Featuring: Cathryn Fairlee
Epic-Teller, Mentor, Traveler
Cathryn Fairlee was the expert researcher and performer of epic tales complete with singing. I had the privilege of taking a workshop – in-person and front row – and I was floored by what she knew and was willing to share with us. She traveled to the places she told about and always said, “traveling teaches you history and culture.” From Northern Ireland to China to Mexico and many more, she discovered the world through stories.
I wish I had more personal things to say about Cathryn. I was an avid fan from a distance. I treasure that one workshop. I always dreamed of attending the “Going Deep: Long Traditional Stories Retreat.” Stories told had to be at least an hour long and preferred to be longer than that so that people would have beyond a typical storytelling festival experience. Later, there would be a discussion of symbols and motifs and any number of topics focused on that epic tale. Cathryn Fairlee, while not the founder of that event, was still an important part of it. She will always be important for not only what she told but who she welcomed into this world of epic-telling…and being an epic human being.
When she suffered from vascular cerebral dementia for years, she reached out to other storytellers and gave responsibility for those people to honor and continue to tell the epic. The dementia prevented her from recalling or performing, yet she had the foresight to share and mentor younger yet talented artists. In exchange, she learned skills from the younger generation including the talent to use watercolor and oils.
Ever since 2005, Cathryn was responsible for creating Epic Day that was held biannually. In September 2019, about two weeks before she passed on, that particular Epic Day had a song dedicated to her and an album with photos and memories. The July of the same year, she received the International Story Bridge Award through the National Storytelling Network.
I read some of the comments and memories from people, and someone said that for Halloween 2017, she gathered all the neighborhood kids and told ghost stories. Certainly, a special moment for all.
Some articles, odes, sounds or writings of Cathryn Fairlee:
Ode from the Storytellers of Canada – Conteurs du Canada – https://www.storytellers-conteurs.ca/en/news/Passing-Cathryn-Fairlee.html
Why These Tellers Have Storied Careers – newspaper article on Cathryn Fairlee, published June 2003
Storyteller Cathryn Fairlee fuses culture, dynamic characters and folk to create a change – online article on Cathryn Fairlee, published February 2018
You can learn a lot about a culture through its stories: Cathryn Fairlee – published January 31, 2018
Feral Mom, Feral Writer: Story of a Storyteller (Cathryn Fairlee) and A Musician (Stephen Pryputniewicz) – blog post, published on January 1, 2010
You can listen to Cathryn Fairlee on Spotify, you can listen to a bit without having an account or signing in though you can create a free Spotify account and listen to them all.
Here’s a hint of a story – different than than Celtic ones above – and this time on ReverbNation: https://www.reverbnation.com/cathrynfairlee/songs
Cathryn Fairlee was part of this Story Story Podcast with True Thomas: https://storystorypodcast.com/unusual-pets-cathryne-fairlee-true-thomas/
Some of her academic writings (may need to sign up for sites for free, but still available): https://sonoma.academia.edu/CathrynFairlee
A post by her on Chinese Teahouse Telling on the National Storytelling Network blog: https://storynet.org/chinese-teahouse-telling/
Cathryn Fairlee tells “The Search for Three Magic Words” as part of the Seattle Storytellers Guild’s Kalavala Epic Event on March 25th, 2017 Audio Recording (shared by Barry McWilliams): http://www.eldrbarry.net/epic/kalevala%2006.htm
Event Page: http://www.eldrbarry.net/epic/Kalevala.htm
Cathryn Fairlee and Mary Louise Chown tell “Princess Badoura and Prince Komarelzima” at the Seattle Storyteller’s Guild 1,001 Nights Epic Event, May 5th, 2018. Audio Recording (shared by Barry McWilliams): http://www.eldrbarry.net/epic/1001NightsAudio/Cathryn%20Fairlee%20Princess%20Badoura%20and%20Prince%20Kamarelziman%20%2031.mp3
Event Page: http://www.eldrbarry.net/epic/1001NightsEpic.htm
Do you know a Story Artist who has passed on and want others to remember them? Memories? Pictures? You can submit names and memories of Story Artists who have passed on through our online form.
I appreciate Cathryn Fairlee with her guidance to many storytellers, especially in telling epic tales through never limiting herself to one way to give. She made sure that the stories she told were passed on to others before passing on. Thank you, Cathryn.
Cathryn still has a story. You have a story. We all have stories.