She knew this music — knew it down to the very core of her being — but she had never heard it before. Unfamiliar, it had still always been there inside her, waiting to be woken. It grew from the core of mystery that gives a secret its special delight, religion its awe. It demanded to be accepted by simple faith, not dissected or questioned, and at the same time, it begged to be doubted and probed. –– smallpiper Janey Little in Charles de Lint’s The Little Country
Nasty weather today, isn’t it? Don’t believe it’ll get above minus five centigrade today which is damn cold so near everyone’s staying inside Kinrowan Hall save the Estate staff tending the livestock and checking on the grounds as need be as there’s also a gale force wind blowing and a freezing rain, too.
I was asking a question that pops up frequently around here and Peter Beagle said ‘You mean my favorite writing by Tolkien? Probably the story of Beren and Luthien, which I’ve always loved – or maybe the one now published as The Children of Hurin. One or the other.’ He’s been a guest off and on for decades and I’ve absolutely no idea he gets here from the San Francisco area, but I swear he’s magical in nature — which probably explains his fiction.
Now let’s turn to our Edition…
Welsh mythology in the guise of a well-loved novel gets looked at by Iain: ‘I must have first read Alan Garner’s The Owl Service some forty years ago when I was interested in all things concerning Welsh mythology. I wanted a hardcover first edition which cost a pretty penny at the time. I mention this because it’s now been at least twenty years since I last read this novel, which is long enough that when Naxos kindly sent the audiobook, I had pretty much forgotten the story beyond remembering that I was very impressed by the story Garner told.’
Speaking of Welsh mythology, Jo looks at two versions of a Welsh collection of myths: ‘Grand quests, swords, sorcery, gods, mortals, love, war, and a healthy sense of mystery can all be found in The Mabinogion. These eleven ancient Welsh tales date back to somewhere around 1200 in written form and are classics of the folk tale genre. There are few places where you can find so many archetypal folk themes, presented within such a short space. Celtic lineage, culture, and heritage are presented with grace and passion within the framework of a group of stories. These tales are a must for anyone interested in Celtic folklore or in Arthurian legend, for Arthur plays a minor role in many of the tales.’
Kim has a bit of Irish cultural history for us: ‘Helen Brennan’s The Story of Irish Dance is an engaging, personal, informative, and opinionated look at the reclamation and revival of traditional Irish Dance in the past 40 years — it’s the sort of story that one imagines could be heard in conversation at a congenial pub, sitting by the fire with a pint, or in someone’s living room with a cup of tea. That said, it’s also well organized and gives a succinct history of the decline of Irish dancing in the 20th century, the victim of commercial zoning laws and clerical vendettas.’
A treat for the forthcoming Winter Holidays comes in the guise of a short novel from one of our favourite writers and Richard says ‘one can look at the book as a companion piece to Beagle’s Summerlong, a bookend to the story that one tells. If Summerlong tells the story of a mature romance torn apart by the intrusion of the supernatural, In Calabria is a tale of a May-September romance that happens precisely because of the intrusion of the supernatural into everyday life. One door closes, another one opens, and the cycle goes on.’
Glenn Yeffeth’s Seven Seasons of Buffy: Science Fiction and Fantasy Authors Discuss Their Favorite Show, says Denise, has ‘something of interest in almost every essay in this book. It’s a fine volume for the smallest room in the house. Most of the writers I disagree with are still interesting — Lawrence Watt-Evans has a solution to Buffy’s love life that would never please me, but I understand how he got there.’
Tim looks at The Adventures of Robin Hood: ‘While numerous Robin Hood movies have been made, my dad steadfastly refuses to watch them. “There’s only one Robin Hood,” he says. He’s talking about Errol Flynn, of course, and this 1938 classic.’
Robert, our resident chocolate purist, has three offerings from a fairly new chocolate maker, TCHO: ‘TCHO is an American chocolate maker (and they differentiate between “chocolate maker” and “chocoatier”) that is, according to their website, determined to make the best chocolate possible. Like so many others, they are focused on fair trade organic chocolate. . . .Three of their offerings wound up on my desk recently, and I have to admit, they are all excellent. Where to start?’
Robert brings us something a little out of the ordinary for this week’s graphic literature: the beginning of a Korean manhwa series, King of Hell: ‘King of Hell is manhwa from Korea, a medium that, along with Chinese man hua, fits within the overall manga model. It’s what I’ve taken to calling a supernatural adventure, based on the exploits of one Majeh, an envoy for the King of Hell.’
Celtic music has long been bastardised, errr, blended with other traditions, as Chuck notes in this review: ‘Many forms of music have been fused with Celtic — hard rock, new age, jazz, and South American, just to name a few — with varying success. With Born Tired, Burach fuses with several styles, most unusually, attempting to merge Celtic with ’70s era funk with mixed results.’
Gary tells us about a new four-song EP from Rachel Baiman that has a holiday theme. ‘Thanksgiving packs a big emotional wallop for such a little thing. Rather like the emotions lurking behind this family-centered, uniquely American holiday.’
Naomi looks at album called Solstice: ‘Duchas, pronounced “du-kuss,” is an Irish Gaelic word meaning “heritage.” And this is what this high energy group from Connemara is playing: their musical heritage. This is their second release, and it is filled with traditional and original pieces, all played with a wonderful energy and passion.’
Robert brings us a collection that of music that often starts with the traditional and goes on from there — to wit, Vaughan Williams’s Orchestral Works: ‘Ralph Vaughan Williams (1872-1958) is certainly one of the foremost English composers of the twentieth century. Like many of his contemporaries – Bartók and Copeland come immediately to mind – he drew a great deal of his inspiration from folk songs and traditional melodies. In addition to his symphonies and choral works, he left behind a rich legacy of shorter orchestral works, many of which are remarkable, orchestral jewels.’
This week’s What Not almost wound up in Food and Drink. How can that be? you ask. Well, let Robert guide you through a rather unusual exhibition at Chicago’s Field Museum: ‘If you happen to be in Chicago before January 5, 2020, be sure to catch a small gem of an exhibition at the Field Museum: the Chicago Brewseum’s Brewing Up Chicago, their first exhibition, hosted by the Field Museum. It’s a combination of history, politics, and the brewer’s art.’
Now let’s have some music to finish out this edition. It’s Northumbrian piper and fiddler Kathryn Tickell performing ‘The Pipes Lament’, a tune written by her, which was recorded at the Shoreditch Church, London on the 15th of June 2010, and it should do quite nicely.
Tickell, by the way, connects indirectly to The Little Country novel as smallpiper Janey Little in the novel lists Northumbrian piper Billy Pigg as one of her inspirations to become a musician, something that Tickell also claims.