in the same realm as the stories’ characters.
This art form is not an easy one to master.

There is a group that has members who are polishing this ancient craft and attracting people from all over to their engaging, riveting performances.

If you’re from Guelph, you will know the name Robert Munsch. A beloved author, he gave the world some of the most classic and iconic children’s books, such as Mortimer, Purple Green and Yellow and Aaron’s Hair.

“It was Munsch who helped found the Guelph Guild of Storytellers,” said Bryan Holstein, a member.

They are a small clan of excellent storytellers who have all rightly earned their place. Although Munsch moved on to further his writing career, the guild remained and so does their work of encouraging and promoting storytelling.

The group has five main storytellers – Beve Matson, Bryan Holstein, Jenny Higgins, Michael “Rusty” Dougherty and Sya Van Gheest. All are unique in their approach to storytelling, yet all are able to capture their audience in an entertaining fashion.

Their latest meeting was held at the Guelph Civic Museum last month and included bewildering tales on the theme of Christmas.

To give a sense of just how capturing the members of the guild are, one tale told by Dougherty described a real-life Christmas Day during the height of the Second World War at No Man’s Land in France.

The story was about how sporadic kindness ruled that day, when allied forces and German foes laid down their arms for one night and instead, sang Christmas carols, exchanged gifts and even played a game of soccer.

The sensation in the room was bone chilling for a few minutes, as Dougherty had listeners immersed into the minds of the soldiers who, for one moment, got to leave the whizzing of bullets and the whirl of mortar fire behind.

“It’s like sitting on grandma’s knee,” said Tim MacDonell, a frequent attendee.

After the storytelling there were scrumptious baked gingerbread cookies and succulent warm apple cider for guests to enjoy.

The storytelling sessions are free, however, donations are appreciated. Proceeds from the night were matched by the guild and donated to Sister Christines, a Guelph walk-in-centre which helps impoverished members of the community, by providing clothes, food and guidance.

If you wish to become an avid storyteller and try this memorable craft, the guild offers free, open-mic nights on the first Wednesday of every month.

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