Posts

Showing posts from 2008
Image
LIGHT from Ed Softky
at right: the view from Ed's balcony in Dharamsala, India, 2004

Who can encompass the dreadful shock of sudden death? This is not the memorial page for Ed Softky, and you can read this for the black story of his passing and of his many tributes. This is about Light.

For those of you who knew Ed only through his Buddhist work, let me introduce myself as an old friend, singing and dancing buddy, and housemate of Ed's since, oh, maybe 1990? I don't recall. With Liz Lewis and Alan Field, we sang together in the quartet Lingua Franca, "Music as the Common Tongue." Here is the group's demo album, a truly limited release that maybe we should reprint in Ed's memory.

I was to see Ed this weekend (Columbus Day), for one of our joyously serious sessions of "PhilosoTea" and a visit to his new home in Brattleboro. As I was packing, I got a phone call from a mutual friend. "I've just heard someone say Ed was killed in a car accid…
Image
Sea Slugs in Marzipan
Originally uploaded by noelegance Gastropod Gastronomy: The Edible Nudibranch
Photos and video of our latest team exploit in performance-art food. Now this is Extreme Sushi.

Red Herring Morris gives team biologist Phill Nimeskern a thank-you gift for chairing the Ale. Phill, who has eaten a sea slug for science, repeats the experiment in marzipan and song. The nudibranchs were inspired by this month's cover story of the June 2008 National Geographic. Go look 'em up!
ngm.nationalgeographic.com/2008/06/nudibranchs/doubilet-photography

Image
Old Sea Dog
Sunday was our first MIT Chantey and Maritime Sing of the season in our dog-friendly summer venue at the Wood Sailing Pavilion. Mina the Dog snoozed in her MIT burgee, dreaming of sea chanteys from the Revels Book of Chanteys and Sea Songs. Much to the entertainment of some visitors from the Revels Pub Sing, Mina woke when we sang the Dutch chantey Los Mina Loos, and "sang along" happily whenever her name came round in the chorus!

Photo: Harriet Fell-Brown
Gloucester Hornpipe and Clog Society at the Edmund Fowle House, Watertown



The Edmund Fowle House is the second oldest surviving house in Watertown. During the Revolutionary war, it was the seat of the new Massachusetts government while the British occupied Boston. The Watertown Historical Society has completed a major restoration, and the house is now open to the public and available for functions. We had a wonderful time playing Revolutionary-era tunes and songs in their lovely parlor.
Image
Second Annual Merrymount Mayday

This year's Kettle of Fish Morris Ale was a great success, especially the final stand at Merrymount on Maypole Hill. We danced the morris, wove the Maypole, led the audience in Sellenger's Round and the Padstow Day Song and Hal an Tow, and applauded Dr. Jack Dempsey's dramatic reading of the Poem that Morton composed and nailed to his Maypole, which was 80 feet high and crowned with buckshorns. We had a goodly number of the good people of Quincy, who are pleased to see the Maypole return to Maypole Hill.

Advance publicity was excellent this year, with feature articles in Wicked Local Quincy, the Patriot Ledger and the Boston Globe. Today's Patriot Ledger carried a great article with a full photo spread.
Image
Newtowne Mayday on the Charles 2008

Mayday 2008
Originally uploaded by Stew Stryker Stew Stryker has posted a great slideshow of May morning 2008.

Hal an tow, jolly rumbalow
We were up long before the Maypole!

Well, WE were there at 5, and anyone there at that hour doesn't need a songbook, so we sang until the Maypole arrived. The weather was cool but dry, the Lowell House receiving line warm and welcoming, and the crowd pretty good for a workday. We processed along the usual route, despite Harvard Square construction, and concluded with a fine Maypole dance by a group of local school kids whose teacher had brought them to see us as a field trip. Merry May!
A review of "Puritan Days," a.k.a. "Lee-li-Nau," an opera by Earl Marble and Richard Stahl. Folio Magazine, January 1884

The existence of this opera about Merrymount is more interesting than its somewhat alarming excerpts given in Folio. One imagines Gilbert and Sullivan as performed by F Troop (!). However, put this in context as an American response to the height of the G&S craze following H.M.S. Pinafore (1878), which was "received in America with “enthusiasm bordering upon insanity” (Kate Field, Scribner’s Monthly, xviii, 754). Lee-li-Nau was staged the same year as Princess Ida, two years after the Savoy opera house was built expressly for G&S. Small wonder American composers were searching for New World themes to capitalize on "Pinafore-mania." Thomas Morton must have seemed ideal material for 1880s fans of Buffalo Bill's Wild West and of Indian Princesses of the Victorian stage like author and actress Pauline Johnson.

I have searche…
Image
Indian Princess of the Victorian Stage
The stage career of Emily Pauline Johnson, or Tehakionwake, illustrates that at least some prominent native women participated actively in the "Indian Princess" image presented in Lee-Li-Nau, and made good money at it. In the 1890s, Tehakionwake toured Europe in buckskins and beads, entirely intentionally. For the second act, she'd come out in a ball gown and recite Shakespeare, as befitted her multicultural heritage.
"Throughout the 1880s Johnson established herself as a Canadian writer and cultivated an audience amongst those who read her poetry [which] signaled her membership amongst Canada’s important authors (Strong-Boag and Gerson 2000, p. 101). In her early literary works, Johnson drew lightly from her Mohawk heritage, and instead lyricized Canadian life, landscapes, and love in a post-Romantic mode reflective of the literary interests she shared with her mother (Strong-Boag and Gerson 2000, p. 101).In 1892, Johnson recite…

1837 Engravings of Maypoles and May-Day Celebrations

Image
The Every-day Book and Table Book, or Everlasting Calendar of Popular Amusements, from 1837, has a wonderful series of engravings illustrating a wide variety of Maypoles from England, Scotland, and France. It's remarkable to see the variation from the familiar plain pole with ribbon streamers.

The Northampton May Garland with its Empire-waisted May dolly is well suitable for our own New England Mayday in Northampton and Amherst in the Pioneer Valley of Massachusetts. In the early days of Banbury Cross Morris in Boston, I held a workshop on May Eve with the children's team to make a similar May dolly, which has become a tradition for the team on May morning on the banks of the Charles River in Cambridge.






Kerchiefs flying, smart in their Scotch bonnets and tartan, the May-dew dancers at Arthur's Seat in Edinburgh cavort in drunken Scots abandon around a Scandinavian-style Maypole with a horizontal wreath adorned with branching boughs at head-height. Their bagpiper's &quo…
The Lord of Misrule (Alfred Noyes)

All on a fresh May morning, I took my love to church,
To see if Parson Primrose were safely on his perch.
He scarce had got to thirdly, or squire begun to snore,
When, like a sun-lit sea-wave,
A green and crimson sea-wave,
A frolic of madcap, May-folk came whooping through the door: -

Come up, come in with streamers!
Come in with boughs of May!
Come up and thump the sexton,
And carry the clerk away.

Now skip like rams, ye mountains,
Ye little hills, like sheep!
Come up and wake the people
That parson puts to sleep.

They tickled their nut-brown tabors. Their garlands flew in showers,
And lasses and lads came after them, with feet like dancing flowers.
Their queen had torn her green gown, and bared a shoulder as white,
O, white as the may that crowned her,
White all the minstrels round her
Tilted back their crimson hats and sang for sheer delight:

Come up, come in with streamers!
Come in with boughs of May!
Now by the gold upon your toe
You walked the primrose way.
Come up, w…
Miles Standish [1584 - 1656] by Rosemary and Stephen Vincent Benet
Miles Standish was a little man, a soldier from his youth,
He said he'd fought the Spaniards and I think he told the truth,
For he could fire a musketoon and he could build a fort
And the Pilgrims all admired him, though he wasn't quite their sort.

Tom Morton was a merry man and liked a merry frolic,
He said, "These long-nosed Pilgrims give an honest heart the colic!"
He built a place called Merry Mount to serve his merry ends
And danced around a Maypole with a lot of rowdy friends.

The Pilgrims were indignant, for they didn't like his game,
They said his merry Maypole was an idol and a shame,
They vowed that it was scandalous to dance to such a tune,
So they ordered out Miles Standish, with his fav'rite musketoon.

"Ho,ho!" laughed Morton, merrily, "'Tis only Captain Shrimp!"
"Hew down yon idol!" Standish roared and made him feel quite limp
For they hewed the pretty Maypole …
Image
Introducing Mr. Paddy Washtub

When you play in a band with a pogocello, who can resist a washtub bass? The photo at left is Gloucester Hornpipe and Clog Society founder David Rosen with the inimitable pogocello. On the right is the newest member of the band, a handmade washtub bass from Athens, Georgia: bought on eBay and shipped to Boston on Greyhound.Who buys a string bass on eBay? Well, not intentionally. I was browsing to find out whether anyone should spend the several hundred dollar estimate I'd heard for repairing the cracked upright bass of our late friend Dave Stryker. Not that I really wanted Dave's bass, which is a full-size monster larger than my car. But we wondered what it was worth, for donating to a school or selling to some local musician as-is. So, go to eBay and plug in "upright bass" and "< $500."
You don't find much in that price range. But what is THIS? A washtub crossed with a banjo? I read on. "Handmade washtub bass. Full 3…
Morris and Maypole Return to Merrymount

The Inhabitants of Pasonagessit (having translated the name ...to Ma-reMount [MerryMount]; ... did devise amongst themselves to have it performed in a solemne manner with Revels, & merriment after the old English custome: prepared to sett up a Maypole upon the festivall day of Philip and Jacob .... And because they would have it in a complete forme, they had prepared a song fitting to the time and present occasion. And upon Mayday they brought the Maypole to the place appointed, with drums, guns, pistols, and other fitting instruments, for that purpose ; and there erected it with the help of Salvages, that came thether of purpose to see the manner of our Revels. A goodly pine tree of 80 foot long, was reared up, with a pair of buckshorns nailed one, somewhat neare unto the top of it : where it stood as a faire sea marke for directions; how to finde out the way to mine Hoste of Ma-reMount.







May 2008 marks the 381st anniversary of the first and m…