Showing posts from December, 2011

What's in a name?

I've had a few people recently ask me what my blog name means, or why I chose "glanalaw".  So I thought it might be interesting to do a post explaining the name!

When I first set up my blog I knew I wanted it to reflect both my love of God, my love of singing, and my love of Wales.  I am partly Welsh and for years I've been fascinated with the country, the music, and especially the language (which is exceedingly difficult to learn, as I found!)  In high school I spent several years trying to teach myself Welsh with the help of a Rosetta Stone program and a couple of grammar books, and one of my favourite opera singers is Welsh.

I wanted to come up with a name that would reflect "pure song" or "pure music" -- as my singing is done for the glory of God.  After some research I chose "glanalaw".  "Glan" is an adjective meaning "pure", "clear", or "untarnished".  "Alaw" means "tune",…

Glad Tidings

Happiest Christmas to all of you, my friends!  After a long day of traveling I'm finally with my family for the holiday, and I'm enjoying it so much.

I'll just leave you with this video: Bryn Terfel, reading the Christmas story.  It doesn't get much better than this -- a most beautiful voice, reading these most beautiful words with such feeling.

Light a Candle

There are so many things I want to write about, this Christmas.  About peace, especially.  About being light to the world.  About joy and beauty and love.  About concepts so big I can't even put them into words.

Mostly, about the phrase I came across in a book I read recently.  "Light a candle for Christmas Eve."  In the book this is in the context of Christmas during World War I - when there was a spontaneous, unofficial cease-fire in the trenches, and may lit candles to celebrate the birth of Christ, oblivious to their personal safety.

I haven't been able to get the words out of my head, and I think they have a wider application than a cease-fire almost a century ago.  As I go to services tonight, and tomorrow on Christmas morning -- as I light the Christ candle at the centre of the Advent wreath -- I will think about this.  Light a candle -- not just for Christmas Eve, but for every day.  Light a candle -- and share the Light with the world.

As the last lines of t…

I may have left this a little late...

Happy Christmas Adam!

(It's a joke.  It's the day before Christmas Eve... and Adam came before Eve... )

So about a week ago I decided I really wanted a new holiday dress.  Maybe not specifically for Christmas, but one that I could wear maybe for a New Year's Eve party, or something along those lines.  I wanted white with black trim.  Classic, but feminine and a little frilly, just for a change.

I dug out McCall's 6027, which I bought on sale for a dollar, and some white figured calico.  Bought black lace on sale.  Then did nothing with it.

Last night it occurred to me that Christmas was really soon, and I should maybe start sewing.  So today I got out all the supplies, and cut out and sewed up what was supposed to be the lining (a lovely, silky polyester.  It really is a "lining" fabric, but it's not the nasty kind!)

Then I started looking at my calico, comparing it with the lining, and realized I'd rather have the plain white as the outside of my dre…

Gratuitous Extra Music for Advent

I was going to have a nicely-written and thoughtful post about Christmas today, but I accidentally slept until noon and I have quite a lot to do before flying to PA on Sunday morning, so I'll just give you some more music and a photo of Sunday's Advent wreath, instead.

This is "What Sweeter Music".  The setting is by John Rutter, the words by Robert Herrick, dating from the 17th century.

(In case you hadn't noticed, I really love English choral music!)


A couple weeks ago I bought five pounds of sweet potatoes because they were 20 cents a pound... and ever since I've been trying to find creative ways to use them!  (So if you have ideas, I'd love to hear!)

Tonight, I poked around on the web and ended up making a stew of sorts -- a conglomeration of several recipes.  It turned out to be really tasty so I thought I'd share.  It's hearty and just a wee bit spicy; perfect for chilly evenings!

Sweet Potato-Lentil Stew
1 sweet potato, peeled and chopped
1/2 apple, peeled and chopped
2 medium carrots, peeled and chopped
1 small onion, peeled and chopped
1 clove garlic, minced
2 T butter or olive oil
3/4 cup lentils
1/4 tsp each ginger, cumin, curry powder, paprika, and cayenne pepper
1/2 tsp kosher salt
fresh ground black pepper, to taste
3 cups broth (chicken or veg, your choice)

Saute all the veg and the apple in the butter until onion is translucent and everything else begins to soften.  Add in broth, lentils, and seasoning…


I like my Christmas holiday.  It's been especially nice this year because I have a whole week between finishing all my obligations and actually travelling anywhere.

So far it has been full of good music.

Hot tea and peppermint cookies.

A new doily in the shop.

Also things like the antics of Conrad, and staying up half the night reading.

I could get used to this.

(P.S.  I'm going to be playing with the layout over the next few days, starting with making the photos bigger.  Please let me know what you think!  What would make this page clearer, easier to read and to navigate?)

Music for the Fourth Sunday of Advent

Today I had the privilege of being the soprano soloist for a performance of Saint-Saëns' "Christmas Oratorio" at a local church.  It was quite an ambitious work, and the solo work was hard.  Lots of high notes, and lots of singing in general.  This was one of my favourite numbers from the oratorio - the soprano/tenor/baritone trio.  Unfortunately we didn't record the concert, but here's a good version from YouTube. (We sang it in English, though.)

That was a bonus!  Here's the official Advent music selection ;-)  This one is probably more of a Christmas Eve/Day song, really, but it's so lovely I want to share it (and I have something special planned for Christmas Eve and the day itself!)  We sang this anthem at church a few weeks ago and will repeat it at the Christmas Eve services.  I'm not sure whether it's the melody or something about the text, but the first time we sang through this I found myself in tears.  It is beautiful.

Musings on Music

I think it's interesting how people tend to assume that "classical" music is beyond the reach of the average citizen, and when they are trying to make it appeal to those who are not trained musicians, they jazz it up or add special effects or something.

Take this video for example.

A friend posted this on Facebook this morning.  I have to say I thoroughly enjoyed it; the idea is really cool, and it's well executed.  But then I started thinking, I really think the original -- one cello, no gimmicks - is actually at least as dramatic and exciting as this version.  Maybe more.

Maybe that's just me?  After all I am a "trained musician" and I did grow up with Bach.  But listen to this:

What do you think?  I've had this reaction before to "souped-up" classical music.  I'm curious whether anyone else thinks the same way!


I'm sorry it's been quiet around here this week.  I've been a little busy....

...sitting two finals

...finishing a project

...completing a 25-page research paper

...singing an opera

...rehearsing for a Christmas oratorio this weekend

...grading final exams.

I finished all that this afternoon, and celebrated with a trip to the yarn shop (a gorgeous hank of charcoal-grey lace-weight) and a batch of peppermint crinkle cookies.  Now I'm going to bed for about a hundred years.

See you when I wake up ;-)

Don't give your cat caffeine, and Advent Music

I spent this afternoon lazily.  I watched Jane Austen movies instead of studying, did some embroidery, and had tea and biscuits.

Conrad had tea, too.

He wasn't supposed to, really.  But he likes to sit on the end table in the living room, which is where my tea was, and I guess he was thirsty.  Anyway, he'd had a good drink before I caught him at it, and then I figured, well, I'm not going to drink any more of that mug now, he might as well have his fill.  And thought nothing more of it.

Approximately an hour later, he went suddenly berserk.  He's a high-energy cat anyway, but this was ridiculous.  He was tearing about, ricocheting off furniture, bouncing off the walls (literally!)  He also spooked at small noises and appeared completely convinced that the furtherance of his life depended on how thoroughly he killed his toy mouse.  He's never been so crazy.

The effects lasted about an hour, after which he appeared to come down off his caffeine high and fell asleep …

Coordination Lacking

So I think that today's events pretty well sum up my life at the moment...

I woke up later than I should have because I'd spent an hour hitting snooze and ignoring the cat, who was yelling for breakfast.  So when I finally got up Conrad was delirious and rushed down the stairs ahead of me to get to the food.

He was in such a hurry that he tripped and fell down the last half-dozen stairs.  I almost fell down them myself because I was laughing so hard.

Then later I dropped a large spoonful of (hot) oatmeal on my (bare) foot in an absent-minded moment.

I also tripped on my skirt on the ladder during opera rehearsal and almost crushed Esther who was supposed to be pulling me off said ladder.  (No, I don't know whose bright idea it was to dress us in ankle-length skirts and then tell us to perform an opera on a ladder...)

Then on the bus this afternoon the driver started before I had time to sit down, and the hanger of the costumes I took home to alter got caught on a bar, yank…

A very knitterly post

So, most of you who knit have probably heard of the Yarn Harlot (otherwise and more politely known as Stephanie McPhee.)  Sadly I have never read any of her actual printed books (which probably makes me an outcast in many knitting circles), but I do read her blog faithfully, and it is pretty excellent.  She is funny and smart and occasionally poignant, and she writes really well.

This month, she's doing a totally brilliant series on Gifts for Knitters, geared towards non-knitters who know their loved ones who knit would love something useful and cool for Christmas, but haven't the least idea where to start.  I have been nodding and saying "yes, that's absolutely right!" each time she puts up a new suggestion (it's one per day, theoretically), and so I thought I would share this treasure-trove of information with the world.  Or, the very small portion of the world which reads this blog, anyway.

Here is the link to her blog.  Go read, and laugh, and then leave i…

Public Service Announcement

Dear Jogger who I almost hit this evening,

I understand that you want to get your daily exercise, even on cold, gloomy, rainy evenings.  But if you must do so outside, please realize that it is NOT a good idea to don black sweats and a dark cap, and then go jog on an unlit and winding road, relying only on the (faint) reflectors on your running shoes to make you visible.  The only reason you are not now flat on your back in the hospital is because I thought the twinkling of your shoes was probably a raccoon's eyes, and swerved.  The rest of your person didn't register until I was already passed.

For the sake of those drivers who would rather not become guilty of manslaughter, please invest in some light-coloured exercise gear, or go find a gym that's open past 5.

A severely shaken driver.

Music for the Second Sunday of Advent

This morning my church had its "Lessons and Carols" service.  It was really lovely, I think!  The choir sang five anthems, and we had a brass quintet, a violinist, and an oboist, mostly faculty from my school.

Today's music isn't really related to that, though.  It's an anthem which we sang last year at the Union Christmas concert, and I fell in love with it.  I was privileged to have a solo in it, but that's not the only reason I like it ;-)  The words are an old English carol, and I love the imagery; also, the beautiful setting by John Rutter.

I hope this Sunday has been blessed!  (And less full of research papers than mine has been...)

Just off the needles

A lace doily or mat.  (I never know what to call these.  "Doily" sound so prim and Victorian, not very appealing to the modern sensibilities... but then, what else would you call it?)  First time in a couple years I've worked lace, and it was so satisfying.

It's been starched and now it's blocking.  I can't wait to take the pins out.

An opera rant, and more for the shop

Note: This might get a little boring for anyone who's not an opera nerd like myself... sorry!  You can scroll down and look at the pictures of things in the shop, instead ;-)

The last couple weeks I've been deeply involved in my music research project, in which I'm comparing and contrasting the methods of the composers Bellini and Gounod in turning the story of Romeo and Juliet into operas.  (Bellini was an Italian, writing in 1830; Gounod, a Frenchman whose opera premiered in 1867).  This project led me to watch a film version of the Gounod opera, made about 10 years ago and claiming that "Shakespeare's lovers never looked and sounded so good as in this romantic new film adaption."

Well.  I take issue with that statement!  Firstly, apparently this director was trying to make a feature-length film, presumably to appeal to a wider audience than opera often draws.  When dealing with a 3-hour opera, that means some pretty significant cuts.  (The liner notes say …