By Jennie Hurwood
October 5th 2012, the dining hall in Estevan Lodge, at the Reford Gardens, resonated with a rolling brogue, not of these parts. Soon, all those present were transported to the south-west corner of Ireland, into its history and into the mind of Mike Burns.
Originally from Ireland and now a resident of Montreal, Burns has lived in several countries and performed in many, collecting stories along the way; gathering oral history and preserving it in the only way possible: word of mouth.
For those present, it was not difficult to see why Burns is internationally renowned for his storytelling. As he closed his eyes and gestured, as much to the characters in the story as for the benefit of the people listening to it, he told four tales and took the audience from modern Montreal to Ireland in the 1950s and further, to an Ireland some 800 years before. Burns’ lively narrative and vivid descriptions rendered the tales of kings with horse’s ears and drowning trouts strangely plausible.
Although Burns has visited the Lower Saint Lawrence region on many an occasion, never before had he performed here in English. Nor has he visited the Reford Gardens, but, having arrived a week after they closed for winter, he promised to return to see them, in full bloom, next summer.
To Shorten the Road, stories with Mike Burns was organized by Heritage Lower Saint Lawrence in collaboration with Le Rendez-vous des Grandes Gueules festival de contes et récits de Trois Pistoles and was made possible thanks to the generous support of the English Language Arts Network, their ACCORD fund and Canadian Heritage.
Thanks also go to Pierre Lepage and Yoland Henry for providing toe-tapping traditional Irish music which set the scene and got people jigging in their seats.