Friday, January 30, 2015

Renaissance Music

I've been in a Renaissance mood lately. As a result, I've been playing a lot of Medieval and Renaissance inspired music. I thought I might share a few of my favorite albums, just in case you're feeling in a Renaissance mood, too.

Wolgemut - I got the chance to see them perform at the Oklahoma Renaissance Faire in Muskogee, Oklahoma, and they were absolutely fantastic. They perform historical music on medieval bagpipes, shawms, drums, flute, medieval fiddle, and harp. I bought two of their cds at the Faire: Danza and Ipse, Ipsa, Ipsum Optimus. The music is so different from modern tunes, but it definitely gets your toes tapping. I love it! (By the way, Wolgemut, pronounced vol-guh-moot, is an ancient Germanic word meaning "to be in a good mood.")

Blackmore's Night - An interesting mix of Folk Rock and traditional Renaissance music, Blackmore's Night was a group I discovered through Renaissance Magazine. They write many of their own songs, which are often my favorites. I have several of their albums, including Ghost of a Rose, Fires at Midnight, and Under a Violet Moon. I love many of their songs, especially "Queen for a Day", "Renaissance Faire" and "Catherine Howard's Fate".

Brobdingnagian Bards - I'm not quite sure how I stumbled across the Bards, but I'm certainly glad that I did. The duo write and sing a wide variety of witty songs, including absolutely hilarious Celtic songs, songs inspired by Buffy, Star Wars, and Lord of the Rings. Sadly, many are not entirely appropriate for children, but I love them anyway. My sister discovered that they were at DragonCon last year, and brought home three of their cds: Fairy Tales, Real Men Wear Kilts, and my favorite A Faire to Remember. It has my favorite songs: "Do Virgins Taste Better", "The Scotsman", and "Donald, Where's Your Trousers". (And in case you wondered, Brobdingnagian is a word from Gulliver's Travels. It's pronounced brob-din-nahg-EE-en and it means marked by great size.)

Mediaeval Baebes - With lyrics from Medieval and Romantic texts set to original music played on Medieval instruments, this small group of women create an unique and ethereal sound. I have four of their albums: Salva Nos, Worldes Blysse, Undrentide, and Mirabilis. I'm fond of many of the songs, including "Lhiannon Shee",  "Gaudete", and "Tam Lin". Their songs also appeared in the soundtrack for the BBC movie The Virgin Queen.

In addition to these fantastic groups, I would also recommend the soundtracks from BBC's The Virgin Queen, Elizabeth, and The Tudors. The music may be new, but it feels appropriate to the time period. For more information on any of these groups, be sure to check out their official websites. (The band names are linked.)

Saturday, January 24, 2015

Into the Woods

My mother took my sister and I to see a stage production of Into the Woods when I was a teen. I loved it! It was a fun and fantastic twist on several of my favorite fairy tales. When I heard that Disney was filming their own production, I was ecstatic, especially once I heard who was to star in the film. We went to see this new film recently, and loved it as well. I will warn you, this post does contain spoilers, but if you're familiar with the fairytales Cinderella, Rapunzel, Jack and the Beanstalk, and Little Red Riding Hood, most of it will not come as a surprise.
There are many characters in Into the Woods, and the title song introduces many of them. There's Cinderella (Anna Kendrick) and her wicked stepmother (Christine Baranski) and stepsisters (Tammy Blanchard and Lucy Punch). Anna Kendrick, who rose to fame in the Twilight movies,  is quite a wonderful Broadway style singer, as is Christine Baranski, who did a fantastic job singing in another musical film, Mama Mia. Lucy Punch was also the wicked stepsisters in another Disney film, Ella Enchanted. We also meet the Baker (James Corden) and his wife (Emily Blunt). He played the much abused servant Planchet in the most recent Three Musketeers, and she was the voice of Juliet in Gnomeo and Juliet, among other roles. Meryl Streep is incredible as the Witch, and although I absolutely adore her in Mama Mia, she does a much better job of singing in Into the Woods. Little Red Riding Hood (Lilla Crawford in her debut screen role), Jack (Daniel Huttlestone) and his mother (Tracy Ullman) round out the group that must enter the woods, either to solve a problem or visit someone far away. Daniel Huttlestone previously appeared as Gavroche in the lavish film production of Les Miserables.  Tracy Ullman, who has been making me laugh since Robin Hood: Men in Tights, also lent her voice to characters in the Corpse Bride and Kronk's New Groove.

As there adventures play out in the Woods, they meet each other, as well as other characters. The Baker and his wife must find the things that the Witch requires so that they can have a child. The Witch requires four things: the cow as white as milk, the cape as red as blood, the hair as yellow as corn, the slipper as pure as gold. Jack must sell his best friend, his cow Milky White. Cinderella must find a way to attend the Prince's (Chris Pine) Ball. And Little Red Riding Hood must make her way to Grandmother's house. On the way, she meets the Wolf (the delicious Johnny Depp who is absolutely wicked in the role, especially when he sings "Hello Little Girl"). As the Baker and his wife split up to better continue their search, she sees Rapunzel (Mackenzie Mauzy) and her Prince (Billy Magnussen) meeting in a tower.

Through a series of wild and ridiculous misadventures, everyone works to toward their own goal. The Baker and his wife manage to find and lose and find again the items that they need. Cinderella continually evades the Prince, who, along with his brother, Rapunzel's Prince, sings the hilarious song "Agony" to explain their misery at falling in love with girls who are distant, each in their own way. Cinderella's Prince finally comes up with a wily way to catch the mystery maid, but succeeds only in catching her shoe. Rapunzel's Prince is caught by the Witch and cast out into a wall of thorns. Jack, who traded his cow to the Baker for "magic beans", has gone up the beanstalk and robbed the giants, and even killed one. Eventually, everyone gets what they think they desire, only to discover that the giant's mother (Frances de la Tour, who played another giantess in Harry Potter) has come seeking revenge for the death of her son. Back into the Woods, everyone must go to find a way to set everything right. I won't spoil the end for those who haven't seen it, but it is quite unexpected.

In all, I quite enjoyed the film. While it isn't exactly like the stage musical, it was still a good adaptation. (And the songs will be stuck in your head for days. We ended up buying the soundtrack because of this.) If you have the chance, see Into the Woods. You may end up loving it, too.

Monday, January 19, 2015

Hobbit knits

I don't know if you've noticed this (although if you've seen my Pinterest, you've probably guessed) but I'm a rampant knitter. I have been known to spend most of my free time knitting. Friends and family often receive scarves, fingerless gloves, and mounds of dishcloths for birthdays and Christmas. I have hundreds of patterns for sweaters, scarves, shawls, blankets, mittens, and mire, just waiting for me to test them out. I also have many more patterns that I've knit, some of which I return to over and over again. I can't tell you how many basket weave dishcloths  I've made. And socks! I can't forget the socks. I was so addicted to knitting them when I first discovered that I could make them, that I made at least a dozen pairs before I moved on to something else. The same thing happened with the mitts. My sister said she'd like a pair because it's cold at work, and I ended up making her 10 pairs, so that she could match them to her outfits, right? The most recent pair look like smores  in color blocking. I made several pairs for Bean, too.

At the moment, I'm completely addicted to knits from the Hobbit and Lord of the Rings. I have an Arwen inspired sweater on my needles right now and I recently knitted a Leaves of Lorien dishcloth. And I'm absolutely obsessed with the mitts and scarves worn by the dwarves in the Hobbit movies. There are some fantastic patterns on Ravelry, many of which I've pinned on my Hobbit Crafts board. There are also a few amazing kits from Stansborough Yarn Company. One is for Bofur's mitts and one for his scarf. They can be ordered directly from Stansborough, or from Weta, the production company behind the Hobbit and Lord of the Rings. Stansborough provided all of the wool yarns used for both knit and woven accessories in the films. They also sell finished woven replicas of the scarves and cloaks for on the films. This New Zealand based company even created a special line of yarn that can be purchased to create you own Hobbity accessories. The yarn line, called Mythral or Mithril, is available in 5 colors: Kokako, Rata, Manuka, Takahe, and Kakariki. The grey color, Kokako, was used for Gandalf's hat and mitts. The wool comes from a specific breed of sheep, th he Stansborough Grey, of which there is only one flock in the world, and they live in New Zealand. As a result, the yarn can seem a bit pricey, but I'd still love to try it. You can order the yarn indirectly from Stansborough, or from the one US distributor: Yarn Sisters. A single skein at Yarn Sisters is $16.00 plus shipping. I think I may just have to order some to make a pair of dwarven mitts to wear this winter.