The recording with Kate was undertaken in the kitchen of her home in Victoria, British Columbia -- a place she has chosen for her retirement because it is by the sea.

We unplugged the fridge to rid ourselves of its hum; we put the cat out to avoid its mewing; we prayed that no one would start up a lawn mower in the next door yard. Sessions lasted about an hour. The microphone was set up on a stack of telephone books to get it to the right height.

For health reasons, Kate has not been telling stories in public for some time. As you will now be able to discover, her commitment to Chinese traditional tales stands at the centre of her life; her repertoire is unique; her connection with Chinese tellers and performance settings passionate. It was painful to her that she could find no bright and vibrant way to pass this on.

The ease of the recording process opened new doors. By the end of the first day, the fact that a memory lapse could easily be recovered, that a coughing fit could be dealt with by pushing "pause" was generating fresh ideas and inspiring hope.

She is working on further recordings on her own behalf, but these that follow are drawn from those days. They come from her home and her kitchen. In the background, there is her garden, the raised beds filled with Chinese vegetables; the strong, old apple tree filled with birds and song.

Jan Andrews