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Saturday, October 21, 2023

Animated music video for Hallowe'en: Lucy Wan

Lucy Wan is Child ballad 51 (read about it here) and one of the grimmest we've ever done. We put it on our cd "We Did It! Songs of people behaving badly." I used my cigar box fiddle, which I bought in 2008, only once, to record this song. Ever since it's hung on my window. 

It was a puzzle, how to make a video that wasn't overtly grisly while still conveying the darkness of the song.

Tuesday, October 10, 2023

Animated music video: "What a Shocking World This Is for Scandal" (I Never Says Nothing to Nobody)

Sixteen years ago Bob Vasile and I recorded a Pratie Heads cd called "We Did It! Songs of people behaving badly."

We got the idea from Clarke Thacher, head of the local folk song society, who said every proper British Isles traditional band should have a collection of murder ballads. We expanded the remit to include the other seven deadly sins and this was the opening song, as true today as it was back then. I found it decades ago in a tiny folk song collection, the collector averred it was written in 1818. Now, sixteen years later, I've made an animated music video for it.

That was long before the internet. Now I can look it up and see it's usually called "I Never Says Nothing to Nobody," and that it was first published in 1826. And further, that Thomas Hudson himself performed it in "the singing taverns and supper clubs that influenced early Music Hall." And yet further, that Hudson published 13 collections between 1818 and 1832. I'm going to see if there are other delights within. Supposedly the tune was heard from Henry King in Hampshire in 1906 by the collector George Gardiner.

What a Shocking World This Is for Scandal

What a shocking world this is for scandal
The people get worse ev'ry day, when ev'rything serves for a handle
To take folks' good names away.
In backbiting vile each so labors
The sad faults of others to show body
I could tell such a tale if I liked
But I never says nothing to nobody, fallerollolliday.

The butcher, so greasy and fat,
When out, he does nothing but boast
He struts as he cocks on his hat
As if he supreme ruled the roast
Of his wealth and his riches he'll prate
Determined to seem such a fine body
He's been pulled up three times for short weight
But I never says nothing to nobody, fallerollolliday.

Tis a snug little house I reside in
And the people who're living next door
Are smothered completely such pride in
As I never have met with before
But outside their door they don't roam
A large sum of money they owe body
When folks call they can't find them at home
But I never says nothing to nobody, fallerollolliday.

The publican, thriving in trade
With sorrow is now looking down
His sweet little pretty barmaid
Has a little one just brought to town
He's not to be seen much about
His wife is a deuce of a shrew body
The gossips are on the lookout
But I never says nothing to nobody, fallerollolliday.

The new married couple, so happy,
Seem quite the quintessence of love
He calls her, before every chappy,
"My darling," "My Duck," and "My Dove."
In private there's nothing but strife
Quarrelling, fighting o'erflow body
In short, quite a cat and dog life
But I never says nothing to nobody, fallerollolliday.

I could tell if I liked such a tale
Of neighbors all round, great and small
That surely, I think, without fail,
Would really astonish you all.
But here now my short ditty ends
As I don't want to hurt high or low body
I wish to stay in with my friends
So I never says nothing to nobody, fallerollolliday.


Saturday, September 30, 2023

Music Video: "Our Captain Cried All Hands."

I heard this song from the wonderful band The New St. George in 1994 and fell in love with it. My kids and I had a family band called Flash Company toward the end of the 1990s and we performed it a couple of times. I wanted to revive it when I started playing with Jack Herrick and Bob Vasile a few years ago, but it's tricky because the verses are very short and dense and it was hard to figure out how to space them out for some breathing room. The tune I finally settled on is a version of the English Country Dance "Mary and Dorothy." Bob sang and played bouzouki and I tracked the rest of it. 

I made this video when I was visiting my daughter and had no access to art supplies, so it was all done on computer. I just got a drawing tablet and am struggling to make it work. My granddaughter and I really laughed over the last image (they were mostly generated by Bing Image Search) because the woman so clearly is not buying what her sailor is trying to sell her.

Friday, September 29, 2023

Animated music video: Take a Bumper and Try (from the woman's point of view)

In the 1980s I sang this song with Bob Vasile to great audience approbation. Middle aged ladies would come up to me and say "That's the story of my life." Beth Holmgren and I recorded it on our cd "Courting Disaster" way back when... A couple years ago I recorded it again with Bob and Jack Herrick, and Jack mixed it in his studio, and this video is the result.

The song was originally from a man's point of view, and of course outrageously sexist. It was popular in Colonial America, and can be found in Chappell's Popular Music of the Olden Time; A Collection of Ancient Songs, Ballads and Dance Tunes.. with... Notices... from Writers of the Sixteenth and Seventeenth Centuries published in 1859. Some enjoyable (if you like this sort of thing) verses we didn't sing include:

They tell me, my love would in time have been cloy'd;
And that beauty's insipid when once 'ts enjoy'd;
But in wine I both time and enjoyment defy;
For the longer I drink the more thirsty I am.

Perhaps, like her sex, ever false to their word,
She had left me, to get an estate or a lord;
But my bumper (regarding nor title or pelf)
Will stand by me when I can't stand by myself.

Pelf, by the way, is a wonderful word used in other Colonial American songs. It means "money, especially when gained in a dishonest or dishonorable way."

Although audiences laugh at this song, I find it deeply melancholy as I had an alcoholic mother who drank alone. That's why I decided to start this video with bright colors and finish it in somber hues.

Saturday, June 24, 2023

Music video made with images from the Codex Manesse: Touch But My Lips

Thirty some odd years ago my vocal ensemble "The Solstice Assembly" got hired to do the occasional Renaissance Fair. We became acquainted with the Society for Creative Anachronism. I'm at the bottom right with my mouth hanging open.

We didn't really have enough suitable material so I wrote some. Like most things at Renaissance Fairs, my songs were mashups. For this one I selected three quatrains from Shakespeare's romantic poem "Venus and Adonis" (not medieval, obvs), which is as I recall (I haven't googled it) about the goddess Venus falling in love with a mortal man and getting the cold shoulder from him.

Then I went to the UNC Music Library and looked for suitable melodies, but all I could find from way back when was wandering trails of noteheads, without any indication of rhythm or duration. I took one of these wandering trails and hammered it into this melody, which I think is the prettiest one I ever came up with. 

Bob Vasile and I used to play it in Pratie Head concerts, and at weddings, but for the cd Under The Drawbridge David DiGiuseppe accompanied me on the cittern. Here's the video for it which I finished just today, decades later.

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Almost all the images in the video are from the Codex Manesse, a German songbook of the early 14th century. I cut them out on the computer and mashed them up with whatever.

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As I did it I was thinking about the method demonstrated in the video Terry Gillium teaches Monty Python animation (1970). Terry cut things out of photographs and magazines and the pieces were so flimsy he had to put a piece of glass over his scene to keep them from flying away. He doesn't say how he kept them from all sticking to the glass when he went to make his miniscule adjustments. It's much easier to do in Photoshop (I'm still using an ancient version because I refuse to pay a monthly fee to have the newest iteration). Of course there are other programs that make this all much easier, but I think my technology has plateaued. 

I was thinking about this song because I'm on a campaign to throw away all the heavy boxes of old cds in my attic. It makes me sad, we loved this music so much (I still do) but not that many people got a chance to hear it.

Tuesday, May 23, 2023

Another music video with paper cutout animation: Away With These Self-Loving Lads

This one has some moments that really make me laugh, amusing myself as usual. It didn't take as long to put together because the song is shorter and there are fewer "scenes." It's a challenge figuring out what to do during the instrumental breaks. In this case, I took the original songbook cover from 1587, cut the images out of it and blew them up and colored them. The idea was going to be, they were going to hop out of the cover, and if I had fancy software I could have done that, but my end result is so simplified I fear the idea was lost. It was fun, anyway. The song was recorded in my living room in 1990. At that time I had a four-track machine and a two-track machine and the cuts were edited with a razor blade and tape. A tiny sliver of the first verse was just - blank space - on the cd, which astonished me. Had I really not noticed this, way back when? Or did I just forget? I thought maybe it was a manufacturing error so I went up in the attic and dragged down some boxes of these 33-year-old cds and tried some others, the silence was on all of them. I tried to paper it over by copying a smidgin of the instrumental break into the hole and then singing a half-word over the top. It was not very successful but I think it's better than the sliver of silence. I paid my granddaughter 6.5 cents per angel for her artwork! The angel in the last scene is doing a dance modeled after "Toto ballerino" which my sister-in-law sent to me.

Music video with paper cutout animation: Turpin Hero

Another in my series of recordings of songs nobody ever wanted to perform with me. I learned this one at a house concert in Durham NC featuring the wonderful Brian Peters. I've loved the song ever since, and taught it to my grand kids. I tried lip syncing in this one. I took pictures of myself making the different sounds and put the shapes on the puppets' mouths. It was only partially successful.

Music video with cutout animation: The Day We Went To Rothesay-O, a Scottish folk song

 My grandkids came to visit and while they were here I got my grandson to sing on the choruses of two songs, this was the first. A song I could never get anybody to record with me before! As usual, making the animation took almost a month, and so far, only 51 views on youtube. I keep reminding myself I do it for my own enjoyment. I chuckle over my own jokes and figuring out what I can actually manage to pull off is good brain massage. I spent more than a whole day on a tableau that appears on the screen for like a second and a half.

The best part of this video is the bugs we all drew together when I was in Manhattan with them. "There were several different kinds of bugs, some had feet as big as your clogs."

Monday, May 22, 2023

Grandma Peppler's coconut custard pie

This was one of the first recipes I got from my grandmother when I was in high school and so inexperienced that I didn't realize (and she hadn't thought to tell me) that you have to cook a cornstarch mixture in order for it to jell up. I put it all together, uncooked, and refrigerated it in hopes of a miracle that never occurred.

Lately I had to increase the amount of filling, pie pans are bigger than they used to be.

Grandma Peppler's coconut custard pie
scant 1/2 cup sugar plus 1/4 cup for meringue
1/2 cup cornstarch
1/4 teaspoon salt
3 cups milk
1-1/2 tablespoons butter
4 eggs, separated
2 teaspoons vanilla
2-1/2 cups flaked, sweetened coconut
baked pie crust

1. Mix the sugar, cornstarch, and salt in a non-stick saucepan till there are no lumps. Add a tablespoon of the milk and mix it in as well as possible, then add milk just a tiny bit at a time till you have a stiff lumpless gook. Then turn on the heat and add the rest of the milk gradually, stirring constantly. Cook until it thickens.

2. Add the butter and melt it. Then add 1-1/2 cups coconut, give the pot a few good stirs, and turn off the heat.

3. Meanwhile, separate the eggs. Put the yolks in a smallish bowl and whip them smooth with the vanilla.

4. In a separate bowl beat the egg whites stiff, gradually adding 1/4 cup of sugar as you go.

5. Drop a few dollops of the hot custard mixture into the egg yolks and whip them together (this is called tempering) - then add the egg yolk mixture back into the custard mixture and cook a little longer (so the egg yolks cook a bit).

6. My grandma would fold all the egg whites into the custard, but I've taken to folding only half the beaten meringue into the custard. Then I dump the custard-mixed-with-meringue into the cooled (well, supposedly, but actually I never wait and dump it into the baked pie crust when it's still hot) pie crust and spread it evenly.

7. Spread the remaining 1/2 of the meringue on top and cook in the oven at 350 degrees for about 10-14 minutes until the meringue is a bit browned. Please do not eat this pie hot. If you put it in the freezer to hasten the cooling, don't forget you put it in there.


Thursday, March 23, 2023

Another cut out animation video: Ben Franklin's Advice

Ben Franklin with a dog with fleas

Lately I decided to start recording songs that, for whatever reason, I never put out there before. It's a bit mortifying not to sound the way I did a decade or two ago, but this is where I am now. Here's my rendition from last month (just finished the animation this morning):

Ken Bloom and I were hired to do a presentation at the Bruce Museum in Greenwich for their Ben Franklin exhibit in 2006. I wrote a couple of songs for the occasion. One was "Downfall of Piracy," lyrics by Ben Franklin as a 13 year old (note the "purple gore") and published on his brother's printing press. Bob Vasile and I recorded it that year - Bob regaling us with Franklin's enthusiastic history of the pirate Edward Teach, aka Blackbeard. 

The other song I wrote was this one, Ben Franklin's Advice (I actually called it Ben Franklin's Aphorisms at first, but too many people didn't know what an aphorism is). I googled up a handful of his pithy comments as printed in Poor Richard's Almanac, and shook them into five verses. I always thought this song would be good for re-enactors and historic events, but we never got a chance to do many of those events so the song got forgotten.

The animation took weeks. I have tried several lighting setups and none of them have worked well so far, so it turns out all the time it took cutting out the figures with little tiny scissors and an X-acto knife was wasted - I had to finish it all in photoshop.

Saturday, March 04, 2023

My first cut-out animation music video: The Frozen Girl (Pratie Heads version)

The Frozen Girl was a very popular song from its beginnings in 1840 through the early twentieth century; more than 200 versions have been collected, in thirty states and in eastern Canada, titles including The Fair Sharlot, Frozen Charlotte, Fair Charlotte, and A Corpse Going to a Ball. The heroine scoffs at the notion of dressing warmly to ride in an open sleigh, twenty miles, at night, in Maine, on New Year's Eve, to go to a dance. When her idiot boyfriend (why did he let her go out like that?) gets her to the dance, she is dead. In the newspaper story, it says the ball went on regardless. 

There was even a merchandise tie-in, see the Frozen Charlotte dolls below.

Row of Frozen Charlotte Dolls

The poem on which this song is based was written by Seba Smith (or, perhaps, his wife, as I have seen in one published broadside), and it recounts in rhyme a supposedly true story which took place on New Year's eve, 1839. At the foot of this post you'll find the original story; originating in the New York Observer, it was reprinted in newspapers across America.

I first heard a version of Young Charlotte sung by Tim Eriksen on an album by Cordelia's Dad. I love Tim Eriksen's voice, and I loved the story, but the tune was so slow and dreary, so I wrote my own tune for it and reworked the lyrics for my own entertainment. I recorded it with Bob Vasile on our cd "Rag Faire: music of the British Isles and beyond."

I've been working on this animation for the last two and a half weeks. It took a lot of time to get set up and do the paintings. I found the colored pencils my aunt gave me in the 70s which I've never used until now. It did feel like playing with paper dolls, as Mike Craver says. (See his cutout animated music video which inspired me here: The Dame of Camellias.) My biggest problem (besides lack of talent) was insufficient light, I hope to fix that by the time I do the next one.

Newspaper article, A Corpse Going To A Ball

Sunday, February 12, 2023

Links for studying cutout animation

  • Mike Craver's cutout masterpiece The Dame of Camellias - he uses watercolors and works very large, using an old iPhone SE because the camera is so good. He has rigged his to a tripod but I'm thinking about using a boom microphone stand and a fixture that holds the phone to the stand. He is very old school! No computer manipulation. If he doesn't like a character's face, he whites it out and paints it over again.
  • Tutorial by Terry Gilliam of Monty Python's Flying Circus. He used pictures cut out of magazines and they were so flimsy he had to put a big piece of glass on top to hold them down for every shot. Then when he picked up the glass the pieces flew around unless he had tacked them all down.
  • How to Make a Paper Puppet for Stop Motion Animation by John O'Donnell - (he uses a quarter-inch hole punch to make a hole in the back piece. Puts a dab of glue on the back of the front piece and attaches it through the hole to a paper disk behind the back piece.
  • FayeMaybe's Making Puppets for Animation. She is using index cards for her puppets. She pokes a hole in the back piece, bends an L shape out of wire and tapes it to the front piece, turns it so the wire stands up and pokes it through the back piece. Then she makes a spiral out of the wire and flattens it on the back of the back piece. Looks hard.
  • Houston Filmmaker Explores Dimensions of Paper Animation is a good overview of the wonderful work of animator Brandon Ray. He photographs his moving characters on a piece of glass suspended over a background or a green screen. Not sure why.
  • Making of Paper plane by Massimo Giangrande gives a good overview of the initial planning and the drawing process. And here is the finished product: Giangrande's Paper Plane
  • Gianluca Maruotti's cutout animation music video for Tay Oskee's song Black Smoke
  • Aleene's 29-2 Tack-It Over & Over Liquid Glue 4oz for holding things down temporarily
  • The bigger you work, the easier the creating and manipulation are. Mike's puppets are about 8" tall.
  • Outline the body parts and cut right to/through the outline. Recommended to blacken the edges of the pieces to avoid flashes of white

Monday, December 12, 2022

Let Memory Keep Us All: a songbook, a video, a remembrance. Available as a digital download (pdf file).

UPDATE: Reposting to add the video I just made of this song, which is on our "Under the Drawbridge" cd available at Bandcamp: Let Memory Keep Us All. Here's the video:
The Solstice Assembly Songbook: 66 songs to sing in harmony
Choral arrangements for folksong lovers

This is a picture of Mitzi, Mona, and Sandy at the Medieval Fair at the Castle McCullough in Jamestown, NC, back in the 1990s, wearing nice outfits we sewed out of cloth we dyed ourselves.

There were usually about sixteen people in the Solstice Assembly, a mainly a cappella ensemble. Everybody had a busy professional life elsewhere but we made three recordings and performed at Piccolo Spoleto and an annual "Solstice Extravaganza," which was a little like the Christmas Revels except it included Hannukah and Winter Solstice music too.

I disbanded the group in the mid 1990s but I still miss it... so I put together a songbook of our best music. I hope some of you will enjoy this sheet music, suitable for small groups or a chorus or chorale.


Let Memory Keep Us All: full size and spiral bound at ($15.80)...

Somewhat smaller, somewhat cheaper, and perfect-bound, at ($13.05)

Or buy the pdf format digital download book directly from me for $7 via PayPal:

This picture (left) is of Carol Boren Owens: the woman Let Memory Keep Us All was written for. Carol was one of the original sopranos with the Solstice Assembly, a beautiful, kind, funny, sassy Southern girl with deep roots in the Chapel Hill area.

Everybody loved her and she had a wonderful voice.

She was only 33 years old when she died instantaneously. We had finished taping and mixing our first recording, "Three Log Night," but she died before she had a chance to hear it. When we met to listen to the mixes we were stunned into silence listening to her beautiful solos. We have never forgotten her.

That's my daughter Hannah, in a homemade hennin, holding her hand. The picture was taken at the Renaissance Fair at Castle McCullough in Jamestown, NC.

Below, brief descriptions of the songs in the book. If we recorded the song, you can click to hear (or purchase) the mp3.

The Agincourt Carol: I heard this from the singing of Graeme and Eileen Pratt on their album Regal Slip (it's great). It was written in the early 15th century and tells of the 1415 Battle of Agincourt, in which the English army led by Henry V of England defeated the French.

An Equal Song: I combined the Sacred Harp song "Poor Mourning Souls" with lyrics from another Sacred Harp song, both slightly, uh, reorganized.

Away with these self-loving lads: By lutenist John Dowland, from his 1597 First Booke of Songs or Ayres, arranged by me and Doug Holmgren (who played the sprightly harpsichord setting). "My songs they be of Cynthia's praise, I wear her rings on holidays, On every tree I write her name, and ev'ry day I read the same ... If Cynthia crave her ring of me, I'll blot her name out of the tree!" Somethings never change. The track is from Courting Disaster, a cd I did with Beth Holmgren in 1991. (In this case, click on the title of the song to hear it.)

Ayo visto lo mappamundi: I heard this on the Waverly Consort's 1492: Music From The Age Of Discovery and was enchanted. "I have seen the map of the world... I've been everywhere ... but there's nobody as cute as my girlfriend Cecily." I arranged it for the Solstice Assembly and later did it with my world music band, and that's where we got our name!

Barrett's Privateers: I arranged this one, written by Stan Rogers and brought to me by Mark Biggers, for the kids chorus at the Emerson Waldorf School and later did it with the teen traveling camp at Village Harmony.

Brave Wolfe: This one is in many songbooks because it is historically significant: General James Wolfe triumphed at the battle of the Plains of Abraham outside Quebec and it turned the course of the war.

Brightly Dawns our Wedding Day: Four of us from the Solstice Assembly sang this song (from the Mikado) for Ed Norman's wedding and I taught it at the Village Harmony Adult Camp a few years ago. I've always wanted to do it at another wedding but the words are a little strong for present-day brides: "All must sip the cup of sorrow, I to-day and thou to-morrow, this the close of every song. What, though solemn shadows fall - sooner, later - over all? Sing a merry madrigal!..."

The Bundling Song: This was an invention. When I was researching music of Colonial America for the Pratie Heads North Carolina Arts Council Touring Program performances, I ran across the text in an old book. Now you can read the whole thing on line: A New Bundling Song, or, A Reproof To Those Young Country Women, Who Follow That Reproachful Practice, And To Their Mothers For Upholding Them Therein! I made up a tune and a harmony for it and pared it down mercilessly (the parson who wrote it had a bit of an obsession) and we sang it to the great amusement of all. My favorite couplet: "Bundlers' clothes are no defense - unruly horses push the fence!"

Cadgwith Anthem: We learned this from Mark Biggers, who loved Fairport Convention and Steeleye Span, and a quartet of us recorded it on "Under the Drawbridge"

Ce mois de mai: Mitzi Quint brought us this one, a madrigal by Clement Janequin.

Claudy Banks: Ken Bloom gets us to sing this at his Revolutionary War reenactments. A soldier comes back from war and, meeting up with his old girlfriend (but unrecognized by her) says "Your boyfriend is dead" -- just to see her get upset. Then he says "Just Kidding!" If I were her I'd conk him over the head.

The Solstice Assembly at the Piccolo Spoleto Festival, 1992: Alice Kaplan, Ben Bingham, Candace Carraway, Doug Holmgren, Ed Norman, Jane Peppler, Joe Sickles, Jon Newlin, Laurie Fox, Lisa Pickel, Mark Biggers, Mitzi Quint, Paula, Randy Kloko, Rivka Gordon, Rob Rich, Stacey Anderegg. We used this photo on our third recording: Some Assembly Required: Centuries of great vocal music.

Come Here, Fellow Servant: Incredibly, Mappamundi got a gig at the Hollywood Bowl in Los Angeles! Well, truth to tell, we were not actually IN the bowl, we were in a little theater NEXT to the bowl, doing a week-long show for families on American History through music. The lady who hired us, Marnie, found this song and I tweaked it and re-arranged it quite a bit. The idea is, even the rich masters for whom the servants work are slaves to somebody or something. "The fat shining glutton looks up to his shelf, the wrinkled lean miser bows down to his pelf, and the churl-pated beau is a slave to himself" Vocabulary word I learned from this song, pelf: "Wealth or riches, especially when dishonestly acquired."

Come, Lasses and Lads: This was a bringing-together of the 1670 Playford English Country Dance tune, Epping Forest, with the text of a John Roberts and Tony Barrand song. I recorded it with genius pianist Jacqueline Schwab and bassist Robbie Link.

Con el viento: Somebody in the Solstice Assembly heard Libana sing this song and I transcribed it as best I could. We recorded it on "Some Assembly Required" and you can also hear Libana sing it at YouTube

Daniel Prayed: A Red Clay Ramblers favorite which I also did with the Triangle Jewish Chorale. Here's a similar (but all-men) arrangement sung by Joe Newberry, Jim Watson, Bill Hicks & Mike Craver at YouTube

Devotion: A Sacred Harp song.

Down with the Rosemary and Bays: Mark Biggers brought us this song. First I made a three part version and then a four-part version. Words by Robert Herrick, song is from William Henry Husk's 1868 Songs of the Nativity.

Drive Dull Care Away (traditional version): Mid-1970s, a folksinging circle in Cambridge sponsored by the Folksong Society of Greater Boston (ah, why don't we have one of those down here in North Carolina?). I heard this song and was riveted. That being pre-internet, I ended up having to make several phone calls (which I hate) and then drive 35 miles to grab this song from the guy who sang it. Now it's probably just a mouse-click away. I love the lyrics so much that I wrote another setting and recorded it on Some Assembly Required.

Durme, durme: This gorgeous Sephardic song, sung in Laduvane, has been recorded many times, I first heard it on Judy Frankel's cd Stairway of Gold: Songs of the Sephardim. The Solstice Assembly sang my a cappella version for many years and the Triangle Jewish Chorale loved the song too.

Fine Knacks for Ladies: This is from John Dowland, too, and I wrote this arrangement when we were asked to do an Elizabethan gig - some of the songs we scrabbled together were a bit, uh, spurious, but this one was the real thing.

Fortune, My Foe: Supposedly Henry V wrote this, but I bet he just stole credit for it. Still happens all the time.

CD Review magazine said about the Solstice Assembly's Under the Drawbridge:
An all-seasons follow-up to Three Log Night, a regional Christmas favorite, Under the Drawbridge is an impressive introduction to the elegant, elastic vocal stylings of North Carolina's Solstice Assembly, an inventive 18- voice choral group that specializes in updating folk songs that span the last 800 years. These modern minstrels, favorites on the East Coast Renaissance festival circuit ... whether singing a cappella or accompanied by guitars, fiddles, percussion and recorders, showcase forceful harmonies with reverent relish and a youthful spirit. The alternately festive, romantic, and haunting arrangements mirror a variety of familiar vocal settings, including madrigal choruses, barbershop quartets, even such peers as the Bobs and the Roches... The most lasting pleasures ... are the older songs, all performed with an earnest affection that accents their beauty rather than their age.

Furry Day Carol: learned from Dave DiGiuseppe, friend of the Nee Ningy band, former member of the Band of Ages, the Banished Fools, the Big Zucchini Washboard Bandits, and a Mayday organizer. We did a Mayday concert with him and sang this song.

Gaude Mater Polonia: Ed Norman learned this one in high school. Wikipedia says: "It was probably the most popular medieval Polish hymn, written in the 13th-14th century in memory of saint Stanislaw Szczepanowski, bishop of Kraków." Polish knights used to sing it after victory in battle. Since Ed is from Alabama, not Krakow, the words may be a bit folk-processed.

Give Me the Roses: learned from Mike Craver of the Red Clay Ramblers. I wrote this arrangement for us to perform at a musical lecture Jack Bernhard gave at the Ulster-American Park when a bunch of us went over to Northern Ireland to sing Sacred Harp at their bluegrass festival.

Golly: I ordinarily fear rounds - I always wonder, what if it never stops? - but this one, by P.D.Q. Bach I think, is cute.

Good in Living: It was Stacey Anderegg, now leader of the Stella ensemble, who brought us this song.

Hard Times, Come Again No More: Somebody asked us to learn this Stephen Foster song. The Red Clay Ramblers used to do a wonderful version of it but their arrangement wouldn't work for mixed mens and womens voices so I wrote one for us.

Haymaking: Mark Biggers and Randy Kloko sang this song, which we learned from John Roberts and Tony Barrand.

The Hock Cart: I sort of wrassled this melody together out of a fragment of a medieval melody which I pushed and prodded until it wasn't really recognizable, then added an Elizabethan text.

How Stands the Glass Around?: Learned for Early American gigs. I arranged it for four-part choral singing. The song was collected from the notebook of Thomas Fanning, 1780. It was General Wolfe's favorite song. Recording by the Pratie Heads.

Imi Nahtna Leviva-Li: One of the first Hannukah songs we learned for the Solstice Extravaganza.

In Sherwood Lived Stout Robin Hood: Another one learned for a Renaissance Fair. By Robert Jones, 1609. I love this tune so much I made it the ringtone for my phone.

Cue Magazine wrote:
The Solstice Assembly then took the stage, and I mean TOOK IT, with an earthy vocal/choral style that reaches far back into folk traditions. Their singing tone is a full-throated delivery that commands attention and delivers great excitement and driving energy."

It Was a Lover and his Lass: This is one of several songs I concocted for an Elizabethan evening. The text, of course, is by Shakespeare. The tune was kludged together out of a Welsh folksong I'd mostly forgotten.

Let Memory Keep Us All: The song that inspired this lens. The tune was learned from Peter Bellamy's The Death of Admiral Nelson and I wrote the words with some input from my then-husband.

Let Us Drink and be Merry: A round I learned from the singing of Suzy Liebert, a long-ago roommate.

Love Is Come Again: From the Oxford Book of Carols. One verse was written by our tenor Ben Bingham.

Margot Labourez les Vignes: Alice Kaplan, Professor of French Literature at Duke and one of our sopranos, helped with the words of this song, which I'd known since highschool. It was originally a folksong but was turned into a madrigal by Jacob Arcadelt (or was it Orlando di Lasso?)

Northfield: One of everybody's favorite Sacred Harp songs. Words: Isaac Watts, 1701; music: Jeremiah Ingalls, 1800

Northill May: Perhaps I heard the Watersons do this on a long-ago LP, or maybe it was the Young Tradition?

O My Hart: Henry VIII claimed the authorship of this one. Yeah, right. See Henry V, above.

Ode to the Fourth of July: Written in 1803 by Walter Townsend, arranged by me for some Revolutionary War reenactment.

Once I Had a Sweetheart: Mona Shibers brought us this song. I first heard her sing it when about twelve of us were packed into a Motel 6 room in Greensboro. In the morning we stumbled out of our couple of rooms, dressed in jerkins and bodkins and henins and tights for the Medieval Fair, to the astonishment of the truckers who are the usual inhabitants.

Pace-egging Song: Learned from Dave DiGiuseppe for a Maying sort of event. What wonderful Mayday celebrations they used to have out at the farm, with a really really TALL Maypole and beautifully hand-died ribbons and sometimes I'd play with the little band and watch people weave in and out...

Parting Glass: Bob Vasile of the Pratie Heads and I learned this for our dear mentor and friend Carl Wittman when he was dying. Recently I spruced it up and presented it at a Village Harmony camp.

The Charleston Post & Courier wrote:
The harmonious and high-spirited Solstice Assembly belted out a cappella renditions with enough talent to raise the roof ... Sixteen voices full of musical gusto sang the reverent to the irreverent as a class act in the Piccolo Spoleto Traditional Folk Music Series ... the audience wanted more as they showed their appreciation with applause and shouts of encore."

Peculiar Cheer: I can't at all remember where I heard this. I think it's a twelfth-night song. Did I invent it? Did it come from a dream? If you've heard it before, please put me out of my misery and tell me where it came from!

Peddler's Song: This is an Elizabethan text and a tune I think I invented. We recorded it on Some Assembly Required.

Pretty Maid Come Along: Jon Newlin brought us this song, short and sweet.

Rainbow: A classic but rarely heard shape-note hymn.

Resonet in laudibus: I learned this from Pat Peterson and the singing of her group Fortuna, which used to perform in our annual Solstice Extravaganzas.

Rich Man: I just love this song, which I found in an Ingalls songbook.

Ripe and Bearded Barley: I learned this mysterious English folksong from Larry Gordon.

Rolling Ages: Here you have it: the entire destruction of the world as we know it in four short verses. An old shape-note type hymn, written before the four shapes were invented.

Roulez!: I loved William Pint & Felicia Dale's version of this and gussied it up for the Solstice Assembly to sing with the Band of Ages. We recorded it on Some Assembly Required.

Shnirele Perele: First heard at KlezKamp in the early 1980s.

Sigh No More, Ladies: Shakespeare's words, my tune and arrangement, last verse by Randy Kloko.

Silent Bird: I found this Irish song in a book and harmonized it. Judy Stafford wrote the third verse.

So Will We Yet: Learned from the singing of the brilliant and sorely missed Tony Cuffe.

Solis Praevia: Learned from a cd of Bohemian or Moravian early music.

Sweet Kate: Learned from John Newlin for our Elizabethan gigs. By Robert Jones c. 1600

There is a Lady Sweet and Kind: From Thomas Ford's Music of Sundry Kinds of 1607.

This Old World: I heard this from the singing of Graeme and Eileen Pratt and friends sang this on their wonderful album Regal Slip.

To Portsmouth!: A nice round for the pub.

Touch But My Lips: Of the songs I've written, this is my favorite. Words from Shakespeare's Venus and Adonis.

Turtledove Done Drooped His Wings: A Georgia Sea Island song. I think I first heard Larry Gordon and the Word of Mouth chorus do it.

Vegan Fight Song: We had been performing "This Aye Nicht," a medieval song, using something close to the Young Tradition arrangement, for a while when Lisa Pickel showed up with these alternate words.

Whitsuntide is Come: I think I learned this from John Roberts and Tony Barrand, except there are three parts and there are only two of them, so maybe not.

OK, so now that you've heard all these great songs, don't you want to be able to sing them yourselves with your friends? The songbook has chords and choral arrangements, mostly SATB but some are three or two-part and some are just for soloists.


Let Memory Keep Us All: full size and spiral bound at ($15.80)...

Somewhat smaller, somewhat cheaper, and perfect-bound, at ($13.05)

Or buy the pdf format digital download book directly from me for $7 via PayPal:

Tuesday, December 14, 2021

Blueberry buckle

 Make in an 8x8 or 9x9 greased baking pan. Preheat oven to 375.

 Blueberry buckle

3/4 cup white sugar

1/4 cup butter (softened)

1 egg

1/2 cup milk

2 cups all-purpose flour

1-1/2 teaspoons baking powder

1/2 teaspoon salt

2-1/2 cups fresh blueberries


1/2 cup white sugar

1/3 cup all-purpose flour

1/3 cup oatmeal

1/4 cup melted butter


Cream sugar, butter, and egg.

In a separate bowl mix flour, baking powder, and salt. Stir into sugar mixture, alternating with milk.

This is a sticky dough. You could mix it with the blueberries but I made a base of half the dough, then poured in the blueberries, then put blobs of dough on top. 

Topping: Combine sugar, flour, oatmeal, and butter. Sprinkle over cake batter.

Bake for 25-30 minutes.

Wednesday, December 01, 2021

Genevieve's tamales

Genevieve's tamales

2 chickens: breasts, thighs, and legs, boiled. Save the water. Shred (takes a long time to shred)

3 pounds tomatillos
3 plum tomatoes or any red
5 jalapeno peppers
1 big clove of garlic
blend the 4 ingredients above, then boil down, finally, saute with some oil. Put the chicken in.

Maseca - she used a whole bag and it made a tremendous number of tamales
blended with oil, salt, and water

3 bags of husks - get the big ones

She used the hot cooking water to mix with the maseca and oil and salt

Lay out one or two husks, give two good smears of dough, filling, wrap.

Steam for a half hour with layer of foil on top.

Sunday, January 17, 2021

Swedish Raspberry Almond Bars

This is a favorite recipe for dazzling people. Hard to stop eating

3/4 c. soft salted butter
3/4 c. confectioner's sugar (regular sugar will work too)
1-1/2 c. flour
3/4 c. raspberry jam
3 large egg whites
6 tablespoons sugar
1/2 c shredded sweetened coconut (just the regular kind at the grocery store)
1 c sliced almonds (it's better if you toast them but don't burn them)

Pre-heat oven to 350 degrees

Cream butter &amp; sugar, add flour. Press into a 9 x 13 pan and cook 18-20 minutes (until light brown). Cool a little bit at least.

Spread raspberry jam as evenly as possible.

Beat the eggs, add the sugar to the stiff-peaks point

Add coconut and 1/2 cup of the almonds. Spread on top of the base layer. Sprinkle with the rest of the almonds.

Bake for 18-22 more minutes, until golden brown.

Saturday, May 02, 2020

Tex-Mex chicken cheese turnovers (empanadas)

I'm "sheltering in place" with my son, daughter, son-in-law, grandkids, and two kids and a dog. We take turns cooking and this is what I made tonight, with my favorite pie crust recipe. It made twelve big empanadas.

Pre-heat to 400 degrees

Pie crust dough

1 stick (1/2 cup) salted butter
2+ cups of flour
1 egg yolk (save the white for glaze)
1/2 ts salt
2/3 c sour cream (I ran a little short of sour cream and substituted cream cheese)

Mix it in the food processor into a ball and chill while you make the filling


2+ cups of chopped or shredded boiled chicken breast (I pulsed it in the food processor)
2+ cups shredded cheddar cheese
5 oz cream cheese
2 T milk
2 cups chopped scallions and parsley mixed (I pulsed them in the food processor with a few walnuts)
3 cloves minced garlic
salt and pepper

if you wanted it spicy you'd add chopped green chiles but since I'm feeding kids I didn't

I rolled out the dough in batches, VERY thin, and used a 6-1/2" bowl to cut circles. Moistened the edges with water, put in a blob of the thick filling, tried to close the edges very well, glazed with egg white, cooked for half an hour.