A Discussion Group of the National Storytelling Network

Story Circles
Children at the Well

Winter Lights, Albany, NY Jan. 22, 2006

Interfaith Story Circle Holds 5th Annual Live Performance

By Rich Azzopardi, Gazette Reporter
First published: Monday, January 23, 2006, The Gazette, Schenectady, NY

Lights seen through the prism of religions and cultures the world over took center stage Sunday during the annual public performance by the Interfaith Story Circle of the Tri-City Area.

The storytellers, without notes or cards, spun their tales, transfixing the crowd of 75 gathered at St. Vincent DePaul Church.

One of the more moving tales came from Kate Dudding of Clifton Park, who told a World War I era story of a Christmas Day cease-fire across the western front.

The cease-fire, which began Christmas Eve when German soldiers put candlelit trees on the walls guarding their trenches, was initially to allow both sides to gather their dead from the small strip of no man's land between the two warring factions.

Soon, soccer balls were being kicked around and songs, not grenades, were being lobbed back and forth. In short, German and British soldiers were fraternizing, much to the chagrin of their generals.

"They became, for a short while, men who shared good will with all mankind," said a tearful Dudding. The story ended with the audience joining Dudding in a chorus of Silent Night.

The event also included a recitation of a Jewish folk tale from Eastern Europe by Muriel Horowitz, an Iranian parable by Lorraine Hartin-Gelardi, and performances from a local folk band.

The stories and the speakers change from year to year, but the theme of light remains the same.

Event organizer Mary Murphy said the use of lights is uniform in winter festivals, whether it be the lights on a Christmas tree, the lit candles on a menorah, or the illumination from oil lamps ignited for the Hindu festival of Diwali.

"Light is universal," she said. "It's everywhere and it is in every story."

The Interfaith Story Circle was formed to share the religious heritage of its members and highlight their many similarities, Murphy said.

This is the fifth year the circle has put on its winter-themed public performance, but Sunday's performance marks the first time it has been held outside of Schenectady.

During the intermission, a collection basket was passed around to continue funding to run the group's youth storytelling program, the Children at the Well.

The circle has received a $5,000 grant from the National Storytelling Network to start up the program, where 15 teens from area religious organizations will participate in a series of workshops to develop their craft.

At the end of the program, the teens will put on a program of their own.

The adult Story Circle meets once a month in houses of worship across the Capital Region.

The next meeting is slated for 7 p.m. on Feb. 8 at the Islamic Center of the Capital District.