Anna Roberts-Gevalt and Elizabeth LaPrelle, performing this weekend at the Oly Old-Time Festival, arent just old-time musicians. Their primary goal is to tell the stories behind the old-time songs.
Appropriately, the Virginia duo uses an old-time technology to illustrate the stories they sing and tell.
Its literally a moving picture show, Roberts-Gevalt said of the duos crankies, rolls of fabric or paper with pictures that show the stories theyre telling.
In addition to performing tonight at the fifth annual festival, Roberts-Gevalt and LaPrelle will lead a Saturday workshop on making the crankies, which are loaded into a wooden viewer and lit from behind.
We started as just traditional musicians, Roberts-Gevalt said. We were feeling frustrated, feeling like we werent really communicating the heart of what we felt traditional music was about.
We wanted to bring to life the stories of the people who played the music and the people who taught us how to play the music.
The women met in 2000 and quickly began to collaborate on shows that include song, story, crankies and sometimes puppets.
Its a way to animate the show, Roberts-Gevalt said, to get people to grasp onto these ballads and stories in a more magical way.
The crankies are a version of the large moving panoramas popular in the 19th century. Its an old way of storytelling, she said.
The workshop the pair will offer will teach attendees how to make their own crankies.
Roberts-Gevalt said the pair is excited to spread the word about this art form. We came out a year or two ago to play at the Seattle Folk Festival, she said. Someone who organizes that festival saw a video of one of our crankies on YouTube or something. (Check some out at www.annaandelizabeth.com/watch.html.)
There were some people from Seattle who saw our crankies and now are amazing crankie makers, she said. It totally blows our minds. The duo plans to add a section to their website about creating crankies.
This is the first year that the festival has offered art workshops in addition to sessions on music and dance.
We wanted to offer something for people who may have family members who are participating musicians but maybe theyre not musicians, festival co-founder Emily Teachout said.
The event, which opened Thursday night with a dance, includes concerts and another dance, but at its heart are two full days of workshops and open jams, giving the growing old-time music community a place to learn and share.
Every year, we have more attendees, Teachout said. Weve had people come specifically for the festival from Idaho, Oregon and British Columbia.
This year, to make room for more workshops, the festival has expanded into the First Christian Church, across Sylvester Park from the home base at the Olympia Ballroom. It gave us a lot more options for different kinds of workshops, Teachout said.
The event includes a track of workshops just for kids on Saturday and open jams for musicians from novice to experienced. The workshops also serve people with various skill levels.
Its all about passing on traditions and participating, Teachout said.