I've heard a large number of stories by now but never one quite like this. The Battle of the Trees reminded me of a Celtic knot, an intricate weaving of elegant patterns where mystery is evident but where everything proves to be connected in the end.
Connectedness is, in fact, very much part of Christine's artistic vision in this creation. She's exploring how seeming disparities come together, how unrelated events touch upon one another, how coincidence is crucial to life. The lynch pin is a story, related in riddle form, in the poetry of the ancient Welsh poet, Taliesin. The battle is against Arawn, King of Annun -- the underworld; on behalf of his king the magician, Gwydion summons the trees to his aid. One by one, he names them and, one by one, they pull out their roots and march forth at his call (shades of Tolkien's Ents)
But the story does not start in these long ago days. It starts in the Great Storm in Britain in 1987 -- a time when 18,000,000 trees were destroyed in the space of a few hours. It involves the work of Robert Graves and his passion for the White Goddess; the uncovering of a ritual tree circle on the Norfolk coast -- a circle constructed 4,000 years earlier when the site was not coast but part of a forest, far inland; it takes us to Taliesin's birth and to the summoning of the boy Merlin to come to Britain's aid.
Christine does not claim to be a fluent Welsh speaker but she has the music of the language within her. The names of the trees form an incantation in that language; there are portions of Welsh poetry to heighten the overall sense of landscape and occasion. Truth to tell, Christine is also a fine folk musician. Her singing and fiddling are threaded through all.
Those who came to listen went home delighted. Christine is staying with us and Jennifer and I have been plying her with questions ever since. We would like to keep her around a lot longer but tomorrow we must take her to the bus station and send her on her way. She'll be touring in North America until November. It will be some weeks before she'll be home in the U.K. once again.
listen to Christine's interview on CBC's "In Town and Out"
Trailer for The Battle of the Trees: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=snb0u1O-duI