Wednesday, December 21, 2016

Renaissance Magazine Newsletter #26


Upcoming Faires

Past Faires

Renaissance People


Miley Cyrus wore a ren-faire inspired dress on “The Voice”

Renaissance festival canceled hours before it was to begin

The Rio Grande Valley’s first renaissance festival was supposed to kick off Saturday, but the permit was revoked after neighboring landowners complained they had not been notified about the use of the property.

Hidalgo County Judge Ramon Garcia presided over a Friday afternoon hearing in which he revoked the mass gathering permit he initially granted to Castleguard Festivals on Nov. 23 – killing a festival hours before it was scheduled to open.
The room was packed with landowners, festival vendors and historical reenactors arguing about the fate of a festival that would have occurred near Linn, north of Edinburg, in rural Hidalgo County.

The issue boiled down to an apparent “misrepresentation” by Chris DeSmith, the event organizer, during the initial hearing when he sought the permit.

At the time, the county judge asked DeSmith if he had reached out to the adjacent owners about his plans for the festival, and DeSmith said he had.

A few days later, the landowners reached out to Garcia and told him they had not been made aware…

Daniel Ramirez, DeSmith’s attorney, argued his client had already spent well over $100,000 to secure the land and follow the guidelines imposed by the county sheriff, health director and fire marshal. He also improved the easement to allow for more traffic…

Erin Aarsvold, a festival entertainer, pointed out the economic driver the event can become. He drew a parallel between two different communities that have greatly benefitted from renaissance fairs, beginning with Larkspur, Colorado.

“Eighty-two percent of their table revenue — this is on public record — comes from that festival,” he said about the small town. “Hamlin, Louisiana is a town about the size of this. They just suffered horrible flooding. They didn’t have to wait for federal money to start fixing the flooding in Hamlin, Louisiana. They used the resources they got from the renaissance festival to start those repairs before that federal money came.”

A couple of vendors spoke about the “tough situation” they were in. Many of them travelled from across the country to sell goods that contribute to their livelihoods...’’

Middlelands: electronic dance music and Renaissance Faire

Do you have a passion for Renaissance Faires? Do you have a similar passion for EDM, electronic dance music? Have you ever wondered when the two would one day meet in a single extra-festive experience? Have Insomniac Events got a proposal for you.

The events company behind a little rave/festival named Electric Daisy Carnival formally announced Middlelands, a brand new EDM festival that also doubles as a Ren Faire, will be taking over Todd Mission, Texas for three days in the spring….

The Growing Trend Of Renaissance-Themed Weddings

Karina Loren is quickly and carefully lacing up the front of her black satin corset, which fits snuggly over a sage green, Marie Antoinette-style gown with a plunging neckline. It’s her wedding dress, which she’ll wear to walk down the aisle in less than an hour. But it won’t be in a church.

On a horse-drawn carriage, she and her fiancé Adam Sanders are being escorted through the tree-canopied grounds of the Texas Renaissance Festival. Sanders is dressed in Steampunk clothing  – which is sort of like a cross between the Victorian era and a sci-fi movie, complete with black leather vest, top hat and boots. It’s a bright Sunday morning and leading the way is a procession of knights, guardsmen, and various other people dressed in renaissance attire, while a bagpiper in a kilt plays Scotland the Brave.

More than five years ago, 33-year-old Loren and 29-year-old Sanders met through the online fantasy game, World of Warcraft, which has a similar theme to the Ren Fest. They saw the spot as a natural fit for their wedding.

“All the people that come to the festival are watching you and waving at you as you ride by,” says Travis Bryant, the festival’s marketing director. “And then you get to your venue and you can have trumpeters, a sword arch and all those romantic elements that you would imagine an English 16th-century wedding might carry with it…”

“As the years have gone by, offbeat, alternative and non-traditional weddings have kind of become run-of-the-mill in a way,” says Catherine Clark, Senior Editor of Offbeat Bride, an online magazine all about unconventional weddings.

Clark says that since more people are also getting married later in life, they don’t always have to rely on the bride’s folks to pick up the bill and there’s less of an obligation to go the traditional route. A bride can trade in the white dress for a leather corset. A groom can wear armor and a sword. Gradually, the non-mainstream is becoming normal…

There’s been a marked increase in the amount of people wanting to marry at the Texas Renaissance Festival. Five years ago, they hosted 28 weddings during the 8-week season. This year, there were 61. They’ll generate more than a quarter of a million dollars for the festival.

So why have Ren Fest weddings become so popular? Some think it could be the popularity of fantasy TV shows like Game of Thrones and online games like World of Warcraft. Clark credits the trend to Gen-Xers and Millennials who want to live out their childhood fantasies.,,

Upcoming Faires

London Bridge Renaissance Faire (Jan. 6-8, 2017 )

Three new guilds have sprung up in Lake Havasu City since the inaugural event in January, 2016. They include Havashire, Order of the Mountain, and the Royal Court. For now, each are busy working on costume creation and auditions for membership.

“Havashire, they are a local guild that formed in the last few months,” Van der Riet said. “They’re doing auditions for new members and have around 60 new members already, all local. They’re Havasu or Parker residents.”

The guilds each focus on a different aspect of Elizabethan-period lifestyle re-enactment by way of vocabulary, wardrobe, mannerisms and behavior.

For example, Havashire represents villagers or common folk. The Order of the Mountain is based on the concept of assassins who would work for the royal court. This guild has about 20 members. And, the Royal Court guild is, well, the nobility and all that surrounds. The group’s 30 members is set to focus on re-enactment of very formal events.

It was likened to hobbyists. They meet, they practice their craft, sometimes compete and enjoy each other’s company, Van der Riet said.

“Last year, we didn’t have our own guilds,” he said. “Seven came in. But, this year, we have nine guilds, primarily from Las Vegas, Bullhead City and California. These are big guilds. Clan Dark Sail guild were actually in ‘Pirates of the Caribbean’.”

The Faire’s website tells of The Royal French Privateers of Clan DarkSail and how they specialize in 17th century, which was the Golden Age of Piracy. During the club’s 20 years, they’ve been in movies including “Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl”; Master & Commander”, “Assassin’s Creed”; The Devil’s Spear”; and television shows airing on the History Channel.

Van der Riet said another guild is using Havasu’s Faire as an official combat event tournament. That means they’ll turn out with lots of combat weaponry of heavy steel and be in full armor.

Other participating guilds include Pirates of the Glass Eye Pub, Loch Mead Village Guild, Romale Strigoi gypsies, Battle Wolf, OurRenLand, The Pirates of Rogues Cove, Imperial Rope Makers Guild and Seraphina Fire dancers…

A long-bow archery tournament based in Texas is set to travel to Havasu, and the jousters out of Washington state are set to return, too…

Hear ye! Hear ye! Hear ye! There will be strapping young lads, fair maidens, jousters, assassins, court royals and commoners to see armored combat, archery, jousting, Celtic musicians, jugglers, belly dancers, gypsy bands, and comedy acts. The vendor village includes Artisan period crafts, bounce houses, treasure hunts, hay maze and a learning center ….

…The 2nd annual London Bridge Renaissance Faire is expected to kick-off on Jan. 6 as a bigger and better event than last year.

 “Thus far, the web traffic and the interest has far exceeded what we saw last year so we expect a large crowd this year, bigger than last year,” said Raymond Van Der Riet, director of the Renaissance faire.

The theme of the fair revolves around a series of tournaments held to honor the resign of Queen Elizabeth I. The series of tournaments, called Her Majesty’s Tournaments of the Realm, consist of live jousting, armored combat and archery throughout the three-day event…

Orlando Renaissance Festival

…This is the inaugural year for this particular Renaissance festival organized by Kira Phillips. Nearly 4,000 people on Facebook say they’re going.

Fair-goers can expect a historical reenactment village, a live chess match, merchants, crafts, and live music. Also, expect cosplay and people dressed in Renaissance clothing.

“There’s something really romantic about that time period, you know the swishy dresses, and the dashing men, and men and women fighting with swords,” said a spokeswoman for the festival, Casey Robbins….

Past Faires

Carolina Renaissance Festival

…Entertainment: Non-stop entertainment on 12 stages ranging from interactive theatre, comedy, acrobats, medieval musicians, singers, dancers, storytellers, magicians, to puppeteers.

Arts & Crafts: Artisans crafting original works from stained glass, pottery, and glass blowing, and more!

Games: Archery, ax-throwing, castle-storming, and climbing Jacob’s ladder were just a few ways to be involved in the medieval world. Also human-powered rides such as da Vinci’s Flying Machine, Voyage to the New World, and the Swan Swing; as well as throwing tomatoes at the surly fools locked in the stocks at Vegetable Justice.

Food: The tantalizing aromas of roast turkey drumsticks, steak-on-a-stick, bread bowl stews, and more were sure to give an insatiable appetite. When it’s time for sweets, a variety of unique desserts at The Cottage Bakery, The Cappuccino Inn, and The Cottage Chocolate Shoppe was available.

Hammond Renaissance Festival (LA)

It's an outing where you can see juggling, fire eating and learn about the history of the European Renaissance. More than 30,000 people are expected to attend the festival at some point this year, and Alvon Brumfield, the man who's organizing it all, says why not? It's a festival with a lot to see...


Ingleside Renaissance Faire (TX)

… Kris Johnston and her husband Phil Johnston transform into Robyn of Foxley and Olivander the Hood — otherwise known as Robyn and The Hood — to demonstrate their skill with the English longbow.

"The show is around 25-30 minutes long, and it highlights the power of the English longbow, the history," Phil Johnston said.

The performers, who hold the titles of International Bowhunting Organization world championship course in the men's and women's division, travel internationally six months out of the year, but are always excited to come back to the Coastal Bend….

The certified instructors also will teach interested festivalgoers how to shoot.

Dagorath, a live-action role play group that interacts with festivalgoers and encourages them to try mock one-on-one combat, and Knightwings, which offer performances by birds of prey, are new to the festival this year.Returning fan favorites include musical group Tartanic, the Walking Tree of Life, Celtic Flair dance group and the Hanlon Lee Action Theater jousting knights. There will be additional entertainment on three stages throughout the weekend.

Last year's attendance, which came in around 4,000 visitors for the two-day event, was stifled by rain. But this year, organizers expect to see between 8,000 and 10,000 visitors based on social media and online interactions….

The anticipation of a larger crowd lead organizers to double the size of this year's fairgrounds, transforming nearly the entire park into an enchanted forest. Organizers have shifted the layout of the annual festival, inviting visitors to engage in festival activities as they explore the park's winding pathways.

Those more interested in looting the kingdom or feasting with the crowd will be treated to about 30 craft vendors and 40 food and drink vendors. Craft vendors include metalworks artisans, beer stein woodworkers, a henna tattoo artist, and a medieval braid artist. Texas Mead Works will sell its honey wine at the festival for the first time this year.

Kearney Park Renaissance Faire (CA)

Minnesota Renaissance Festival: Wounded Warrior Project® outing

Veterans were transported to a time of lords, ladies, and mystical creatures during a recent Wounded Warrior Project® (WWP) outing to the Minnesota Renaissance Festival in Shakopee. As participants enjoyed exploring one of America's largest Renaissance fairs, they got a chance to connect with warriors in their community and immerse themselves in the medieval era.

"It's important for veterans and their family members to gather at program events like this because it creates a comfortable environment for getting to know each other," said Navy veteran Jaimie Bahl. "These gatherings are a wonderful way to get out of the house and experience something new. I was excited about going because I have always wanted to attend a Renaissance festival."

Merchants and entertainers – all clothed in unique period costumes – crafted artisan goods like candles and jewelry, or danced and performed magic acts on stages throughout the grounds. Warriors then gathered for a feast while they enjoyed a staple of Renaissance fairs everywhere – live armored jousting..

Texas Renaissance Festival

The country’s largest Renaissance faire is divided into villages that (loosely) represent cultures from around the world, like the langues of the Knights Hospitaller, to use a contemporary comparison, or the countries of the World Showcase at Epcot, to use one contemporary to us. OK, probably none of the countries included were ever home to pickle popsicles or Sno-cones, but you get the idea.

…According to festival organizers, this season’s attendance was 678,550, which the festival says is a new record for the annual event in Todd Mission, Texas an hour north of Houston. The festival reported a total attendance of 474,623 for 2015.

Mother Nature played ball this year, offering up mostly clear weather and above-average temperatures, which was good for attendance numbers, but probably made some attendees rethink their costume choices.

Many people were still complaining about unusually slow traffic in and out of the festival area, an annual gripe. With increased attendance, that seems to be the trade-off…

"We realize traffic was a challenge and appreciate people's patience in all of it," said Travis Bryant, director of marketing and public relations on Monday. "We are limited by road design and infrastructure constraints, specifically we currently have one, 2-lane road leading into the festival."

Population growth in the area has also complicated matters for attendees who all seem to remember breezing in and out of the festival grounds in previous years. Some folks say they spent an hour just trying to get off the property this year, which is probably no fun with a fussy family in tow. ..

A tip from a fellow festival fan: Show up early and leave before the sundown rush. You will save yourself some time in the car.

Next year’s RenFest kicks off a weekend earlier on Sept. 30 to accommodate new, ninth themed weekend, the cosplay-celebrating “Heroes and Villains,” which will debut Nov. 18 and Nov. 19….

As RenFest Ends Latest Season, Look Back at How Time-Traveling Fair Began

Once upon a time – back in ye olden days of 1974 – the Texas Renaissance Festival was nothing more than 15 acres of a strip-mined gravel quarry pit, complete with a few tents, makeshift platform stages and bales of hay. Now spanning just under 60 acres and boasting nearly 400 shops, the RenFest that's wrapping up its 42nd season this three-day weekend has dramatically changed from its original iteration.

“Originally, the fair was all intended to be artists who make their own art. The man who owns it, George Coulam, is an artist and is an artist at heart, and he sees that entire fair project as his art project. So in the beginning, he invited artists to come to this bare piece of land,” recalled Connie Colten, a jewelry and sculpture artist who first set up her wares at the RenFest in its second year, after she heard about it from her network of artist friends.

“In the very beginning, nobody really had a model for what is a Renaissance fair,” Colten added. The artists had to build their own booths, she said, which were often no more than “simple structures” that only sometimes had a second floor for people to sleep in over the weekend. The main requirement was that the buildings had to resemble something someone might have spotted in a village in Tudor-era England.

“[The RenFest was] one-fourth of what it is today,” said Ligia Gaines. In '76, when tickets cost just $4.99 a head and Gaines's family visited the RenFest for the first time, “Really, we were just going in circles looking around the crafts and the foods.”

Yet that first visit led Gaines to fall in love with the RenFest, so when, a few months later, she was reading the Conroe Courier and saw it was hiring, she told her husband, “I want to belong to this beautiful place.” Today, Gaines is known to festival attendees as The Empanada Lady. She owns and operates 14 different “shoppes,” to use the RenFest parlance, and this year will be her 40th at the festival...

Utah Winter Faire

If a Renaissance fair in the winter sounds fun to you, the Utah Winter Faire in the outbuildings at the Legacy Events Center is the place for you.

The fair offers adventure for lighthearted fairy followers to those who enjoy vigorous sword fighting.

Dozens of actors in costumes ranging from a satyr who speaks gibberish, to Doctor Who from the British science-fiction television program, and Renaissance-style sentinels of a winter queen roam the three buildings that make up the fair.

The Armored Combat League, which sanctions sword fights between competitors wearing knight-style armor, held individual fights.. and team battles…

The fair offers three different quests for younger children, older children and adults.

Yazmine Tatiana, of Salt Lake City, who plays the icy Queen Nymora, said the children’s scavenger hunt quest ends with finishers ridding her of an ailment she is suffering this year, caused by a shard of ice in her heart that causes her to be cold, cruel and weak.

The Baird family of Ogden was drawn to the event because home-school students got in free on Friday. For 13-year-old Elijah Baird, the armored combat fighting ring was the place to be.“The whole time we’ve been walking around buying trinkets and things, he’s been here,” said his mother, Jenifer Baird, a couple hours after the family arrived.For Rae Anne Baird, 12, the crafts and the atmosphere were the draw…

Camille Tanner, of Sunset, said she also has come to the event three of the four years it’s been held. She went Friday dressed as a winter elf.,, “This is good for Christmas shopping for all my nerdy friends,” she said..Tanner said Renaissance fairs are usually in summer, so the idea of Renaissance in the winter appeals to her.

Complete article and pictures:

Ludlow Medieval Christmas Fayre (England)

The annual Ludlow event takes place every year across two days on the last weekend of November with period music, festive circus entertainers, fancy dress and more than 100 stalls selling gifts not to be found on the high street, all in and around Ludlow Castle….

Paul Saunders, head of entertainment for the fayre, as well as a musician and performer in his own right, has sourced a raft of brand new entertainment for the weekend including the UK premiere of Tryzna, a celebrated medieval music and dance group from Poland and Ukraine who tour Europe with their shows. Other highlights will include Peterkin’s School for Fools about all things jesting, The Bagshotte Waytes, an authentic medieval brass band and Shakespeare’s Deadly Duels, marking the 400th anniversary of the Bard’s death with swashbuckling sword fights from the history plays.

Pantomime will come to the fayre for the first time with a special performance of Chanticleer and The Fox from Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales and regulars BZ Ents also return with children’s shows “Dastardly Dick or Righteous Richard?” and “What Ho Henry!”, both new to the festival….

There will be carols with The Quire, a medieval nativity play from The Mysterious Crew, theatre and stories from The Shrewsbury Mummers, Discover History’s Beastly Battles and sword fighting…

Renaissance People

An Australian schoolteacher quit her job and moved to the Middle East so she could cement her spot as the world's number one jouster

Sarah Hay was the vice principal of a small school west of Sydney when decided she wanted to live closer to the European jousting circuit.

Already one of the best jousters on the planet, she moved almost 12,000 kilometres to live in Oman and follow her dream.

Ms Hay - the former vice principal of Cecil Hills Public School in western Sydney - told Daily Mail Australia how she fell in love with the sport when she stumbled across it at a fair in 2007.

'I saw jousting at a festival in the Blue Mountains and I instantly knew that it was what I wanted to do,' she said.

'I never knew that jousting was a modern sport. This was a new way to compete, to dress up and to have adventure at the same time as re-enacting history.

'My attraction was instant from the moment I saw it. Someone in me was awoken and that passion has not dwindled since.'

In the past nine years Ms Hay has taken on the sport with a vengeance, eventually charging into the number one spot in the International Jousting League….

Jousting is a combative sport which originated in medieval Europe, in which riders use lances to knock each other off their horses.

These days the majority of events still take place in Europe, where they often are staged inside old castles at medieval fairs, or fayres.

'At these sorts of events everyone wears authentic replicas of medieval costumes,' Ms Hay said.

'There is a medieval marketplace, often a big feast at night, medieval music and a plethora of other medieval re-enactment activities going on….

Ms Hay said the key to jousting success was a brave horse and controlled aggression.

'I try to keep very calm and focused when I joust as this is one of the keys to being consistently accurate,' she said.

'A huge part of successful jousting is whether you are riding a willing and brave horse.

'I come from a strong riding background so feel confident that I can get on with almost any horse I ride.'

Ms Hay took up a teaching role in the city of Muscat, Oman, after realising her progress as a jouster was stunted in Australia…


Discover What 3 Classic Paintings Secretly Say About The Meaning Of Christmas

Let’s consider three works by three Old Master painters that depict three important moments in the story of Christ’s birth, and just so happen to feature some tiny text…

One of the jewels in the collection of the National Gallery of Art is “The Annunciation” by the Flemish painter Jan Van Eyck (c. 1390-1441), which was painted sometime between 1434-36. This wing of a now-lost triptych depicts the Bible story told in Luke 1:26-38, in which the angel Gabriel announces to the Virgin Mary that she has been chosen to be the mother of the Messiah, and Mary agrees to accept God’s Will. Although Van Eyck’s painting is referencing the Gospel of Luke, it is also an artistic representation of the lofty words of the prologue in John’s gospel: “And the Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us” (John 1:14).

The wealth of detail in this painting delights our eyes, but the use of text is very important to this composition. If you look closely, coming out of the mouth of Gabriel, almost like a medieval cartoon bubble, we can see tiny gold letters that read, “Ave gratia plena,” Latin for “Hail, full of grace.” This is the beginning of the angel’s greeting to Mary, as recounted in Luke 1:28. Gabriel reemphasizes his words by pointing to them with his right index finger as they hang in the air in front of him.

We can also see tiny words coming out of Mary’s mouth, but at first glance they appear to be illegible. It’s only when you realize that the letters are painted backwards that you can read “Ecce ancilla domini,” or “Behold the handmaid of the Lord.” This is Mary’s response in Luke 1:38, in which she agrees to become the mother of the Savior. But why do her words appear backwards to us?

If you look at the upper portion of the painting, you’ll see the Holy Spirit, in the form of a dove, descending on heavenly rays which touch Mary. Van Eyck must have reasoned that the only logical way the Holy Spirit would be able to read Mary’s floating words in this scene would be if the text was oriented toward his direction. God already knows what the angel is going to say, because Gabriel is his messenger. It’s Mary’s answer, since she is a human being who has free will, which he needs to know …

Complete, fascinating article:

The Season Finale of ‘Westworld’ Mentioned a Theory About Michelangelo’s Sistine Chapel

On the season finale of HBO’s television series Westworld last night, Anthony Hopkins’s character, Dr. Robert Ford, referenced a theory about Michelangelo’s Sistine Chapel. He told another character that in the Renaissance artist’s Creation of Adam fresco, the swooping fabric behind God, Eve, and a group of angels represents a human brain. Surprisingly, this is based on a real theory published in a scientific journal about 25 years ago.

In 1990, Dr. Frank Lynn Meshberger, a gynecologist, wrote an essay for the Journal of the American Medical Association that stated that Michelangelo had symbolically portrayed God imparting intellect to Adam. Pointing to various anatomical inconsistencies in the fresco, Meshberger argued that Michelangelo had intentionally abstracted figures until the right half of the painting looked like a brain. The angels’ feet, for example, are split in two because they were meant to symbolize the pituitary gland’s two lobes…

Complete, interesting article: Washington State University and 26 other Washington public colleges and universities must begin using a more comprehensive adjudication process in cases where a student faces expulsion from school for violating rules of conduct, the state Court of Appeals has ruled.

Only the University of Washington and 11 other Washington schools are giving students faced with expulsion a chance to fully defend themselves, the court found in its ruling,

Medieval English Book of Hours

The Bute Hours, one of the most extraordinary Medieval English Book of Hours in existence, was auctioned at Sotheby’s London on 6 December 2016, with an estimate of £1.5 to 2.5 million, making it one of the most valuable English books to appear at auction...

English Books of Hours are extremely rare on the market, and the richness of the illustration of this particular manuscript is unparalleled - a reflection of the significant social status of its patron. Including more than 50 large miniatures, it was most likely made for a nobleman of the royal household who is depicted with a double chain of office, his wife, children, and dogs, throughout the book. In fact, the book is so lavish that it’s even been suggested that it was made the young prince Henry (the future Henry VIII).

The book dates from c. 1500-20 – a time when plague swept across London. An image of St Roche (the patron saint against the plague) appears in prime position at the front of the book, immediately after the Trinity, the Holy Spirit and the Virgin Mary. The Welsh healing saint, St Armel, loved by Henry VII, is also invoked so that the user ‘shal be relesyd of all maner of sikenesse & soris’. The Plague broke out in London twice at the end of the Middle Ages, in 1499-1500 and again in 1537-9; the latter is too late for this Book of Hours but the earlier date seems possible….

Study of a Kneeling Man by Titian

On 20 September the Department for Culture, Media & Sport announced that a temporary export bar had been placed on a Study of a Kneeling Man by Titian. Purchased by an overseas buyer from the collection of the Earl of Harewood for £4.4 million (excluding VAT), it will leave these shores for its new home after 19 December unless a UK buyer comes forward to match the price.

The drawing is a rarity. Although his career spanned seven decades, fewer than 50 drawings reasonably attributable to Titian (c. 1488–1576) survive. By contrast, we have some 460 sheets from his much shorter-lived contemporary Raphael and around 600 from the equally long-lasting Michelangelo, whom we know systematically to have destroyed his drawings. The large majority of survivals from Titian’s hand are in public collections (including six sheets in the UK), while this is one of only a handful still in private hands (including two others in the UK, in the Devonshire Collection), and – depending on one’s attributional generosity – the only one executed in chalk....

Complete long, fascinating article and image:

"Christ as Salvator Mundi" by Leonardo da Vinci

Sotheby’s has made a request to a federal judge for an order clearing it of any wrongdoing in the private sale of “Christ as Salvator Mundi” to Yves Bouvier, president of Natural Le Coultre, that operates Geneva Freeport.

The painting was sold in 2013 to a company controlled by Bouvier for $80 million by a consortium of dealers that included New York art dealer Alexander Parish. Bouvier flipped the painting to Rybolovlev for $127.5 million. The dealers’ group is now threatening to sue Sotheby’s for the difference, claiming they were shortchanged on the sale...

Parish had apparently bought the painting for less than $10,000 at an estate sale in Louisiana in the early 2000s, Sotheby’s said in the filing. It was long believed the work was a copy of a da Vinci, but Sotheby’s said in the filing it later helped in the authentication of the painting as having been done by the master around 1500....

Dallas Museum of Art Exhibition Traces Nature as Artistic Inspiration Across the Middle Ages

This December, the Dallas Museum of Art will present a major exhibition illustrating the evolution of representations of nature across six centuries of medieval European art. The DMA is the exclusive U.S. venue for Art and Nature in the Middle Ages, which is composed of more than 100 extraordinary objects reflecting the wide range of styles, techniques and iconography that flourished during this period. Organized by the Musée de Cluny, musée national du Moyen Âge, Paris, and featuring works rarely before exhibited in the United States, the exhibition will be on view from December 4, 2016, through March 19, 2017.

Spanning the 12th to early 16th centuries, Art and Nature in the Middle Ages explores the diverse modes of expression and variety of representations of nature in medieval art, whether plant or animal, sacred or profane, real or imagined, highlighting its continuities and changes. The featured works of art emphasize the fundamental bond between humans and nature, and nature’s constant presence in the immediate environment and spiritual life of men and women in the Middle Ages.

As techniques developed and changed over time, so too did artistic depictions of the natural world. Art and Nature in the Middle Ages will trace the evolution of the treatment of flora and fauna, from the decorative stylization that prevailed during the Romanesque period to a more naturalistic approach based on close observation that characterized the Gothic. The exhibition will also highlight the legacy of ancient traditions, the role played by the great European migrations that occurred between the 5th and 7th centuries, and the influence of Islamic and Eastern art forms on medieval artisans, who were quick to adapt and invent.

Encompassing both fine and decorative art objects made for religious and everyday purposes, the DMA’s presentation will feature a wide array of media, including stained glass, precious metals and gemstones, enamel, marble, terracotta and faience ceramics, textiles and tapestries, and illuminated manuscripts. Among the notable works are rare textiles, such as a scene of chivalry from The Seigniorial Life tapestry cycle (c. 1500), and enamelwork, including the Reliquary of St. Francis of Assisi (after 1228), in addition to stained glass panels with white rose and maple leaf decorations from the Rhine Valley (c. 1330) and an aquamanile (water jug) in the form of a unicorn (c. 1400).

“We are fortunate to be able to share these outstanding examples of medieval artistry from the collection of the Musée de Cluny with audiences in the U.S. for the first time,” said Nicole R. Myers, The Lillian and James H. Clark Curator of European Painting and Sculpture. “Visitors will have the chance to experience the diverse modes of artistic expression that flourished in Western Europe during this period, as well as gain insight into the incredible inspiration that artists drew from the natural world, both lived and imagined.”

Accompanying the exhibition is a Spanish-language booklet featuring the exhibition text available for individuals to use during their visit to Art and Nature in the Middle Ages. This booklet is the first initiative implemented by Dr. Arteaga to include multilingual materials across a variety of formats in DMA exhibitions, with a goal of moving this approach to all of the Museum’s collection galleries.

The Museum will celebrate Art and Nature in the Middle Ages during the January 20 Late Night with an evening featuring music, talks, films, and more inspired by the Middle Ages including a talk with Dr. Danielle Joyner, Visiting Assistant Professor in Art History with Southern Methodist University, exploring the art and beauty of Medieval manuscripts. The Museum’s March Late Night on Friday, March 17, will also feature programs tied to the exhibition including a Late Night Talk with Cal Poly Pomona professor Dr. Melissa Arron entitled “Fantastic Beasts: Harry Potter and the Medieval Bestiary.” Additional programs, including gallery talks, will be scheduled throughout the run of the exhibition. For dates, prices, and details, visit

Art and Nature in the Middle Ages is made possible through generous loans from the collection of Musée de Cluny, musée national du Moyen Âge in Paris. The Dallas presentation is curated by Nicole R. Myers, The Lillian and James H. Clark Curator of European Painting and Sculpture.

The exhibition is accompanied by an illustrated catalogue, published by the Dallas Museum of Art and distributed by Yale University Press, edited by Nicole R. Myers, with contributions by Michel Pastoureau, Elisabeth Taburet-Delahaye and Michel Zink. The catalogue features thematic essays on the concept of nature in the medieval world and a fully illustrated checklist. The book will be for sale in the DMA Store and online.

Renaissance Paintings Sotheby’s London
Two Exceptional Italian Renaissance Portraits –
At the core of this winter’s sale is a group of ten paintings of impressive quality from the collection formed by Sir William Forbes, the 7th Baronet of Pitsligo (1773–1828), a Scottish banker who gave much of his fortune to various charitable establishments in Edinburgh. All of the works in the sale were acquired in Italy by the art dealer James Irvine on Forbes’ behalf between May 1827 and November 1828 and have never appeared on the market since then. 
Leading this group is a Portrait of two boys, said to be members of the Pesaro family painted by Titian (1485/90 - 1576) with some assistance from his studio, probably in the early 1540s. This striking work is a rarity in the genre of portraiture for it is one of the first and very few double portraits in Renaissance painting. Its originality also lies in its intensely expressive representation of childhood, rarely seen in Titian’s oeuvre which only comprises a small group of portraits of children. Not until the following century would something comparable be attempted by Rubens when painting his sons (est. £1 - 1.5 million). 
From the same collection is a stunning Portrait of an architect by Lorenzo Lotto (1480-1556), a recently discovered addition to the artist's œuvre and one of some forty-odd surviving portraits, nearly all of which are now in public collections. Lotto’s portraits are among the most inventive and expressive of the first half of the 16 century and often break with conventions in portraiture. Probably painted in the 1540s, this work is remarkable for the sparseness of its composition, as well as the pose and expression of the sitter who engages directly with the viewer (est. £200,000-300,000). 
The sale is further distinguished by a fine selection of early Italian Renaissance paintings, and most notably two magnificent 15th century Italian gold-grounds that have been in the collection formed by the famous German painter Franz von Lenbach (1836- 1904) for over a century. Both works beautifully exemplify the artistic production in two of the principal cities in Tuscany in the late Middle Ages and Early Renaissance. 
The first is one of the most arresting gabella panels ever created. Gabelle are inextricably linked to the history of Siena which was already a fully-functioning democracy in the 15 century. These small painted panels, produced between the mid- 13th century and the last quarter of the 17 century, served as file covers for the officials leaving office after their six-month fixed term in the Republic (when they had to make all their paperwork public as an anti-corruption requirement). These files and their covers were then hung on the city walls so that the population might have access to them. 
.Today, most Gabelle covers are in Siena, and a handful are scattered among museums. With its highly inventive design, the present work is therefore one of the very few and most stunning Gabella panels still in private hands outside Italy (est. £400,000-600,000). 
The other major gold-ground in the sale is a luminous work by Bicci di Lorenzo, one of the most important painters of early 15th century Florence. Painted in the early 1430s, this Nativity is a fine example of Bicci's distinctly traditionalist style that ensured a long- lasting demand for his paintings (est. £300,000-500,000). 

Renaissance and Reformation: German Art in the Age of Dürer and Cranach

The Los Angeles County Museum of Art
November 20, 2016–March 26, 2017

The Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA) is pleased to present Renaissance and Reformation: German Art in the Age of Dürer and Cranach. Coinciding with the 500th anniversary of the Reformation, the exhibition brings to Los Angeles some of the greatest achievements of German Renaissance art. As the only U.S. venue of the exhibition, LACMA offers a unique opportunity to view masterpieces of this period, which have rarely been displayed outside of Germany.

The period under consideration (1460–1580) was marked by conflicts, civil wars, and complex relationships with neighboring countries, but it also witnessed a flourishing of many states and cities, reflected in the skills of their craftsmen. Additionally, the era was characterized by profound changes in thought, philosophy, science, and religion, spearheaded by Martin Luther’s writings, which in turn transformed the work of many artists of the day such as Albrecht Dürer, Lucas Cranach, Hans Holbein, Mathias Grünwald, Tilman Riemenschneider, and Peter Vischer.

These revolutionary ideas and innovations played a transformational role in the development of modern Western societies.

Exhibition Background

The 1517 publication of Martin Luther’s Ninety-five Theses set in motion one of the greatest movements of ideas in European history. What began as a challenge to the Church for the practice of selling “indulgences,” or vouchers for reduced time in Purgatory, developed into a religious and political movement that reshaped the Western Christian world. Luther’s Reformation, while considered from a strictly theological viewpoint, should also be studied within the complex political realities of early 16th-century Europe that includes struggles for power from various sides: the German princes, the House of Habsburg, and the Roman Catholic Church. It can also be viewed as one of the early manifestations of the broad movements of ideas and reconsiderations of the world’s order that define the Renaissance. The Reformation’s insistence upon the individual is also a trait that will be at the center of many humanist writers’ works later in the century.

Artists were affected by such changes. The structure of their profession was changing as the Church lost ground along with its sponsorship of artists. Some hinted in their works at a new attitude toward the divine. Others embraced neutral forms, such as the portrait, and gave it a new dimension.

Exhibition Organization

Renaissance and Reformation is arranged in five major thematic sections which explore the fundamental changes that took place in art and society during the Reformation.

Traditional Imagery and Devotion illustrates the changes to visual language brought about by the Reformation. From altarpieces via depictions of the saints to the iconography of Christ’s Passion, the themes and modes of representation explored in these works highlight the differences that set the conflicting religious doctrines apart. Some artists accepted commissions both from Protestant clients and those who adhered to the “old faith,” meaning that their works often carried political implications. Over time, objects of religious veneration gave way to works of sculpture intended for aesthetic value—a transformation that can be observed with particular clarity among the sculptural pieces represented in this section.

Propaganda and Polemics illustrates the extent to which developments inart, media, and politics were intertwined. The Reformation was the first movement to use propaganda techniques to foster its cause. Using words and images, the supporters of the new Faith benefited from the fairly recent invention of the moveable type by Johannes Gutenberg to produce numerous and inexpensive broadsheets. Those who could not read received the message from explicit images. Polemics were both religious and political, and the images used by the reformers were often crude, even vulgar, but could at the same time be easily understood by the masses. The Church and the Pope in particular, were the most frequent targets. Literally demonized, they were presented as the representatives not of God, but of Satan himself. Printmaking techniques such as woodcut and copperplate engraving developed apace and spawned further copies of images. Alongside book printing, they played a vital role in disseminating reformatory ideas—not least as part of the propaganda campaigns that accompanied hotly fought polemical disputes.

Arms and Armor: The Splendor of the Saxon Court explores the political dimensions of the Reformation, while illustrating the extraordinary cultural significance of the princely states embroiled in the conflict raging between emergent religious factions. Objects from the royal art treasuries recall the era’s exquisite craftsmanship, and feature weapons and armor that lend a glimpse into life at the royal court. Armor was particularly praised. Most of the armor presented in this section were made for jousting or worn in ceremonies. Immensely costly, these were considered works of art in themselves. Arms, such as pistols or daggers, were often ambassadorial gifts and were admired both for their functionality and refinement of execution. The art of the Dresden court exemplifies a Protestant principality’s efforts to project an image befitting the high prestige it enjoyed and the political influence it wielded within the Holy Roman Empire.

Landscapes, historical scenes, and figures from ancient mythology—the themes explored in Humanism and Reality—attest to new and transformed ways of looking at the world, incorporating both idealized visions of classical antiquity and fastidious observations of nature and people. Here, the focus is upon delicate drawings by Albrecht Dürer, Lucas Cranach, Hans Beham, Hans Schäufelin, and Albrecht Altdorfer, as well as a number of other artists. These rare works provide a glimpse of each artist’s hand. Furthermore, they serve as an expression of European Renaissance art and the heightened autonomy it accorded both artist and artwork alike.

Portraiture enjoyed great favor in European painting from the 15th century onward. As religious paintings were less in demand, commissions for individual portraits increased and the studios adapted themselves to the new demand. Furthermore, the insistence of the new Faith on the individual found an echo in the art of portraiture. Most sitters were prominent members of the new church or belonged to the upper echelons of society: wealthy merchants or civic leaders, among others. Portraits range from intense studies such as those painted by Dürer, whose sitters are often set in shallow spaces, inspiring the viewer to concentrate on their gaze, to figures represented against finely detailed landscapes. All, however, are meant to convey not only the exact features of the subjects but also their social rank and moral qualities. Particularly sensitive are the drawn portraits. Whether executed as studies for prints or as free-standing works of art, German artists often used a combination of techniques and crayons to render their subjects with surprising likeness. Their delicate approach to the medium remains one of the most spectacular achievements of the German Renaissance.



A Renaissance Christmas From Venice, Naples & Beyond 2016 - Sunday December 25th

In the sixteenth-century, the splendor of the Renaissance blossomed across Italy as a new Holy Roman Empire stretched its wings from the Urals to the Atlantic. This special brings listeners wonderful sixteenth-century Christmas music from the Venetian world of Giovanni Bassano and Gioseffo Zarlino, moving westward to the Milan of Franchinus Gaffurius, and southerly to the Naples of Diego Ortiz. Music of the Nordic Venetian Michael Praetorius provides a glorious grand finale…

Boston Camerata presents a heart-warming Medieval Christmas program

… Anne Azéma and the Camerata presented one of their oldest and most haunting holiday programs: “Puer Natus Est: a Medieval Christmas.”

Christmas celebrations in Medieval Europe were as varied and lively as those experienced today. Boston Camerata’s heartwarming concert, which consisted of chants and songs drawn from all over Europe and spanning three centuries, reflected that diversity.

Interpretation of music from this time is always a tricky matter. Unlike the art and architecture of the period, we are left with very little information to go on. Many manuscripts leave just text and a notation much different from that seen on paper today. Moreover, instruments, if they were used at all, are not specified, nor are tempo and dynamic indications…

Azéma possesses a bright, ringing voice that was well suited to the many dancelike songs heard on the program. She had simpatico partners in Rentz-Moore, who sang with a dark, chocolaty voice, and Parias, whose singing had a bell-toned power and grace. Patton’s bagpipes, whistles, crumhorn, and harp and Mariani’s vielles added splashes of instrumental color…

The Aquitanian songs offered some of the most colorful music on the program and the most melodically beautiful. Each short piece moved with a terpsichorean lilt. “Nos virgines,” sung by Parias, was adorned with vocal shakes and grace notes. “Amen dico,” delivered by Rentz-Moore in dark, deep tones, had hints of righteous anger. And “Clara sonent organa” was a trickling dance that trailed off into vocal trills, which were delivered softly by Azéma.

A few of the pieces on the program were composed by King Alfonso X of Castile, who was known as “el Sabio” (“The Wise”). “Maravilosos et piadosos” was entirely instrumental, and Patton (whistle), Mariani (vielle), and Azéma (hurdy-gurdy) wove its lines into a foot-stomping dance. “Pois que dos reys nostre Senhor,” a narrative telling of the visit of the Magi, featured the singers in sensitive dynamic shading to convey the emotional immediacy of the story.

The closer, a twelfth-century “Gregis pastor,” was a grand recessional. The interwoven melodies bristled softly against one another before coming to rest on a pristine, single note…

Second City Musick: Early Music Series

Chicago musician Anna Steinhoff ... performrd top hits of the 1400s on the bass viola da gamba with her group, Second City Musick, which includes Craig Trompeter and Russell Wagner, who play treble and tenor viola da gamba. The viola da gamba is a stringed instrument with frets, played with a bow. The instrument was popular during the Renaissance and Baroque periods…

Second City Musick chose to perform music written in the 1400s by composers including Josquin Des Prez and Jacob Obrecht. Their works are included in the first book of printed music published in 1501 by Ottaviano Petrucci, who combined 100 of the best and most famous secular tunes of the day….

The bass viola da gamba has a bit of a thinner, reedier quality than the modern-day cello, which Steinhoff also plays….

Ensemble Passacaglia

...The ensemble was founded as a trio of accompanists for the Solstice Singers renaissance choir. Jan Elliott, Tom Hanna and Lisa Esperson explored the rich combination of winds, plucked strings and percussion, and soon began performing independently and expanding their repertoire. In 2007 Molly Johnston added viola da gamba and vielle to the mix, and the quartet has since performed regularly across Cape Cod and beyond....

Complete article:

Musica Matrix (Oregon)

Those who have enjoyed ye olde Medieval-Renaissance music and dance at the Green Shows of yore and decades of performances of the Ashland-based Terra Nova Consort, here’s good news: its guiding light, Pat O’Scannell, has evolved her creative efforts into a new nonprofit endeavor — Musica Matrix...

Director and mezzo soprano O’Scannell pairs with lutenist James Bishop-Edwards performing the works of English Renaissance giant John Dowland’s songbook. He was a pioneer in writing highly personal and moving lyrics for his music, says O’Scannell. The show is entitled "Come Again: John Dowland First Book of Songs."

Famed rocker Sting recently learned to play the lute and recorded an album of Dowland's compositions, prompting O’Scannell to note, “The music of Dowland is just gorgeous, and very compelling, regardless of what century he was in. I would call Dowland the Elizabethan Coldplay — such poetic texts and haunting melodies.”

Dowland is best-known for his instrumental pieces, “Lachrimae” (or “Seven Tears”) and "Flow My Tears" which, she says, are “highly personal and tell searing stories of love and life...”

Eya: Ensemble for Medieval Music

You won’t find a more lovely and illuminating way to celebrate the season than an evening with Eya: Ensemble for Medieval Music…

Eya’s founder, Allison Mondel, came across the ethereal, cosmic compositions of the 12th-century Benedictine abbess, Hildegard von Bingen while studying music..

Mondel became a notation and performance specialist of the chants of Hildegard von Bingen, and sang the abbess’s music at President Obama’s second Inaugural Prayer Service at Washington National Cathedral. 

Eventually, she realized that she wanted to create an ensemble that focused on medieval music, and Eya, which is a “joyous exclamation” in Latin, was born. They have gone on to universal critical acclaim, called by the Washington Post: “Remarkable…gorgeous…with precise ensemble, a strong sense of presence, and ringing vowels that reverberated to the farthest reaches of the cathedral…” 

Listening to this type of music in the soaring confines of St. Paul’s is a spiritual experience, she says. “You hear the sonorities, the vocal purity, the blend of voices. It touches people,” Mondel says, “and brings them to a place where they can touch beauty. That is different for each individual listening…”

Goliards Medieval Ensemble

Led by music instructor Wendy Greene, Goliards Medieval Ensemble commemorated All Souls Day with the somber beat of hide-covered drums, the twang of a harpsichord and the hurdy-gurdy. They formed a musical bed for the poetic Middle English and Latin lyrics about death, religious figures, animals and love.

Old School music is seldom older and rarely better than this talented band of minstrel scholars, which resurrected thousand-year-old tunes with 21st century flair.

The Goliards conveyed deep emotion with each song. Their music had a quietly mystical, harmonious quality which, though dark, music instructor Cathe Sobke said it is part of the foundation of today’s music.

“It helps you understand where all of our modern music came from,” she said after playing a number of recorders, the folksy predecessor of the flute.

During a rendition of the 14th century Spanish song “Ad Mortem Festinamus” (“We Race Towards Death”), Greene poetically recited appalling facts about the looming presence of death in the Middle Ages, including passages about the bubonic plague, war and poor hygiene, underscored by a light musical accompaniment.

“Death in the Medieval era was more common and visible than we are accustomed to,” Greene chanted. “The dance of death, the danse macabre, came out of this.”

Greene said she revered the historical value of the songs, most of which are hundreds of years old.

“I love the fact that we are playing some of the first music that was written down,” she said. “The ancient character lends a very unique sound. It can be stark. It is quite different from what we have today.”

Greene’s friend, Susan Willis-Powers, a harpsichordist, said some of the music they played was 1,000 years old, including 11th century melodies “O Roma Nobilis” (“Oh, Noble Rome”) and “Sic mea fata” (“By Singing”)…

Period-accurate instruments fired the authentic sound. Some had odd-sounding names. They included a harpsichord, a custom-made hurdy-gurdy, a treble viol, a harp and variety of recorders and goatskin-covered drums...

Complete article:

Danville High School’s madrigal dinners

For more than 40 years, Danville High School’s madrigal dinners have ushered in the holiday season in the community with its grand performances...

The medieval-style Christmas program combines traditional holiday music with medieval music sung acapella by students dressed in medieval costumes while guests enjoy a full dinner show...

During the candlelit dinner, madrigal singers, jesters and brass and string players will entertain and mingle with guests. Between the courses of the meal, the group will sing and perform a traditional collection of madrigals — or medieval songs — that has been a part of every DHS madrigal dinner since the mid-1970s... A master of revelry will keep the program moving along and also promises a return of the papier-mache boar’s head that signals the start of the main course...

Music of the Renaissance: Voices and Viols

7:30 p.m. Feb. 25, St. John's Episcopal Church; 4 p.m. Feb. 26, St. Paul's Lutheran Church, 1600 Grant Street, Denver.

...Ars Nova is joined by "String," a consort of viols led by Boulder's own Anne Marie Morgan. Viols, those Renaissance predecessors of modern string instruments, were often used by composers of the period as accompanying instruments.

Morgan said that the program would focus heavily on English verse anthems from around 1550-1650, including famous composers like Thomas Morley, William Byrd, and Orlando Gibbons.

Verse anthems are solo voices or duos performed on verses with instrumental accompaniment, alternating with passages for full choir... Madrigals by Thomas East, primarily known as a publisher for composers like Byrd, will be another interesting inclusion...

Tribute to Russell Oberlin, the first American countertenor, who died recently

Way back in my student days, his beautiful, otherwordly, almost inhuman voice was co-equivalent in my mind with the early music movement as a whole. This was my sophomore or junior year at Brown, and the Chamber Music series down at the School of Design auditorium was bringing in Noah Greenberg’s New York Pro Musica for a double bill:  Flemish Renaissance music on the first half, Spanish Renaissance on the second.  Although I had sung Renaissance partsongs in high school choir, and played a few lute transcriptions on my classical guitar, this was my first experience hearing an entire program of early music. By the end of the concert, I knew that performing this stuff was what I wanted to do. A vocation was born.

And that sense of being called had quite a bit to do with Oberlin’s voice that evening. Was it a man’s sound, or a woman’s?  It was supported all the way up, without a break, and without resorting to falsetto. Magical, compelling. It was full, with continuous vibrato.  Dead accurate as to pitch and rhythm. There was something sexless or androgynous in the timbre, verging on metallic, as though an angel were singing from on high, in some celestial tongue unknown to man.  Oberlin’s voice did not make you feel warm and cuddly; rather, it gave you some sort of cosmic, strangely delightful chill.

As I discovered later, listening to his other recordings, across several repertoires, it really did not matter much what language he was singing in, nor what style. If memory serves me,  Oberlin made solo recordings of medieval English monodies, of thirteenth century Spanish Cantigas, of English consort songs, of Buxtehude….

Oberlin’s Early Music Ensemble

…Early music performance has undergone a great deal of turbulence and change over the last 60 years, and Oberlin has been at the forefront of its evolution since its resurgence. Groups dedicated to early music performance developed around the world during the counterculture revival of Renaissance music in the ’50s. In Europe, the movement was largely carried by professional musicians, but in the United States, colleges and academic institutions took the reins. Oberlin was revolutionary in its commitment to offering degrees for the study of early music and was one of the first places where students could receive studio instruction in the area.

Many Collegium groups in the middle-and late-20th century were treated as one-size-fits-all ensembles, where a single group would perform instrumental and vocal music with an emphasis on the period instruments themselves rather than the music being performed. What makes Oberlin’s Collegium distinctive is that it is an entirely vocal ensemble, something that director Steven Plank considers very important.

“Everybody ought to sing,” he told the Review. “Regardless of [your] musical direction, singing is one of the most wonderful ways of developing all kinds of things related to your musicianship.”

Collegium is comprised of a diverse array of voices whose members are a cross-section of the Oberlin community,  including College students, organists, orchestra players and more…

Complete article:

Medieval Night at Binghamton University

In celebration of its 50th anniversary, the Center for Medieval and Renaissance Studies at Binghamton University presented “Medieval Night…”

The fevent featured the world music group Piccola Banda Ikona from Italy. This group performs medieval music on traditional instruments in many languages, including Italian, Spanish, Latin, Arabic, Persian and Sabir (a lingua franca once used by sailors, pirates, fisherman, merchants and ship owners in Mediterranean ports).

Binghamton University students and faculty recited medieval poetry and perform medieval music and drama. Students who have been studying medieval manuscripts and the history of the book gave presentations…

Rose Ensemble: An Early Music Christmas

Our 21st century celebration of Christmas gains much of its warmth and charm from music and legends that are many centuries old. Early Music Now brings the innocence and freshness of these earlier times to Milwaukee audiences with “A Rose in Winter,” a program of Medieval and Renaissance choral music presented by the much-loved ensemble from St. Paul, The Rose Ensemble. Two performances honored the ancient legend that describes a midnight blooming of all manner of plants, trees, and flowers, in honor of the Madonna and Child.

The ensemble of 11 singers is accompanied by recorder, harp, vielle, psaltery, hurdy-gurdy, and percussion. These Milwaukee performances will feature English ballads, Spanish cantigas, and German carols, including music of Hildegarde von Bingen, Michael Praetorius, John Dunstable, John Mouton, Giovanni Palestrina, and Anonymous. The program explains the focus on the Rose as follows:

The rose, an ancient symbol of the Virgin, Mary and the Christ child, inspires this program of Medieval and Renaissance music for the Christmas season. During a time of year when the thirst for happiness can bring stress and even sorrow, this joyful program celebrates the blossoming of new life during the coldest of days. Amidst familiar stories of wise men and shepherds, ancient Christmas legends also describe a midnight blooming of all manner of plants, trees, and flowers.

Founded in 1996 by Artistic Director Jordan Sramek, The Rose Ensemble has achieved an international reputation as a premiere American early music ensemble. Each performance illuminates centuries of rarely heard repertoire, bringing to modern audiences research from the world’s manuscript libraries and fresh perspectives on history, culture, politics and spirituality from around the globe. With ten critically acclaimed recordings and a diverse selection of concert programs, the group has thrilled audiences across the United States and Europe with repertoire spanning 1,000 years and over 25 languages.


Renaissance & Medieval music

Time to party like it’s 1416.

Dancing, drinking and feasting were how medieval men and women celebrated the Christmas season, say experts in the era’s music, which will be highlighted at two concerts this month.

The University of St. Michael’s College, University of Toronto, offers a free concert Friday featuring the works of Claudio Monteverdi, Thomas Tallis, William Byrd, Orlando Gibbons and many unknown authors of medieval and Renaissance songs.

The Musicians in Ordinary, Ensemble Pneuma and St. Michaels Schola Cantorum will perform together and alone in the 7:30 p.m. program titled Star of the Sea.

While there will be chants dating back to the 10th century and religious songs, the overall approach will be joyous and fun.

“They danced to the carols,” said Tricia Postle, artistic director of Pneuma (from the word “breath”), a three-piece ensemble…

John Edwards, a lute player who is artistic director of the Musicians in Ordinary, has lined up a string band of violins, viola and cello to accompany him and singer Hallie Fishel.
These are early music instruments and look different from the ones in contemporary orchestras.
The music sheets are written so that people sitting around a table can each read their part from the large score, he pointed out, adding that much of the music wasn’t for church but for community cultural activities.
The topics of some of the songs include yearning for Christmas to arrive, comments on the animals of winter and praise of motherhood, he said.

This will be the third year a medieval concert has been held at the university. Although it is a free event, donations are welcomed to support a refugee family sponsored by the university community.

The Toronto Consort’s A Medieval Christmas run was accompanied by projected photos of medieval artwork.

David Fallis, Toronto Consort artistic director, noted that book and music manuscripts of the 12th, 13th and 14th centuries predate the invention of the printing press. As a result, the hand-drawn manuscripts “are so beautifully illustrated. The Middle Ages really went in for beautiful colour.”

As for the music, songs will be sung in many languages including Latin, French, Italian and German.

Fallis chose songs using cues from the artwork, which include manger scenes with a baby Jesus, the three Wise Men and shepherds with lambs on their shoulders. Even the instruments they play have been inspired by the art, such as the small harps carried by angels. Rudimentary bagpipes and recorders will also reproduce the songs authentically.

Many of the songs celebrate feasting and drinking, Fallis said, adding there is even a drawing of a snowball fight…

Complete article:

…The Musicians In Ordinary – soprano Hallie Fishel and lutenist John Edwards – join the Schola Cantorum of St Michael’s College directed by Michael O’Connor; violinist Christopher Verrette and the Pneuma Ensemble (, which performs on medieval instruments.

The concert includes plainchant, Cantigas de Santa Maria from 13th century Galicia/Portugal, and works by Italy’s Claudio Monteverdi, England’s Orlando Gibbons and William Byrd, and more…


BRADFORD Festival Choral Society

BRADFORD Festival Choral Society...will feature enchanting medieval songs originally written for Spanish pilgrims to stop them singing bawdy songs...

Complete article:


Performing on a variety of medieval musical instruments beneath St Mary’s famous angel roof, Hexachordia will lead a musical journey of music, song and spoken word starting at the onset of winter and travelling on through Advent and Christmas and into the hope of the new year.

The Medieval and Renaissance music comes mainly from England with a sprinkling of pieces from further across Europe.  Seasonal songs will include The Sussex Carol and The Coventry Carol which have their origins in the medieval period but are still familiar to us in the twenty-first century. The music will be interspersed with readings related to the experience of winter and the Nativity.

Hexachordia is a trio of three musicians, Sarah Doig, Tony Scheuregger and Jane Scheuregger formed to make music from the pre-baroque era accessible to a wide audience….

The South Creake church of Our Lady of St Mary, five miles from Fakenham,  is one of the most beautiful and best loved medieval churches in Norfolk. Its famous single hammerbeam roof with carved figures of painted angels is said to have been raised to celebrate the victory of Henry V at Agincourt in 1415….

Renaissance band The City Musick

...How did Hertfordshire residents celebrate the festive season in the 17th century? What did the music sound like? Just how boisterous were the jollifications?
The Hertfordshire Festival of Music's Heigh Ho Holiday! event at All Saints' Church in Hertford on 31st December, will offer residents the opportunity to find out.

The expert musicians of renaissance band The City Musick will make merry with cornetts, shawms, sackbuts and curtals as Hertford kicks off the New Year, 400 years into its past....


Theatre Review: ‘The Second Shepherd’s Play’ at Folger Shakespeare Theatre

“…The Second Shepherd’s Play,” now playing at the Folger Theatre, would likely have been originally performed out in the open, freezing air of English winter. The Folger’s traditional Elizabethan interior, while indisputably indoors, lends something of this feeling due to the marked absence of curtains and the curious intimacy of the performance space. Seated in the balconies (which are trimmed with holiday decorations) or in the chairs beneath the three-story ceiling, one can easily imagine “The Second Shepherd’s Play” merry group of performers and live musicians telling their pastoral farce in the streets of a medieval village.

    Right from the beginning, the fantastic musicians and singing make it feel like the theatre has suddenly been plunged into a medieval country fair….

While the story itself is entertaining and easy to follow due to a consistent rhyming scheme and excellent acting, the thing that really brings this show together is the music. Right from the beginning, the fantastic musicians and singing make it feel like the theatre has suddenly been plunged into a medieval country fair. Music director Robert Eisenstein played violin, Brian Kay played a lute, a lyre, and other stringed instruments, while Daniel Meyers played pipes and even a bagpipe.

The show features nearly two  dozen songs, all English and all several hundred years old….

Virtually everyone in the show sings, and occasionally breaks into dance. Eisenstein points out in the program that “carole” originally referred to a dancing song, and what emerges from this series of “caroles” in The Second Shepherd’s Play is a joyful, somewhat reverent, and utterly gorgeous celebration of Christmas…


Demons, Sorrow, Charity: Medieval Religious Communities, Lay Brothers and Sisters, and Mental Illness

…During the Middle Ages mental illnesses were treated more like a community issue rather than one specific to an individual. The way society has dealt with mental illness has changed drastically. It was only half a century ago that lobotomies — now universally condemned by mental health experts — were considered a legitimate treatment for a variety of psychiatric conditions, from depression to schizophrenia….

Medieval monks surrounded sufferers with a circle of support from human hands and angelic voices. This entire approach showed basic differences between moderns and medievals in their views of both illness and society…

Black Death burial pit found by archaeologists at English 14th-century abbey

An "extremely rare" mass grave containing 48 victims of the Black Death has been found at the site of a 14th-century monastery hospital in northeast England, archaeologists said Wednesday.

The grim discovery by the University of Sheffield at Thornton Abbey in Lincolnshire included the skeletons of 27 children, as well as men and women.

The bones were carbon-dated to the mid-1300s when the Black Death -- one of the most deadly pandemics in human history -- is estimated to have wiped out up to 60 percent of Europe's population.

DNA tests revealed the presence of Yersinia pestis, the bacterium responsible for the disease, previously only identified at two 14th-century cemeteries in London set up to bury large numbers of urban dead, the university said.

"Despite the fact it is now estimated that up to half the population of England perished during the Black Death, multiple graves associated with the event are extremely rare in this country," said Hugh Willmott from the University of Sheffield’s archaeology department.

Archaeologists say the scale of the find suggests the community was overwhelmed by the disease and unable to cope with the number of people who died.

"Local communities continued to dispose of their loved ones in as ordinary a way as possible," explained Willmott….

The coldest decade of the millennium? How the cold 1430s led to famine and disease

While searching through historical archives to find out more about the 15th-century climate of what is now Belgium, northern France, Luxembourg, and the Netherlands, Chantal Camenisch noticed something odd. "I realised that there was something extraordinary going on regarding the climate during the 1430s," says the historian from the University of Bern in Switzerland.

Compared with other decades of the last millennium, many of the 1430s' winters and some springs were extremely cold in the Low Countries, as well as in other parts of Europe. In the winter of 1432-33, people in Scotland had to use fire to melt wine in bottles before drinking it. In central Europe, many rivers and lakes froze over. In the usually mild regions of southern France, northern and central Italy, some winters lasted until April, often with late frosts. This affected food production and food prices in many parts of Europe. "For the people, it meant that they were suffering from hunger, they were sick and many of them died," says Camenisch.

She joined forces with Kathrin Keller, a climate modeller at the Oeschger Centre for Climate Change Research in Bern, and other researchers, to find out more about the 1430s climate and how it impacted societies in northwestern and central Europe. Their results are published today in Climate of the Past, a journal of the European Geosciences Union.

They looked into climate archives, data such as tree rings, ice cores, lake sediments and historical documents, to reconstruct the climate of the time.

"The reconstructions show that the climatic conditions during the 1430s were very special. With its very cold winters and normal to warm summers, this decade is a one of a kind in the 400 years of data we were investigating, from 1300 to 1700 CE," says Keller. "What cannot be answered by the reconstructions alone, however, is its origin - was the anomalous climate forced by external influences, such as volcanism or changes in solar activity, or was it simply the random result of natural variability inherent to the climate system?"

There have been other cold periods in Europe's history. In 1815, the volcano Mount Tambora spewed large quantities of ash and particles into the atmosphere, blocking enough sunlight to significantly reduce temperatures in Europe and other parts of the world. But the 1430s were different, not only in what caused the cooling but also because they hadn't been studied in detail until now.

The climate simulations ran by Keller and her team showed that, while there were some volcanic eruptions and changes in solar activity around that time, these could not explain the climate pattern of the 1430s. The climate models showed instead that these conditions were due to natural variations in the climate system, a combination of natural factors that occurred by chance and meant Europe had very cold winters and normal to warm summers.

Regardless of the underlying causes of the odd climate, the 1430s were "a cruel period" for those who lived through those years, says Camenisch. "Due to this cluster of extremely cold winters with low temperatures lasting until April and May, the growing grain was damaged, as well as the vineyards and other agricultural production. Therefore, there were considerable harvest failures in many places in northwestern and central Europe. These harvest failures led to rising food prices and consequently subsistence crisis and famine. Furthermore, epidemic diseases raged in many places. Famine and epidemics led to an increase of the mortality rate."

In the paper, the authors also mention other impacts: "In the context of the crisis, minorities were blamed for harsh climatic conditions, rising food prices, famine and plague." However, in some cities, such as Basel, Strasbourg, Cologne or London, societies adapted more constructively to the crisis by building communal granaries that made them more resilient to future food shortages.

A Look Into Medieval Convent Life

British archaeologists excavating a church site in Oxford have brought to light the darker side of medieval convent life, revealing skeletons of nuns who died in disgrace after being accused of immoral behavior.

Discovered ahead of the construction of a new hotel, the burial ground stretches around what used to be Littlemore Priory, a nunnery founded in 1110 and dissolved in 1525…

The woman may have been one of the sinner nuns Cardinal Wolsey accused of immoral behavior when he closed down the nunnery.

Indeed, the last prioress, Katherine Wells (1507 and 1518) was deposed of the position as punishment for a number of misdeeds, such as giving birth to an illegitimate child fathered by a priest from Kent, and stealing things belonging to the monastery — pots, pens and candlesticks, etc. — to provide a dowry for her daughter.

According to accounts taken after bishop Atwater’s visitation in 1517 an 1518, another nun had an illegitimate child by a married man of Oxford.

Life at the nunnery could be severe, records show, with the prioress often putting the nuns into the stocks and beating them “with fists and feet.”

When in 1518, the bishop visited the nunnery again, the prioress complained that one of the nuns “played and romped” with boys in the cloister and refused to be corrected.

The story goes that when the nun was put in the stocks she was rescued by three other nuns who broke down the door, burnt the stocks and broke a window to escape to friends where they remained for two or three weeks.

Wells appears to have regained her position later in 1518 as no other prioresses are recorded after this date. It is likely she remained at the priory for a further seven years until its dissolution in 1525.

According to Murray, the bishop reports are certainly tainted to at least some degree and were used to justify Cardinal Wolsey’s desire to dissolve the nunnery and use its revenues to fund Cardinal’s College, now Christ Church, traditionally considered one of Oxford’s most aristocratic colleges.

“The complaints made about the nuns when they ‘played and romped’ with boys in the cloister and their refusal to be corrected, perhaps reveals something about the nuns caring nature and an element of free spirit,” he added.

Evidence for the caring, nursing element of the priory is also provided by the remains of the children with debilitating illnesses and the leprosy sufferer.

“They were not just nuns, but business women, educators, care givers and mothers. They coped as best they could with the trials of daily life, although one could imagine they found time to enjoy it too,” Murray said….

Complete, fascinating article, with pictures and links:

A History Buff's Guide to Medieval London

Though the start of the Middle Ages in Europe is generally considered to coincide with the fall of Rome around 500 AD, in many ways the medieval era in London truly began some time later: on Christmas Day in 1066, to be precise. On that famous day the Duke of Normandy, aka William the Conquerer, defeated the Anglo-Saxon king in the Norman invasion and was crowned king of a newly unified England. William I’s coronation at Westminster Abbey—at the time, shiny and new—marked the beginning of a new period in the City of London. In the years that followed some of the city’s most iconic medieval landmarks were built, among them the Tower of London, the most famous incarnation of London Bridge, and Westminster Palace, which became the center of the feudal system of government…Here are eight hidden places are must-see stops on a history lover’s tour of medieval London…

Pictures and fascinating text:

Stunning medieval ring found in a Derbyshire field

The ring, dating back to about the year 1250, was discovered in a field in Belper, Derbyshire

The ring was made in medieval  England, 100 years before the Black Death.

The ring is a stirrup-shaped, a classic feature of the period, and made of solid gold. Right on top it features an expensive, bright blue cabochon sapphire. A sapphire signified the height of celestial hope and faith, and was believed to bring protection, good fortune and spiritual insight. 'It was a symbol of power and strength, but also of kindness and wise judgment.

The style of ring was popular amongst Bishops and wealthier members of the clergy, the blue sapphire being associated with the Virgin Mary and suggesting that those of faith may attain celestial bliss.

It does also reveal how powerful the Church was during this period, as to possess such an item would have been a sign of significant wealth of success….

Medieval women can teach us how to smash gender rules and the glass ceiling

…By the Middle Ages, this idea of female bodily inferiority became material as well as spiritual as medical texts on the topic proliferated. Women’s bodies were considered inferior and more prone to disease…

So women, who were socially constrained by their female bodies and living in a man’s world, had to enact radical ways to modify their gender and even their very physiology. To gain authority, women had to be chaste, and to behave like men by adopting “masculine” characteristics. Such modifications might appear to compromise feminist, or proto-feminist, ambitions, but they were in fact sophisticated strategies to undermine or subvert the status quo…

Medieval women who desired a voice in religious circles (the Church was, of course, the unelected power of the day) shed their femininity by adapting their bodies, the way that they used them, and therefore the way in which they were “read” by others. Through protecting their virginity, fasting, mortifying their flesh, perhaps reading, writing, or becoming physically enclosed in a monastery or anchorhold, they reoriented the way in which they were identified.

Joan of Arc (1412-1431) famously led an army to victory in the Hundred Years War dressed as a soldier, in a time when women were not supposed to fight.

Catherine of Siena (1347-1380), defying social codes of female beauty, shaved her hair in defiance of her parents’ wish to have her married. She later had a powerful mystical experience whereby she received the heart of Christ in place of her own; a visceral transformation which radically altered her body and identity.

And St Agatha (231-251), whose story was widely circulated in the Middle Ages, refused to give in to sexual pressure and was tortured, finally suffering the severing of her breasts. She has since been depicted as offering her breasts on a plate to Christ and the world. Agatha subverted her torturers’ aim, exploited her “de-feminised” self and instead offered her breasts as symbols of power and triumph…

These flexible gender systems show how medieval people were perhaps more sophisticated in their conceptualisation of identity that we are today, when challenges to binary notions of gender are only now becoming widely discussed. Medieval codes of chastity might not be to most 21st-century tastes, but these powerful women-in-history took control of their own identification: found loopholes in the rules, found authority in their own self-fashioning….

Complete article and illustrations:

Renaissance Fashions

...The new permanent exhibition in the Residenzschloss from April 2017 will be focused on “The Electoral Wardrobe.” Original costumes held in the Rüstkammer that were worn by the electors of Saxony in the period from about 1550 to 1650 illustrate the luxurious princely fashions of the Renaissance and early Baroque, such as are otherwise seen only on portraits of the great rulers of that era.

In four rooms, a fascinatingly splendid show of luxurious fabrics, embroidery, lace, and passementerie in gold, silver, and silk will be a feast for the eyes. The entire collection consists of 27 costumes belonging to the former rulers – 6 complete costume ensembles, 11 sets of matching doublet and breeches, 4 ladies’ dresses, and 6 individual outer garments. These items of clothing are unrivaled among international museums....

Medieval books

Christie’s International Books & Manuscripts Department presents a group of exceptional sales this winter, bringing to auction the best of the world’s printed books, medieval manuscripts...

The most impressive lot of our Valuable Books & Manuscripts sale on 1 December is an imposing ‘giant bible’, a luxurious and oversized illuminated manuscript produced as a showpiece for a private patron in France in the 14th century. The sale also features a remarkable collection of early printed books in their original bindings, giving a unique insight into the physical environment of a richly-endowed late medieval library....

Script and Illumination: Leaves from Medieval and Renaissance Manuscripts will showcase the best of European manuscript production, with a particular focus on Italian illumination....


Medieval Times

…Medieval Times dinner and tournament is an entertainment experience that combines a meal and jousting competition between knights..

Kings, queens, members of the royal court, regal horses, servers in period costumes and other personnel are all part of the action at the interactive tourist attraction…

As guests arrive at the castle for an evening of fun, they are given different colored crowns which correspond to the knight they're asked to cheer on in the jousting competition.

Everyone gathers in The Great Hall before their "colors" are called to enter the arena. Once the audience members are seated in their designated sections, preparations for dinner begin. While guests dine, the show starts and the knights are introduced. Later, throughout the entertaining/sporting production, the knights demonstrate skills of strength and horsemanship while audience members cheer on enthusiastically.

Guests who like interactive theater experiences will feel right at home in this dramatic arena. Not only are guests interacting with and cheering on their knights, they are also conversing with and interacting with their servers. Waiters and waitresses play a big part in this excitement.

As they deliver the meal to the table, they may offer "Medieval-like" descriptions of the food, explaining potatoes are "dragon eggs" and tomato soup is "dragon blood." It's definitely a Medieval way of eating as guests aren't offered utensils and must consume food with their hands. It's all part of the whimsy in the castle.

The meal stars seasoned chicken, a roasted potato, soup, bread, corn on the cob and dessert.

Medieval Times are located in Buena Park, California; Dallas; Baltimore; Orlando; Atlanta; New Jersey; Myrtle Beach;  Toronto and Chicago….