Voyageur Storytelling Experience
Voyageur Storytelling Lunar Loon

Good Food * Good Listening * Good Company

in Northern Bruce Peninsula

519-795-7477 or or return to home page

From the Voyageur Photo Album:

Leslie at the Ribstones near Viking Alberta 1999

In which we tell you about

The Voyageur Storytelling Experience

The lady on the left is Eugenia, the Mermaid of Yellowknife Bay, drawn by Terry Pamplin. We likewise are inspired by the Northern Muses and dedicated to the proposition that art, food and good company combine to create truly astonishing artistic effects. To discover the avant garde at its most forward come to the rural countryside, eat a huge home-cooked meal, visit with congenial folks, and sit around the living room listening to stories. Good food, good listening, good company: the heart and soul of true modernism.

The medium?: interesting people, woodlands and open spaces, a large harvest table, seven courses of country cooking, pleasing conversation, stories old and new, the sounds of a summer evening. The message?: that the hurly-burly of daily life is not the only story; that art, if perhaps not larger than life, can at least divert it for a few hours; that memories of an intimate evening of fine hospitality and entertainment linger to enrich the time ahead.

The Voyageur Storytelling Experience can be conveniently triaged under five headings:

The Northern Muses

The Big Idea

The Four-Fold Ideology of Oralaural Stories

The Three-Fold Ideology of Storytelling Concerts


The Northern Muses

We claim to be inspired by the Northern Muses. What kind of inspiration are they?

They are altogether a different crowd from those plump, voluptuous, easy-living Mediterranean Muses, always portrayed (and we must remember that any image of the Muses is always at least partly a self-portrait) in flowing robes that would be diaphanous if they weren't made of marble, with plenty of exposed flesh.

What has exposed flesh to do with the North? At any time of year! The Northern Muses sally forth muffled in toques, scarves, parkas or layers of mosquito netting, according to the season.

One looks to the Mediterranean Muses for amusement, to the Northern for bemusement. They embrace with equal passion, but more humour, because consummation becomes a somewhat more complicated business. They laugh readily, if sometimes ruefully. They keep a straight face with difficulty, even on solemn occasions.

They weep also, in the face of suffering, caused in their experience less by violence and war (although they have seen those), more by disease, indifference, and the aggression of petty exploitation, profiteering and complacency.

But oh, how beautifully they sing!

They inhabit, not a mountain ever vernal, but that place described by Saltatha of the Chipewyan, where the country is more beautiful than the country of the musk ox in summer, where sometimes the mist blows over the lakes, and sometimes the water is blue, and the loons cry very often. But even there black flies flourish, and winter comes in its time.

When they seem to desire to lead us to that place, they are seeking rather to bring that place to us, to remind us that we are creatures by Nature, creators only by grace, that we voyage always in company, that we neither lay, nor light, nor sit by the campfire alone.

The Big Idea

It's always exciting when we find a new quotation that speaks to our approach. The latest is by Alberto Manguel, from his 2007 CBC Massey Lectures titled "The City of Words" and published by House of Anansi Press. Manguel says, "Dreaming up stories, telling stories, putting stories into writing, reading stories, are all complementary arts that lend words to our sense of reality, and can serve as vicarious learning, as transmission of memory, as instruction or as warning. In ancient Anglo-Saxon the word for poet was maker, a term that blends the meaning of weaving words with that of building the material world. The definition has Biblical roots." We might argue about the adjective in the term "vicarious learning," but aside from that this quotation encompasses the breadth of what we do, and why. Our principal instrument is the storytelling concert.

The Four-Fold Ideology of Oralaural Stories

A storytelling concert is a compound artistic event: each story, and the concert as a whole, is a work of art in its own right. Our approach to stories comes from the fusion of four ideas:

Walt Whitman (1855)

"You will hardly know who I am or what I mean, but I shall be good health to you nevertheless, and filter and fibre your blood." His instrument is the barbaric yawp, pounding into our ears the truth that the value of art resides in its effect on the "audience," which in our case is literally an audience — that is, people who hear — and that the process by which it achieves its effect is mysterious, not usefully subject to rational analysis.

Sara Cone Bryant (1910)

"A story is essentially and primarily a work of art ... Its part in the economy of life is to give joy." Beside Walt's urgent insistence on the resounding "You" and coeval "I" Sarah gently sets the more objective, continuing presence of the story, in its own way as much "a foster child of silence and slow time" as a Grecian urn. We notice, however, that Sarah does not sing of art for art's sake. It has a practical purpose : to give joy, without which all other purposes are futile. Her page-turner is Bertrand Russell, who adds that "the greatest joy is to be found in a profound instinctive union with the stream of life."

Walter Ong (1982)

"All sensation takes place in time, but sound has a special relationship to time unlike that of other fields that register in human sensation. Sound exists only when it is going out of existence. It is not simply perishable, but essentially evanescent. Spoken words are events, actions." This reality poses the frontier for storytelling aesthetics. We are artists in narrative sound.

Joseph Conrad (1897)

"It is only through the complete, unswerving devotion to the perfect blending of form and substance ... an unremitting, never-discouraged care for the shape and ring of sentences ... that the light of magic suggestiveness may be brought to play for an evanescent instant over the commonplace surface of words : of the old, old words, worn thin, defaced by ages of careless usage." Walter Ong states the principle, Conrad shows the way: The Muses are fanatics about detail, driving us to an infinite capacity for taking pains. Anthony Burgess speaks of "a tissage of lyric utterance whose pretext is a work of fiction," that is, a story. That idea belongs here too.

The Three-Fold Ideology of Storytelling Concerts

We find that for a storytelling concert to achieve the stature of a work of art in its own right, we make constant reference to three ideas:

Marshall McLuhan (1951)

"Any artistic endeavour includes the preparing of an environment for human attention. The whole tendency of modern communication whether in the press, in advertising or in the high arts is towards participation in a process." Uncle Marshall is sometimes confusing of utterance, but there is nothing ambiguous about this one. The "environment" in which something beautiful is experienced determines its artistic effect. Each element of the concert is "framed" not only in its physical space, but by the elements around it.

Ruth Finnegan (1990)

"Both human creativity and the social context in which it is formed and expressed are fundamental. This viewpoint is founded in the joyful recognition of an art that is both an expressive and a socially significant aspect of human action." The effect of ancient oral traditions derives partly from the fact that they are oralaural, and thus affect the mind of the listener in particular ways, partly because by being so they are able to integrate with natural forms and flows of social life.

W.C. Sellar and R.J. Yeatman (1930)

"History is not what you thought. It is what you can remember. All other history defeats itself." Substitute "art" for "history" and you have our belief. What matters ultimately is not the art as a thing, object, event or experience, but people's memory of it, the effect that persists in the inner self. As Walter Ong says, "You know what you can recall."


To set such standards is one thing, to achieve them of course quite another. After years of warm reception from our guests, reflected in their comments written in our guest book (and summarized elsewhere), we can however predict with reasonable confidence that you will find the experience both enjoyable and memorable. We suspect that what you enjoy and remember will suit your special individuality, that the selection and shaping of your response both present and future represents your unique contribution to the work of art that is, for you, the Voyageur Storytelling Experience.


Voyageur Storytelling, January 2013

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