Friday, December 21, 2012

Ornament Giveaway Winner Announced

Congratulations to Charles McCreery of Oxfordshire, UK, whose name was drawn at random as the winner of my Christmas giveaway.  The prize is the ornament pictured here, hand-painted by me, which will be mailed out soon:

Thanks so much to everyone who entered!  

And for those who haven't downloaded it yet, you can still get my free MP3 of O Holy Night here now through New Year's.  Simply enter your email address in the box, and click Submit!

Saturday, December 1, 2012

FREE Christmas download & a chance to win an original hand-painted ornament

Dear friends,

All month long, from now through New Year's, you can download my solo violin version of O Holy Night here:

Simply enter your email address, click submit, and you'll get the track for FREE! :)  Plus, by downloading the track you will automatically be entered into a raffle to win this one-of-a-kind ornament hand-painted by me:

The winner of the ornament giveaway will be announced on December 21st, so be sure to download O Holy Night before then!

Please spread the word and share this free download and contest with your friends.

With warmest wishes for a safe, peaceful, & happy holiday season,


Tuesday, November 20, 2012

November 2012 Newsletter: Potatoes au Gratitude

It's hard to believe that this Sunday will mark one year since my Kickstarter project to fund the release of Celtic Chamber Music was completed!  I'm so incredibly proud of this recording and all the hard work that went into it.  But I know that the CD itself would never have become a reality if it hadn't been for the generous support of fans like you!  And not just financially: every new or veteran audience member, every word of encouragement (in person or online), every positive Youtube comment, every retweet, every time someone says to their friends, "hey, check out this great music!"-- it means so much to me, and is just further confirmation to me that my listeners are awesome individuals.  So, in the spirit of the season (and all year round), allow me to offer these sincere words of gratitude:  thank you guys, for all that you do to support me, in whatever way you choose.  You rock.

(And as an extra way of showing my thanks: for those of you who are thinking of giving a copy of Celtic Chamber Music to a friend or loved one for the holidays, I'm holding a special sale for you this coming weekend on CDBaby:  from Friday, Nov. 23rd through Monday, Nov. 26th, hard copies (not downloads) of Celtic Chamber Music will be over 50% off!  For those four days only, you can purchase the CD for just $6.)
Click here to access this discount.

Upcoming Concerts

Southbridge, MA
A Winter Celebration
FREE all-ages event hosted by the Quinebaug Valley Council for the Arts & Humanities
Come celebrate the Winter Season at the Arts Center in Southbridge! A free family event with live seasonal violin music by Samantha Gillogly, ice sculpture demonstration by Don Chapelle and Brilliant Ice Sculpture, glassblowing demonstration by Gale Scott and Shaun Conroy courtesy of Worcester Center for Crafts, blacksmithing demonstration, hot mulled cider, ice wine and other treats, and much more... All set against the backdrop of the annual QVCAH Art & Crafts Sale. A perfect way to do one's holiday shopping by supporting local artists, artisans and craftspeople!
Time: 5:00pm-9:00pm
Admission: FREE
Location: The Arts Center - 111 Main St., Southbridge, MA

Southbridge, MA
QVCAH Holiday Art & Craft Sale 
A perfect way to do one's holiday shopping by supporting local artists, artisans and craftspeople.  Choose from hand blown glass, jewelry, framed prints, original paintings, photographs, fine woodwork, folk art & sculpture, metal work, handmade pillows, quilts & needlepoint, etc.  It's free to visit & a wonderful opportunity to support your community by purchasing locally made gifts!
Live seasonal violin music by Samantha Gillogly.  (CDs will be available for purchase as well.)
Time: 10:00am-6:00pm
Admission: FREE
Location: The Arts Center - 111 Main St., Southbridge, MA

Southbridge, MA 
QVCAH Holiday Art & Craft Sale
A perfect way to do one's holiday shopping by supporting local artists, artisans and craftspeople.  Choose from hand blown glass, jewelry, framed prints, original paintings, photographs, fine woodwork, folk art & sculpture, metal work, handmade pillows, quilts & needlepoint, etc.  It's free to visit & a wonderful opportunity to support your community by purchasing locally made gifts!
Live seasonal violin music by Samantha Gillogly.  (CDs will be available for purchase as well.)
Time: 10:00am-6:00pm
Admission: FREE
Location: The Arts Center - 111 Main St., Southbridge, MA

Photo Travelogue

Members of Celtic World Fusion band Calon performed on Oct. 28th for Madame LeDuke's annual "Haunted Hafla & Witches' Ball" at The Gypsy's Cauldron in Spencer, MA - L to R: Samantha (violin), Rich Parker (percussion), Ray Price (vocals, bagpipes, electric dulcimer), & Brian LeDuke (saz, percussion)

Priestess/dancer Neylan and Celtic World Fusion band Calon perform to Madame LeDuke's reading of her poem, "Dark Lady" - The Gypsy's Cauldron; Spencer, MA

Madame LeDuke herself and Samantha pose for a photo at The Gypsy's Cauldron in all their witchy finery

A talented troupe performing at the bellydance revue for Madame LeDuke's Haunted Hafla

Some very creative wedding clients of mine got married at the Jane Pickens Theatre in Newport, RI on Oct. 20th.  The whole event (including some of the ceremony music I performed) was classic movie/cinema-themed!  They even had a "concession" stand for guests to snack on popcorn and candy.

A restored organ from the era of silent film, at the Jane Pickens Theatre in Newport, RI

The organ had a setting for just about any cinematic mood

Close-up of the organ keys

A crustacean of good taste.
(pub sign in Newport, RI)

Tim Maurice and I had the great pleasure of performing our Celtic Chamber Music program at the First Congregational Church in Rindge, NH on Oct. 21st.  This was our first time giving a concert in New Hampshire.  The space was lovely, and the show very well-received.  Many special thanks to the wonderfully warm and generous church volunteers who helped make this concert possible!

Note-worthy Noms

One of my absolute favorite cold-weather dishes is colcannon, a hearty Irish take on mashed potatoes.  If you are celebrating American Thanksgiving this week and want to add a touch of Irish cuisine to your holiday meal, I highly recommend including some colcannon.  It's deliciously nurturing, as well as an efficient use of plate space (gets your taters and green veggies all in one go!). 

This celebrated dish even has its own song:

The following recipe is adapted from Irish Pub Cooking by Love Food/Parragon Books Ltd. (sold in the Barnes & Noble cookbook section).  I personally like to substitute the scallions for lightly sautéed white onion, and the cabbage for a couple cups worth of chopped kale.  If you use kale, be sure to boil it for a good long while before blending it into the potatoes.  It's quite a tough vegetable when raw, but well worth it for the flavor it adds to the potato mixture once cooked.

Also, for best results, use a generous helping of Kerrygold for the butter. ;)


Ingredients (serves 4)

  • 1 lb/450g starchy potatoes
  • 4 tbsp butter
  • 2/3 cup light cream
  • 1/2 small head of green or white cabbage
  • 6 scallions, cut into 1/4-inch/5mm slices
  • Salt & pepper to taste

Cook potatoes in a large pan of boiling salted water for 15-20 minutes.  Drain well and mash with a potato masher until smooth.  Season to taste with salt and pepper, add the butter and cream, and stir well.

Cut the cabbage in half, remove and discard central stalk, and shred finely.  Cook cabbage in a large pan of boiling salted water  for 1-2 minutes, until it is soft.  Drain thoroughly.

Mix the cabbage and mashed potatoes together, then stir in the scallions.  Season well with salt and pepper.

"Colcannon" - photo by VegaTeam 


I'd like to give a special shout-out this month to a really wonderful charity organization:  Tipp City, OH-based Project Believe.  Their mission is to "enrich the lives of young people in residential [mental health] treatment facilities" by collecting donations of clothes, school supplies, toiletries, arts & crafts materials, games, toys, and a variety of other items, which are then wrapped and delivered at Christmastime by volunteers to children and teens in need.  Many of the kids who reside in these facilities are in the foster care system, so the holidays can be an extremely lonely and difficult time for them.  Even a small gift can mean the world to these children.  This year, Project Believe has expanded to working with two Ohio hospitals, and has also begun a little offshoot program called "Granny's Scarves."  I love to knit, so (as you can see from the photo below), I've been busy crafting some homemade scarves to contribute.  Please take a moment to check out Project Believe's website, and consider sending them a gift to help make a child's Christmas a little brighter.

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

October 2012 Newsletter: No tricks, just treats!

Greetings, oh ghoulies, ghosties, and long-legged beasties!

Photo by Alex Fogarty; cover design by Samantha Gillogly

I have just released a new digital download-only single for the Halloween season, Danse Macabre.  This piece was written and recorded by me on violin, viola, and keyboard/organ (layered, of course-- I've yet to figure out how to be a one-woman band, but perhaps I'll get there some day!) The church-bell at the beginning and end of the piece was sampled from an archived field recording of a bell tolling at Cobh Cathedral in Cork, Ireland.

Danse Macabre can be purchased on CDBaby, iTunes, and AmazonMP3 You can also stream the full track for free on the Youtube video below:

Here in New England, we are quite spoiled for spooky old cemeteries!  Danse Macabre's cover photo was taken at the New Braintree Congregational Church cemetery in New Braintree, MA, not far from where I live.  This cemetery contains a number of graves dating back to the early 1700's, and many of the headstones bear the winged skull and hourglass designs prevalent during colonial America (symbolic of the soul's flight to heaven and the limited time of one's life on earth).

Photo by Paula Slade

Upcoming Concerts

Rindge, NH
An Afternoon of Celtic Chamber Music
Concert hosted by the First Congregational Church & Society of Rindge, NH.
CD signing and refreshments to follow performance.
Samantha Gillogly, violin; Tim Maurice, piano.
Time: 3:00pm
Admission: No charge, but freewill donations encouraged
Location: Rindge First Congregational Church - 6 Payson Hill Rd., Rindge, NH

Spencer, MA
Madame LeDuke's Annual Haunted Hafla & Witches' Ball
Samantha will accompany members of the Celtic/Medieval/Middle-eastern fusion band Calon in an informal performance and jam.
Time: Events throughout the day beginning 2:00pm; music and dance performances beginning around 6:30pm.  See The Gypsy's Cauldron event page for more details.
Admission: $5 plus a "potluck spooky snack"
Location: The Gypsy's Cauldron - 117 Main St., Spencer, MA

Southbridge, MA
An Evening of Celtic Chamber Music
Concert hosted by the Quinebaug Valley Council for the Arts & Humanities in celebration of the Celtic New Year.
CD signing and refreshments to follow performance.
Samantha Gillogly, violin; Tim Maurice, piano.
Time: 7:00pm
Admission: $5 at the door
Location: The Arts Center - 111 Main St., Southbridge, MA

October Photo Travelogue

My wedding performance travels take me all over New England.  On the first Sunday of this month, I played for a small ceremony held in the Berkshires at the Chesterwood museum and sculpture park in Stockbridge, MA.  The Berkshires are one of my favorite places to visit any time of year, but they are especially beautiful in October when the trees are positively ablaze with color.  

"Teapot Totem" - sculpture by Stephen Fabrico 

After leaving Chesterwood, I stopped by the Riverbend Café in Great Barrington for a yummy pumpkin latte and a stroll around their charming and slightly eerie back garden:

I swear this tree was watching me... Lookit it's face!

A child's grave from 1871, under one of the garden's apple trees.

Chairs overlooking the riverbend.  Can we give you hand?

And a leisurely drive through Great Barrington lead me here:

Since I had fun sharing the Lembas recipe with you all last month, I'm thinking of making this sort of thing a regular feature in the monthly newsletters.  I'm tentatively titling it:

Note-worthy Noms
(because, you know, music... notes... I like puns. ;P)

Here's a fun recipe for a tasty old-world Halloween treat, Irish barm brack.  Some of you may know it as "fate cake"-- a dessert into which various small charms or trinkets are baked, for the purpose of telling one's fortune.  I'll be serving a batch of barm brack (sans charms and trinkets!) at my November 2nd concert reception in honor of Samhain (pronounced "SOW-in"), the Celtic New Year and predecessor of our modern Halloween.

The instructions below are adapted from The Real Halloween by Sheena Morgan.  I personally find that pre-warming the flour, sugar, and milk isn't all that necessary, so long as all the ingredients are more or less room temperature.  Also, replacing some of the white flour with whole wheat flour, barley flour, or toasted oat bran can add a nice texture and density.

Photo by Fordmadoxfraud.  Source: Wikimedia Commons 

Báirín Breac [Irish for "speckled loaf"], a cross between bread and cake, was traditionally only served on Samhain eve and was used in kitchen fortune-telling.  Each cake had a collection of charms baked into it.  Whoever found the ring in their slice would marry in the next 12 months or, if already married, would find wedded bliss.  The coin symbolized increased wealth over the next year; the bean, contentment.  Whoever was unfortunate enough to find the rag or the pea could look forward to a year of poverty or chronic misfortune in love.  [Blogger's note: You may want to leave out those last two... Nobody likes a side of ill omens with their tea and cake!]

  • 3-1/2 (450 g) cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/3 cup (55 g) brown sugar
  • 1-1/4 (300 ml) cups milk
  • 1/4 (55g) cup butter
  • 2 eggs beaten, plus 1 egg yolk for the glaze
  • 1/4 tsp freshly grated nutmeg
  • Salt
  • 1/2 oz fresh yeast (package of active yeast)
  • 1-1/2 cups (225g) golden raisins
  • 1-1/2 cups (225g) currants
  • 3/4 cup (115g) candied peel
  • Strong cold black tea: soak the fruit in cold tea overnight and then strain.
  • A ring, a coin, a pea, a bean, and a piece of rag, wrapped in waxed paper.

It is traditional to begin this recipe with the ingredients at room temperature.  Warm the flour and the sugar in the oven and heat the milk until you can just put your finger in it comfortably.  Leave the butter and eggs out of the refrigerator for a while too.

Sift the warmed flour, nutmeg, and a pinch of salt together.  If using active dry yeast, tip the sachet onto the flour.  If using fresh yeast, blend with a teaspoon of sugar and a little warm milk, then wait for it to froth.  Add the remaining sugar to the flour.  Add the frothing yeast to the milk and add the two beaten eggs.  Beast the batter until it is fairly stiff but also slightly springy to the touch.  Fold in the fruit and push in the ring, coin, bean, pea, and rag.

Grease an 8-inch (20-cm) cake pan and fill with the batter mix.  Cover with a cloth and leave to rise in a warm place for about an hour.  Bake in a pre-heated oven, 400°F (200°C), for approximately 1 hour.  Remove from the oven and glaze the top with the remaining egg yolk.  Return to the oven for 5 minutes.  Cool the barm brack on a wire rack.

Cut the cooked cake into fairly thick slices, trying to ensure the charms are completely hidden in each slice.  To avoid any broken teeth, warn your guests that they may find a charm, and check that pieces given to children don't contain any.


As a parting thought, October 31st is also the anniversary of the birth of poet John Keats.  The final verse of his 1819 ode, To Autumn, speaks of the unique "music" of this season, a kind of soft, melancholic beauty that is a poignant counterpart to the bright exuberance of spring:

Where are the songs of Spring? Ay, where are they?
Think not of them, thou hast thy music too,-
While barred clouds bloom the soft-dying day, 
And touch the stubble-plains with rosy hue; 
Then in a wailful choir the small gnats mourn 
Among the river sallows, borne aloft 
Or sinking as the light wind lives or dies; 
And full-grown lambs loud bleat from hilly bourn; 
Hedge-crickets sing; and now with treble soft 
The red-breast whistles from a garden-croft; 
And gathering swallows twitter in the skies.

Photo by Samantha Gillogly

Saturday, September 22, 2012

September 2012 Newsletter: A Long-Expected Update

My dear Bagginses and Boffins, Tooks and Brandybucks, friends, family, and very patient fans...

I know it's been an awfully long while since I first posted on this blog, but I've now decided to make a point of updating it on a regular basis, hopefully once a week, even if it's just to share a thought or a photo. Newsletters will be posted monthly.

First order of business: I'm thrilled to announce that Tim Maurice and I have released a new, digital download-only single as part of the festivities surrounding Hobbit Day (Sept. 22nd) and the 75th anniversary of the publication of J.R.R. Tolkien's classic novel, The Hobbit. The piece, an original composition of Tim's entitled "Misty Mountain," was previously only offered to a select few supporters of our Celtic Chamber Music Kickstarter campaign, but is now available for all to purchase on CDBaby and iTunes.  It will also be up on Amazon MP3 in the next week or two.

You can listen to a teaser clip here:

What better way to celebrate Hobbit Day than with a bit of (hairy)toe-tapping music? :)

Speaking of which, don't forget to also check out my friend Marc Gunn's 2011 release, Don't Go Drinking With Hobbits. You can hear me on fiddle on several songs, as well as a couple original instrumental dance tunes, "Prancing Pony" and "The Shire Polkas."

Cover art by Nikki O'Shea

Another way to celebrate Hobbit Day is to gather with good friends to share a delicious meal (or two or three). In that spirit, I would like to share with you a fantastically simple and yummy recipe for Elven lembas bread, which I learned from kitchen wizardess Phyllis Brown over at Food, Flowers Herbs, & Life. Phyllis taught this recipe in a cooking class at A Long-Expected Party 2 last year (more on that later).

Lembas Bread 
2 cups all-purpose flour 
1/2 cup sugar 
2 teaspoons baking powder 
1/2 teaspoon salt 
1/4 teaspoon baking soda 
1/3 cup cold butter, cut into small pieces 
1/2 cup milk 1 egg 1/8 cup milk, for brushing on top 

"In a large bowl combine flour, sugar, baking powder, salt and baking soda. Cut butter in until mixture is crumbly. In a small bowl, beat milk and egg until combined. Stir into crumb mixture just until blended. Using your hands gently mix well. Turn dough onto a floured surface. Gently form into a rectangle – about 1/2 inch thick. Cut into small squares with a sharp knife – you may rub a little flour on the knife if it gets too sticky. Make an X on each piece with your knife. Carefully using a turner, move the lembas to a cookie sheet. Lightly brush a small amount of milk on the bread. Bake in a 400 degree oven for 12 to 15 minutes or until golden brown."

I especially love eating these Lembas cakes with a smidge of apple butter and a cup of Hobbit Tea's "Bilbo's Breakfast Blend."
Mmmm yummeh. :d

Photo by Phyllis Brown

And to round off this post, allow me to share with you some memories of a very special party indeed:

Last September, I had the amazing privilege of performing at "A Long-Expected Party 2," a four-day convention in Harrodsburg, KY centered around the works and worlds of J.R.R. Tolkien. But an ordinary con this was not: ALEP2 (and its 2008 predecessor, ALEP) was an intimate gathering of like-minded souls— not much more than 150 of us— held on the grounds of the Shaker Village at Pleasant Hill, a beautifully pastoral site reminiscent of the Shire. Drawn together by our love of Middle-earth, we attended fascinating lectures by prominent Tolkien scholars, learned the art of archery and swordplay, sang in Hobbit and Elf choirs, cruised down the River Brandywine, and hiked across the countryside (all while in costume!). At night, we gathered in a great feasting hall (a converted barn decorated with pillars and banners) to partake of some of the most delicious meals I have ever eaten, catered by the Shaker Village staff.  Evening performances included musical numbers by Marc Gunn, Jamie Haeuser, and I, as well as songs, poems, ghost stories, and theatrical skits presented by talented ALEP attendees. The creativity (and some select beverages) flowed on far into the nights as we gathered in the Dancing Pony— the cellar level of one of the village's dwellings— for some after-hours merriment.  There, we sang, danced, laughed, and reveled in the warmth of our fellowship.

Now that autumn is upon us and there's a chill in the air, I find myself growing homesick for our little plot of Middle-earth. Luckily, plans for ALEP3: The Road Goes Ever On are already underway. 2014 cannot come soon enough!

In the meantime, I wish you all a very merry Hobbit Day, and "may the hair on your toes never fall out!"

"The West Farthing" by Jef Murray
Jef and his wife Lorraine are members of the ALEP family.
His beautiful "Middle-earth Calendar 2013" is now available for purchase.