Hogmanay, the Scottish New Year’s celebration, is a time to look at what one has accomplished in the past, and to look forward to what one expects of the coming year. So it’s indeed fitting that the final edition for this year of GMR is on Hogmanay.
So it’s the last day of the year as counted on the Christian calendar, and conversation, nibbles, music and potent drink (for those considered adults which is more flexible here than British law really allows) are celebrating. It’s been snowing, a gentle but steady affair, which makes it look rather magical outside Kinrowan Hall. The Neverending Session has splintered itself so that some of them were in the Kitchen playing Nordic trad when I was there earlier, another group’s playing French trad in the Library and of course there’s a group in the Pub playing trad Irish, a very pleasant thing indeed.
Bjorn, our Brewmaster, has a new Winter Ale on tap today. Actually he has three he unveiled today and several ciders to boot. Toasting the New Year here will be done with a metheglin he’s been aging for over a generation now, a perfect benediction indeed. Oh, and Mrs. Ware and her Kitchen staff made eggnog without any spirits for those who don’t or shouldn’t drink the spirited stuff.
Nibbles, savoury and sweet, abound as we skip an eventide meal on this day so the Kitchen staff can celebrate properly as well. Everyone not doing something else will do a stint in the Kitchen helping prepare and circulate the nibbles. Yeasty things such as flatbread for noshing on with various spreads, cheeses from Riverrun Farm, sausages and other meats in hand rolls, and even some veggies are on hand, as well as an entire table brimming with cookies and other sweets.
It’s the time of year when we look back over the year (or years) past, and Robert came up with a series that has become a contemporary classic: Glen Cook’s Annals of the Black Company, recently (well, fairly recently) reissued in a set of omnibus editions. Start with The Chronicles of the Black Company: ‘We all have our personal lists, individual counterparts to those periodic lists of “most important,” “best,” or whatever the accolade of the moment might be. I have a personal list of “best fantasy series” that includes some works that might not be “great,” but several that I think arguably are. In the realm of modern heroic fantasy, in particular, I think anyone would be hard put to protest the inclusion of Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings, Fritz Leiber’s tales of Fafhrd and the Grey Mouser, Michael Moorock’s great cycle of stories of The Eternal Champion, and Glen Cook’s Black Company.’
Robert has a treat for us: three chocolate candies from Chocolove: ‘Chocolove is an American company headquartered in Boulder, Colorado, that produces chocolate bars and candies using all natural ingredients and following the traditions of European chocolatiers. What came across my desk was three packages of “nut-butter cups” — one the classic peanut-butter cup, and two made with almond butter.’
Joselle doesn’t like this time of year, but a recording called An Ancient Muse cheered her up: ‘Normally, I can’t stand winter. It’s cold, it’s dismal, and I tend to get sick a lot. Nonetheless, winter 2006 has made me one happy woman, in spite of the general nastiness. This is largely thanks to an event that I and several other folk/Celtic/world/eclectic music fans have been anticipating for nine years …’
Judith has a Finnish recording for us: ‘Vaylan Virassa means “in the flow of the river.” The river here is the Torne, at the border between Finland and Sweden, the zipper in the jeans of Scandinavia that extends north from the top of the Gulf Of Bothnia until it turns as a pocket through deep reindeer country towards Kiruna and Norway. The Swedish acoustic folk band Jord plays music from the area around the Torne on this first album. Jord is Jan Johansson on accordion and bass, Gun Olofsson on guitar, flute, and percussion, Susanne Rantatalo on percussion, and Erling Fredriksson on bass, harp, and flute. All sing, but I suspect Rantatalo sings the most.’
I’d be remiss not to note that Robert Burns did a lot more lyrics than just those for ‘Auld Lang Syne’, which Lars notes in reviewing The Complete Songs Of Robert Burns in Twelve Volumes: ‘This is one of the most ambitious recording projects I have encountered within the folk music world, covering all of Robert Burns’ 368 songs. It took about six years and twelve volumes to complete, with a great number of well known Scottish musicians and singers taking part. (As an appendix to this review you find a list of all participating singers and musicians and on what volumes they appear.) In total the series give you almost 15 hours of music.’
Robert’s been looking back over years past again and came up with the final volume to a series we’ve reviewed here, Gamelan of Central Java XV: Returning Minimalism: In Nem: ‘The subtitle of this disc, “Returning Minimalism,” denotes a key fact about twentieth-century American minimalism: it makes extensive use of the formal elements of gamelan. The circular structures, repetitive melodies, intricate rhythms, and incremental modulations of tone are all hallmarks of the music of such American composers as Terry Riley, Philip Glass, Steve Reich, La Monte Young, and John Adams through at least part of their careers.’
Our What Not this outing is a Folkmanis Mouse with Cheese puppet that got overlooked when it came so Reynard gives it a review now: ‘I’ve no idea when it came in for review, nor do I know how it ended up in the room off the Estate Kitchen that houses the centuries-old collection of cookbooks, restaurant menus and other culinary related material, but I just noticed a very adorable white mouse puppet holding a wedge of cheese in its paws there. Somebody had placed it in a white teacup on the middle of the large table so I really couldn’t overlook it. ’Our musical coda should be ‘Auld Ang Syne’ of course! I think that the Infinite Juxebox has got a Big Country live version. Ahhh, yes, it’s actually ‘In A Big Country’ and ‘Auld Lang Syne’ as performed by them at the Barrowland Music Hall on New Year’s Eve thirty-four year ago. The Scots band was in fine form before the quite enthusiastic Glasgow crowd and they certainly gave it their all.