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Barbara Adler takes her unique storytelling project, and her accordion, on a provincial road trip.
Barbara Adler pauses in the middle of our photo shoot. “What would you think if you saw me wearing a wolf pelt?” she asks. I would think it captivating, beautiful and bursting with a story—just as Adler is herself.
Visit Barbara Adler’s website for event info and the latest stories from around BC.
Adler has an energy and power over words that takes her audience on dizzying crescendos whether with the acclaimed folk band The Fugitives, shout-rock accordion drum duo Fang or her most recent project, The BC Memory Game.
The BC Memory Game is a provincial storytelling and visual arts project based on the childhood game of memory. Adler travels to towns across British Columbia and advertises that she is collecting stories, sits in a coffee shop and listens to the townsfolk tell their tales. Most people are hesitant at first, claiming they have no stories to tell, but eventually they loosen up and churn a mutual excitement with Adler.
“I like particular details, like if I stumble on someone who’s really shy and a slow, quiet talker but they know everything about log booming or something. I’ll pick at them to find out what the main issues are,” she says. Adler then researches the area and writes a story based on her personal experience in the town and artist Jordan Bent creates a memory card to accompany it.
One of the many stories she has gathered is that organizations such as the BC Trapper’s Association sell fur pelts of animals they have humanely killed in order to maintain healthy breeding populations, hence her question about the wolf pelt.
The idea came to Adler when she first picked up the accordion. “I decided to book a tour in BC playing the accordion without actually knowing how to play the accordion,” Adler says.
Already nervous, the organizers told her, “People are here to see the accordion because, you know, it’s Hazelton and everyone’s uncle plays accordion here, so they’re really excited!”
One of Adler’s friends suggested telling stories about the tour while on stage to relieve some of the squeezebox pressure. Adler took the advice and fell in love with British Columbia in the process.
“I don’t think a lot of people see northern or eastern BC much, so when I saw it I thought, ‘Wow this is so amazing! There are elk, right there! And there are people in trucker hats shooting them!’” she exclaims.
“It just knocked me on my ass and I got genuinely excited about it.”