Welcome to GMR

piperIf 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,  jazz or classical recording, tarot decks,  puppetsmanor house mysteries and science fiction novelsfiction inspired by folklore, science fiction filmsegg nog recipes,  ymmmy 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 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 wallpaper design; the piper is used courtesy of Blowzabella and may not be used elsewhere. 

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A Kinrowan Estate story: Oberon’s Wood

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For the longest time this year, summer fluttered her wings against the panes of spring. Now, sunlight lingers long and hot. Afternoons stretch like thrice-pulled saltwater taffy, and the days here at the Kinrowan Estate have become the drowsy, heat-sleepy days of our warmest season. There is no doubt, when the air is heavy and breath comes languid from the lungs — warmth exhaled into warmth, drawn in as warmth again — that those fluttering wings have long since spread, unfurled across the land and become the too-heavy blanket of unfettered summer.

What does one do when the mind and body fall prey to the slow, hot haze of summer days? One waits, of course. One waits for the sun to sink, and for the stars to creep into his vacant seat. One watches the moon rise to hang low and globular in the nighttime sky like overripe fruit, illuminating all of Oberon’s wood. And when the hands of the clock in the KInrowan Hall main entry way meet in the middle of Time — at midnight — one goes to the party.

You may not have realized you were invited: you may not have paid close enough attention to your dreams of late. That’s how such invitations are customarily delivered; in dreams. In fact, you’re invited every year, though also never, as Time shows far less consideration for human convention inside dreams and the realm of the Consort to the Faerie Queen.

But perhaps you have attended our parties, after all. It may simply be that later, waking, you dismissed your recollections as mere fancy, or the common (if dreams are ever common) workings of a mind at sleep. Perhaps you recall dancing with a particularly fine gentleman of a bear? The one in the lavender waistcoat? His great, huge paws rested gentle as thistledown upon your shoulders, and he led you in a most divine waltz beneath the trees. (Though he’s not quite so light upon his feet as the sylph; who would be?)

No? If it wasn’t the bear with whom you danced, might it have been the undine? Not you? Well, if you’re sure. They have beautiful voices, those water nymphs, and there really is nothing quite so lovely as a midnight water-waltz on the banks of the old millpond in Oberon’s wood. Enough Dragon’s Breath Stout and a few turns about the pond, and a man could forget more or less everything he nearly thought he’d hardly ever remembered, almost…

This year we’re keeping the festivities simple. Our twelve bands have been booked, both human and fey (and three who refuse to be classified as either). The instruments await: the pennywhistle, the concertina, the dulcimer, the zither. The autoharp, the theremin, the ocarina and the drum. This year there are mad rumors of an invisible gargantuan harpsichord, to be played by a thousand invisible fingers.

But rumors are just that. Such an appearance (so to speak) remains highly unlikely, in the main.

If good food is what you seek, our twelve over-burdened wicker hampers have been packed. (The things are massive! Someone — we won’t say who — wanted to hire a dozen elephants to bear the load! Elephants, in Oberon’s Wood! Perish the thought. The Ents were more than happy to volunteer for the task, once the need was made clear.) When entering the fey-touched realms, one usually feels more comfortable taking food with, though there are plenty here at the Estate who scoff at the dangers. In fact, more than one on the staff here has been seen to consume quite copious amounts of fey-wrought food, and even more copious amounts of intoxicating beverages of questionable origin. We’ve not lost anyone yet for more than a fortnight, to our knowledge. Faerie prerogative? Perhaps. You’re more than welcome to come find out for yourself; to each his –or her — own. As has already been explained, you’re always invited, and never. It’s up to you.

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What’s New for the 16th of July: Elizabeth Hand’s favourite libation, Chicago’s ‘Saturday in the Park’ and other matters

Saturday in the park,  I think it was the Fourth of July — Chicago

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Care to sample our newest Summer ale? It’s called White Chalk Horse IPA and has a nice, light taste. It’s been very popular. It’ll go well with the whole hog barbecue that’s being cooked right now for serving up this evening after the contradance that the visiting Snow on the Mountain band’s providing the music for. Gus, our Estate Head Gardener, doing the calling.

It being summer, I’m reading several titles at once, so I’ve been reading Neal Stephenson & Nicole Galland’s The Rise and Fall of D.O.D.O. about an agency in our future which has developed time travel and recruits an agent to assist it in its quest to alter the past in order to bring magic back. Need I say that things don’t go as planned? Even at seven hundred plus pages, it’s a fast read.

I’m also reading Theodora Goss’ The Strange Case of The Alchemist’s Daughter, a delightful romp in a feminist version of Moore’s The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen in novel form only with better realised characters.

Now enjoy  your drink and give a listen to the Swedish tunes that the Neverending Session while I finish this edition off…

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Crow Mother and the Dog God, a Retrospective gets reviewed by Grey: ‘Meinrad Craighead has spent her long life creating images and words in her search for the deepest sources of the divine. As the girl christened Charlene Marie Craighead, she spent her summers in North Little Rock, Arkansas, running with packs of dogs, digging holes and listening to the stories of her beloved grandmother, “Memaw.” When she took holy orders as a Benedictine nun in England, she was given the name Meinrad, in honor of St. Meinrad, one of her own ancestors. Leaving the convent fourteen years later, she came to her heart’s home in New Mexico, where she has lived with dog companions and human friends ever since. In all that time, she has never stopped drawing, painting and writing about the images she has discovered.’

Robert was somewhat ambivalent about Elizabeth Hand’s Black Light, which he notes ‘is a foray into the world of dark gods, misty legends, and deep secrets.’ But you’re going to have to read his review to find out what the problem was.

He was much happier with Generation Loss: ‘Generation Loss is a foray into, for lack of a better term, “mainstream” fiction by Elizabeth Hand, many of whose previous novels have been marked by a decidedly mordant view of humanity (an attitude this one shares) and somewhere in the works, an apocalypse of some sort or another. They have also pretty much been easily identifiable as “science fiction.” The fantastic elements here, however, are the people and circumstances — the world at large is fairly normal, if not very pretty — and if there’s been an apocalypse, it’s been intimate and incremental.’

Robert also has a look at a trilogy that should be a classic, if it’s not. Describing George Alec Effinger’s Audran Trilogy, he says: ‘Effinger’s series builds a rich picture of a place (the Budayeen, the red-light ghetto in a Middle Eastern city that remains nameless ), a time (the late 22nd century), and a context (the political map is largely composed of the fragments of earlier superpowers, while it seems only the Islamic world has any coherency). The driving forces in the Budayeen are the same as the driving forces in any such place: money, sex, drugs, and power.’

I should note that D.O.D.O. is 750 pages long, a svelte length for a novel by Neal Stephenson, as the work Wes looks at, the first novel in The Baroque Cycle is 925 pages: ‘Quicksilver certainly doesn’t fall under the traditional conceits of science fiction, instead falling into something resembling ‘history-of-science fiction’. Set during the heart of the Baroque period, Neal Stephenson’s carefully crafted book follows fictional and historical characters through a world torn by conflict and plague. Those familiar with Neal Stephenson’s earlier novel Cryptonomicon will recognize the Shaftoes and Waterhouses, and the imaginary Qwghlm islands.  Quicksilver, while exploring the state of alchemical study during the years of the Royal Society, focuses on the contributions of the ancestors of the protagonists of Cryptonomicon. Even so, you don’t need to have read Cryptonomicon to enjoy Quicksilver.’

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Andrew notes that ‘Some stories are merely bad — dull, uninspired, or simply misformed. Others are bad in entertaining ways — bad movies, outsider art, and demented pulp fiction. Some stories are so horrible that it’s physically painful to read them, such as the work of Rob Liefeld. And then there’s Witchblade.’ It is now your solemn duty to read his in-depth review of the Witchblade Compendium, Volume 1 to see just why you should really, really avoid this work.

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Elizabeth answers our question of  favourite libation and says ‘To be honest, these days my libations don’t change much from season to season. It’s nearly always red wine. But at some point during the summer I usually have one margarita, on the rocks, salt — I had one while in San Diego — in honor of all the margaritas I used to mix for myself back in the day. I had enough then to fuel me for the rest of my life, plus it’s hard to get a decent margarita in a bar or restaurant — they all use a margarita mix, even in places like San Diego, and I don’t believe in frozen margaritas, strawberry margaritas, or some such. The one I drank in SD was the real thing. Rose’s lime juice, Cuervo, triple sec, salt. At the beach I used to do shots with salt and a slice of lime, but that was another century.’

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John went to see a legend among Irish bands: ‘Ending the Irish leg of their 2005 European Tour, Thin Lizzy arrived in Limerick to play at the University of Limerick Concert Hall to a capacity house. During the halcyon days of the 1970’s and 1980’s, Thin Lizzy were regular visitors to Limerick during their many Irish tours. For this re-constituted line up, this was their second time in the University of Limerick Concert Hall, as they played here before on their 2003 ‘Global Chaos’ tour.’

Robert shares some thoughts on tradition in music, specifically as it relates to a group of CDs featuring the cedar flute: ‘As I listen to more traditional music and more music from non-Western sources, I begin to realize that the blithe use of the word “traditional” is tantamount to making your own noose and putting it around your neck. This was brought vividly home to me while listening to a group of CDs from Native American and Native-derived artists. Historically, American Indian music has been viewed as being an integral part of a whole, residing quite inextricably with dance, religious ritual, singing, and drama. Music, in this situation, is functional rather than being purely aesthetic, in that it almost invariably accompanies some other activity: North American Indians did not have “concerts.”’

Robert’s next offering is a look at several recordings by two artists who start with the cedar flute and take off from there: ‘I learned a very important concept about making art in a dance class, studying butoh, the contemporary Japanese dance-theater that is at once highly abstract and fundamentally impressionistic: evocation. Our movements were not to describe an action, but to evoke the image of the action. This applies to works done in many mediums, from dance to poetry to fiction and, of course, music. Coyote Oldman (Michael Graham Allen on flutes, Barry Stramp on recording studio) has explored a range of possibilities inherent in this idea, basing their music on the sounds and textures of New World flutes (for the most part, made by Allen).’

We round off our music reviewing this week with Sean taking a look at yet another Clannad anthology, A Magical Gathering: ‘For those unfamiliar with the full panorama of the Clannad sound archive, these two discs might come as a surprise, as they contrast the band’s acoustic roots with more recent, perhaps familiar work, which is all too often formulaic, elegiac and in the hands of their most successful scion, Enya, totally commercial.’

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In keeping with our opening quote, not to mention our Coda, our What Not this week is a ramble through a nature reserve — in the middle of Chicago. Here’s Robert’s take on the North Pond Nature Sanctuary: ‘Chicago, perhaps surprisingly to most people, has a number of nature sanctuaries in Lincoln Park, which stretches along the lakefront from North Avenue in the south up to Hollywood Beach in the north. I say “perhaps surprisingly” because Chicago’s lakefront happens to be on a major flyway for migratory birds, part of the Mississippi Flyway, and given the city’s commitment to green space, nature reserves are pretty much a no-brainer. The “reserve” part is the result of Lincoln Park being one of the most used parks in the city, so we’ve had to set aside some places for the visitors.’

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There are bands for which I’ve deep liking for pretty much everything they’ve done such as the Old Blind Dogs or Steeleye Span, though the former used a full drum kit for a while that put me off those recordings. And then there are performers for which I can only blame radio play in heavy rotation for the song when I was working.

So it is with Chicago’s ‘Saturday in the Park’ which I’ve heard playing off and on over the past forty years. It’s certainly an upbeat, feel good summer song much like ‘Love Shack’ by the B-52s. It was recorded on 6th of August 1982 at the Park West in Chicago. It was released on Chicago V in 1972 and peaked on the Billboard carts at number three which is bloody impressive. It was lovely enough that I didn’t get tired of it. But I’ve prattled on enough about it, so here’s that song for you to have the pleasure of hearing performed live.

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A Kinrowan Estate story: Our Greensward

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One part of the greensward is set aside for a cricket field. We just refurbished this area last year as it was showing its age after nearly a decade sin E the last spruce up. Yes, I know that Scots aren’t great cricket fans but the Estate has workers from all areas of the crumbling Empire, many of who do play cricket. And we get a lot of summer visitors who also like cricket.

Summer weddings get held here very often, a major revenue generator for us. It’s amusing to us when wedding planners discover we don’t do amped music, don’t do fancy wedding food, and definitely don’t have a day spa for the bridal party to indulge in the day before. Despite that, we still do many weddings during the summer.

The greensward is big enough that a wedding can take place and still leave leave lots of space for kite flying, picnics, frolicking, book reading, sword fights (yes really) and almost anything else you can imagine. There’s even a few spots where a good fuck in privacy among the wooded areas is possible on a quiet afternoon.

You might well guess that it’s a labour heavy exercise to keep this greensward healthy with heavy usage. It’s one of the reasons we beef up staff for the summer. It requires mowing, cleaning of grass and leaf debris, cleaning up after events, and so forth.

There are trees in some area of the greensward making for needed shade and breaking it up to create some area of privacy. Not surprisingly, the corvids think it’s a great place to perch and wait for someone to forget a shiny trinket or a bit of food.

If you want to know how long the greensward has been in existence, all I know is the Estate Archives say it’s been here at least since the Reign of Queen Elizabeth the First.

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What’s New for the 9th of July: Reviews of novels by Terri Windling and Charles de Lint, Music from the Clumsy Lovers, seasonal beer, dance historian Alison Thompson and other summery matters

Chicken Scratch music is Mexican-spiced Native American polka. It sounds like a wild, very happy, and slightly drunken wedding party, and it moves you up and down; you can’t keep still.Barbara Kingsolver’s Animal Dreams

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Music permeates Kinrowan Hall. There’s of course the Neverending Session which pops up as whim takes it, be it the Kitchen or the Pub, with anywhere from just two musos or more playing. Sometimes the Endless Jam can be heard playing Rock and Roll, mostly from the Fifties or Sixties in the Great Hall. Then there’s our petit orchestra which has been here since before Victoria wore black or, as salaciously rumoured, anything that might’ve hindered her during her, errr, playfulness.

There’re several professional musos here including myself (I’m the Librarian here but the Library can look after itself when need be) and my wife Catherine. We do a huge concert style in the Nordic nations once a year. And once a year, the Huddled Masses Orchestra is here for about three weeks, usually in late November into December.

Of  course there’s usually a contradance once a week when the weather gets cold enough to make indoors preferred over outside activities. That’s a different manner of music. Chasing Fireflies is one of the current Estate contradance bands.

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Grey says of Medicine Road that ‘I suppose it’s fitting, for a story about twos, that the creators are two Charleses. Charles Vess’s illustrations make this not-so-simple fable deeper and richer. Vess combines line drawing and painting in a way that makes his pictures simultaneously vividly life-like and fairy tale-remote.’

There’s a bar in the above novel where the Dillard sisters play called A Hole in The Wall which de Lint borrowed from Terri Windling’s The Wood WifeIt’s possible that The Wood Wife is the first novel  to take full advantage of the myths of Southwest USA and Mexican region. And Grey notes that it is ‘not only an expertly-crafted tale of suspense. It also stands squarely within the realm of modern fantasy. Windling’s Arizona desert comes alive with fey beings, shapeshifters small and great that are as mysterious and amoral as any European Fair Folk, yet practical and earthy and distinctively Native American in their coloration.’

Robert takes us to a different realm with a look at Peter S. Beagle’s story collection Giant Bones: ‘Peter S. Beagle does not do sequels. He says. He is also one of the two fantasy writers I know who quite blithely admits that his universe-building is more than a little haphazard, just enough to hang the story on. So of course he wrote a group of stories set in the universe of The Innkeeper’s Song.’

He takes a look as well at another ‘non-sequel’ from Beagle, Return: ‘As you’ve no doubt heard many times here at GMR, there is something unique about the writing of Peter S. Beagle. There’s a “can’t quite put your finger on it” quality that is, perhaps, equal parts simple, uninflected narration, universes in which anything can happen and probably will, and that sense of wonder that few writers these days possess, all qualities present in full measure in his latest offering, Return.’

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Denise decided that since the Summer Solstice has come and gone, now is the time to try out some summery brews.  To celebrate warmer weather, she tries two from the Flying Dog brewery, Family Tree Belgian Pale Ale and a rare nitro pour of their blood orange IPA, Bloodline.  For fans of brews with a sour kick, Council Béatitude Cherry Tart Saison may strike your fancy, but she warns Saison fans, “Folks looking for a pour that’s more Saison than Sour? Probably should look elsewhere. People willing to walk on the wild (cherry) side? C’mon over.”  She promises this will be the first in an ongoing series of summer brew overviews, as she attempts to find a beer, ale or cider that will hold her until her beloved porters and stouts re-emerge in the fall.

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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.’

Gary also reviews Living in the Shadows Part 2, On the Edge of a Dream, a box set that collects British folk-rock legend Bert Jansch’s studio output from the 2000s. It follows by just a few months a similar set of his 1990s recordings. ‘There’s so much deeply compelling music here, a reminder of what a towering presence Jansch was,’ Gary says.

The Mollys, a now defunct Arizona band that merged Celtic music with music from that region gets their this is my round reviewed by Richard: ‘It’s that kind of CD, pure and simple, where all listening to it does is make you start scanning the paper to see if they’re in town at a place that has good beer on tap. There’s a kick to the music that doesn’t quite translate off the disk, and that’s what keeps this is my round from getting beyond just good.’

One of our Richards starts off his review of Smoke and Strong Whisky this way: ‘Everyone knows Christy Moore, a central figure in the Irish folk revival of the 1960s and indirectly a significant contributor to the English folk revival that paralleled it. We know of his work with Moving Hearts and we are familiar with his earlier role in the highly influential Planxty, in both of which his path crossed with those of several other leading traditionally-inclined Irish musicians. The cross-fertilization of the Planxty years produced a series of solo and collective ventures by Moore that have built on and developed Irish folk and folk-derived music down to the present day.’ Now read his review to why this is not the Christy Moore you’d expect to be performing!

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Our What Not this time is sort of about Jane Austen, who was an devoted dancer. Extended scenes set in the ballroom are intrinsic aspects of all of her novels. Alison Thompson, noted musician, dancer and writer, wrote an article called ‘The Felicities of Rapid Motion; Jane Austen in the Ballroom’ which was printed in Persuasions, Winter 2000. Persuasions’s the online journal of the Jane Austen Society of North America.

We’ve got these reviews of other works by her, Dancing Through Time subtitled Western Social Dance in Literature, 1400-1918, Lighting the Fire: Elsie J. Oxenham, The Abbey Girls, and the English Folk Dance Revival and The Blind Harper Dances: Modern English Country Dances which is set  to airs by Turlough O’Carolan.

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No, I didn’t find any Chicken Scratch music on the Infinite Jukebox, our media server,  so how about instead some choice Americana music to see us out? That’s what I’ve got in the  ‘Chicken Reel’ as performed on the 11th of November 2001 at the McGonigel’s Mucky Duck by the Clumsy Lovers. The oddly named McGonigel’s Mucky Duck is a club in Houston that does a lot of roots music. The name reflects its origin as an Irish club.

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A Kinrowan Estate story: Hortobágyi Húsos Palacsinta (A Letter to Ingrid)

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Evening love,

You missed a wonderful eventide meal here last night, as Mrs. Ware decided that it been too long since Béla had been treated to a full Hungarian meal. And indeed, it included Hortobágyi Húsos Palacsinta, meaty pancakes! It all started off after Mrs. Ware was dancing away the night at a contradance recently held here with Chasing Fireflies with Iain on fiddle, Béla on violin, and a piper-lass named Finch. During a break in the dances, Béla was telling me (in French as he speaks no English and my Hungarian is next to nothing beyond knowing the names of Hungarian beers and breweries, though I can read a packing slip in that language after years of practice, as we carry some Central European ales here by way of a Hungarian vendor), that he missed the food of his country.

So I mentioned this to Mrs. Ware, who decided to make a number of dishes for him, one of them being the aforementioned pancakes and Mákos Tészta, wide egg noodles with whole dark blue poppy seeds, coated with sugar dripping with butter! Hungarians put poppyseeds into almost everything, both sweet and savoury alike, which was why there were yeasty poppy seed rolls as well.

And there was  fresh baked Turos Lepeny (Hungarian yeast bread with cheese topping) out of the brick ovens, as he taught Mrs. Ware how to bake it many years ago. To make it even better, you had arranged for our Central European shipper to get us Hungarian Lekvar, a thick, soft spread made of fruit (usually prunes or apricots) cooked with sugar, and Hungarian Poppy Butter, so wonderful on warm breakfast rolls.

There also was Székely Gulyás, a Goulash stew which is made from three kinds of meat and sauerkraut which reminded me of Choucroute Garnie, a hearty pork and cabbage dish common to the region straddling the French-German border. Other than the addition of poppy seeds (surprise!) and Hungarian paprika, it was the same tasty dish, as peasant food really doesn’t vary a lot across much of Europe and Russia.

Dessert was Roulades, which really are just simple sponge cake bases filled with whipped cream or fresh strawberries in a jellyroll that’s chilled. And her staff dug deep in our centuries-old cookbook collection for a recipe for Almás Pite —Hungarian Apple Cake —which I swear made Béla weep.

All in all, it was a rousing success, made even better as we washed it down with Rizmajer Maibock from Rizmajer Sörfözde, a Budapest brewery, and Béla was very, very happy.

After this extended Eventide meal, Béla got out his fiddle and played a set of Hungarian tunes that even the Neverending Session musos had never heard. It was simply wonderful music.

Affectionately your favourite fox

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What’s New for the 2nd of July: a very special bookstore, some scholarly works reviewed, ‘The House of The Rising Sun’ and other matters

I hate this fucking song. (See coda for the story of this quote.)

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Sorry ’bout the delay in getting your Queen’s Lament IPA to you, it’s been a very busy day as we’ve got a hand fastening on the Greensward and the brides changed their minds this morning  on what libations they wanted for the reception afterwards. And I’m down two workers as Gus needed them for desperately needed work in Macgregor’s Kitchen Garden which is much larger than the quaint name it has would suggest. And yes there was a Head Gardener here by that name.

The weather’s been sunny and warm so almost everyone here is finding an excuse to be outside. The Kitchen staff has been out on the back terrace that borders on the Kitchen (which is actually in the basement level right below our Pub which is in the first level of basement) setting up the reception. I should tell you that Kitchen and Pub have full banks of triple glazed leaded glass windows so they’re cheerfully bright spaces when the sun reaches this side of Kinrowan Hall.

So I wonder what we’ve for you this edition..

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Though we tend to strongly favour fiction here, we do review a lot of non-fiction as can be seen in this sampling of such books as selected by our Librarian who’s off officiating the marriage of bride and bride.

Iain starts us off with a look at Stefan Ekman’s Here Be Dragons: Exploring Fantasy Maps and Settings: ‘Now we have a really detailed look at the role of fantasy maps and the settings they help create in fantasy literature. (Though weirdly enough, Here Be Dragons has only three such maps in it suggesting the author either had trouble getting permission to use more such maps or the use of them was deemed too costly.) It is not the usual collection of edited articles but appears an actual cohesive look at this fascinating subject.’

Fairport Convention and Steeleye Span always seem to evoke British folk rock for me, so it’s fitting 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.’

Lory’s review of Farah Mendlesohn’s Rhetorics of Fantasy which is an in-depth academic study of the fantasy genre, and discovers that academia and genre literature aren’t natural enemies after all: ‘Farah Mendlesohn takes fantasy seriously. Other scholars may tend to skip over the genre, or feel the need to explain or excuse their focus on popular fiction, but she takes for granted the worthiness of a body of literature which relies on the creation of a sense of wonder.’

Richard looks at Donald E. Morese and Kalman Matolcsy’s The Mythic Fantasy of Robert Holdstock: Critical Essays on the Fiction: ‘The myth-infested landscape of Robert Holdstock’s Ryhope Wood would seem to be fertile ground, not only for walking legends and “mythagos”, but also for literary criticism. After all, in the sequence Holdstock tackles not the structures of mythic fiction – dark lords, questing heroes, magical macguffins and so forth – but rather the concept of myth itself, and how the same core stories have echoed down through the millennia, amplified and distorted and reflected by centuries of human experience. The books start in a critical space, with scientist-protagonists attempting to unravel the nature of the wood and all it contains and it only dives deeper from there, familiarizing characters and readers alike with the tropes and concepts of discussion of myth.’

For serious fans — or perhaps we should say ‘students’ — of science fiction, Robert has a look at a tome that if  you’re of a serious bent, that you might find perfect for whiling away those long sunmerited afternoons: ‘You know that science fiction has arrived at some sort of respectability when you are confronted by something like The Cambridge Companion to Science Fiction.’

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Barb starts off the music reviews with a charming look at Andrew Cronshaw’s On the Shoulders of the Great Bear as she asks the age old question, ‘If I play music from the Arctic Circle during a long August heat wave, will it cool you off? And will African drumming or steel drums warm you up on a cold January day?’ Discover the answer, along with Barbara while she grooves to some Finnish zither playing!

David has a look at Gratefully Dead 1964-1968 which among other things, points that 1967 was when Eric Burdon and the Animals had their last hit: ‘Raven Records has released a new collection of The Animals greatest non-hits! Entitled Gratefully Dead (after an obscure B-side) this new anthology should sit next to its sister disc, ,, in any record collection that seeks to understand and appreciate British music of the late ’60s. This is great stuff!’

Robert brings us his take on Capecaillie’s Roses and Tears: ‘My first acquaintance with Capercaillie was an album that turned out to be a “crossover” — Celtic trad group goes pop. At least some of that pop influence seems to have made a home in the group’s style — I find myself confronted by Roses and Tears, and it’s a refreshing break from my usual diet of loud obnoxious rock and loud obnoxious classical.’

Robert was not quite so happy with Agnus Dei’s Gaia: ‘Agnus Dei was Gerald and Hilde Krampl; Hilde, a poet, died of cancer in 2002. This album, of piano works by Gerald based on Hilde’s last poems, may in some sense be taken as a tribute. Gerald Krampl was a founder and keyboard player for the symphonic rock bands Kyrie Eleison and Indigo some time back, and has since become involved in meditation, runes, and reiki, interests that Hilde shared.’

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Our What Not this week is something that we’re sure our readers will appreciate, a very special bookstore. Robert shares his reaction: ‘Chicago has a rich trove of bookstores, all the way from the legendary Kroch’s and Brentano’s on Wabash Avenue, once a magnet for book lovers visiting the Loop (or in the case of some of us, visiting the Loop to go to Kroch’s), and now, alas, long gone, to Powell’s over on Lincoln Avenue, a great barn of a place full of treasures, and the big chains. We’ve also got more used bookstores than I can keep track of. But there are also the smaller neighborhood stores, some specialized, but most of general interest, catering to the readers in their neighborhoods. One of the best is Unabridged Bookstore, in Lakeview on the North Side.’

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Once upon a rainy, cold night the conceraige at the hotel we staying at in London said that Eric Burdon was playing a few streets away at a club near to the hotel. Sounded interesting so we got our anoraks and walked there. Club might’ve held a hundred but there was no more than few dozen there.

Eric came out and introduced the rest of the band — Brian Auger and Brian’s son, Karma. They preceded to play a seventy five minute set with no break. The obligatory encore of course included ‘The House of The Rising Sun’. Before Burdon performed this, he said ‘I hate this fucking song’  and explained he played it several hundred times every year, starting in the late sixties. I think he was more bitter about his vast body of work was essentially beung ignored except for this song and a few others such as ‘We Gotta Get Out Of This Place’ which the Vietnam set China Beach used, but they used the version done by Katrina and The Waves.

The song as recorded here was performed by Eric Burdon & the Animals on the 8th of  May 1967 at the Marquee Club, London. It’s not quite the song that he’d grow to hate as it’s presented more as a talking blues song which makes sense as  the Newcastle lad that Burdon was thought he was a bluesman.

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A Kinrowan Estate story: My Library

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It’s not difficult to find the exterior alley-entrance to my personal Green Man library; not so difficult, if you know just where to brush aside the thick glossy leaves of winter ivy threatening to swallow the old painted planks of the rounded wooden door. The shiny, beetle-like carapace of the black buzzer for afterhours deliveries of linen-wrapped tomes sits nestled in brick beside the iron handle of the exit, used for late-night, fumbling departures of Green Man staff leaving bleary-eyed and sleepy from hours of post-midnight reading and casual tippling.

In a perhaps over-enthusiastic bout of literary egalitarianism, I’ve cast off the shackles of genre-classification, declaring loudly and often that no library of mine is going to be splintered into so-called ‘genres.’ Genre categorization is — well, I was going to call it a tool of the patriarchy, but let’s call it marketing and distribution, instead. Punk-rock habits die hard, I’ll admit, and rigid genre labels smack too thoroughly of arbitrary authority for me not to question their value.

Instead, I’ll shelve like books by author; we’re not trying to hawk product here. I imagine myself tapping a fingernail idly against my teeth in thought, other hand on kilted hip, eyes narrowed as I consider the dust-moted, sunlit room. All right, then: we’ll section off fiction from non-fiction from cookbooks, though author trumps function. And comics deserve their own shelves for archiving and storage purposes . . . But no fiction subgenres! My main criterion for the works here is *good*, right?

Now we’ve got that settled, ambiance. I like a little genuine reading going on in my library, so people have to want to hang out for awhile or forever. I’ll just plump this worn velveteen cushion, move this ottoman a little to the left . . . ahh, better. The room is generously supplied with big, comfy chairs, no harsh overhead lighting (I’m perversely averse to ceiling fixtures), and coffee tables solid enough to prop the feet on. And I was most insistent regarding the draft beer taps and espresso machine in the corner. We’re always careful with the books, never fear; we mind our pints and our demitasse. Quality of life, people, quality of life . . .

Sorry. Got distracted for a time there with my gilded, dog-eared copy of Anansi Boys and a pint — all right, *two* pints — of stout, enjoyed so much more with my oversized boots braced on the low wood table, mellowed by the rings of a hundred hot and cold beverages and chosen for just such a purpose.

And so, to the books. Strangely, I’m vastly less concerned about the actual books. I’m egalitarian, genre-dextrous. I’m always willing to give something new a try, my library eternally open to submissions. I’ll admit I’m glad to be merely the designer here, and not the librarian or the acquisitions committee.

However, if pressed, I might humbly submit to the KInrowan Estate Private Library Acquisitions Committee for consideration the complete works of the following authors (in no particular order): Claude Lalumière, Neil Gaiman, Dorothy Parker, Barry Hughart, Emma Bull, M.T. Anderson, Philip Reeve, Georgette Heyer, Doris Piserchia, David Sedaris, Ursula K. LeGuin, Margaret Atwood, Edgar Allan Poe, Peter S. Beagle, Shirley Jackson, Kurt Vonnegut, Jane Austen, Patrick O’Brien, Raymond Carver, Marion Zimmer Bradley, George R.R. Martin, Jaime & Gilbert Hernandez (Complete Love & Rockets and Palomar collections), Richard Adams, Carl Hiaasen, Larry McMurtry, Connie Willis, Roger deV. Renwick, Scott O’Dell, Edward Gorey, and Anaïs Nin.

And please, everyone feel free to throw in any magical, mystical weirdness that transcends the boundaries of the ordinary. I’m sure I’ve forgotten, or never been exposed to, so very many wonderful things.

Enlighten me.

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What’s New for the 25th of June: Beer Culture in America, ‘Love Shack’ by the B-52s and other Summery matters

If you see a faded sign by the side of the road that says
Fifteen miles to the Love Shack, Love Shack yeah
I’m headin’ down the Atlanta highway
Lookin’ for the love getaway

 ‘Love Shack’ by the B-52s

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Summer’s fully upon us here on this Scottish estate. We generally  get a summer much more pleasant than is commonplace in Scotland as we share a Border with what Yeats called the Celtic Twilight and the Fey really, really like warm summers. (And alas, cold winters as well, there being Summer and Winter Courts.) So I’m sitting under one of the Great Oaks planted a hundred and fifty-odd years ago by Lady Alexandra Margaret Quinn, Estate Head Gardener here for a very long time, who’s buried beneath them.

I’ve got a murder of crows overhead looking to see if they can steal anything from me as I’m eating lunch outside, but there’s naught that catches their interest, mercifully. Oh, eventually I’ll treat them to something from my repast but not right now.

I’ve got my iPad in hand, a most tasty Lady in The Wood IPA named in honour of that Estate Head Gardener to drink, and I just got a note texted to me that Chasing Fireflies are doing a contradance this evening with Gus, our Estate Gardener calling, so I need to get this done soon. Go ahead and get yourself one of those ales and I’ll have this Edition for you soon… Now where was I?

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I’m picking books this time that I consider summertime reading, starting off with a Charles de Lint novel that Mia looks at: ‘Seven Wild Sisters advertises itself as a modern fairy tale. Including the seven sisters, it certainly has all the trappings: an old woman who may be a witch, an enchanted forest, a stolen princess. But Sisters is not just borrowing the clothes of fairy tale. It sings with the true voice of fairy tale: capricious, wild, and not entirely safe, but rich and enchanting.’

Michael looks at possibly the best fantasy novel set up to and on Summer Solstice, Emma Bull’s War for the Oaks: ‘How can I say so much, and not touch deeply upon the plot? Because this book is like that. It’s full of words. Beautiful, poetic words, that sing you a song, urge you into a dance, lull you into a sense of security, and weave a tale while you’re not looking. It’s easy to get lost in this book. Emma Bull is a musician in her own right, and she lovingly details the scenes revolving around music, songs, and the band with painstaking effort. She knows what she’s doing, and it shows. This book literally sings. Turn to any page, and I promise you, the text will be gorgeous, evocative, and occasionally as mysterious as the Phouka.’

Summer is tourist season, and Robert has a whole bunch of guidebooks for visitors to a tourist destination that may surprise some people: first is a pair of guides by Joan Greene, A Chicago Tradition: Hotels and Hospitality and A Chicago Tradition: Marshall Field’s Food and Fashion: ‘Many people don’t realize that Chicago is a major destination for tourists: in the summer, particularly, you are likely to run into people from almost anywhere strolling through the parks, shopping on Michigan Avenue, or investigating our museums and art galleries. One reason for this is that Chicago has a long tradition of fine hotels, catering not only to conventioneers but to others from all walks of life. Joan Green, in Hotels and Hospitality and Marshall Field’s Food and Fashion, two guidebooks published by Pomegranate, investigates some of that tradition.’

Next, he looks at John W. Stamper’s North Michigan Avenue and Jay Pridmore’s Soldier Field: ‘One of the things about living in Chicago — or anywhere, for that matter, I guess — is that unless you take the time to play tourist in your own city, there are things you miss. Particularly in Chicago, which aside from being hog butcher to the world is also one of the world’s greatest architectural wonders, even if you know it’s there, you tend to walk right past it.’

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Michelle has a look at baseball as depicted on film: ‘In the big inning, God created baseball. Or perhaps it was Loki, patron of athletics and other tricks; the origins are shrouded in antiquity. There is also debate about which mortal first received the divine inspiration. Abner Doubleday often gets credit, though some historians claim the game was played in England in the 1700s. What is known is that, in 1845, a team called the New York Knickerbockers adopted the rules of the game we know as baseball. In New Jersey that summer, they played the first organized baseball game, and America acquired its own pantheon.’

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A musician visiting here from America some years back told me of the Holy Trinity of summer for him: baseball, beer and brats. (He was from Milwaukee, which explained the latter.)  So it’s apt that we’ve Kelly looking at a related book: ‘[E]ven with my recent development of my palate to include dark ales and porters and bitters and IPAs (but not quite stouts; I just can’t get into those), I never really knew the difference between a lager and an ale until I read Ken Wells’s book Travels with Barley: A Journey Through Beer Culture in America.

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Mia says that ‘A Circle of Cats is intended to be the prequel to the de Lint/Vess collaboration Seven Wild Sisters. Since I’ve been thwarted in every attempt to procure a copy of Sisters, and haven’t had a chance to read the story sans Vess artwork in Tapping the Dream Tree collection, I have no idea how A Circle of Cats stands in relation to that rare release. In relation to de Lint’s body of work as a whole, and indeed to the field of modern fantasy and fairy tale overall, this piece is simply outstanding.’

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Barb has a looks at a performance that was most unsual: ‘The most memorable concert of my life was one I had the pleasure to be involved with. Fortunately, my involvement was minimal so I had the opportunity to experience most of it from the audience’s point of view. In the mid seventies, the Paul Winter Consort and the Yale Theater Orchestra collaborated for a series of concerts celebrating the one-hundredth birthday of American composer Charles Ives.’

Cat looks at a recording from Andrea Hoag, Loretta Kelly and Charlie Pilzer’s Hambo in the Barn: ‘Back in the twentieth century, a lot of Scandinavians relocated from Sweden and the surrounding countries to the upper Midwest where they became farmers and shopkeepers for the most part.  Naturally they brought both their instruments and their music with them. Not surprisingly, this music has persisted to this day which is why this lovely CD exists.’

England’s deluxe reissue label Earth has released two four CD or  LP box sets featuring Bert Jansch’s albums from the 1990s and 2000s. This time, Gary reviews Living in the Shadows (Part 1),  the ’90s set.

Reynard has a CD that reminds him of Summer: ‘Though Creedence Clearwater Revival was one of the best bands of the Sixties, I’m more fond of the recordings of post-CCR carreer of vocalist John Fogerty. And his best recordings by far are the concert recordings, both the legit ones like this release, The Long Road Home: In Concert, and of course the many bootlegs done as soundboard recordings.’

Robert brings us a look at a version of Vivaldi’s The Four Seasons that’s somewhat out of the ordinary: ‘Terje Tønnesen, soloist and conductor on this recording of Vivaldi’s The Four Seasons, includes a liner note to the effect that the performance “represents a form of time travel in which we attempt a ‘correct’ reading of history while at the same time interpreting it freely from our own perspective.” For those who routinely deal with the past and its artifacts — from archaeologists and historians to musicians, actors, and critics — this seems so self-evident that it hardly bears repeating, but it does give one pause for thought: we tend to assume that the past is just like the present, except that people wore funny clothes.’ It’s a little strange, but there’s a terrific summer storm.

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For our What Not this week, something a little different. One of our favorite authors, Jo Walton, is featured in this week’s installment of one of our favorite podcasts, Imaginary Worlds.  It’s about the ways in which SF writers of the past 100 years or more were both right and wrong about one of the most important features of this future of theirs that we know as today. So set aside forty minutes or so for this episode called ‘Imagining the Internet’.

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 So let’s take our leave of each other this time with some spritely music in the form of  ‘Love Shack’ by the B-52s whose only official live recording got reviewed by Cat: ‘If you’re a fan of the band, you’ll definitely want Live! 8.24.1979, because official live recordings of this band are scarce. The liner notes are both informative and entertaining — kudos to Real Gone Music for these. Oh and ‘Rock Lobster’ is wonderful played live!’

Alas the Live! 8.24.1979 recording predates ‘Love Shack’ so you’ll need to enjoy it here instead! It’s a feel good summertime song that’s guaranteed to give you an earworm for days after you hear it.  The ‘Love Shack’ I have for you to enjoy was recorded  in Atlanta sometime in 2001.

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A Kinrowan Estate story: Mama Kin

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She was simply dressed in summer colours and she had a traveling bag over her back and a flute case as well. As per our Covenant regarding visiting musicians, we offered her a place to sleep, food, and her first drink in the Pub was on the house.

She’d been travelling through Europe the previous summer and fall playing at various festivals, so she was well heeled and was willing to pay for her stay here. Jean-Pierre, our Steward at that time, said that wasn’t an issue for now, but asked instead why she came here. And oh, ‘What is your name?’ She said it was ‘Mama Kin.’ Her Irish accent was warm and engaging.

She heard good things about us and wanted to see us for herself, and she’d be happy to do whatever we felt she should do — she’d been a barkeeper, was skilled in carpentry and painting, had spent several summers working on farms so could handle both gardening and livestock, and had training in staffing and managing communal kitchens. She said she also spoke Irish Gaelic, French, German and more than a smattering of other tongues. An admirable background for an Estate like ours.

So Ingrid sent her my way. She asked if I wanted references and I said that we take new folk on their word, so that wouldn’t be needed nor desired. She was in luck as I’d a vacancy on my staff, so I’d be glad to take her on. I arranged her housing, one of the smaller yurts, got her a tour of the Estate, and introduced her to Reynard who needs a spare worker or two from time to time. Mrs. Ware welcomed her in the Kitchen. So it looks like we’ve a fine new community member!

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What’s New for the 18th of June: live music from Franz Liszt , Jennifer Stevenson on Summer:, Stephen Brust novels and other matters

The Palace was more than four hundred years old and had served its purpose; it would be unbecoming to despise it for showing its age. But there was now one spot within it of something new. Turn your thought to it for a moment. One incongruous new idea amid a marsh of stagnant facts. — Steven Brust, Brokedown Palace

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Summer by the calendar is almost upon us, but I prefer the weather wise folk who say it is thirty days or so depending on the year earlier as it nicely fits what we get here on this Scottish estate. Indeed it’s been warm enough overnight that I’ve had the windows here in the Pub open ’round the clock. Gus our Estate Gardener and Groundskeeper has followed the lead of those who held that position before him and planted lupins in the flower beds near Kinrowan Hall, so their pepperary smell is in here and  quite noticable.

If you listen carefully, you’ll hear the sounds of some Hungarian music being by our Librarian in the Kitchen as I do believe that’s where he is judging from the voices I hear along with his playing…

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Robert has a review of Brokedown Palace by Stephen Brust: ‘This is a novel, with all the elements that make a novel what it is. I’ve said before that I think Brust is one of the master stylists working in fantasy today, and this one only confirms that opinion. Even though Brust is describing fantastic things, his mode is realist narrative, and a very clean and spare narrative it is, although more poetic than most of his work. While his characteristically sardonic humor and his flair for irony are readily apparent, there is a magical feel to it, in the sense of things that cannot be, and perhaps should not be, explained.’

He says about Steven Brust and Megan Lindholm’s The Gypsy that it ‘has been in my peripheral vision for some time, and was brought front and center by Boiled in Lead’s Songs from The Gypsy. I’ve sort of put off Brust’s collaborations, of which this is one, although I can see that I’ve got to catch up on them.’ He goes on to say that he found this Hungarian folklore-tinged novel to be terrific, a comment I wholeheartedly agree with!

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We start off our music reviews (which somehow seem to have a very Eastern European slant to them) with Donna’s look at a collaboration between Taraf de Haïdouks and Kočani Orkestar, Band of Gypsies 2: ‘Band of Gypsies 2 marks a very exciting collaboration between two of Europe’s most popular Gypsy bands. The fourteen members of Taraf de Haïdouks hail from a region in Romania where Orthodox Christianity is the dominant religion and the language derives from so-called Vulgar Latin. They play primarily violins and accordions. The thirteen members of Kočani Orkestar come from the Republic of Macedonia, are Muslim, and speak a Slavic language. They play primarily brass instruments, trumpets and tubas. Put all these men and their instruments together and you have a real wall of sound!’

Next, Gary brings us a live recording from Muzsikas and Marta Sebestyen, Live at Liszt Academy: ‘This recording is yet another demonstration of the power of this music and the mastery of Muzsikas. It documents a series of concerts in 2003 at the Liszt Academy. Several tracks feature the ethereal vocals of the ProMusica Choir of Nyiregyhaza, 50 young women directed by Denes Szabo.’

Robert has a look at some chamber music by a couple of Hungary’s lesser-known composers, in the Guarneri Quartet’s Hungarian Album: ‘ Looking at the Quartet’s discography, one is struck by their focus on music of the twentieth century and of Eastern Europe: Bartók, Dvorák, Janáček, Debussy, Grieg, Smetana are all well-represented in their recordings, so this group of quartets by Dohnányi and Kodály is a good fit — although sadly, it marks the group’s retirement.’

Finally, Robert takes a look at another Hungarian composer who became a mainstay of the Romantic era, Franz Liszt, in a recording of his more notable works for piano: ‘Franz Liszt was another of those nineteenth-century child prodigies, which may explain something very odd: because his family’s financial circumstances dictated that he begin concert tours at a very early age (sort of a musical variation on a classic rags-to-riches story), his musical education was somewhat truncated. Thus, when he began composing music, he had to go back and learn how. . . .’

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Our What Not this outing is a rumination by Jennifer Stevenson on Summer: ‘This time of year, my heart is full. Everything that can bloom is blooming, or has bloomed and fruited already, like mayapple and shooting star and trillium and the flowering trees that line my street. All the plants are up. Every rain sees them shooting up another few inches. If you leave your lawn another week, aw, it’ll be fine, I can mow it Sunday, well, better bring a scythe. Out in the country they’ve already cut the first hay.’

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And for our finale today, another work from Franz Liszt that shows just how Hungarian he could be. Not exactly what I heard Iain playing earlier, but this will give us a rousing finish, thanks to Croatian pianist Maksim Mrvica: it’s not every classical pianist who gives a concert in a sleeveless tunic and leather wrist bands.

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