April 12, 2006
Director of Media Relations

AMHERST, Mass.—Storytellers from across the country will spin their tales at the 15th annual Keepers of the Word Storytelling Festival, a day-long event on Saturday, April 29, in the Friedmann Room in the Keefe Campus Center at Amherst College. Performances will be held at 10 a.m., 2 p.m. and 8 p.m. This will be the last Keepers of the Word Storytelling Festival directed by Onawumi Jean Moss, the founder and director of the festival, who is retiring this year after 21 years at Amherst College, where she is the associate dean of students. This year’s nationally known storytellers are Onawumi Jean Moss, Eth-Noh-Tec (Robert Kikuchi-Ynjojo and Nancy Wang), Bill Harley, Leeny Del Seamonds and In the Spirit (Glenda Zahra Baker and Emily Hooper Lansana).

With original stories, fairy tales, cautionary tales, folk tales and personal narratives, Onawumi Jean Moss encourages appreciation of cultural differences, pride of heritage, recognition of kinship, reflection and inquiry. Her soulful narration, a capella singing, dramatic facial expressions and animated movements bring to life the worlds of adventurous girls and women, charming creatures, scheming tricksters and wicked demons. Last year she received the Zora Neale Hurston Award for storytelling, the highest award given by the National Association of Black Storytellers (NABS). This award is given in acknowledgement of a body of work that preserves the tenets of African and African/American storytelling through performance, publications, recordings and service to national and regional storytelling organizations. Moss recently collaborated with acclaimed author Patricia C. McKissack and illustrator Kysten Booker on a new book for children, Precious and the Boo Hag (2005).

Eth-Noh-Tec (Robert Kikuchi-Ynjojo and Nancy Wang of San Francisco, Calif.) weaves music, dance, rhythmic dialog, facial expressions and the spoken word to inspire the imagination. Their performance is often accompanied by Japanese taiko drums, voice or the ditze and shakuhachi bamboo flutes of Asia.

Bill Harley (Seekonk, Mass.) is a musician, author and playwright whose work combines story and song to paint a vibrant, humorous and meaningful portrait of American life. A frequent guest on NPR’s “All Things Considered” and host of Vermont Public Radio’s “Camel’s Hump Radio,” Harley has made 25 recordings.

Leeny Del Seamonds (Westford, Mass.) performs animated, uplifting and interactive Latino, original and world tales spiced with exquisite mime, a cornucopia of voices and a love of people. Named National Storyteller of the Year, Leeny has received a Storytelling World Winner Award and Parents’ Choice Gold and Silver Awards.

In the Spirit (Glenda Zahra Baker and Emily Hooper Lansana of Chicago, Ill.) offer a seamless blend of vocalizing and narrative: Baker, an acclaimed musician, and Lansana, a premier storyteller, have an uplifting harmonic performance style that reflects ancient African and contemporary African-American forms.

There will be three ensemble performances at the festival: “Stories for Little Folk and the People Who Love Them” from 10 to 11:30 a.m., “Stories for Young Folk and the People Who Love Them” from 2 to 4 p.m., and “Stories for Older Folk and the People Who Love Them” from 8 to 10:30 p.m.

General admission for the 10 a.m. or 2 p.m. performances is $8 for adults, $6 for seniors and $5 for children. General admission for the 8 p.m. performance is $14 for adults, $12 for seniors and $8 for children. A special rate of $12 for adults, $10 for seniors and $8 for children is available to those who wish to attend both the morning and afternoon performances. Advance tickets are available for each performance at the Keefe Campus Center Office, first floor. The performances are free to Amherst College students and Amherst College staff with I.D. For more information call 413/542-8422.

Keepers of the Word is sponsored by the Lecture and Eastman Fund Committee, Office of Student Activities/Keefe Campus Center, Office of the Dean of Students, The Willis Wood Fund/Religion Department, Association of Amherst Students and academic departments and supporters throughout Amherst College.