Welcome to GMR

gmr.frontIf you haven’t encountered us before, read on; otherwise skip to the weekly edition which is up every Sunday morning and alternates with a Story every Wednesday morning.

Everything that interests us as a diverse group of individuals will get attention here, be it Irish music or perhaps a tasty jazz or classical recording, tarot decks,  puppetsmanor house mysteries and science fiction novelsfantasy inspired by folklorebeloved filmsegg nog recipes,  street foodchocolatewhisky and cookbooks… Well you get the idea.

Stories about the Kinrowan Estate will show up every Wednesday, be it Gus the Estate Head Gardener talking about pumpkins; Reynard, our Pub Manager of the Green Man Pub located in Kinrowan Hall, sharing stories; Zina on the Neverending Session and Midsummer as well; or even Iain, our Librarian, talking about life there such as the Several Annies, his Library Apprentices.  And you’ll see material from The Sleeping Hedgehog, the in-house newsletter for our staff, such as Lady Alexandra Margaret Quinn, Estate Gardener here in the Victorian Era, on a tree spirit. You might even meet Hamish, one of the current hedgehogs living in the Library who sleep the Winter away in a basket near the fireplace in our Library.

So if you’ve got something you’d like reviewed, whatever it might be, email me here as you never know what’ll tickle our fancy.

PS: you’ll also get to hear some choice music here every week such as Michele Walther and Irina Behrendt playing Aaron Copland’s ‘Hoe Down’  from his Rodeo album. I sourced it off a Smithsonian music archive which has no details where or when it was recorded which surprised me given how good they usually are at such things.

Background is a William Morris design; the fiddling green man was done for us by Lahri Bond.

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A Kinrowan Estate story: Chasing Fireflies

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Come on in, you’re just in time! We haven’t started yet … don’t just stand there in the doorway, come in, come in! We have a contradance planned for tonight. I’m Kate, one of the assistant cooks here, but I’m also a dance caller. Grab yourself a seat for now, we’ll start soon. The band has to finish tuning, and … oh, there’s a fiddler missing! Would someone go roust Béla out of the pub?! I’ve danced without a fiddler before, but it just seems to lack something. As I was saying, as soon as Béla graces us with his presence, and the band finishes tuning, we’ll walk through the first dance. You’ll need a partner, of course; go ask one of those fine people sitting over by the fire. Go on, just ask! Yes, you can do this, it’s very easy. It is so! It’s just walking to music is all, for want of a better term. Well, mostly, anyway. But don’t you worry, the other dancers will help you.

Still no sign of Béla, eh? Who went to fetch him?

It’s that new porter that’s been tapped in the pub, I’m sure. Béla’s developed quite a taste for it. You should give it a try yourself, but after the dance, please. You’re certain to have quite a thirst then. Ah, I see some of the wallflowers have left their chairs and are headed this way. Looks like you’ll dancing this first one after all! Very good, now if you and your partner would fall in down at the end of the set, because I think I see Béla coming in …

Now, everyone, take hands in groups of four, starting at the top of the set. Odd numbered couples are active, even are inactive. Actives, change places with your partner, please. Let’s dance ‘Lady of the Lake.’ Actives meet in the center of the set with a balance and swing. Now promenade down the middle. Turn alone and come back… cast around. Do a ladies chain over… and back. Now balance and swing with that person below… and you should have progressed and be ready to meet in the center again. You’ve got it! Now, everyone back to place and we’ll dance this one with the music. Béla, if you please…

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What’s New for the 21st of May: a Gothic novel, Sayers on Holmes and other matters

The point is, there is no feasible excuse for what we are, for what we have made of ourselves. We have chosen to put profits before people, money before morality, dividends before decency, fanaticism before fairness, and our own trivial comforts before the unspeakable agonies of others.  — Iain M. Banks in Complicity, one of his many novels not set in The Culture series he did.

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It’s a little cooler than last week which touched thirty celsius, eighty to you Yanks, but still quite pleasant. Though it certainly wouldn’t hurt if we got a few days of rain now.

The Kitchen made sourdough waffles this morning, which of course require starting about ten or twelve hours beforehand, being yeast-raised. We top them with one of our favourite toppings, be it applesauce or preserves such as strawberry or blueberries. Even on rarer occasions, whipped cream from Riverrun Farm. And I had the twice-smoked applewood bacon as well.

The Estate wolfhounds were restless and in need of a good walk, as was I after that filling breakfast, so I packed a light lunch of some beef jerky for them, sourdough rolls, our own cheddar and an apple, with a thermos of tea, Earl Grey this time, and headed off for the Standing Stones. It made for a pleasant walk and my canine companions certainly enjoyed it as they chased a number of hares but never caught any.

Now it’s time to wrap this edition, so I suggest you have one of our Spring Peeper blonde ales and go out to the Courtyard to enjoy the warm weather. I’ll have this edition to you shortly …

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Denise takes a turn to the Gothic with Eleanor Wasserberg’s Foxlowe. While it may not be the horror show she’d hoped for, Denise found this debut novel fascinating. “‘Foxlowe takes your mind and plays with it much the same way the Family do each other. A sly, stealthy feeling of dread you can’t quite put your finger on, and little by little, their life feels understandable. Backwards, even dangerous at times, but I could understand how they got there… Which might be the scariest thing of all.’

Irene says of a slender volume by Dorothy Sayers on a subject dear to many of us: ‘These essays, as well as a transcription of an original radio play featuring a young Peter Death Bredon Wimsey and Sherlock Holmes, are reprinted in the slim volume by The Mythopoeic Press entitled Sayers on Holmes: Essays and Fiction on Sherlock Holmes. The essays are lovely examples of canonical scholarship and show Sayers’ skill as a detective and a scholar (for what is a true research scholar but a detective) as well as her undoubted skill as an entertaining author.’

J.R. Campbell and Charles Prepolec are the editors of Gaslight Grimoire: Fantastic Tales of Sherlock Holmes of which Kage says, ‘All in all, Gaslight Grimoire is well worth picking up if you enjoy lighting the fire, curling up in your armchair with a glass of sherry at your elbow in the gloom of a winter afternoon, and having a good Victorian-era read.’

Kestrell looks into the future to review John Langan’s House of Windows. What does Kestrell have to say of this work of literary horror? Well, this might help — ‘House of Windows can be read on many levels — as a modern updating of the old-fashioned ghost story, as a commentary on the psychological ‘ghosts’ created by physical and emotional abuse, and as a perceptive reading of the overlapping of classic literature with supernatural fiction. Beneath all of these, however, runs the ongoing questions of why we read at all, why do words and stories possess such an irresistible attraction for us, and what these stories can reveal — or tragically fail to reveal-to us about our own lives and experiences.’

We like Shakespeare madly, deeply here but alas, a certain work of scholarship about him doesn’t please Robert: ‘Forest, trees: there is a certain brand of scholarship that tends to focus on minute examinations of trees in the attempt to discover a forest. I am the last to decry the idea of analyzing parts in the hope of understanding the whole, but there are limits, particularly if the need for clear relationships between the parts falls by the wayside.. In the case of Laura Shamas’ We Three: The Mythology of Shakespeare’s Weird Sisters, I have to confess that by the end, I felt as though I had been buried in a pile of kindling.’

Robert was also somewhat disappointed in a new book inspired by Ellen Kushner’s Swordspoint: ‘Tremontaine is the latest foray into the world of Swordspoint, but it is not, as I had at first supposed, a collection of stories. It is, rather, an ongoing narrative with chapters by a group of writers, most of whom are new to me. . . . Like Swordspoint, Tremontaine is about political intrigue, the use and misuse of power, and gossip.’

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Big Earl gives us a look at a Rough Guide that covers a music few of us know: ‘Bhangra, for the few of you who don’t know, is a British musical genre, created by East Indian musicians mixing traditional Punjabi music with, well, whatever happens to be hip. There are even Bhangra raves. You get the picture: an up-to-date rendition of ancient music. Since its beginnings in the early 1980’s, Bhangra has not only become extremely popular throughout Britain and Europe, but also crossover success, often hitting the non-world pop charts.’

Gary says Willie Nelson’s new album God’s Problem Child is one of his best. ‘Like his friend and fellow road warrior Bob Dylan, Willie has tossed off so many records that some of them are bound to be sub-par, but this ain’t one of ’em.’

About a decade ago, Mike wents to see a legendary group: ‘The Dubliners are true legends of folk music, having now performed together as a group for 44 years. Many of the stories they tell of Dublin, are of a city that has all but disappeared in this day and age, and they are now as much a part of folklore as the songs and tunes that they perform.’

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Our What Not today is a look at reviewing — or at least, one reviewer’s take on what it’s about. Turns out it’s not as easy as you might think.

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Our quote from Iain M. Banks at the top of this post, particularly the bit about how we put ‘our own trivial comforts before the unspeakable agonies of others,’ put me in mind of this song by Rhiannon Giddens. It’s one of several songs on her 2017 release Freedom Highway that are inspired by 19th century slave narratives. This one is a dialogue between an enslaved person and her owner, and it’s called ‘Julie’.

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A Kinrowan Estate story: A Unified Theory of Libraries (A Letter to Anna)

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Dear Anna,

I overheard an interesting conversation in the Library this evening. Mackenzie was lecturing the Several Annies on the history of private libraries such as ours down the centuries in the British Isles. (He claimed that ours is the oldest known, but that can’t be verified.)

A Several Annie wanted to know if there was a Unified Theory of Libraries, a metanarrative, she said, that connected all the libraries in existence, past and present. I don’t know if she was pulling his leg, but it certainly was an interesting question, one that made me stop and wait for his answer.

He said after a long silence, ‘I have a tale to tell of a Christmastide Ceilidh here in the Great Hall. One of the players, a pretty red-headed fiddler dressed all in green, remarked that the building and its inhabitants formed what she called a ‘tea cup culture’ in that one could learn all one needed to know about what was going on here over a cup of tea and a tatty scone or two while sitting in the kitchen on a winter’s afternoon gossiping with the staff.

‘Couldn’t disagree with her, as I’ve heard more interesting news over a few pints of Little Sir John Ale than bears ‘membering. Some of it is rather mundane — oh, a musician telling another musician that their band which was River Gods is now called Grendel’s Den as they’ve added a carnyx player to the band and the sound is really dark now.

‘Or the concertina player with Nobody’s Wedding Guests was telling the tale of what she called the ‘blood wedding’! where everything went wrong. I’m still not sure the priest could have done that, but Reynard, anti-papist that he is, says anything is possible with a priest. Especially a defrocked one. Maybe that was why it all went wrong!

Librarians exist in a tea cup culture of their own, one connected by letter and telegraph across the civilized world that allowed them to know each other and share gossip and information as need be. If there is a Unified Theory of Libraries, it’s based on the long established fact that any librarian worth his or her salt is curious about everything. Oh, they have their areas of keen interest; e.g., there’s a Norwegian librarian I know who has collected bloody near every printed work on trolls she could find. Justina, our consulting potter, used her as a resource for the Troll Under the Bridge project. I’d not heard of her but a librarian I knew in London knew another librarian who remembered her interest in trolls, as he talked with her while at a conference in Iceland a decade back.

So it’s not really that there’s a Unified Theory of Libraries, but more that they are all interconnected by shared interests and passions that are strengthened by the odd conference, the papers we write, the Internet discussion groups, the busman’s holiday spent visiting other libraries, and the exchanges we do among staff. And all of you who are Several Annies will in turn become part of that tea cup culture as you settle into your careers in libraries and elsewhere.’

I’ll need to think about what he said. Much might be true, but I’m not sure how truly unique that tea cup culture is, as I’d say any profession, such as the musicians he mentioned, form a similar one. Certainly there’s a network of Estate Gardeners who share stories and seeds and gossip as I’m part of it.

Tills nästa gång Gus

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What’s New for the 14th of May: music from uilleann piper David Sproule and Americana music!

“We”re all misfits here,” he says, almost proudly. “That’s why I started this squat, after all. For people like us, who don’t fit in anywhere else. Halfies and homos and hopeless romantics, the outcast and outrageous and terminally weird. That’s where art comes from, Jimmy, my friend. From our weirdnesses and our differences, from our manic fixations, our obsessions, our passions. From all those wild and wacky things that make each of us unique.” — Holly Black and Terri Windling in their ‘Welcome to Bordertown’ novella  in the Welcome to Bordertown anthology.

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Hear that piper playing off in the distance toward the edge of the Wild Wood? Whoever it is is a damn fine piper and has apparently come this time of year for decades now. No one can say with any certainty who it is, though many of us have our suspicions based on the style of their playing and their choice of tunes, which lean heavily towards Northumbrian tunes such as those composed by Billy Pigg and Kathryn Tickell.

The Library, all six levels of it (or is it seven? It keeps changing), is getting a once-in-a-decade thorough cleaning and painting from the wee House brownies and the more-or-less human staff. So that’s why I’m outside this morning listening to that piper. Gus and Reynard insist it’s a green man, one that they’ve met and played with several times. Might be, might not be.

So let’s take a look at this edition…

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Cat has a fondness for Jane Yolen. One of her collections, Once Upon A Time (she said), warrants his opinion of her as one of the truly great writers of short fiction. As he says in his review: ‘We here at Green Man get more fiction for review than really bears thinking about. Some of it is very good, some of it is serviceable if somewhat uninspiring, and a lot of it is just plain awful. I personally always look forward to a book by Yolen coming in as I have a fondness for Jane Yolen, both as a writer and as a really cool person.’

Jane Yolen, Shulamith Oppenheim and Stefan Czernecki’s The Sea King is also appreciated by Grey: ‘This lovely folk tale has many old friends in it: Vasilisa the Wise, a beautiful princess who is also a bird; Baba Yaga the witch in her house that runs by itself on chicken legs; the King of the Sea in his underwater palace of crystal; and the innocently wise boy who finds his way because he’s generous and observant. And it has one of the most poignant story lines of all: the father who promises to sacrifice the first thing he sees when he returns home — only to find out that he’s just been borne a son.’

Marian looks at a trilogy by Jane Yolen that deserves to be a classic. First up is The Books of Great Alta, which is the compilation of Yolen’s two books in the series,  Sister Light, Sister Dark and White Jenna. ‘It is the story of the women of Dale, who worship Great Alta the mother goddess,’ Marian says, and what happens to them for better or worse. If you’ve read these already, then do read Marian’s review of  the final volume, The One-Armed Queen, but otherwise do not as it has major spoilers about what happens in the first two novels.

Robert notes that ‘unlike many of my colleagues here at Green Man Review, my experience with the work of Jane Yolen has been limited, although I’m happy to report that what experience I have had has been very positive. That, coupled with the fact that I’ve turned into a comics freak, made it inevitable that I would jump at the chance to take a peek at her new book, Foiled, a graphic novel about a teenager who is an expert swordsman — among other things.’

 

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Popcorn Behaviour gives us a trio of contradance recordings, of which Naomi says  ‘It is rather disconcerting at first to listen to this group. The music is impeccable and surpasses much of what I have heard in my life. This in itself is not all that remarkable. However, when you realize that the musicians are only 10, 13, and 14 years of age, it kind of makes you suck back and reload, if you know what I mean. These Vermont youngsters are all musical marvels who have been playing together for years! Actually, they are not so young now; that was their age at the time of the first recording six years ago. However, listening to it, I would never guess that it was a bunch of kids playing these great contradance tunes! There is a maturity to their playing that really is unbelievable, and totally enjoyable!’

Jay Ungar and Molly Mason’s Harvest Home: Music For All Seasons is to the liking of Brendan, who says, ‘With their 1999 release Harvest Home, they have given themselves a new challenge. Arranging a set of tunes from the broad variety of American rural music traditions, designed to celebrate the seasons and labor of farm life, they also decided to try their hand at incorporating these folk themes (both original and traditional) into an orchestral piece called “The Harvest Home Suite.” The result is a beautiful, surprising complex CD which showcases the many rural traditions of the United States while, just as Ungar and Mason hoped, giving all of these pieces a new energy.’

Gary says the Kathy Kallick Band provides us with a winner: ‘On Foxhounds Kallick is joined by Annie Staninec on fiddle, Tom Bekeny on mandolin, Greg Booth on Dobro and banjo, and Cary Black on bass. Everyone contributes to the vocals and the arrangements. There’s nothing on this album but 14 tracks of rock-solid acoustic country music, from old-time to bluegrass to contemporary folk to some tasty covers.’

Don’t Roost Too High is from Red Mountain White Trash, which Gary says ‘is a traditional band with a decidedly untraditional name. But don’t let the moniker put you off. This outfit plays old-time fiddle-based dance music with roots deep in the rich Southern soil.’ This was an early album from them and they’ve since their name to a more respectful Red Mountain.

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We really like food and drink here, so it won’t surprise you that our staffers have strong convictions on what they like for ale as does Paul Brandon who has a Proustian moment when telling his tale: ‘I hold up an empty ghost glass for the long-passed Kentish Fremlins Bitter, which was a wonderful fruity, hoppy explosion of happiness best sampled in an English beer garden at 10 pm in midsummer, when the sun is going down, smoking and the bats are flitting after midges. Alas now just a memory. Wychwood’s organic Circle Master Golden Ale is just wonderful (and I’ve sourced some here in Brisbane, though at a kidney a bottle my quaffing options are becoming limited), and of course there’s Cider. Best bought from a rickety farmyard door somewhere in deepest, greenest Somerset. It comes in plastic containers that probably recently carried pink agricultural diesel, and upon first chug, one feels one’s left eye start to involuntarily twitch. Ah…’

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Not every one here is fond of Tolkien and his fiction and Deborah Grabien explains why so: ‘I can’t stand Tolkien. Literally, allergic to his stuff. I read The Hobbit when I was a precocious 14-year-old at the behest of my much-older sister’s pompous university chums, and it was made clear to me that I was rooting for the wrong side: I’d have turfed the annoying wizard and told him to take his bloody destiny and stuff it somewhere. I adored the dragon and wept when they killed it. I wanted it to eat all those irritating dwarves. All the twenty something students blathering on about Herman Hesse and Robert Heinlein stared at me as if I’d just dropped in from Mars.

And the trilogy? Ugh. Worse. When I have to stop at page 60 and go back and see what species one of the characters is, there are too many damned species in there.

No Tolkien for me. He makes my teeth itch. That particular meeting is not one I attended.’

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We started off with a piper today, so let’s finish with one. This is uilleann piper David Sproule performing Buaile Mhaodhog on the uillean pipes. Irish music being one of the roots that become old-time, bluegrass, contradance and other music loosely labeled Americana, it’s an appropriate music to take our leave of this edition.

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A Kinrowan Estate story: A Night in Our Pub

imageCome join me. I’m in the back bar of our Pub, where the Neverending Session is in full flow. There’s an amazing Galician guitarist sitting in tonight, so I’ve (been) volunteered to write this journal entry while I’m here. Actually, I’m quite happy to oblige, as the session is an enjoyably different experience on the outside of the circle than on the inside, where I usually find myself. You start noticing people and things that you’d miss if you were playing.

Even so, I never noticed that quiet young woman who’s now sketching portraits of the musicians…where did she come from? How does someone so striking manage to move about unnoticed like that? How come her long red hair looks damp when it hasn’t rained all day? I’m snapped out of these musings by the barkeep, who gives me a playful bang on the ear as he squeezes past. ‘What are ye staring at, Laddie,’ says he. ‘Ah, that’s Morveth, she lives somewhere up on the coast. I’d keep your eyes on your notebook, not her, if I were you, as she’s got a thing for storytellers of a certain age!’ I protest that my interest in the lady is purely observational. ‘Aye, sure it is,’ he chuckles, and he’s off, hailing other customers.

There’s a staffer tucked away in the corner there, reading, as always. With her fingers rhythmically tapping on the covers and the pages flicking over, she looks like a concertina player accompanying a song that only she can hear. A couple are deep in conversation among the throng at the bar. He’s got his missus in a ballroom dance hold… I’m trying to read the Steeleye Span tour dates on the back of his T-shirt when she flashes me a smile over his shoulder. He turns to grin too, makes an ‘air guitar’ gesture and nods pointedly in the direction of the session. I smile back, shake my head, and do a ‘we’re not worthy,’ towards the Galician guy.

So, here we all are. Reading, listening and watching. We’re not outside of the circle after all, but inside the next circle, the next ripple on the pond when the stone gets dropped in the water.

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What’s New for the 7th of May: Adam Stemple’s first solo novel, a look at John Denver, The Mythology of Shakespeare’s Weird Sisters, John Gay’s The Beggar’s Opera, music by Clannad and other matters

At any rate, the tune is not a story, but stories might lie behind the tune. For, as mnemonics, the names summon up a tangled web of circumstances; they not only help to summon the tune into being, but recall other times and other places where the tune was played, and the company there might have been. — Ciaran Carson in Last Night’s Fun: In and Out with Irish Music

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It’s a cold, damp afternoon, so many of us are in the Pub catching  up on our reading. See Gus, our Estate Gardener at the end of the Bar enjoying our Queen’s Lament IPA? He’s reading Cheese Holidays, a magazine solely devoted to cheeses and cheese regions worth visiting, which cheeses to try, best hotels in terms of the cheeses they offer and even local history as related to the cheeses created there. It even has a centrefold of sorts with a spread of the cheeses from a featured cheesery.

I’ve been reading the recently published journals of a British diplomatic attaché who spent quite some years in Islandia nearly three centuries ago. Fascinating look at a country few even visit now, but I’ve had a decades long mail-based friendship with the Librarian for the National Archives there.

And Catherine’s been happily immersed in a history of medieval music instruments and the contemporary renaissance of their usage, and making notes on which Max, our resident luthier, might make for her. She’s enjoying an Irish coffee made with Kona beans we roasted here, a generous measure of Redbreast 12-year-old Single Pot Still Irish whisky and a dollop of freshly whipped cream.

Now lets see what we’ve got for you in this edition…

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Elizabeth has a cautionary note for those who think inside boxes too much: ‘Too many people these days seem to confuse “feminism” with “radical feminism.” The idea of a science fiction and fantasy novel mixed with a heavy dose of feminism may have people thinking about army-boot-wearing, goddess-worshipping, man-hating, unshaven-leg-baring lesbians. They wouldn’t be completely wrong — many of the interesting female characters in this book wear army boots, worship goddesses, snipe at men, and prefer the touch of the female gender. Just not all at once. Both thoughtful and thought-provoking, Anne Harris’ novel Inventing Memory explores the entire spectrum of female empowerment (or lack thereof), from the passive battered wife to the determined female scientist to the crusading — and yes, lesbian — pro-choice activist.’

Adam Stemple’s first solo novel pleased Faith, sort of: ‘Singer of Souls is like a funhouse mirror, or a kaleidoscope. Every time I thought I knew what it was about, something shifted somewhere, and I didn’t know what was going on any more. So what sort of book is it? There’s a bit of redemption, a touch of sex (not very graphic), rather more violence (also rather more graphic, but not sickeningly so), some music theory, a travelogue of Edinburgh, politics, religion, heroes and villains who are both larger and smaller than life (and are frequently the same person), folklore…’

If you’ve ever wondered about John Gay’s The Beggar’s Opera and how it came to be perhaps the best known English-language opera, Jack has the book for you, Charles Pearce’s Polly Peachum and The Beggar’s Opera: ‘Given such a rich and rather racy plot, it’s no surprise that Polly Peachum and The Beggar’s Opera, which details how The Beggar’s Opera has fared from its inception ’til the late Victorian period, is a lively read.’

Alas a certain work of Shakespeare scholarship isn’t to  Robert’s liking: ‘Forest, trees: there is a certain brand of scholarship that tends to focus on minute examinations of trees in the attempt to discover a forest. I am the last to decry the idea of analyzing parts in the hope of understanding the whole, but there are limits, particularly if the need for clear relationships between the parts falls by the wayside. In the case of Laura Shamas’ We Three: The Mythology of Shakespeare’s Weird Sisters, I have to confess that by the end, I felt as though I had been buried in a pile of kindling.’

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I was looking at a back issue of Sleeping Hedgehog and noticed it had a look at the libations some visitors indicated they really liked. One such person was Cheryl who  notes that, ‘I am currently spending much of my time in the UK — I think the top pick should be a bottle of dry (or possibly sparkling) white wine to be consumed along with a picnic while spending a lazy day watching flanneled fools whacking a red leather ball around the green fields. For evenings I am very happy to join Mr. Buckell in a glass of Chimay, which is my favorite beer. However, if I happen to be in California a large margarita might be in order, especially if I happen to be in a Mexican restaurant.’

And Christopher has a delightful look at some things of a breakfast nature: ‘One of the very few things I liked about living in Los Angeles were the breakfasts, vast profligate platefuls in Carmen Miranda colours, sometimes also sporting bits of fruit. Before I went there I had never heard of a three egg omelette, let alone an egg-white one (hey, if you’ve that big a cholesterol problem, don’t have the eggs!). The alien bacon, thin, sweet and streaky, was magnificently matched with syrup-covered waffles, reducing the need for marmalade.’

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The Grateful Dead’s So Many Roads (1965-1995) catches the ear of Brendan: ‘So often dismissed as a anachronistic hippie band that would somehow never die, the Grateful Dead actually formed a keystone of sorts between the traditional forms of American roots music and the rock music of the ’60s. Looking past the psychedelic trappings and bizarre skeleton images, one can easily see that foundations of the Dead’s music consist mainly of the American Musical Triumvirate: jazz, blues, and country, with of course a healthy dose of rock and roll to keep things interesting.’

Denise has a look at three remastered albums by John Denver. She says, ‘John Denver was often overlooked as a singer-songwriter of merit; with James Taylor, Carole King and Joni Mitchell, it’s easy to see where he’d get lost in the early-seventies shuffle. But he managed to carve out his own niche and establish himself, and though he died in a tragic accident in 1997, his legacy lives on through his songs. Named Colorado’s Poet Laureate in 1974, John Denver has often been painted by music snobs as a songwriter first, and a singer a pale second. Hopefully these remasters will change that.’ I admit, I’m one of those ‘snobs’ but although Denver was never one of my own favourites I have to say he had a great voice!’

Lars looks at West of Eden’s No Time Like the Past — A Collection: ‘Wherever you find locals playing Irish traditional music. Sweden is no exception. Sometimes I suspect there are more Swedes playing Irish music than Swedish traditionals. But some groups around it takes it further, creating their own music using the Irish tradition as the foundation and inspiration. West of Eden from Gothenburg on the west coast of Sweden is such a group.’

Robert takes a look at what many have called Capercaillie’s ‘crossover’ album: ‘To the Moon was my first exposure to Capercaillie, so of course, it was what’s generally considered their “crossover” album. This is by no means a negative, or even something that’s very obvious: it’s more apparent in the rhythm patterns, the instrumentation (sorry, but no one is going to persuade me that the bouzouki is a traditional Scottish instrument), and the general treatment.’

And, to round off our look at the genesis and history of John Gay’s The Beggar’s Opera, Robert brings us a look at the work itself: ‘John Gay’s The Beggar’s Opera is a particularly English variant of a form that was widespread in Europe and later in America: known as a “ballad opera,” it is a close cousin to the German singspiel (a stellar example of which is Mozart’s The Magic Flute), the operetta, and the American musical. Gay’s work is also the direct ancestor of the Kurt Weill/Bertold Brecht collaboration Die Dreigroschen Oper, later rendered into English as The Threepenny Opera, which contains the song “Mack the Knife,” recorded and rerecorded by any number of popular singers.’

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Our What Not considers a matter that makes it fortunate duelling isn’t legal these days as Harold Bloom will tell any who cared to listen that Shakespeare practically invented the English language by all himself, a claim that at bet is an execration and at worse is simply not true. And would make for a fascinating duel.

So the Telegraph comes along with an article that shows at least one Shakespearean lover doesn’t agree: ‘An Australian expert on Shakespeare claims the bard did not invent many of the words and phrases attributed to him, saying the mistake is due to the Oxford English Dictionary’s “bias” towards citing literary examples of early usages.’ You can read the full article here.

imageLet’s finish this edition off with a tune by Clannad, a band often derided by Irish trad music lovers as just a New Age band because of their later recordings  but give a listen to ‘Down By The Sally Gardens’ and I think you’ll agree that they do Irish trad rather well.

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A Kinrowan Estate story: An Estate Ramble

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It’s early one morning, barely past dawn, when I head down to the Kitchen for an early breakfast of tea and a buttermilk biscuit (as the Americans called them) with cheddar cheese and ham in it. After that, I pack a lunch of tea (yes I like tea quite a bit), an apple, crusty rolls, smoked sausage and a quite sharp cheddar cheese. And then I was off for a walk to the Standing Stones and back.

Oh, I dressed right for a ramble — sturdy boots, long pants and a long-sleeved shirt as it’s always cool in the woods where I’ll mostly be walking. Let’s see … I do carry a phone as anyone can have an accident though I’ll be damned if I know why we get reception away from the area around Kinrowan Hall. And I carry collection bags for mushrooms, herbs and such from the forest and meadows I cross. There’s also a notebook for jotting down observations if need be.

The first thing I found on my walk was some lovely morels a scant dozen yards into the woods. I think they’ll go well in eggs with a mild cheese to complement them. A nice bag of St. Georges soon followed as did a number of wild herbs and even small onions made it into to my pack.

I was eventually joined by a small fox, probably a young female, with a white splash on her face. She ran ahead of me as I got deeper into woods. Several ravens harassed her for a while but they went off in search I suspect of something to eat.

When I stopped for lunch, my fox companion came very close to me as she noticed I was eating good stuff from her viewpoint. I anticipated this might happen, so I carried extra provisions, particularly the sausage and cheese. And she got her fair share and maybe a bit more.

And we’ve time enough left to head back up the path, and pull a few weeds before afternoon tea.

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What’s New for the 30th of April: a tale about a book that doesn’t exist, Sandy Denny live, some British folk rocker bios and just maybe a bit more…

Come all ye rolling minstrels,
And together we will try
To rouse the spirit of the air
And move the rolling sky.

‘Come All Ye’, composed by Sandy Denny

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So you want to know about the Sandy Denny bio that Reynard was alluding to in our Pub? Well I can’t give any specifics about it but I can tell the tale by changing the names of all involved. A writer for an American music magazine, call it Frest, decided to write a biography of Sandy Denny, who died as the result of a fall down the stairs at her home even though her death was some weeks later. The Coroner’s Inquest found mid-brain trauma to be the cause of her death. She was just over thirty years old when she died, a tragedy for a folk musician of high esteem with work with Fairport Convention, Fotheringay, the Strawbs and otherwise.

The writer got an advance from a well-regarded publisher here in Britain and set out doing interviews and such. So far, so good. And then our writer turned in a draft, which was when the shit started piling up. It’s been speculated on who was Denny’s pusher, and the writer decided to say who it was, a speculation at best. (I read the draft — the evidence was scant at best. And I no longer remember who it was.) The publisher hit the roof and said that bit had to go (the writer refused), so the publisher got a ban from it being published anywhere and demanded the not-small advance back. And that’s where the story ends.

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First up is Clinton Heylin’s No More Sad Refrains: The Life and Times of Sandy Denny in which I had forgotten that our reviewer Chris does reference that zombie biography: ‘In some ways it’s apposite that a book written about an artist as emotionally charged and mercurial as Sandy Denny should itself have had a difficult and rocky genesis. Some people, myself included, were expecting a biography of Sandy written by Pam Winters to be issued by Helter Skelter last year. It’s not my place as a reviewer to pass judgment on the disagreements which caused that project to flounder, and led to Clinton Heylin writing this book. Nevertheless, I include these comments to clarify the situation for those readers who do not know the background, why a biography did not appear last year, and why the author of this book, Clinton Heylin, is perhaps not the same author that they may have expected. It also helps explain the rather unusual comments in Clinton Heylin’s acknowledgments. Maybe one day that full story will unfold, but I shall keep my thoughts and comments on the book in hand. ‘

Fairport Unconventional was one of those astounding box sets Free Reed did. And I’m just looking at this tasty treat: ‘As amazing as the music lovingly collected in this box set is, the one hundred and seventy page book is in its own way even better. Shaped to fit the box set as you can see by the photo of the box set, it’s a full history of the band as written by Schofeld who’s very obviously a diehard fan as he amusingly with an introduction entitled ‘Fairport Convention: A recipe for success’ which includes this choice tidbit: ’11 lead guitarists, 11 lead vocalists, 6 fiddle players, 7 drummers, 5 keyboard players, 2 bass players’ which makes the band not all that different than any band that’s lasted thirty-five years such as the Breton fest noz bands.’

Fairport Convention and Steeleye Span are the of my fav British folk rock(ish) bands, so it’s apt that Lars has a review of Brian Hinton and Geoff Wall’s biography of Ashley Hutchings: The Guv’nor & the Rise of Folk Rock as he helped birth both of those groups: ‘To some of us the subject of this book is, if not God, at least the musical equivalent to the pope. Name a group you like and have followed over the years, and there is a fair chance that Mr. Hutchings was there to start it, or at least influence the starting of it. He is in one way or another responsible for a very large number of the records in my collection, and yes, we are certainly talking three figures, here.’

Scott Allen Nollen’s Jethro Tull: A History of the Band, 1968-2001 gets a superb look see by Kate: ‘Scott Allen Nollen has proven his devotion as a Tull fan in the countless miles travelled and the hours passed collecting details and interviewing band members and other associates. He has included nostalgic pictures of the band, some of which were borrowed from Ian Anderson, the often frenzied flautist who, despite some controversy, became the Fagin-like front man for the band. After ten long years of research, here is a comprehensive and entertaining story of the much misunderstood Jethro Tull. The authenticity is underlined by the thoughtful and honest foreword written by Ian Anderson himself.’

Richard ends our English folk rock biographies by looking at Patrick Humphries’ Richard Thompson: The Biography: ‘Biographies of musicians are always dangerous propositions. Too many are tell-alls that insist on concentrating on lurid details and scandal, to the point where the reader forgets that the book is about a musician. Others go the other way, and are so slavishly and obviously creations of the PR machine that they’re essentially worthless as sources of fact. Books of both these sorts tend to cluster around hugely successful acts, and to clutter bookshelves right around holiday time.’ And let’s just say this this is decidedly not the biography this artist deserves.

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Dave leads off our music reviews with a look at the Burning Bright box set: ‘The title comes from the William Blake poem, “Tyger, Tyger” and the reason is…that Tyger is Ashley Hutchings’ nickname. Having said that…let me next alert all and sundry that Free Reed is the greatest box-set compilation maker in the world, nay, universe! There is such a wealth of material in one of their sets that to properly appreciate it one must spend quality time with it to savour each mouth-watering delectable. And it’s not simply the music, although they are called Free Reed MUSIC, but the posters, and especially the books that are prepared and accompany each package are filled with enough photos, posters, memorabilia and biographical text to keep all your senses busy. Stick your nose in the book…it even smells good! One warning though…if you don’t like the sound of the concertina, approach this one carefully…but…the concertina grows on you, and this is five hours of definitive British lfolk music.’

He also has a look at another box set, The Time Has Come: 1967-1973, by a band that evokes Autumn for me: ‘By my recollection it was The Pentangle when they started. And then they lost the definitive article and were just Pentangle. Whatever they called themselves, they were like fish out of water at the time. My friends didn’t listen to them at all. We were all more into The Who, The Rolling Stones, Jimi Hendrix. The loud stuff. The flashy stuff. But now, years later, I find myself listening to this mix of jazz, folk, blues, and traditional music far more than I listen to those other bands.’

Deborah offers up the best look ever at Fairport Convention’s Liege and Lief: ‘1969 saw the release of two albums that gave me a case of musical whiplash: Pentangle’s Basket of Light and Fairport Convention’s Liege & Lief. (If memory serves, the third leg in that triad of bands, Steeleye Span, was still a year away from formation.)’ Go ahead and savour every word of this fascinating remembrance of things long past.

If there be a First Lady of English folk rock music for the past near fifty years, it must be Maddy Prior, whose singing has defined this tradition more than any other vocalist has. Deb has two looks at her, …And Maddy Dances and Comfort and the Unexpected: In Conversation with Maddy Prior. Trust me when I say that each of these articles will enlighten you more about Maddy than a hundred articles in the English music press ever could!

Richard extolls the virtues of the first box set to cover Richard Thompson’s career. Watching the Dark was released in 1993, and covered some of the high points of RT’s music on record from the Fairport years through the early 1990s. And he notes, ‘The oldest recordings in this compilation date back to 1969 when Thompson was only 20 years old and a member of Fairport Convention, a group whose earliest influences were the Byrds, Joni Mitchell, Bob Dylan and Jefferson Airplane. In due course, the band began to include in its repertoire traditional songs from the British Isles or self-composed songs drawing on that tradition.’

Speaking of Richard Thompson box sets, Gary was pleased when the English archival label Free Reed released RT: The Life and Music of Richard Thompson in 2006. It has six CDs with more than 100 tracks, mostly live and unreleased rarities, and a generous book with history, photos, discography, and more. ‘It’s just the sort of thing that the longtime fans have been clamoring for for years, and for the most part, they should be happy,’ he says. ‘No, ecstatic.’

Gary notes that ‘I daresay that many, if not most, readers of Green Man Review know all there is to know about Fairport Convention. If you’re not among them, there’s no dearth of information about this most venerated of English folk rock bands elsewhere in GMR, including a recent omnibus review. So I’ll skip any long historical introduction and say that Who Knows Where the Time Goes is a solid addition to the band’s discography.’

If you’ve not heard Steeleye Span in their full glory, here’s my suggestion From a few years back: ‘Are you looking for that perfect Winter Holiday gift for your lover of English folk rock? Oh, do I have a gift that’s perfect! EMI has just served up A Parcel of Steeleye Span. This triple disc set contains the entirety of their first five albums for Chrysalis, from 1972’s Please to See the King to 1975’s All Around My Hat with Parcel of Rogues, Commoners Crown, and Now We Are Six being the recordings in between. This completely remastered collection has 46 tracks in all, including a number of very tasty bonus tracks.’

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For our musical coda, I’ve got  ‘Matty Groves’ as performed by Fairport Convention at the Nottingham University on the 27th of  November 1974 with Sandy Denny being the vocalist. It’s definitely not soundboard quality but it’s hard to find performances of her that are fair to use.

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A Kinrowan Estate story: A Spring day

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Finally, a day that really feels like spring — sunny, mild, light breezes — a perfect morning for a walk down by the Pond. It’s been a while since I’ve been there, so I want to catch up.

The geese are very busy this morning, and much more vocal than usual. I think there’s a lot of courting going on: they seem to be settling down into pairs. The ducks, too, are busily getting ready to nest — they seem to mate while swimming as often as not. It’s a wonder any of them survive that part without drowning.

There’s starting to be green on the branches, and more — apples are blooming, and we have scillas, daffodils and hyacinths in the garden. There are patches in the meadows and near the Wood where they’ve settled in and gone wild, so there are drifts of blue and yellow in the grass.

And the maples are in bloom — they bloom quite early, with branches full of little flowers that look like little sea creatures, barnacles somehow caught in the trees, with tentacles waving in the wind. Those branches will be laden with seeds soon, after the wind does its job of pollinating the flowers.

And, inevitably, there are still patches of snow in the sheltered places, not so white by now, and more than a little the worse for wear. What we need is a good rain to wash everything clean.

And on that note, be careful what you wish for: the clouds are starting to roll in and we may have that rain before too much longer. I think it’s time to head back to the house, where it’s warm (the wind is starting to come up, blowing down off the hills where it’s still quite chilly) and dry.

And that’s that.

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What’s New for the 23rd of April: Psychedelic Turkish music And Cuban Jazz, E.B. White biography, Tricksters, Music of a Heavenly Nature, On Tap in Our Pub, and other cool matters

For every thing there is a season, and a time for every purpose under the heaven: A time to be born, and a time to die; A time to plant, and a time to pluck up that which is planted; A time to kill, and a time to heal; A time to break down, and a time to build up; A time to weep, and a time to laugh; A time to mourn, and a time to dance. — Ecclesiastes 3:2, King James Bible

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Ahhhh, I see you’re studying the chalk board that lists our libation offerings this evening. It shows that we’re currently offering Full Moon Ale, Celebration Ale, White Horse Ale, Lady in The Wood IPA, Queen’s Lament IPA, Wind in The Willows IPA, Albion Cider, Draw Down the Moon Cider, Kinrowan Special Reserve Cider, High Meadow Mead, Widdershins Mead, Dawn Breaking Mead, Odin’s Ravens’ Metheglin, Banish Misfortune Stout and Oberon’s Wood Stout. And of course all are produced here on the Estate by Bjorn, our Brewmaster.

Quite a list to choose from. As the Pub Manager here, I’ve sampled all of them and I’d particularly recommend the Queen’s Lament IPA named after a story told here late on an Autumn night, Drink Down the Moon Cider which is named after a novel by Charles de Lint, a favourite writer round these parts, is rather good and I recommend the Banish Misfortune Stout if you’re in the mood for something seriously dark. If you’re a drinker of Welsh style meads, our metheglin is well-worth trying.

Speaking of de Lint, we’ve been updating our  edition on him and his works for an Autumn publication as he’s been quite busy as his Triskell Press has been releasing new editions of his rather deep catalog and impressive new offerings as well including ‘Somewhere in My Mind There Is a Painting Box’ which is one of the reviews we’ll have soon, and it involves one of the three Dillard Sisters who are to be found togather in Seven Wild Sisterswith just two of them, Laurel and Bess in Medicine Road and Lillian who’s related to them in The Cats of Tanglewood Forest.

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Denise takes us from espionage to E.B. White, with a review of Melissa Sweet’s Some  Writer!: The Story of E.B. WhiteAt first, Denise thought she might not be up to the task of reviewing an autobiography of this esteemed author, but quickly changed her mind. ‘I needn’t have worried; Sweet did all the work for me, and beautifully too. For anyone else who wonders if a book about a writer they remember from childhood tales (and perhaps that Freshman English guide) may be outside of their bailiwick?  I say dig in.’

In keeping with her YA theme this edition, Denise also looks at Maryrose Wood’s What I Wore To Save The World “A very engaging story with a main character that is down to earth and not just an author’s wish fulfillment in prose form.  This will be a fun series to follow in future volumes; Ms. Wood has provided just enough change in Morgan’s life — natural and supernatural — to keep readers hungry for more.”

Robert brings us a look at an investigation of folklore — from an unexpected source: Avram Davidson’s Adventures in Unhistory: ‘What makes this collection of more than passing interest, and particularly appropriate for Green Man Review, is that it is, quite legitimately, an exploration of the mechanisms of folklore. Call them lectures, call them essays, call them wild speculations with a solid foundation in the ways people rationalize their universe, they are a series of madcap, breathless adventures in the histories of many of our archetypes.’

And from the frying pan into the fire, so to speak: next up is Robert’s look at a particular kind of folklore — what we can call “Trickster tales,” as presented by Ellen Datlow and Terri Windling in The Coyote Road: ‘Trickster gods have long fascinated me, mostly because they are the most entertaining characters in mythology. They also represent the element of chance in the universe, and point as well to an underlying truth about our conception of godhood: Tricksters are the polar points on the continuum of “good” and “bad” — heroes and villains, buffoons and sages, creators and destroyers — most points in between.’

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Gereg looks at an interesting culinary book: ‘Where does your food come from? What elements of the landscape made their way into the flavour of your favourite maple syrup, or your apples? If you haven’t been asking yourself questions along these lines already, Rowan Jacobsen’s American Terroir will make you eager to start.’

imageDonna looks at a boxset from the Byrds entitled There is a Season: ‘I am old enough to remember listening to the early Byrds singles on my transistor radio when I walked to high school from my house. I liked them better than the Beatles, but not as much as the Rolling Stones or the Jefferson Airplane or the Who. Listening to the first couple of CDs in this retrospective boxed set took me back, as in ‘I think I’m goin’ back to a more innocent time in my life and in the ongoing saga of the music industry.I also remember playing later Byrds songs, like ‘Chestnut Mare’ and ‘Lover of the Bayou,’ when I worked at album-oriented rock radio stations in the 1970s.’

The Seattle-based trio duende libre plays ‘solid, groove-filled Cuban jazz,’ Gary says. Their self-titled debut CD, he says, ‘is a solid, upbeat collection of tunes that, like Cuba itself, is an engaging blend of musical styles.’

Lebanon’s Marcel Khalife is a prolific, controversial and well-known composer, singer and player of the oud. Gary takes a look at his latest work, Andalusia of Love, which draws on the poetry of the late Palestinian poet Mahmoud Darwish. He’s joined by his sons, pianist Rami and percussionist Bachar, and Jilbert Yamine on the hammered dulcimer called the kanoun. ‘Throughout this work there is virtuosic playing, some of a solo nature but mostly by the ensemble,’ Gary says. ‘It’s a moving performance of music that is complex yet welcoming.’

Psychedelic Turkish music released by a German label in the ’70s and ’80s? That’s what Gary says Uzelli Psychedelic Anadolu is. The label is preparing for digital re-release of its massive catalog, and this sampler focuses on psychedelic recordings on cassette and vinyl from 1975 to 1984.

Robert has a look at a new take on an old form in a newly released recording from ECM, Trio Mediaeval and Arve Henriksen’s Rímur: ‘My first exposure to rímur came about when a recording by the Icelandic performer Steindór Andersen crossed my desk. Having wrapped my head around the forms and sounds in Andersen’s renderings of a traditional Icelandic form with strong foundations in medieval sources, I was intrigued by the idea of Trio Medieval tackling the same kind of material, given their own background in medieval music.’

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The biblical quote that is at the beginning of this post is in itself wonderful language, but it was also turned into a song by Pete Seeger in the late 50s. The song was originally released in 1962 as ‘To Everything There Is a Season’ on the Limeliters’ album Folk Matinee and then some months later on Seeger’s own The Bitter and the Sweet. In late ’65 when it was covered by the Byrds, it became an international hit reaching the top of the charts stateside and here.

The performance of it that I’ve got for you here is neither by Seeger nor the Byrds but rather done by Judy  Collins at the Newport Folk Festival, 25th of July 1965. So here’s  ‘Turn, Turn, Turn’ as superbly performed by her.

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