Friday, September 16, 2016

Renaissance Newsletter #11

Renaissance Pleasure Faire

The original Renaissance Pleasure Faire began in 1963 as an educational event for families and schoolchildren in the Hollywood Hills. It has since become a phenomenon that draws more than 200,000 people every year with a host of entertainment, contests, food and other attractions.

Running until May 22, the faire will feature artisans and vendors selling crafted goods such as handmade brooms, decorative eggs and all manner of Renaissance-era accessories. There’ll also be games and activities such as archery, hair braiding, petting zoos and darts. On Saturday and Sunday, April 30 and May 1, come dressed in your favorite time travel costume for Steampunk Weekend.

The fair is open from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. daily at the Santa Fe Dam Recreation Area, 15501 Arrow Highway, east of Pasadena. One-day tickets cost $15 per child and $28.95 per adult. Children 4 and younger enter free.

Iron Gate Swordfighting Club:  Historical European swordsmanship and Medieval martial arts enthusiasts

….Tracy Mellow is the historian and leading swordsman of the Iron Gate Swordfighting Club of Visalia, a group of historical European swordsmanship and Medieval martial arts enthusiasts…

"We're really popular because our style of fighting is much different than what you generally see at Renaissance faires because we use the actual techniques that they used back in those days," he said.

Let's face it. If we wanted an authentic medieval experience at a Renaissance Fair, our chance at feasting on a fat turkey leg would likely be tarnished by the presence of a rat, or maybe a public hanging.

It might sound rather unappetizing, but for members of Iron Gate, they eat it up.

"We are a modern European martial arts group that studies the Armizare, which is a style of Italian martial arts," Mellow said.

Armizare is translated literally as "The Art of Arms" and is the name that warriors in medieval Italy gave to their practice of wielding not only swords, but axes, spears, knifes, and using their strength for wrestling and mounted combat.

"It's all based on geometry and time, like music," he said. "A lot of people don't realize it's an actual form of martial arts and when they do they are totally enthralled with it."

The art was originally penned by Fiore dei Liberi, master of arms to the court of Niccolo d'Este, more than 600 years ago.

"When I started seeing these early manuscripts I started understanding how the swords were really used," Mellow said. "It hit me like a ton of bricks. I dedicated my life at that moment to figure out how swords are really used and to spreading that knowledge."

More on Knights of New Jersey

Set in the world of Renaissance Faire actors and Game of Thrones cosplay fans, Michael Hadley’s Knights of New Jersey is like a medieval Christopher Guest film — one that has discovered an incredible playground for its characters which is hilarious on many levels.  Webisodes in the series range from 4 to 9 minutes in length and are somewhat reminiscent of the cinema serial films of old; think of like Buck Rogers in the 25th Century set in medieval times.

The series is centered around a friendship between Sir Robert (Kurt Smith) and Squire Tom (Benny Elledge) as they battle on the “field of glory.”  The two encounter a group of Game of Thrones fans who arrive at the Faire in full cosplay regalia.  Squire Tom has no patience with fans of fantasy because they lack the integrity of true historical interpreters, but Sir Robert falls for the beautiful Mother of Dragons (Mackenzie Lansing) adding a wrinkle to the story.  And the two are likely one or two battles away from being kicked out of the faire due to their lack of success.  Executioners, wizards, lords, and more who become regular characters appear in the first three webisodes….

Listen to a Song That Hasn't Been Heard For a Thousand Years

An ancient song repertory lost since the 11th century has been reconstructed by researchers from the University of Cambridge.

It’s called “Songs of Consolation”, and it was a medieval musical retelling of Roman philosopher Boethius’s magnum opus, The Consolation of Philosophy. Back then it was common practice to take classic works, such as those written by Horace and Virgil, and assign a melody to the texts. This was done to learn and ritualise the texts, which often consisted of love songs and laments.

You can listen to a short excerpt of the recovered work in this video:

. The entire thing is well over an hour. The performance is quite dreamy and whimsical, almost like something by the Moody Blues. The Latin lyrics place the work firmly in the Middle Ages, evoking images of monks chanting in their medieval cathedrals.

Reconstructing “Consolation” wasn’t easy, and it took many years of hard work. It was put together from neumes — symbols that represented musical notation back in the Middle Ages, and a precursor to modern notation. The reconstruction was made possible owing to the re-discovery of an 11th century manuscript that was stolen from Cambridge University and presumed lost for nearly a century and a half.

Musicologist Sam Barrett from Cambridge University ….managed to piece together about 80 to 90 per cent of the melody. He then recruited Sequentia — a three-piece ensemble that specialises in medieval music — so that he could hear what the songs actually sounded like, and to refine his initial reconstructive work…

On Saturday, April 23, Sequentia will be performing “Songs of Consolation” at Pembroke College Chapel at Cambridge University, from 8pm-9:30pm. It will be the first live performance of the piece in nearly a thousand years.

Imaginings Medieval Creations

Founder of Imaginings Creative Enterprises, LLC, Lisa Wells, has announced the re-launch of her website venture,, previously The website offers a wide selection of period clothing and props for live action role players who like to re-enact the medieval and renaissance eras. For more information, visit the website's blog at

Wells was inspired to start her website by her own experience as a member of the Society for Creative Anachronism. She regularly participated in renaissance faires, dressing up in period clothing that she made herself. She built her website with the intention of providing a place where members could find the best quality products for their next epic battle or quest.

There are many excellent period clothing choices and props featured within the merchandise of The website offers products including medieval weapons and armor, renaissance and medieval era clothing, and much more. The website offers high quality weapons and armor that are used by individuals who want to be involved in good old fashioned melees. The weapons and armor offer superior style and safety. Ms. Wells continues to look for the highest quality items to ensure that live action role players are able to find exactly what they are looking for.

Providing a website that is committed to quality customer service is very important to Wells regarding Wells has a lot of experience with these different products and with the medieval and renaissance faires, especially. She can relate to both the diehard role players and those who dabble occasionally. With her experience, she hopes to provide quality products and valuable information about the products to each of her customers. She operates the website with respect and a unique understanding toward the needs of her customers.

To complement the main website, Wells has a blog located at

The blog covers topics related to role playing in the medieval and renaissance eras. She writes about the history of the era, upcoming event news on faires across the country, new products to be offered on her website, and tips and trends.

 Jewish Communities in the Italian Renaissance and Current Economic Performance

A new study asks

·       Are differences in local banking development long lasting?

·       Do they affect economic performance?

The study answers these questions by relying on a historical development that occurred in Italian cities during the Renaissance. A change in Catholic doctrine led to the development of modern banks in cities hosting Jewish communities.

 Using Jewish demography in 1500 as an instrument, the study provides evidence of extraordinary persistence in the level of banking development across Italian cities and substantial effects of local banks on per capita income. Additional firm-level analyses suggest that banks exert large effects on aggregate productivity by reallocating resources toward more efficient firms.

Early Music of Spain

The University of Oklahoma School of Music presents "Early Music of Spain," performed by the OU Collegium Musicum .

“Spain produced some amazing music in the Middle Ages and Renaissance,” Eugene Enrico, OU Reaugh Professor of Musicology and conductor of the concert, said. “And in this concert you’ll hear some of the very best.”

The concert features songs with distinctive Spanish rhythms, accompanied by guitar, lute and castanets in a Flamenco style, along with an inspiring High Renaissance motet by Victoria. Consort of recorders, violins, sackbuts, lutes and harpsichord will accompany a select group of eight singers.

“Our concert begins with a set of songs composed by Alfonso the Wise, King of Spain in the 13th century, from a songbook known as the Cantigas de Santa Maria. Our second set presents Musical Reflections on 1492, the year of Columbus’ historical voyage, but also the year that Spain expelled both its Jews and its Muslims,” Enrico said. “These events of 1492 inspired the music that we’ll perform.” 

Italian madrigals from the Renaissance

Four hundred years after Renaissance music’s fall from favor, Emiliano Ricciardi is on a mission to save it from extinction.

Ricciardi  organized an Italian Madrigal Festival at the University of Massachusetts Amherst, where he is an assistant professor of music history.

Italian madrigals are a 16th-century genre comprising Italian texts set to short musical compositions. The pieces are scored for multiple voices, but each vocal part is sung by only one performer.

Ricciardi, who specializes in Italian madrigal history and teaches a course on Renaissance music, says he organized the festival to bring scholars and performers together with the local music scene.

“It’s a nice opportunity for us to convene and share our research,” he said. “Here in the Pioneer Valley, we also have a very strong early music community, so we have lots of performers that specialize in the music of the Renaissance’…

Italian madrigals emphasize an important point in music history when vocal music emerged as a prominent form, says Robin Bier, one of the performers in the festival….

“Italian madrigals represent some of the highest art in Renaissance litany, the culmination of creativity and beauty and inventiveness for vocal ensembles,” said Bier, an early-music scholar and a co-director of Les Canards Chantants. The eight-person, solo-voice ensemble was founded in 2010 at the University of York in England, and moved to Philadelphia last year…

Bier says Les Canards Chantants embraces the social, personal nature of madrigals to engage the audience in the music.

“It’s work that people can relate to and the music is both incredibly beautiful and accessible.” Bier said. “There’s really, really high emotion and I think that comes across to the audience even if they know nothing about the repertoire.”

The group often adds staging to its madrigals performances to help the audience get into the character of the song.

Its repertoire for the festival will include works by Agostino Agresta, Adriano Banchieri, Sigismondo D’India, Andrea Gabrieli, Carlo Gesualdo, Luca Marenzio, Claudio Monteverdi, Giovanni Valentini and Adrian Willaert.

Bier says the members love this particular collection because it is so varied in emotion.

“There’s just an incredible amount of color. There’s intense tragedy ... intense love and passion. There are really funny moments,” she said.

While they try to make performances fun and engaging, Bier says, they also want to show audiences that this music is more than just pretty songs.

“When that music is sung incredibly well, by really, really good singers, it elevates itself simply from a great social experience to really high art,” she said…

A lost Caravaggio masterpiece?

In 2014, a couple living on the outskirts of Toulouse, France, went up into their attic to fix a ceiling leak. By chance, they stumbled across a painting. The artwork depicts the dramatically violent act of Judith beheading Holofernes. Attributed to the Italian Renaissance art master Michelangelo Merisi da Caravaggio, if authentic, it would date back to between 1600 and 1610.

However,  the question of authenticity isn’t always so easy to answer, and not everyone is convinced the painting now known as the “Caravaggio in the attic” is an actual Caravaggio masterpiece…

The question now: Exactly how can investigators determine if this allegedly lost work of art is real when actual art experts aren’t so sure?

Scientists would use the kinds of testing tools and methods that could positively date the artwork based on a combination of factors, such as “pigments, the type of canvas, and its preparation.” They could also more carefully examine the technique used with the artwork and compare it to confirmed Caravaggio originals to establish if there’s an indisputable similarity. Once that happens, art historians and critics will likely be able to declare one way or another with absolute certainty if this is a lost masterpiece by the Milan-born Renaissance painter.

If the painting be declared a lost Caravaggio… would be a huge pay-day for the owners of the artwork should they sell the masterpiece. According to expert estimates, the masterpiece could be worth about $135 million…

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