guest post by Andrew Stirling MacDonald
Hello, fellow readers of Islands of Joy. Sørina, a very new but quickly endearing friend of mine, has asked me to take up the mantle of chronicling the musings and misadventures that occur during the monthly meeting of Christian artists and performers known as Ekphrasis. My name is Andrew Stirling MacDonald, and I attended my first Ekphrasis event in October. To date, I’ve presented some music I composed (I produce video and often compose music to accompany it) as well as some of my writing. I also act, sing, and play piano, often simultaneously, something that I plan to bring to the group at some nebulous point in the future. I am not a minute-taker, nor am I an agenda-follower, so I may prove to be a very unorthodox group historian. However, I will to my best to be an interesting one.
Our most recent Ekphrasis gathering was quite a departure from our usual song-and-dance – for one thing, it included actual dancing. This was not meant to be an ordinary meeting, but a holiday party, open to the public. I took advantage of this openness by bringing my two-year-old daughter, Somerled, who was, in my entirely biased opinion, a big hit. In addition, several other new faces were present, in addition to most of the usual crowd (a few were on various holiday trips and one had her wedding anniversary). We were happy to welcome Nick M, Philip L., and Amanda L. for the first time. Several members brought snacks to share, and we all munched away happily as various members of the group presented.
Marian B. was the first to present, another installment in her long-running fantasy saga. Marian’s mother, who has heard none of the story so far, had attended the party. She kept herself spoiler-free by taking my daughter aside and playing with her in another room. Marian’s excerpt proved to be a very dark one, involving mutilation and coercion. Interestingly, this set the tone for most of the readings that night, apparently many people in the group had some dark writings to share over the holidays.
Betsy G. followed, reading a chapter from her re-imagined fairy tale (I will have to confer with the various authors to find out exactly how much they are comfortable with me sharing here; expect to find somewhat more detailed descriptions for at least some of these in the future).
Richard B, who brought his wife with him as a guest, read a chapter from an upcoming novel in his “Legend of the Redeemer” series. Since I’ve read the first three books, I took a special interest in his protagonist, Jack Windsword. A lively discussion ensued.
After a short break, Abigail M. read us a short story she’d recently had published in her school’s literary journal. It was a sort of very short personal essay written from the perspective of a female character who’d just cut her hair short for the first time.
Alex U. brought a chapter from a novel he’d been writing (he’d developed the concepts with a friend of his). Again, I’m not sure how much I can disclose here on this blog, but it involved death. Geographically.
I read the third chapter of my NaNoWriMo novel “Lullaby,” a concept which I’d developed some years ago as a series but decided to repurpose as a novel. Although my chapter did have some funny and light-hearted moments, it also included a young boy being forced to watch as his father was executed by impaling, so.
With all of our literary presentations spent, the night turned towards the direction it always ought to when people are done talking: dancing. Sørina had requested that our resident English Country Dance caller Betsy G. lead us in a dance called the Coventry Carol. Betsy went above and beyond and brought three songs for us to dance to. My daughter Somerled was very enthusiastic about the dancing, and Betsy was kind enough to take her hand and dance alongside her while calling the first dance. For the second song, we danced in two giant circles, switching partners every half-verse of the song. I only tripped once, and my partner-at-the-time, Amanda L., very impressively helped to hoist me to my feet. The song continued on without incident. We finished the evening’s dancing with the Coventry Carol, a beautiful-sounding song that was about parents trying, and ultimately failing, to save their young children from execution on the orders of King Herod. So very in-keeping with the unintended dark theme of the party. The dance was for six people, and by the end we’d figured out how to do a pretty cool interweaving star thing, with two stars going at once and spinning ‘round like clockwork. I cannot claim that we mastered this dance, but we quitted our parts pretty admirably, and we were all well-satisfied with the results.
This concludes my first report of our Ekphrasis gatherings. We are meeting again the first Monday in January, and you can expect another report from me as soon as I find the wherewithal to write it. Thanks for your attention!