Wednesday, 28 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", "melody", and (interestingly) "water-lily".  So the literal meaning is "clear/untarnished melody", which I think is a good reflection of what I wanted to convey!

When I first set up the blog I didn't think "glanalaw" was a real word - I thought it was my own hybrid.  But today I got curious and decided to google it.  Apparently there is a town or area in Wales called Glanalaw.  

There is also a lovely little church called Capel Glanalaw in Patagonia, which had a large number of Welsh settlers.
Capel Glanalaw
There's also an ancient standing stone or menhir called Glan-Alaw, or Bod Deiniol, in Anglesey.  I can't find anywhere which translates "Bod Deiniol", but "bod" is supposed to mean "being" or "wight" (like Tolkein's barrow-wights?).  Deiniol is a given name, the Welsh form of Daniel.  I'm not sure why the same menhir should be called "Daniel's Wight" and "Pure Melody", but there it is.  Fascinating!
View of the standing stone, borrowed from this website.

 Bod Deiniol/Glan-Alaw is in the middle of a field, and I found a note which said it is on private property but visitors are allowed when there are no crops or hay in the field!

Another view of Bod Deiniol, from here.
I don't know if anyone else will be as interested in this information as I am, but I thought it was fun to see that I hadn't actually made the word up, and discover some of its history!

Sunday, 25 December 2011

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.

Saturday, 24 December 2011

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 this gorgeous Spanish carol proclaim:  God is born -- God is here!

Friday, 23 December 2011

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.

I'm making view b (the one with sleeves) and adding a bit of length to the skirt, but taking out the godets.
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 dress.  The calico is just a little creamy, which doesn't look as well on me as pure white.  So we're having a mid-project change of plans.  I'm going to turn the "lining" into the fashion fabric, and put the white-on-white calico as the lining.  That way, I'll get little shadows of the print, but it won't be so "busy".


The lace will be stitched onto the skirt of the underdress.  I can't decide though whether I want to have it hang down below the outer skirt, or whether the lace should hang to the same length as the outer skirt, so it'll just show when the dress is in motion.  Thoughts?  Opinions?  I'm going to have lace around the neckline and probably trimming the sleeves, so maybe it should show at the hem for balance.  Or maybe not.


(The belt is from the bridesmaid dress I made this summer.  It works so well, I figured why make a new one?)

I was also thrilled to discover that when I cut out the size I usually make, I had to make really deep seam allowances in order for it not to be hugely too large!  Yay!

The problem of course being that tomorrow is Christmas Eve and I wanted to wear the dress for the evening services.  So I'll be doing a lot of sewing tomorrow....

Thursday, 22 December 2011

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.

I know it looks like the centre candle is burning, but it's just a reflection. 
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!)

Wednesday, 21 December 2011

Stew

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 seasonings, bring to boil; turn down and simmer until lentils are softened and veg are cooked (about 30 minutes).  Should be quite thick but not dry; add in more water/broth if necessary.  Adjust seasonings and serve!

2 generous servings

Notes: one of my inspiration recipes said to serve with dollops of plain yoghurt.  Another said to purée the soup.  So I suppose you could try that!  I liked it in chunks, just as it was.

I'm sorry there's no picture but the light was bad by the time I finished cooking, and anyway it's not a very exciting-looking stew.  But it tastes excellent!

Monday, 19 December 2011

Contented

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?)

Sunday, 18 December 2011

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.

Saturday, 17 December 2011

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!

Thursday, 15 December 2011

Finished

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 ;-)

Sunday, 11 December 2011

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 sprawled on his back on the sofa with his paws in the air.  When I carried him upstairs for bed he tottered about for a moment, and is now sleeping soundly on the ironing board.  I'm not sure I could wake him if I tried.

The moral of this story is: don't give your cats caffeine!  I suppose I should be grateful it was tea he drank.  If he'd had coffee he might have exploded!

~~~~

This is supposed to be an Advent music post, but I had to share the cat story too -- sorry!  This week, I have an ancient verse in a fairly modern setting - "I sing of a maiden" set by Patrick Hadley.  The words date back to the 1400s or earlier, and I think they're lovely.


I pasted this in from Wikipedia - the original Middle-English text, with a modern "translation" next to it.

I syng of a mayden
þat is makeles,
kyng of alle kynges
to here sone che ches.
I sing of a maiden
That is matchless,
King of all kings
For her son she chose.
He came also stylle
þer his moder was
as dew in aprylle,
þat fallyt on þe gras.
He came as still
Where his mother was
As dew in April
That falls on the grass.
He cam also stylle
to his moderes bowr
as dew in aprille,
þat fallyt on þe flour.
He came as still
To his mother's bower
As dew in April
That falls on the flower.
He cam also stylle
þer his moder lay
as dew in Aprille,
þat fallyt on þe spray.;
He came as still
Where his mother lay
As dew in April
That falls on the spray.
Moder & mayden
was neuer non but che –
wel may swych a lady
Godes moder be.
Mother and maiden
There was never, ever one but she;
Well may such a lady
God's mother be.

Friday, 9 December 2011

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, yanked off, and thrown to the ground with a clang.  Everybody stared.

Later, the cat fell over in an excess of delight because I was home and petting him.

So yeah.  Coordination.  We lack it.

Thursday, 8 December 2011

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 it suggestively open on the computer so that your non-knitting loved ones will maybe take the hint.  (And no.  She did not pay me to write this post.  I just love her blog!)

~~

In other news, I finished a couple of doilies this week and put them up in the shop.  They're really quite reasonably priced compared to others which show up on Etsy, though I almost feel bad asking that much for them since they don't take too long to knit, and they're really fun.



I also experimented with crocheted lace this week, and decided it's not worth the trouble.  I do like the look of some of it, but it takes far more concentration for me, and is not nearly as quick.  Maybe I'll give it another go at some point, but for now, I'm loving these knitted doilies.  Expect to see more of them in the near future!

Tuesday, 6 December 2011

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.

Sincerely,
A severely shaken driver.

Sunday, 4 December 2011

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...)

Saturday, 3 December 2011

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.

Friday, 2 December 2011

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 that the film is "based on a slightly abridged version of the opera", to which I replied "slightly?!?" in tones of disbelief...)  So, about half the opera was missing, and much of the rest had been rearranged to fit the director's vision, or something.  (This led to startling choices such as Romeo and Juliet being married *after* Romeo has killed Tybalt...)

Secondly, I realise that opera singers are usually older than the characters they portray (since a lot of operas center around young love, and the singing voice is not really mature until the 30s...)  This works on stage, mostly.  However, if you're going to do extreme closeups, and have your characters cavorting around the countryside and rushing breathlessly around in excitement, it works better if they don't look closer to 40 than to 20.  I couldn't take them seriously!

There was also the bit, when Juliet is waking from her drugged sleep, when Romeo exclaims "Her lips mumured; my trembling fingers felt in hers the warmth of her blood!  She looks at me and raises herself!" -- all while standing ten feet away from Juliet, and looking at the sky.  He's not touching her.  He's not even looking at her.  How is he supposed to know she's doing all that?  Did the director really think that people would be so stupid as to not be able to read subtitles?  Or did she not actually know what his words meant?  That was the last straw.

Most of the film seemed to be more about showing off the gorgeous countryside (it was filmed on location at a castle in the Czech Republic) and much less about the plot.  The music is gorgeous (with Roberto Alagna and Angela Gheorghiu, it's bound to be, even if they do look too old), but for me at least it wasn't an effective film.  And by "wasn't effective" I mean "I sat there fuming at the screen for three quarters of the movie."

~~~~

In other news, I have a few new things in the shop tonight!  



Two sets of hand-quilted coasters, one stitched with silver-grey perle cotton and one with a dusky blue.


And a scarf, the colours inspired by Hogwarts' Gryffindor House, but of course you can wear red and gold even if you're not a Harry Potter fan!