Saturday, November 4th, 2017
The question of whether we would encounter snow on our travels has now been definitively answered: Yes. We thought the slushy trek across northwestern Ontario and eastern Manitoba might have been a one-off, but it was not. We had another hour of it between Winnipeg and Regina, otherwise clear sailing. Regina to Saskatoon was fine. But we awoke Friday to a good dump, which has continued into today. Traffic was moving slowly yesterday, and I, Paul, who write this, assume it is so today, although I have not been out. Leslie is now out there amongst it, whatever it is, but has not yet reported in.
We had two good events here yesterday, at the Frances Morrison Central and J.S Wood branches of the Saskatoon Public Library, in the afternoon and evening respectively — excellent turn-out both times considering the weather, good talking, good listening, good conversation, and the very best kind of support and hospitality from the hospital staff.
Our “Talk-and-Tell” events, newly invented for this Re-Tour, are beginning to gel. They are more lecture-y and less conversational than we had hoped, but that seems to be what the people want. Whichever Leacock we are presenting in the particular session, our notion that he is a good story seems to be proving out. We will therefore continue along the present lines until we begin to detect boredom.
We start out by describing the four Leacocks that we are toting along with us: the Leacock of Laughter, the Leacock of Unsolved Riddles, the Leacock who had the Interesting Life, and the Musical Leacock that he would not have recognized, not being particularly musical. In fact, as we always explain, we have so far found only one title in all the 1,500 pieces with “music” in the title, and that is “Why I Like Bad Music”, which we have not yet found. So we don’t know why.
Then we sing “The Ballad of Stephen Leacock”.
Then I talk, along whatever lines the topic of the day requires: Life Story, Unsolved Riddles, Historical, or Creative. When I think the audience has heard enough of my voice, I ask Leslie to read a Leacock story. Then I talk some more, usually briefly, because by now time is running out, we invite questions and usually get some, then we make our presentation to the community partner of the occasion.
We conclude by bringing back the musical Leacock, singing “Unsolved Riddles Forever”.
As for Leacock stories, suitable for these presentations, the pool is not large. We need pieces that are under 1,000 words, and Leacock, monster of verbosity that he was, likes to go on much longer. “My Financial Career” (900) always works well, as do:
Aristocratic Education (700 in our cut-down version); Boarding House Geometry (300); and The Country Hotel (600). “The Barber’s Outline of History” (1000) was a bit long.
We have performed our “A Field of Mariposies” concert several times now. It has form, structure, predictable length, and really, really good material from the longer Leacock repertoire, some of which we sing. The whole package works very well.
We have not had many calls for “A Garden of Mariposies” yet, although more are coming, including one tomorrow. The concert as originally planned runs an hour, but most hosts want something shorter, and we have been struggling a little to find a series that works. The most recent version, for the Canadian Club of Regina, strictly limited to 45 minutes, did the job in fine style. There we mixed pieces from “Garden” and “Field”, and the result was quite well balanced, maybe better even than the original “Garden”. No doubt we will continue to adapt and experiment for each individual event.
Leslie loves to tell in formal style, as in “My Financial Career” for example, and is growing more comfortable with the readings for “Talk-and-Tell”. She has been trained that reading is a bad expedient, but in this context it is the only way. I like best the singing pieces, and our two-handers. Between the two of us we can mix and match creatively.
As of last evening, when called upon to be specific, we were still say accurately where we are. Saskatoon, we said, and we were right. May we continue in the same for the next 24 days.
Excelsior! through snow and ice.