The Adventures of Talyessin
This performance comprises a mixture of storytelling, and live music. Each of six acts introduces a new character (hermit, princess, minstrel, king) who interacts with Talyessin (storyteller) by using silent gestures, and by singing and playing an array of musical instruments.
Running time is approximately one hour long with all acts. A 45-minute version, merging the last two acts is also available.
The time period is emphasized by the use of Medieval costumes and musical instruments, as well as gestures which mimic figures in stained glass and illuminations of the Romanesque and gothic periods.
All musical selections in the program were composed during the Middle Ages from the twelfth to the fourteenth centuries, including pieces by Guillaume de Machaut and the troubadour Bernart de Ventadorn. The instruments used are recorders, harps, bagpipes, cornamuses, pipe and tabor, gemshorns, bass drum, and tambourines — all replicas of original instruments of the period. Musical selections evoke places, connect acts, present leit motifs for the different characters, and serve as a means of communication between characters.
The Historical and Fictitious Talyessin
Talysessin was a real poet who lived in sixth century England and later became a literary figure in 14th century Welsh Arthurian romances as King Arthur's chief bard.
The character Talyessin in The Adventures Of Talyessin has also been modeled after the Parzival of French and German Arthurian stories of the Middle Ages. It is from Parzival that our Talyessin borrows his naiveness, noble heart, and ambitions.
The structure of the piece is constructed using the model of Joseph Campbell's idea of the hero's journey, and follows its primary steps:
- Departure — the call to adventure, the helper
- Initiation — trials, meeting with divinity and apotheosis
- Return — return, healing
Other elements and symbols have been taken from the corpus of medieval Arthurian legends such as the quest for the holy grail and the Fisher King.
The program puts children in contact with pre-television communication traditions shared by all cultures and times: storytelling and music making. The role of communication through music is the cornerstone of the whole performance. For example:
- the characters present themselves with the help of music,
- problems and frustrations are resolved through music making, and
- the king and the land are revitalized by the arts of the minstrel.
Some important values are also explored in the program: courage, decision making, determination, the search for goals against all odds, hope and the preference for music and poetry to violence.
The Adventures of Talyessin is appropriate for first to sixth graders, but has also entertained and interested adults because of its lyrical and dramatic content, universal structure, and literary references.
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