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