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" Every life is a
   fairy tale written
   by the fingers of
   God. " Hans Christian Andersen

Hans Christian Andersen (1805-1875) regarded everyone’s life as a fairy tale, especially his own. He entitled his definitive autobiography The Fairy Tale of My Life. Andersen was born in Odense, Denmark, the only son of a poor shoemaker. His boyhood home was small and in the poorest section of town. Yet Andersen would go on to become world famous in his own lifetime. He socialized with royalty and nobility. He cultivated friendships with some of the most prominent musicians, artists, and authors of his day. He wrote three autobiographies, five travel narratives, six novels, over fifty works for the theater, and over one thousand poems. Most popular of all his writings are his short narratives. Andersen wrote more than 150 fairy tales and stories. These have been translated into over 150 languages. Because a Christian worldview permeates most of Andersen’s short narratives, they can be considered not just fairy tales but also sacred stories. Andersen readily employs Christian themes, motifs, and symbols. He often alludes to Scripture and even quotes it directly. The stories on this recording are among the short narratives in which these features are most prominent.

Roger Petersen

More information on Hans Christian and sacred stories is contained in the CD booklet.

" When words fail,
    music speaks. " Hans Christian Andersen

Music serves these stories in various ways. Music sets the stage. As the curtain rises on the first story, the inkwell is not sitting on the desk—it is stationed on the desk. Therefore, the story is introduced with a fanfare. Music also changes the set. When a violent thunderstorm interrupts the placid field scene in “The Buckwheat,” music suggests that the scene has changed. Additionally, music represents characters or objects. In “The World’s Most Beautiful Rose,” a four-note motif, introduced by the flute, represents the rose in much the same way romantic composers used leitmotif. Just as music serves the story, so also does silence. If music is present all of the time, it can easily become an impotent drone and deprive silence of its significance. Throughout these stories, music and silence are strategically woven together to heighten the impact of the text.

Daniel Barta

More information on telling a story with music is contained in the CD booklet.

Roger Petersen is Professor of Speech and Story Performance at Philadelphia Biblical University where he has taught since 1982. Dr. Petersen holds a B.S. in Bible from Philadelphia Biblical University, an M.A. in New Testament from Trinity Evangelical Divinity School, an M.Ed. in Storytelling from East Tennessee State University, and a D.Litt. in Narrative Studies from Drew University. His dissertation focused on the adaptation of the life and works of Hans Christian Andersen for solo performance. He is presently working on a one-man play on the life and works of Hans Christian Andersen, which will include all of the stories on this recording. Dr. Petersen has made three trips to China presenting storytelling concerts at several universities. He has twice been a featured storyteller at the International Storytelling Institute at East Tennessee State University. In June, 2000, he performed at the International Hans Christian Andersen Conference in Salt Lake City, Utah. He has written numerous articles for Storytelling World and was a contributing author to Treasures from Europe: Stories and Classroom Activities published by Libraries Unlimited. Dr. Petersen is a senior instructor with Walk Thru the Bible Ministries headquartered in Atlanta, Georgia. Recognized as one of the organization's top instructors, he has told the story of the entire Bible to over 100,000 people at over 700 seminars. Dr. Petersen resides in Langhorne, Pennsylvania, with several rose bushes and Japanese maples.

Daniel Barta is Professor and Director of Music Theory and Composition at Roberts Wesleyan College where he has taught since 2007. For fourteen years he served as Chair of Music Theory and Composition at Philadelphia Biblical University. Dr. Barta holds the B.Mus., M.Mus., and DMA from Temple University, where he studied with Clifford Taylor, Maurice Wright, and Matthew Greenbaum. His compositions include instrumental and vocal solos, choral works, chamber music, and works for wind ensemble and orchestra. His works have been performed by Anne Martindale Williams (Principal Cellist, Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra), David Kim (Concertmaster, Philadelphia Orchestra), Michael Stairs (Organist, Philadelphia Orchestra), Sharon Sweet (soprano and Associate Professor, Westminster Choir College) and Samuel Hsu and Paul Jones (duo-pianists, Tenth Presbyterian Church). Dr. Barta’s works are recorded on the DTR label and published by Concordia, Choristers Guild, and Paul Jones Music, Inc. Dr. Barta lives with his wife Peggy and two children, Jessica and Jonathan, and Havanese dog Pippin in Rochester, New York.

In this lively tale, a quill pen and a stately inkwell get into a heated debate on which of them is the real source of an author’s works. “The Pen and the Inkwell” is a prime example of Andersen’s exceptional ability to give personality to inanimate objects. He could make anything speak and does so frequently in his stories. Andersen also makes personal appearances in most of his stories. He is the ugly duckling, the emperor’s nightingale, the little mermaid, and the steadfast tin soldier. In “The Pen and the Inkwell,” he is the author who came home after hearing a violin virtuoso. In this story, the placement of the music in relation to the text varies. Sometimes the music anticipates the narration; sometimes the music echoes the narration; most frequently the music accompanies the narration, underscoring a word or phrase or mood.

More information on “The Pen and the Inkwell” is contained in the CD booklet.

Andersen was inspired to write “The Uttermost Parts of the Sea” after reading Captain John Ross’ account of his second expedition to find the Northwest Passage. Ross and his crew of twenty-three sailed from Britain in 1829. They became trapped in the ice and had to spend four winters in the frozen wilderness. In this story, a detachment of Danish sailors is stationed in the desolate Arctic. As one sailor settles down in his small barracks made of ice, he dreams of his home in Denmark. At one point in the sailor’s dream, the music quotes a phrase from the Danish national anthem. When an angel appears, the music quotes the opening phrase of the nineteenth-century hymn “Under His Wings.” The chromatic four-note opening of the hymn, when inverted, is part of the phrase quoted from the national anthem. The title of this story comes from a phrase in Psalm 139:9-10, verses from which Andersen quotes three times in this brief story.

More information on “The Uttermost Parts of the Sea” is contained in the CD booklet.

“The Story of a Mother” is considered one of Andersen’s masterpieces, in the same class as “The Little Mermaid” and “The Snow Queen.” A mother sits by the bedside of her sick child. Death enters her home in the guise of an old man. He snatches her child and runs off. Frantically, the mother rushes through a dark forest, traverses a large lake, and eventually arrives at the Great Greenhouse where all the plants have heartbeats. Along the way, she encounters Night, a freezing thorn bush, a lake who collects pearls, an old woman, and Death himself. Ultimately, the story ends in the Unknown Land. In “The Story of a Mother,” the bass clarinet, bassoon and marimba express a wide range of emotion. The diverse scenes and characters are brought to life through frequent changes in instrumentation, register, dynamics, tempi, rhythm, melody, and harmony. A year before his death Andersen wrote, “Of all my stories, I am happiest to have written ‘The Dead Child’ and ‘The Story of a Mother.’” This is the story that ignited Roger’s passion to tell Andersen stories. More information on “The Story of a Mother” is contained in the CD booklet.

With one exception, all of the speaking characters in “The Buckwheat” are plants. A field of buckwheat is warned not to look up into the lightning of an approaching thunderstorm. The buckwheat refuses to heed these warnings and suffers the consequences. Playing a prominent role in this story is the willow tree, the national tree of Funen, the central island of Denmark where Andersen grew up. The willow tree is represented by the slow, dignified sound of the French horn. The storm scene features music that expresses the overwhelming power of lightning and thunder, and yet allows the overlaid narration to be clearly heard.

More information on “The Buckwheat” is contained in the CD booklet.

This story takes place in a castle enveloped in roses, the favorite flower of a beloved and respected queen. The queen becomes deathly ill. The wisest of the queen’s physicians declares that only one thing can save her: the most beautiful rose in the world. The rest of the story is the quest by everyone in the kingdom to find this rose. Like the queen in this story, Andersen loved all flowers, and he especially loved roses. Roses are by far the most frequently mentioned flower in all of his works. Andersen told his friend Henrietta Wulff that people considered “The World’s Most Beautiful Rose” one of his best stories. The mood of the story changes dramatically but gracefully. The accompanying music also changes, not with sudden shifts, but with a sense that contrasting moods are naturally flowing out of each other.

More information on “The World’s Most Beautiful Rose” is contained in the CD booklet.

Roger Petersen, Story Performer
Daniel Barta, Composer (ASCAP)

Diane Smith, Flute
Alice Meyer, Clarinet and Bass Clarinet
John Hunt, Bassoon
Mary Hunt, French Horn
Chun Chim Leung, Violin
Janneke Hoogland, Violoncello
Annie Stevens, Percussion

Daniel Barta and Roger Petersen, Executive Producers
Louis deLise, Dialogue and Mix Producer
Daniel Welch, Music Recording Engineer

Design by art270
Photographs by David DeBalko
Stories © 2008 Roger B. Petersen
Music © 2009 Daniel S. Barta
© 2011 Swamp Plant Productions

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Winner 2011

Storytelling World Award

for Recorded Stories





Hans Christian Andersen The Pen and the Inkwell and other Sacred Stories

Visit a castle enveloped in roses and a greenhouse in which all the plants have heartbeats.  Meet an arrogant inkwell, a wise willow tree, a lake that collects pearls, and Night.  Experience a violent thunderstorm, the flashing northern lights, and a mother's sweet lullaby.  Explore compassion, humility, loneliness, redemption, and unexpected grace.


The Pen and the Inkwell

with violin, clarinet, cello

The Uttermost Parts of the Sea

with bassoon, percussion

The Story of a Mother

with bassooon, bass clarinet, marimba

The Buckwheat

with flute, French horn, cello

The World's Most Beautiful Rose

with flute, clarinet, cello