A Celtic Summertide: Thank You!

Thank You to everyone who came out to experience “A Celtic Summertide” with us at the Oliver Art Center in Frankfort! It was a lovely evening of music and art made all the lovelier by the warmth of your company.
Ellie Harold, artist
The gallery became filled to capacity before the concert began and so many audience members were asked to sit in hallways or stand where possible. Unfortunately many others had to be turned away due to legal limits for capacity at the venue.
Oliver Art Center
A Celtic Summertide by Manitou Winds
We apologize for any disappointment and inconvenience this may have caused any of our friends. As part of our planning for the next summer concert in Frankfort, we are working to secure a larger venue in the hope that you will all join us again for another wonderful evening.

The concert program was a journey across the Celtic realm with music from the Shetland Islands, Scotland, Ireland, and Nova Scotia in many different combinations of instruments.
A Celtic Summertide
We were honored to be joined by Emily Curtin Culler, soprano, who premiered a brand new collection of traditional Irish folk songs set for soprano and wind quintet.
Emily Curtin Culler, soprano
Ellie Harold, artist
In addition to the musical journey, we were delighted to be joined by Frankfort artist, Ellie Harold, who dazzled our audience by bringing a brand new painting to life over the course of the program.

Jason in Studio AJust a few days before the performance, our founder, Jason McKinney, was invited to perform in Studio A at Interlochen Public Radio and share a bit about the program and talk about working with the music of Turlough O’Carolan. You can listen to the full interview here and watch Jason performing a harp solo in Studio A on the IPR Facebook Page.

Thank you to our entire Northern Michigan community for helping to make our performance a success. We are especially grateful to all those who gave donations toward our upcoming recording project.

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A Celtic Summertide: The Old Ash Tree

This summer we’ll celebrate the rich tradition of music across the Celtic realm with tunes from Scotland, Ireland, and Nova Scotia.

One of the brand new works we’ll premiere is an original composition by Jason McKinney written to honor his grandfather.

IMG_6442One of my fondest memories of moving to our home in northern Michigan was waking up on the morning after the move, looking out the window, and seeing the old ash tree at the edge of the front lawn. It was majestic and stately, easily setting itself apart from the scraggly ironwoods around it.

As seasons rolled by, I saw the tree in many different lights and characters, in sunlight and moonlight. It became a prominent feature in my mental map of our property. And so, when it became apparent the tree was suffering a slow death by infestation, my heart sank. We were powerless, unable to save the tree and its sisters.

The ash tree plays a significant role in Celtic mythology. The ash tree was often seen as the central column of the Tree of Life. Sometimes referred to as the World Tree, the ash was believed to be a bridge between worlds — like a cosmic axis running from Annwn (the lower world), Abred (this world), Gwynvid (the upper world), and disappearing finally into Ceugant (eternity).

When the arborists came in May 2017 to remove the ash trees, I tried to carry on with my office work. I tried ignoring the chainsaws and chippers roaring mere feet away, but it was impossible to deny the irreversible and permanent changes taking place outside. I was gradually overcome with a heavy, inexpressible sadness. Hearing a bittersweet tune in my head, I sat at my piano and wrote it down. With an uncharacteristic finality, I wrote “The Old Ash Tree” at the top.

The Old Ash Tree 1

Knowing the ash tree’s importance in Celtic symbolism and lore, I felt it was appropriate to orchestrate this tune for our Celtic concert. But while exploring the tune further — turning it over and over, adding layers, expanding themes — something unexpected happened. The metaphor behind the tune expanded beyond the ash tree to encompass my own family tree.

My paternal grandfather (Paw Paw Bryant) was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s Disease around 1997 when he was in his early sixties. Bryant McKinney Sr.The news was hard to bear, and — having witnessed the disease overtake many of his siblings — there was not a lot of hope for the future.

Paw Paw was a constant presence in my childhood — a bottomless source of encouragement, discipline, and inspiration, always making time to indulge our curiosities. He was gentle yet persistent in doling out wisdom. He was nearly always right, but rather than tell you so repeatedly, he would usually set out to prove it or suffer impressive injury in the attempt.

Always a fan of spinning tales from his childhood, he fostered in me a love of storytelling. He seldom scolded me even when it was apparent I might be exaggerating details to make my story more compelling.

One of my most vivid memories of Paw Paw is when he told me he often climbed persimmon trees to pick fruit for his mother and sisters. I was skeptical, but before I could complete my sentence, he had shinnied up the trunk of the old persimmon tree, and was readying to chuck the fruit down to me. The best fruits, he said, are in the tops of the trees, and Paw Paw was always right.

He instilled in me and my brothers a work ethic that’s unrelenting, fascinated with seeing a job through. Though he may have sometimes been the very reason we were in danger, he was also the reason we were perfectly safe and had no reason to be afraid. To my mind, he’s never aged a single year, but reality tells a different tale.

Jason with his father & grandfather Jason with his father & grandfather

It’s been 20 years since his diagnosis. While it’s nothing short of a miracle that he’s still with us, watching his slow descent into the barrenness of the disease has been The Old Ash Tree 3painful. On visits, I’ve witnessed his mind oscillate unpredictably between the present and the past. I’ve seen genuine fear in his eyes as he describes losing himself, getting lost in the woods — a place he’s known like the back of his hand. He can no longer venture out on his own.

The Old Ash Tree is dedicated to my grandfather, Bryant McKinney. In it, I hope to capture his strength, the beauty of the humble life he’s led, and his role as a central axis in my family, the main branch in our tree of life. I also wanted to portray his bravery and stubbornness, his constant fight against a disease that steals his mind inch by inch, day by day.

I’ve woven a central tune throughout the piece, similar to a rondo form. Each time it returns, it reminds me that Alzheimer’s may silence our loved ones, but it doesn’t erase them. Paw Paw hears us, but he can’t always let us know that he understands; he remembers and loves us, but he can’t always express it.

The Old Ash Tree 2Writing the piece was difficult for me because it meant confronting my grief and sharing it at the same time. Deciding on an ending was probably the most challenging moment. Our lives don’t end with neat and tidy cadences, and I didn’t think it was fitting for this piece to do that either. Instead, the central tune slowly retreats, weightlessly drifting off into the light.

When I visit the stump of the old ash tree, I still sense the space that immense tree occupied. Its roots remain, still holding the earth in place. The rings of its life, now on display, are weathered the color of stone. When a breeze stirs the slowly encroaching understory, I look up to see the opening it left behind in the canopy. Sun streams down, warming the forest floor. New saplings are slowly emerging.

The Old Ash Tree 4

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Don’t miss

A CELTIC SUMMERTIDE

______________________________________

Friday, August 17th, at 7:00pm

Oliver Art Center
132 Coast Guard Road
Frankfort

____________

Admission is free.
Freewill donations will benefit Manitou Winds’ debut recording!

A Celtic Summertide: O’Carolan Reimagined

This summer we’ll celebrate the rich tradition of music across the Celtic realm with tunes from Scotland, Ireland, and Nova Scotia.

One of the brand new works we’ll premiere borrows four tunes from Ireland’s most famous composer, Turlough O’Carolan. Jason McKinney re-imagined the tunes, setting them for flute, clarinet, horn, bassoon, and lever harp to create O’Carolan’s Symphony.

When I began studying lever harp in 2010, one O'Carolanof the volumes of harp music I purchased was a collection of tunes by O’Carolan*. Exploring the tunes while also teaching myself to play the harp, I eventually read more and more about the composer, developing a growing curiosity about the particular tunes I kept coming back to.

Turlough O’Carolan (1670-1738) was born somewhere in County Meath (most likely Nobber [Irish: an Obair]) during a time of unrest in Ireland. Throughout his lifetime, an ongoing struggle for power and dominance raged constantly between Britain and Ireland, Protestants versus Catholics. The country was torn apart by oppressive, unfair laws which impoverished and disenfranchised many natives. While O’Carolan’s career as a traveling composer, musician, and poet brought him into the homes of families on both sides of these conflicts, history shows he managed to have broad appeal without ever betraying his loyalties to Ireland and Catholicism.

There is scant information known of his life and career as little was documented. What we do know of his biography is largely comprised of pieced together anecdotal accounts. As a child, O’Carolan was educated thanks to the generosity of the wife of his father’s employer (Mrs. MacDermott Roe). Roughly around age eighteen, O’Carolan caught smallpox which blinded him completely. In an effort to save his future, Mrs. MacDermott Roe sent O’Carolan to a harpist where he trained for three years to become proficient.

What follows is an interesting scene. Upon completing his musical studies, Mrs. MacDemott Roe presented the 21-year-old O’Carolan with a sum of money, two horses, and a sighted guide to be his Meathcompanion. From there, he was on his own and this was to be his only option: a career as an itinerant harpist.

In a story that might have easily have ended in tragedy, O’Carolan went on to become one of Ireland’s most famous and prolific composers. Relying solely on the generosity of his patrons, for nearly 50 years he roamed the Irish countryside from Dublin to Galway and all points north composing songs and entertaining the rich and powerful. By the end of his life, he’d amassed a reputation which always preceded his arrival. He was received not as a traveling minstrel but as a welcomed friend. Weddings and funerals were often postponed until he arrived!

Most of O’Carolan’s compositions were kept alive by harpists, fiddlers, and flutists who taught them by rote to their students. Though there are extant books published during his lifetime which contain one or two O’Carolan tunes, volumes of his collected works did not begin appearing until the late 18th century. At last count, there are 214 Athenry Castleverified tunes attributed to him with several dozen others of dubious origin.

Because of the long path each of his compositions traces through history and retelling, we know very little about them other than possibly which patron they were written for and the homes or castles in which they likely premiered. In some instances, lyrics written by O’Carolan have been unearthed and matched with specific tunes, but in the absence of musical notation it’s uncertain how these songs would have been sung or accompanied. Unfortunately, O’Carolan’s works are preserved only as single melodic lines. How any of the tunes would have been harmonized by O’Carolan is literally anyone’s guess!

When I began compiling repertoire for Manitou Winds’ “A Celtic Summertide”, including tunes by O’Carolan was an instinctual decision and provided an excuse to learn more about his life and work. Seeing the bare melodies as an adventurous challenge, I selected four of my favorites, compiling them into a suite I entitled O’Carolan’s Symphony for flute, clarinet, horn, bassoon, and lever harp.

Movement I: George Brabazon (first air)
Movement II: Lady Athenry
Movement III: Planxty Burke
Movement IV: Mrs. Power (or Carolan’s Concerto)

Click each tune name to read a brief history and see the original melodic line.
courtesy of IrishPage.com

O'Carolan in Concert

While performing in those stately homes in Ireland, O’Carolan chanced to hear the music of Corelli and Vivaldi performed by visiting musicians. Biographers say he was intrigued by their art and absorbed as much of their sophisticated style and form as he could with his limited musical education and his musically-limiting instrument. In O’Carolan’s time, a harp could only be tuned in one key and could not play any accidentals.

Rather than attempt to recreate what O’Carolan himself might have done with these tunes (which would have amounted largely to guesswork), I chose to compose O’Carolan’s Symphony in a style I felt Jason's Harpwould indulge O’Carolan’s own musical curiosity while giving a nod to the colorful anecdotes peppering the many written accounts of his life. To further aid the storytelling aspect of the work, I chose to imagine the varied personalities and daily lives of the people for whom O’Carolan named these tunes.

While maintaining respect for the form and melody inherent in each tune, I incorporated modern harmonies, added countermelodies and varied textures, changed a few rhythms… ultimately scoring the entire work for instruments that either didn’t exist in O’Carolan’s day or have evolved to a great extent. I hope the work is a fitting homage to the inspiring if not somewhat legendary life story of Ireland’s last great bard.

We hope you’ll join us for the premiere!

___________________________________________________________

Don’t miss

A CELTIC SUMMERTIDE

______________________________________

Friday, August 17th, at 7:00pm

Oliver Art Center
132 Coast Guard Road
Frankfort

____________

Admission is free.
Freewill donations will benefit Manitou Winds’ debut recording!

*There is some debate among scholars as to whether Turlough O’Carolan (Irish: Toirdhealbhach Ó Cearbhalláin) should be referred to as “O’Carolan” or simply as “Carolan”. Though historic record confirms the composer referred to himself as “Carolan,” as did his closest friends (completely ignoring his first name), the “O'” prefix is universally included in modern usage when formally referring to someone whose surname is preceded by it. My personal preference is to include the prefix out of respect to the composer.

For further reading about the life and music of Turlough O’ Carolan:
O’Sullivan, Donal. Carolan: The Life, Times and Music of an Irish Harper. Cork, Ireland: Ossian Publications, 2001 [1958]
.

Rowsome, Catríona. The Complete Carolan Songs & Airs. Dublin, Ireland: Waltons Publishing, 2011.

A Celtic Summertide: A Story that Lingers, a Tune that Wanders

This summer we’ll celebrate the rich tradition of music across the Celtic realm with tunes from Scotland, Ireland, and Nova Scotia.

Collaborating artist Emily Curtin Culler, soprano, will premiere a new collection of Irish songs and join us in other traditional works specially arranged for this concert.

Picture the scene: The year, 1880-ish. Ballysadare (Irish: Baile Easa Dara) – a tranquil bayside village in County Sligo. The poet William Butler Yeats, who had spent many summers here as a child, returns for another sojourn. In his wanderings about the village, he comes upon an elderly Irish woman who seems to be troubled by a song she can’t remember. As she goes about the duties of her day, she sings the same lines over and over to herself, but can’t remember what comes next…

Ox Mountains, Baile Easa Dara

Down by yon flowery garden my love and I we first did meet.
I took her in my arms and to her I gave kisses sweet
She bade me take life easy just as the leaves fall from the tree.
But I being young and foolish, with my darling did not agree.

Yeats also found her song troubling, but perhaps for different reasons — he wanted to know the rest of the story! In the end, he constructed his own answer by writing a poem based on the few lines the woman could remember. His poem, An Old Song Re-Sung appeared in his 1889 volume “The Wanderings of Oisín and Other Poems”:

W.B. YeatsDown by the salley gardens my love and I did meet;
She passed the salley gardens with little snow-white feet.
She bid me take love easy, as the leaves grow on the tree;
But I, being young and foolish, with her would not agree.

In a field by the river my love and I did stand,
And on my leaning shoulder she laid her snow-white hand.
She bid me take life easy, as the grass grows on the weirs;
But I was young and foolish, and now am full of tears.

— “An Old Song Re-sung”
Down By the Salley Gardens
W.B. Yeats (1865-1939)

By the time it was published, Yeats had come to realize he’d written a poem about a fairly well-known song. As it turns out, the song the elderly woman was futilely trying to recall was Ye Rambling Boys of Pleasure, but she could only call to mind the second stanza. The similarity between Yeats’ first stanza and the lines of the second stanza of the original song were too close to ignore. To acknowledge his accidental plagiarism, Yeats published his poem under the title An Old Song Re-Sung. However, when it was republished in 1895 it became known as Down By the Salley Gardens, a title which has firmly stuck.

And, the rest is history… except that what really imprinted Yeats’ poem in our hearts was the tune which was eventually married to it in 1909. Sadly, this tune was torn from yet another song (The Mourlough Shore, aka The Maids of Mourne Shore or The Mourne Shore) which will ever be overshadowed by the poem that stole its tune!

The Mourne Shore

A story ripped from its song, turned into a poem, and then married to a tune borrowed from yet another song — what a tangled web! Aside from revealing the transient nature of tunes (which seem to Mourne Country Parkwander effortlessly from poem to poem until they find their true destiny), what might we glean from this fable of tunes and texts? Perhaps the moral is that — in spite of the tune originally given to the words which may have been intended — we cherish more the words we forgot sung to the tune that got away.

In arranging this beloved song for our program, I sought to bring out all the bittersweet feelings from the simple but timeless poetry which Yeats wrote in an effort to finish the story the old lady couldn’t remember. To accomplish this, I call upon the 34 strings of the Irish harp, the mellow breeze of the flute, and the beautiful voice of our special guest soloist, Emily Curtin Culler.

We hope you’ll join us for the premiere!

___________________________________________________________

Don’t miss

A CELTIC SUMMERTIDE

______________________________________

Friday, August 17th, at 7:00pm

Oliver Art Center
132 Coast Guard Road
Frankfort

____________

Admission is free.
Freewill donations will benefit Manitou Winds’ debut recording!

A Celtic Summertide: The Art of Collaboration

This summer we’ll celebrate the rich tradition of music across the Celtic realm with tunes from Scotland, Ireland, and Nova Scotia.

Collaborating artist Emily Curtin Culler, soprano, will premiere a new collection of Irish songs and join us in other traditional works specially arranged for this concert.

If you’ve attended a Manitou Winds concert, recently, you’ve no doubt experienced the wonderful voice of Emily Curtin Culler. Whether singing an aria from a Baroque cantata, a classic German lieder, or a traditional Irish lullaby, Emily’s voice has tremendous dynamic range and is tirelessly light on its feet. She is a consummate chamber musician who brings sensitivity and musicality to every performance.

Emily came to northern Michigan by way of Boston. A soprano Choral Scholar with Boston University’s Marsh Chapel Choir, she performed weekly services for audiences throughout New England and around the globe via WBUR.

She’s also an original core member of the Lorelei Ensemble. Emily CullerThe ensemble specializes in performing lesser-known early music while also collaborating with living composers to produce innovative programming. (Hear recordings of Emily performing with Lorelei HERE!)

An in-demand performer and avid interpreter of new music, Emily is also a non-profit and arts management professional. Presently, she is Leadership Annual Giving Manager at Interlochen Center for the Arts and Interlochen Public Radio.

Last fall, when I began creating repertoire for “A Celtic Summertide”, I knew the program’s central element would be juxtaposing our instruments (most of which are not Celtic folk instruments) with traditional Celtic tunes. Since many of the tunes are also beloved folk songs, I couldn’t resist including a few of these. For a new collection of Irish Gaelic songs, I knew Emily was our ideal collaborator!

Trí Amhráin as Éirinn (Three Irish Songs) is a suite of three traditional Irish songs in modern settings for soprano and wind quintet. The opening song, Thugamar Féin an Samhradh Linn (We Brought the Summer with Us), is a centuries-old tune sung to celebrate May Day (Bealtaine) and the beginning of summertime.

Bábog na Bealtaine, maighdean an tSamhraidh,
Suas gach cnoc is síos gach glean.
Cailíní maiseach go gealgháireach gléasta,
Thugamar féin an Samhradh linn.

Doll of the May, maiden of Summer,
Up every hill and down every glen,
Beautiful girls brightly dressed,
We brought the Summer with us.

Though sources claim the text and tune originated in early 15th-century Ulster in what is now primarily Northern Ireland, we can’t be certain. The precise age of the text and whether it was always married to this tune is also a matter of speculation as Ulster Summerother versions exist alongside completely different tunes.

The song was sung by young women and men performing as “Mummers” or beggars during the Bealtaine celebration. Roaming door to door singing, they would have offered garlands of hawthorn, holly, and flowers in exchange for food and other gifts. Their garlands were believed to ward off fairies (mischievous little people) and thus bring good fortune to the recipient when placed at the entrance of their home.

I was inspired by the summery images in the stanzas (“yellow summer from the sunset…”, “the cuckoo and the lark are singing with pleasure…”) which were particularly inspiring in the dead of a northern Michigan winter. I also fell in love with the tune — it’s lilting phrases, for me, painted a lovely landscape of rolling hills and flowery glades. I employed the vivid colors of the wind quintet to bring these landscapes to life while parading the soprano’s line through them, spreading summer tidings.

The second song, Seoithín Seo Hó (Hushaby), is a lullaby whose tune is believed to predate its text. The 20th-century song collector Eileen Costello noted in her 1919 anthology (Amhráin Mhuighe Seóla) that many believed the tune was sung by the Blessed Virgin to lull the Christ Child, and so it was traditionally sung without lyrics. Costello credits the text to a Rev. O’Kelly of Galway. In keeping with tradition, alternate stanzas of the Irish lullabies are often hummed rather than sung.

While at first glance the lyrics are sweet and sentimental, one stanza warns that children are at risk of being abducted by fairies (a common theme in the folklore). Apparently, the fairies steal a child’s soul, exchanging it with an old or sickly fairy (a “changeling”) who inhabits the child’s body and soon dies.

Ar mhullach an tí, tá síogaí geala
Faoi chaoin ré an earraigh ag imirt is spoirt.
Seo iad anair iad le glaoch ar mo leanbh
Le mian é tharraingt isteach san lios mór.

Atop the house, there are bright fairies
Playing sport under gentle rays of the spring moon.
Here they come to call out my child
Wanting to draw him into their mound.

Lullaby, Mother & Baby (Roseland)A number of Irish lullabies make mention of fairies as a way of coaxing children to close their eyes — it’s believed sleeping children can’t be lured away by wily fairies. Still, it’s hard to imagine easily falling asleep knowing your only protection is that your eyes are closed!

In my setting of the lullaby, rather than capitalizing on the sinister fairies lying in wait on the roof, I chose to focus on the love poured out by this mother as she shares an intimate moment with what I imagine is her first child.

Seoithín seo hó, mo stórín, mo leanbh.
Mo sheoid gan cealg, mo chuid den tsaol mhór.
Seoithín seo hó, is mór é an taithneamh,
Mo stórín ina leaba, a chodladh gan brón.

Hushaby, my treasure, my baby.
My jewel without deceit, my share of the big world.
Hushaby, it is the greatest sight,
My treasure in his bed, asleep without care.

Unlike most lullabies, the chorus of this tune has a “soaring” quality, naturally drawing out a crescendo (the opposite of what you’d want when lulling someone to sleep!). Rather than working against this natural tendency, I set the music so that the mother becomes so caught up in her joy she accidentally wakes the baby and then coaxes him back to sleep.

The third and closing tune, Beidh Aonach Amárach (There Will Be a Fair Tomorrow), is a “dandling” song. Rather than telling a story, dandling songs are meant to be Doolin County Claresimply entertaining to sing due to the sound or rhythm of the lyrics. These are often used to amuse or distract children (in the US, popular examples of dandling songs might be “Pat-a-cake” or “The Itsy-Bitsy Spider”).

Appropriately, the text in this song is a back-and-forth disagreement between daughter and mother. The daughter wants to go to the fair where she intends to marry the town’s shoemaker, but her mother won’t allow it… and the daughter’s pestering ensues!

A mháithrín, an ligfidh tú chun aonaigh mé?
“A mhuirnín ó, ná héiligh é!”

Momma, will you let me go to the fair? (repeat 3 times)
“Darling, don’t ask again!”

In my setting, I wanted to highlight the playful quality of the lyrics and tune rather than presenting the entire text (which traditionally contains ten or more verses). I also interjected a bit of theater by adding awkward pauses and some mocking on the daughter’s part.

I crafted this entire song set with Emily’s voice in mind, and so I’ve dedicated it to her. Coaching her in the Irish Gaelic pronunciation as she painstakingly translated each syllable into IPA characters was great fun and a provided further encouragement for me to learn more about a language that has always fascinated me. Manitou Winds is honored to have her premiere this new work with us, adding her special signature to the performance!

We hope you’ll join us for the premiere!

___________________________________________________________

Don’t miss

A CELTIC SUMMERTIDE

______________________________________

Friday, August 17th, at 7:00pm

Oliver Art Center
132 Coast Guard Road
Frankfort

____________

Admission is free.
Freewill donations will benefit Manitou Winds’ debut recording!

Variety: It’s the Spice!

Our September 24th concert was an experiment: a test to see just how much variety could be crammed into a single concert program performed by a single ensemble. To up the ante, we also added an element of chance; allowing the audience to play a game to randomly select the concert order.

Twelve different instruments and one guest musician later (Eric Olson, alto & tenor saxophone), we wound up with a concert that ran the gamut from Handel and Mozart to Hoagy Carmichael and Stevie Wonder! Here’s a list of the selections in the order they were performed:

Overture from “The Barber of Seville”           G. Rossini/arr. B. Holcombe
flute, oboe, clarinet, horn, & bassoon

Playground           H.A. Curtis
piano solo

Contradanza from “Three Pieces for Clarinet & Piano”           P. D’Rivera
tenor saxophone

I. Allegro from “Horn Quintet in E-flat Major”, K. 407           W.A. Mozart/arr. B. Holcombe
flute, english horn, clarinet, horn, & bassoon

Royal Garden Blues           C. Williams & S. Williams/arr. Ken Abeling
flute, oboe, clarinet, horn, & bassoon

Sir Duke           S. Wonder/arr. J.T. McKinney
flute, oboe, clarinet, horn, & bassoon

The Nearness of You           H. Carmichael
tenor saxophone & piano

III. Brazileira from “Scaramouche”           D. Milhaud/arr. D. Stewart
piccolo, flute, oboe, clarinet, alto saxophone, horn, & bassoon

Ancient Pines           L. McKennitt/arr. J.T. McKinney
flute, clarinet, & lever harp

I. Natalie Fraser (hornpipe) from “A Suite of Cape Breton Tunes”           J.T. McKinney
flute, clarinet, & lever harp

Summer Waltz           L. Hood
flute, clarinet, guitar, & lever harp

Cranberry Island           D. Tolk
piano solo

Overture from “Music for the Royal Fireworks”           G.F. Handel/arr. T. Cramer
flute, oboe, clarinet, horn, & bassoon

To facilitate this colorful program based purely on variety and fun, we enlisted the aid of Jan Ross (aka Janice B.), voice-over artist, and our production manager, James Deaton (aka. J.D), to co-host the concert as a game show. Janice B. and J.D. selected audience members at random to come forward and randomly select the concert order. Those audience members were then entered into a special prize pool for a chance to win one of three prizes.

Adding even more flair to the event, we were joined by guest artist, Lori Feldpausch, who brought a dazzling array of paintings from her home studio to create an elaborate exhibit in the church’s narthex.

We were honored to be a part of St. Andrews Presbyterian Church’s “Concert on the Hill” series, and we’re delighted to have played a part in raising funds for Habitat for Humanity of Benzie County and Northwest Michigan Supportive Housing.

Theme & Variations: Dolce e Delizioso III

Dolce e DeliziosoIn our final recipe collection in the Theme & Variations series, we’ll play sweetly in the kitchen; calling upon a single versatile cake recipe to deliver an array of tempting treats fit for finishing a meal or rounding out a special occasion.

Dolce e Delizioso

I really hope you’ve enjoyed following along as we’ve taken the Classical form of “Theme & Variations” into the kitchen — making simple changes to recipes to create exciting new dishes. Marrying food and music — two of my most favorite things — is something of a passion of mine.

To demonstrate the Classical form that inspired this series, here’s probably one of the finest examples of Theme & Variation form: Mozart’s 12 Variations in C major on Ah! vous dirai-je, Maman, K.265. The theme you’ll immediately recognize; in America, we know this tune as “Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star.” Listen to all the ways Mozart turned this simple tune on its ear. By the end, it’s barely recognizable!

As you can see, performing a piece in Theme & Variations form — while exhilarating — can be quite demanding for a musician. Fortunately, our culinary spin on this form has been both fun and delicious for both the chef (the musician) and the tasters (the audience).

In today’s final variation in our Dolce e Delizioso collection, we take one more layer of that easy-to-make butter cake and turn it into a decadent layered dessert marrying its buttery flavors with toffee and coffee to make a fancy treat that can be made into elegant individual servings or an impressive presentation in a trifle dish.

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Toffee-Coffee Trifle
Serves 8
Trifles make an exciting dessert because their layered presentation and variety of textures offer a different experience in every bite. With ample chilling time, the toffee pieces maintain a bit of crunch, but yield a caramel-odius counterpoint to the coffee and buttery flavors in the rest of the dessert!

Vanilla Custard:
Toffee-Coffee Trifle2 1/4 cups milk
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1/8 teaspoon sea salt
1 large egg
3 tablespoons corn starch
2 teaspoons vanilla extract

Whipped Cream:
1 cup heavy cream
3 tablespoons confectioners’ sugar

Layer Ingredients:
1 8-inch layer of Golden Butter Cake
(recipe here)
1/2 cup Kahlúa (coffee liqueur)
1 cup crushed toffee pieces (e.g. Skor or Heath)

To make the vanilla custard: heat the milk, sugar, and salt in a medium saucepan over medium heat. Stirring to dissolve sugar, heat until milk is scalded but not boiling. Meanwhile, in a medium bowl, whisk together the egg and corn starch until thoroughly combined. While whisking, slowly add the hot milk mixture; whisk until completely incorporated. Return entire mixture to the saucepan and heat over medium heat until thickened and just beginning to boil; remove from heat and stir in vanilla. Pour into a bowl, cover with plastic wrap placed on surface to prevent skin from forming. Allow to reach room temperature, then refrigerate 1-2 hours.

To make the whipped cream: pour the cream into a medium bowl. Beat at medium speed until frothy; add confectioners’ sugar, Toffee-Coffee Trifleincrease speed, and whip until stiff peaks form. Cover and chill until needed.

To assemble, slice cake layer into bite-size pieces. In individual containers or in a trifle dish, alternate layers of cake pieces, drizzle cake with Kahlúa, sprinkle with toffee pieces, top with vanilla custard, then whipped cream. You can make as many or as few layers as you like. Chill for about two hours before serving.

___________________________________________________________

Don’t miss

Variety: It’s the Spice!

,

______________________________________

Sunday, September 24th, at 4:00pm

St. Andrews Presbyterian Church
1890 Lincoln Road
Beulah

____________

Admission is free.
Freewill offering for Northwest Michigan Supportive Housing &
Habitat For Humanity of Benzie County .

Theme & Variations: Dolce e Delizioso II

Dolce e DeliziosoIn our final recipe collection in the Theme & Variations series, we’ll play sweetly in the kitchen; calling upon a single versatile cake recipe to deliver an array of tempting treats fit for finishing a meal or rounding out a special occasion.

 

Dolce e Delizioso

When you start with a cake that’s super-easy to make and tastes great, it takes only a little more embellishment to send it way over the top. Today’s variation turns one cake layer into a simple but decadent layer cake sure to please any fans of the classic Moon Pie sandwich cookie: buttery cake layers separated by fluffy marshmallow creme, all enclosed in a shell made of rich chocolate.

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Mezzaluna Cake
Serves 6-8
Who knew one cake layer could reach such celestial heights? With a little time in the freezer to anchor the layers into place and align the straight side of the cake, you’ll find the Mezzaluna Layer Cakechocolate coating will cover a multitude of imperfections (not that anyone will notice once they have a taste!).

1 8-inch layer of Golden Butter Cake (recipe here)
1 1/2 cups marshmallow creme
1 cup semi-sweet or milk chocolate chips
4 tablespoons unsalted butter

Using a long serrated knife, split the cake layer into two rounds; leave stacked atop one another. Split the two round layers down the middle to form four semi-circle layers. Place the layers (still arranged as a single round layer) into the freezer for about 10 minutes to firm them up.

Place one of the bottom semi-circles on a cake plate or cardboard round. Stir the marshmallow creme only until it reaches a Mezzaluna Layer Cakefairly spreadable consistency. Spread about a third of the cream onto the cake layer, leaving about 1/4 border all the way around to avoid seeping. Lining up the straight sides as evenly as possible, place a top semi-circle layer over the filling; spread with another third of the marshmallow creme. Continue with remaining cake layers and marshmallow creme. Carefully turn the assembled cake onto its straight side (see photo) and place in the freezer for 15 minutes to firm up the filling and align the layers.

Meanwhile, combine the chocolate chips and butter in a microwave-safe bowl. Microwave for 20 seconds, stir, and continue Mezzaluna Layer Cakemicrowaving in 10-20 second intervals, stirring between each heating, until mixture is smooth. Remove the cake from the freezer and place it upright. Spread the chocolate glaze over the top and then sides to completely cover (the chocolate will harden and help keep layers and filling in place. Serve slices chilled or at room temperature.

___________________________________________________________

Don’t miss

Variety: It’s the Spice!

,

______________________________________

Sunday, September 24th, at 4:00pm

St. Andrews Presbyterian Church
1890 Lincoln Road
Beulah

____________

Admission is free.
Freewill offering for Northwest Michigan Supportive Housing &
Habitat For Humanity of Benzie County .

Theme & Variations: Dolce e Delizioso I

Variety Poster

Our September concert (Variety: It’s the Spice!) is a celebration of musical variety — a daring departure from organization and the expected! The program is a secret, but you may get a few clues from our website and Facebook page in the weeks leading up to the performance. In the meantime, we hope you’ll enjoy a new series of recipes from the Woodwind Gourmet enticing you to embrace variety in the kitchen.

Dolce e Delizioso

Dolce e Delizioso

Even with the myriad elements of musical notation available, composers often add descriptive words to help musicians read between the lines. How each musician interprets these words is as unique and personal as their choice of instrument. One of my favorite words to find in a musical score is dolce which simply asks you to play “sweetly”.

In this final collection of recipes, we’ll play sweetly in the kitchen; calling upon a single versatile cake recipe to deliver an array of tempting treats fit for finishing a meal or rounding out a special occasion.

We’ll start with a golden, buttery theme: butter cake! My first memories of butter cake are thanks to my paternal grandmother who taught me the fine art of adding butter to things! My grandmother always made her cakes from boxed mixes (perish the thought), but I think my simplified recipe would be one that she would have loved to try. There is such a thing as too much butter, of course, and there’s also such a thing as a complicated recipe with too many steps or ingredients. Thankfully, this recipe is the perfect balance of both!

Key ingredientKEY TECHNIQUE: Cutting in Butter — Sadly, many homemade cakes are doomed from the start because the butter was either too soft or too hard (cold) to be creamed with the sugar. In most cake recipes, the softness of the butter affects the entire texture and rise of the cake to follow (not to mention you can also over-mix and cause problems). How soft is too soft?! For this recipe, we soften the butter to room temperature and simply cut it into the dry ingredients, skipping that whole “creaming” step. You won’t miss the extra drama and your cake will turn out perfectly!

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Golden Butter Cake
Serves 12-16
If you have room for only one cake recipe in your recipe box, this one deserves the spot: it’s easily made and versatile. With its rich, buttery taste and moist texture, it can serve as the center attraction or take on myriad toppings, fillings, and frostings.

2 cups all-purpose flour (8.5 ounces)Butter Cake
1 1/2 cups granulated sugar (11.5 ounces)
1 tablespoon baking powder
3/4 teaspoon sea salt
1 stick unsalted butter, room temperature (plus more for pans)
3 large eggs, room temperature
1 cup whole milk
2 teaspoons vanilla extract

Preheat oven to 350-degrees. Butter two 8-inch round cake pans, line bottoms with parchment rounds, butter parchment lightly; dust pans with flour, tapping out excess.

In the bowl of a stand mixer or a large bowl, Working in the butterwhisk together flour, sugar, baking powder, and salt. Add the softened butter and cut the butter into the dry ingredients at low speed using the paddle attachment or a handheld mixer (mixture will be uniform and sandy). Add eggs and beat well, scraping down sides of bowl as necessary; add milk and vanilla, beat until just combined.

Divide batter between pans; smooth tops with an offset spatula. Bake until golden and a toothpick inserted into centers comes out clean, 33-35 minutes. Cool in pans on wire racks 15 minutes. Turn out cakes onto racks to cool completely. Serve with one of the berry toppings below or as desired.

*Blueberry-Maple Compote
Serves 6-8

2 cups blueberries, fresh or frozenButter Cake with Blueberry-Maple Compote
1 teaspoon corn starch
1/3 cup maple syrup
1/4-1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
pinch of salt
1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract
1-3 teaspoons fresh lemon juice

Combine first five ingredients (blueberries through salt) in a medium saucepan. Cook over medium heat, stirring frequently, until some of the blueberries burst and mixture thickens slightly. Remove from heat; add vanilla and lemon juice to taste. Serve warm or chilled.

*Macerated Strawberries
Serves 4-6

1 pound hulled strawberries, whole or sliced, fresh or frozenButter Cake with Macerated Strawberries
3 tablespoons granulated sugar
2 teaspoons fresh lemon juice
pinch of salt

If using fresh berries: combine all ingredients in a non-reactive bowl and allow to sit at room temperature for about an hour. If using frozen berries: combine all ingredients in a non-reactive bowl and allow to sit at room temperature until berries have softened (about 4 hours).

___________________________________________________________

Don’t miss

Variety: It’s the Spice!

,

______________________________________

Sunday, September 24th, at 4:00pm

St. Andrews Presbyterian Church
1890 Lincoln Road
Beulah

____________

Admission is free.
Freewill offering for Northwest Michigan Supportive Housing &
Habitat For Humanity of Benzie County .

Theme & Variations: Lines & Spaces III

Lines and SpacesIn our second recipe collection in the Theme & Variations series, I decided we should explore the lines and spaces of the musical staff to uncover what savory surprises we can experience when we use simple ingredients to create a masterpiece.

Lines & Spaces

For the final variation in our Lines & Spaces series, we’ll stick with our vegetarian motif, but throw a few new twists into the taste. Swapping out the greens with some colorful beans and aromatic veggies, next we’ll take out the familiar ricotta cheese and replace it with nutty, creamy fontina for a lasagna like no other.

Key ingredientKEY INGREDIENT: Fontina Cheese — Noted for its nutty, earthy, slightly mushroomy taste, this creamy cow’s milk cheese originally from Italy is right at home in a homespun vegetarian lasagna. You can find it in the fine cheeses case in your supermarket. The best Fontina is Fontina Val D’Aosta (the original fontina), but there are many makers of good fontina, so feel free to use what you like best and is easiest to find. Can’t find Fontina? Try shredding Raclette or thinly sliced Brie or Camembert for an equally cheesy experience.

 

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Lasagna con Fagioli
Serves 4
Not quite as tomato-y or as saucy as the typical lasagna, the earthy flavors of the beans and fontina cheese are what really stand out to make this a vegetarian lasagna worth coming back to over and over again! Feel free to mix varieties of beans together for a more colorful presentation.

1 15-ounce can cannellini beans or red kidney beans, drained and rinsedLasagna con fagioli
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 medium onion, finely chopped
3/4 cup finely chopped carrots (app. 2 medium)
1/3 cup finely chopped celery (app. 1 large rib)
6 garlic cloves, minced
1 bay leaf
1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
3/4 cup white wine (try sauvignon blanc)
1 tablespoon tomato paste
1 14.5-ounce can diced tomatoes with juices
1/4 cup chopped fresh parsley
Salt & Pepper to taste
6 ounces Fontina cheese, shredded
8 no-boil lasagna noodles

Preheat oven to 375-degrees. In a medium bowl, mash half beans together to form a thick paste. Reserve the mashed beans separately from the whole beans.

Heat the oil in a 12-inch skillet over medium-heat. Add the onions, carrots, and celery; cook until softened, about 10 minutes. Add the minced garlic, bay leaf, and thyme; cooking, stirring constantly, until fragrant (about a minute). Pour in the wine, scraping the bottom of the pan to deglaze; cook until wine has nearly evaporated. Stir in the tomatoes (including juices), bring to a simmer; lower heat, cover and cook 7-10 minutes until carrots are tender. Stir in the mashed beans and 1/3 cup water; stirring to dissolve thicken the sauce. Remove from the heat, discard bay leaf; stir in parsley, reserved whole beans, and salt and pepper to taste.

Spread 1/2 cup bean sauce in the bottom of an 8-inch square baking dish. Top with 2 lasagna noodles, a fourth of the sauce, and a fourth of the shredded fontina. Repeat layering with remaining noodles, sauce, and cheese. Loosely cover with parchment-lined foil (keeps the cheese from sticking to the foil!). Bake 30 minutes. Uncover and bake until bubbly and delightfully browned, about 15 minutes. Let cool 20 minutes, then slice and serve.

___________________________________________________________

Don’t miss

Variety: It’s the Spice!

,

______________________________________

Sunday, September 24th, at 4:00pm

St. Andrews Presbyterian Church
1890 Lincoln Road
Beulah

____________

Admission is free.
Freewill offering for Northwest Michigan Supportive Housing &
Habitat For Humanity of Benzie County .