I spent the better part of this summer listening to Jim Dale read Harry Potter. It was a wonderful way to re-experience the books and refresh my memory for Book 7.
Radio and audiobooks are such an intimate experience because the speaker's voice is literally between your ears and wired directly into your imagination. This intimate connection may account for my reaction to Jim Dale's appearance yesterday. As he took the stage and said hello, tears sprang to my eyes.
He invited the audience to enjoy a "right-o giggle" with him. His energy and personality commanded the stage.
Throughout the program, Dale shared stories about the inspirations for his voices, switching into character instantly. Trelawney is based on actress Penelope Fielding and actor John Houseman was the springboard for Dumbledore. His uncle from Cornwall inspired Hagrid. He shared that he actually lost his voice after a day of reading with Hagrid's voice.
He read five selections from the books beginning with "The Sorting Hat." Hearing him sing the Sorting Hat's song will stay with me forever. As he read the scene where Harry "blows up" Aunt Marge he appeared to expand and float as Marge and then to be pulled off the ground as Uncle Vernon with Ripper clinging to his ankle.
He said he tries to evoke the radio comics of his youth who had such original and unusual voices.
He is proud of his Guinness World Record for the 134 voices he used in Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix and shared that he was just informed that he had broken his own record with 147 voices for Deathly Hallows.
As a finale, he invited nine children up on the stage, warning the hoard of volunteers that thundered down the center aisle, that they were going to have to read aloud AND act.
In groups of three, he had the kids take turns reading the same brief cut, evoking Dale's earlier performance. They really had fun with "the howler." I admired the children so much. They really gave it their all and were terrific. There was a prize for the one that got the most applause. It was a near thing for all of them.
It occurred to me that this would be a great library/reading lesson. My students loved a chance to perform and the repetition of cuts would support readers, at all levels. Audiobooks by Dale would be a terrific choice to model a wide range of characters (as would Allan Corduner who reads Septimus Heap and Keys to the Kingdom.) The activity would give kids the opportunity to voice and perform the story themselves which is something struggling readers have trouble with sometimes.
Dale is a great advocate for audiobooks and emphasized the difference between the richness of Rowling's text and the Harry Potter movies. With a gleam in his eye he reminded the children that they can keep "reading" after their parents tell them "lights out" by listening to an audiobook in the dark.
Entling #3, aka, "Yo" gave him a tiny origami crane as he signed our audiobook, note above photo
Jim Dale performed for the huge crowd in the parish hall of a CHURCH!!!
Jim Dale Website