Last night Olivia and I went to Trauermusik: In Commemoration of Dr Julieta Alvarado-Rieppel, Dr Rieppel’s solo piano (and harpsichord!) recital.

The place was packed. Mostly it was older people, and almost all the professors I know were there: McLean, Kolnick, Williford, both Zarzanas, Day, Butler; the retired Dean. The young folk from the orchestra, the Music program, and Music Street took up the front row: Megan, Anni, Olivia, me, Joel, David, JP, Margaret, Mary, Maddy, and I think one other. (So many of the young folk are leaving soon, that I think it was good we were in the front row where he saw us and knew we were there.)

(David came in and sat down in the middle of the front row of the middle section; then Joel came in, and sat down on the far left of the left-hand side. David looked disappointed. Then Joel got up to come sit by me, on the right of that row, and David looked hopeful, and then when Joel sat down still on the wrong side of the aisle from him, all of a sudden — whoosh — he was no longer in the middle of his row but on the end as close to us as possible, with the end of the harpsichord coming between. When JP came in he tried to shoo David back toward the middle, but he stayed put.)

Dr Rieppel came in, sat down without saying anything, and played Bach’s Chromatic Fantasy and Fugue from memory. It was one he and Julieta both learned at the same time in their days at the Conservatory, she on harpsichord and he on piano. He said they used to spar over which one suited it best; silly, of course, because Bach wrote it for harpsichord.

The next piece was something by Haydn, then a concerto for harpsichord and piano, called Julieta’s Sarabande, which he’d commissioned from a good friend of theirs. To do it he had to play both instruments at once, one hand on each.

On the harpsichord he played an aria from Bach, whose name I’ve forgotten (we didn’t bring our program home, as it vanished) but which sounds very familiar, from a book she’d been playing from, and which was lying on her desk, when they took her to the hospital.

The next day Mrs Zarzana talked to us and said Dr Rieppel had told them he didn’t want her remembered as just another cancer victim. We only saw her once, at the concert at St Paul’s, but the way he talks about her (and he does — quite a lot) we do get a sense of her being a real living being and not a cancer victim at all.

Trauermusik is music for grief, and all the music had something to do with that, of course. (He was crying by the time he finished the first piece, and a lot of people confessed to not being able to hold out to the end.) The last piece, though — !

She was Catholic, and I’ve been told he’s high-church Anglican (which is very similar in most things, except when it comes to the authourity of the pope), though he talks about going to mass at the cathedral, and you can already tell there’s a Christian worldview even when he doesn’t talk about religion.

I’m assuming my readers are familiar with Tolkien’s On Fairy Stories; if you aren’t, before you go through the rest of this post, you ought really to read it. I doubt you’ll understand the rest if you haven’t.

If you are ready to proceed, listen to this piece, all the way to the end. (It wouldn’t hurt to turn the volume up.) Listen to it not as background music, but pay attention to it. (Don’t watch the video, though; I find that distracting. Focus on the sound. Incidentally, the pianist in that recording was Dr Rieppel’s teacher once.)

At the end, after that crashing angry part, you’ll hear a new tune come in. That’s not just any tune. That’s “Whate’er My God Ordains Is Good”.

When Olivia and I heard it, during the performance, first we were amazed because that made the piece even more perfect than it already was; then we were sorry for those who didn’t get it, and were missing such a big piece of it; and then I at least (can’t speak for the already speechless Olivia) thought That’s Tolkien — that’s eucatastrophe — hope. That’s the turn toward joy.

“It does not deny the existence of dyscatastrophe, of sorrow and failure: the possibility of these is necessary to the joy of deliverance; it denies (in the face of much evidence, if you will) universal final defeat and in so far is euangelium, giving a fleeting glimpse of Joy — joy beyond the walls of the world, poignant as grief.”

At 7:30 this Monday, in Antonello Hall at MacPhail in the Twin Cities, Dr Rieppel will be repeating this recital.

Posted in Ordinary life, Poetry | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

In case anybody’s still reading, I’m not dead.

Many apologies for the silence here last week. First it was busy, then I was tired and busy, then Kaila (electric guitarist from last semester’s Christmas concert) came and spent the weekend with us, and somewhere in all that I was still trying to do school.

I finished the plague story last night (current title “By Man Came Death”) and turned it in today, and we’ll see what people think.

I would have written a longer post with more serious things in it, but I can’t seem to get anything done. My atheist came by at three-thirty and didn’t leave for another hour, and we talked about imperial Japan and alternative history and the Norman Conquest (because I kept using the analogy of an historical period I do know when he brought up invasions elsewhere in time and space) and the Arthurian legendarium.

Tonight most of the motley crew may be present for supper, if a bit later than usual, which would be nice. Tomorrow we’re going to a recital Dr Rieppel’s putting on in memory of his wife, Saturday we’re hoping to go to the Ides of March (because it’s less than two hours from where we live, which almost never happens with an SCA event), and somewhere in everything we’re getting ready for the April 10th concert which is going to be a headache and a half, and the May one’s in six weeks and some people have not finished writing music we’re going to perform then, and the papers are piling up, and. . .

Should you want something good to read (I’ve been recommending books more than anything else these days), I can advise The Ballad of the White Horse, which thanks to being out of both copyright and print, is available for free on Project Gutenberg. I need to write a story on Alfred’s time someday. If the medieval church discouraged literacy (as I was told in class this week), I’d like to know why Alfred hired Alcuin to come teach reading and writing.

“Still thinking about Medieval Studies?” asks a professor I know.

“Thinking about it.”

“What are you going to do with that?”

“Write historical fiction.”

“Never become a professor,” he says. “Too many meetings.” He was on his way to one just then.

I will probably take his advice.

Posted in Uncategorized | 1 Comment

“Hello there! Slow going?”

(“Look, I don’t mean to be rude, but this isn’t as easy as it looks, so I’d appreciate it if you wouldn’t distract me.”)

At the beginning of this week, with a snowstorm outside and all of Spring Break ahead of me, I drew up a long list of things to write. Some of them, like the plague story, have deadlines soon, but others, like an essay on icons, were for fun. I also re-opened the main Of the North document and wrote about 1100 new words. Monday and Tuesday I got things done, moving from one project to another, of course, because I had so many, but making progress all the same. It helped that Olivia was not here to distract me.

Then on Wednesday I didn’t want to write in any of them at all, which was strange because I had such a variety that something should have clicked. Of the North, the plague story, a rewrite of the library story, an expanding paper on Doctrine and Practice, the paper on icons, research for the Philosophy paper, research for Of the North. . .

Eventually, after various attempts, some more half-hearted than others, to push through and be productive, I realized it’s Spring Break and I was going to take this week to read as well as write, before I forgot. Maybe, as one of the Creative Writing teachers says, I needed to refill my creative well before I could draw anything out of it. So I got through The House of a Thousand Candles, and my favourite parts of The Prydain Chronicles (which I haven’t read in ages, so that was interesting), and Black Fox of Lorne (which had also been a while, and all the dumped-in exposition I hadn’t noticed before was overwhelming in places). And last night we watched the Princess Bride and after I went to bed I was categorizing characters according to whether they were active, reactive, or passive. Also yesterday I got up the courage to comment on a post by someone who really Knows about the Anglo-Saxon era and ask something about Anglo-Saxon liturgy, and she answered and was encouraging. Now I just need to get up the courage to e-mail another of those people and ask a similar question.

This morning, being excited again about tackling this story of mine, I looked at the very first sort of plot-summary I ever wrote up for Of the North (on the 29th of October 2015, because I like leaving things till the last minute), and was pleasantly surprised to see — after I got over cringing at my past lack of skill — how much the story has improved since then, notably in the area of historical accuracy. I know I complain about inaccuracy a lot, probably more in person than on this blog so far, but it bothers me because accuracy is important. I didn’t know nearly as much about the era when I started as I do now, and it shows. (In the story, I mean; I don’t know if I come across personally as pretentious.) I still need to know a lot which I don’t yet, mainly, I think, about liturgy, but I know who to ask and where to look now, which I didn’t then.

Also the back-cover copy I wrote for OtN barely fits anymore and I need to write a new one. Maybe after another fifteen or thirty thousand words, when it’s closer to what it will actually be and the room for it to throw surprises at me is smaller.

It’s still a mountain of work. Revising, say, Rose-Tinted Arrows is very different, because I’m not rewriting the entire thing, as the plot and characters are staying the same and it’s closer to what you might call polishing (although still not there). Also it was so preachy that anything I do can only bring it up — there’s really no way left to ruin it. And in a vaguely Renascence world where people quote movies, historical accuracy is no part of the equation. I do like the freedom of being able to let my imagination go wherever and break the cliches however it wants, without having to worry about pesky social mores getting in the way or anything. On the other hand, what you miss, and what I like about OtN, is the sense of being transported to another, distant, but no less real time in the history of our own world, and thus related to us, with people of our same species (and not all that different from us when you look at our essential natures) who passed on a legacy to us even if we don’t know about it.

One of my classmates likes to tell me I’m stuck in the past, looking backward, and I haven’t come forward into the present (let alone future) as far as my writing is concerned. This does mean I know where I’m going. Thucydides was partly right when he said we study the past to avoid making the same mistakes in future.

But, now that I’m getting refreshed just in time to go back to the hurry and rush of school, I’m excited about stories again. The plague story now only lacks a conclusion, as it did on Wednesday, but I can think of ways to tie ideas into a scene now. Even Of the North, which on Wednesday was boring, barren, over-known, is tugging at me. The story, by now, is so familiar to me it’s like a familia, but also gets to a point where it’s also so familiar it’s like a familia you’ve spent too much time with and you’re all getting allergic reactions to each other.

Anyway. Earlier this week I felt like the Man in Black trying to climb the cliff by himself, and then the books came along and threw down a rope or. . . something. That analogy doesn’t quite work. But I’m sure it will happen again, and meanwhile while I’m out of it, I should probably get Of the North’s word count up to 50k again. It’s hovered around there, going up and down as I add and cut things, for a while now.

None of this is to minimize the midwinter dumps where you’re barely managing to slog through any of your work and you can barely look at words in a document or on paper without screaming, if the words even register in your brain at all because you’ve seen them so many times and there’s no new meaning or subtext to squeeze out of them. I have those times quite a lot, where I’m doubting my own ability to put together a proper sentence, let alone string together thousands of them in a way that not only makes sense but is beautiful. It’s not always because someone gives mean criticism, or your life is a whirlwind and you can barely survive, let alone capture time to concentrate on art. Sometimes the blank spell just. . . comes, I guess, and you know you should be working because you have the free time and it’s not sloth, because you’re trying, but it doesn’t work. Writers are readers, anyway. It’s fine to take a day and read things instead.

Should you want to talk about the mix of centuries exhibited in the clothes, tapestries, and architecture in the Princess Bride (we said they must all have been SCAdians, especially the extras, to get such a thorough mix), or the emphasis on being or failing to be sportsmanlike, or how to write good villains, or when is enough world-building enough or too much, do leave a comment.

Posted in Of the North, Revision, Rose-Tinted Arrows, work in progress, Writing | Tagged | Leave a comment

Results of the hood-type veil experiment!

Yesterday I finished my hood! (This is what I made the mock-up of paper towels for.) I am mostly pleased with it, with some reservations which I’ll go into more detail on.

Since this is an idea for what a lower-class woman might wear, I had certain criteria in mind before ever started wrangling with fabric: it must not be wasteful of fabric while still covering the same area as the bigger veils (like my white pashmina I usually wear), and it shouldn’t need to be re-done throughout the day. It doesn’t have to be white, of course, but that’s what I had on hand.

Dimensions: The back “gore” is nine inches square, the front being just a bit smaller at eight inches. The rectangle is 38 in. by 14. From point to point of the hem, when it’s laid flat, is 29 inches.

I justified the use of green thread, however, because it was what I had (I’m out of white thread), and it’s not terribly difficult or expensive or time-consuming to dye a little thread (she probably could have spun up all I used in this project in an afternoon), and it looks nice. I did use running stitch on all the seams (with a little reinforcement under the chin), because the hood doesn’t get a lot of hard wear or have to support a lot of weight, and it saves more thread that way too. Nylon thread and a metal needle are among the list of inaccuracies, but it’s all handsewn. In retrospect, I can say the different colour of the thread didn’t show up at all in pictures, even if you look hard at the hem. Oh well.

It’s also all straight lines, except where I rounded off the point at the back of the head: two squares, the larger one for the back gore and the smaller for the front, and one rectangle. Some of the pictures showing veils which look more like hoods than anything wrapped have rounded hems, at least in the front (we rarely get to see anyone from behind), but as this is for a lower-class look I didn’t want to waste the fabric. And here’s a picture from a period manuscript showing a veil whose general shape is what I was going for:

documentation1.jpg (Caedmon/Junius 11 manuscript, Adam and Eve expelled from the Garden of Eden; read more about the MS here.)

A British re-enactor has a hood-type veil here — near the bottom, her in blue and white — similar to mine but with the point rounded off. Period art with similar (conjectural) hoods can be found here. (You can zoom in if necessary; it’s the sidesaddle ladies accompanied by blue-haired men in the lower right-hand corner.)

The hood is surprisingly not fussy, compared to the pashmina I usually wear, and only needs two pins (otherwise it does tend to slide forward and block all my peripheral vision). I wore my cap lower across my forehead than usual, because in some of the pictures some kind of undercap seems to be visible (possibly to give the illusion of layers across the front like the (possibly) wrapped veils), and over my ears because this is March in Minnesota after all.

The pictures show a more drapey front edge over the forehead, though, which this one didn’t accomplish. Quite likely it’s because of the face opening being a little too small. If I cut it as a trapezoid instead of a rectangle and the longer edge were in front, it might work, but it also might not. A selvedge, in my experience, drapes better than a hem, but this was off a fitted sheet, so a selvedge was not an option. It looks more Eastern European than Anglo-Saxon, I think. But it works.

Oh, and with only two layers of cotton on my head, I kept warm outside in mid-twenties weather, even in the (slight) wind.

Tangent (one of many in this post): I do need something period-ish for my hands, though. Whenever we do garb pictures in winter I have to go bare-handed, because unless it’s the blue cyrtel (generally not warm enough for this season by itself) my sleeves are too short, and a pair of modern mittens would kind of ruin the look. So they get purple and all, but so far I’ve still got all my fingers (and thumbs). I should like to get some real fur — it doesn’t have to be fancy, as they say squirrel fur was used quite often (have you get something out of hunting the vermin, after all) — and make mittens. The idea I’ve come across is that they were sort of drawstring bags with the fur side turned in, and no thumb, which sounds kind of easy.

But you want the pictures.


No belt, because I was interested in focusing on the new thing. Olivia says I look really fat, like I might be actually a hundred pounds (sarcasm there). Purple hands are on display.


Bit saggy in the back, hmm. . .


If you take the pins out (they’re in my hands, and I was trying not to drop two white-headed pins in a snowbank, hence the pose; this is from when we first started, so I still had some blood left in them), you can pull it forward so it keeps the sun out of your eyes. I’ve seen pictures of later-period personae with similar hoods (it’s such a simple pattern it keeps popping up all over time, which is neat, with occasional modifications) folding the front back, too. I tried that in front of the mirror, but it got too tight at my throat for that to be very comfortable.

(I didn’t notice till I put the pictures in the post, but in this one my hem has picked up a fuzzy little edging of snow, and it looks like I didn’t hem my cyrtel.)

It was surprisingly hard to get a decent profile view, apparently, which is a shame because quite often this kind of veil is presented profile. Imagine my head in a bag and you’ve got the general idea, maybe? Also the cotton sheet gets very transparent when wet, so maybe a second cap which covers my bun would be good if I ever got wet in this one — you don’t really want a big dark lump in the back of your head to add to the other inconveniences of being caught in the rain. Now, if I were writing a parody of an “historical” romance novel, I might have that as part of the lovers’ first meeting. . .


Front view. The Eastern European similarity, a hem doing weird things for no apparent reason, and my splendidly out-of-period rubbers.

(Also, wrinkles. The cyrtel looks practically lived-in. And I always forget to ask Olivia to take a picture until it’s on me, when that ceases to be an option, but my smock is beautifully wrinkled. I may have to do a post on that someday — linen, they say, wrinkles just as well as cotton, so unless your smocks are silk, all that fancy plisse may be unnecessary.)

Eastern Orthodox disguise or not, here’s the Caedmon image again to compare veils:


Kind of close-ish? Except you can see how much looser hers is under her chin. (Adam clearly has side gores, and seemingly a square neckline, and maybe even a belt? And he’s slightly chubby or maybe has a waist seam, though it could also be partly due to the way he’s standing. Picture’s a bit blurry, though.)

And finally, the veil in action with wind. (There’s another picture of the two points horizontal because of the wind, but while a good warning as to the perils of a single-layered veil in such thin fabric, it was not quite aesthetically pleasing enough for Olivia to condone its use in public. If you really want to see how the fabric handles that kind of atmosphere, ask and maybe she’ll be nice.) You can see some draping and folds or wrinkles which might lead an illustrator to add the folds as in Eve’s veil above.


Posted in Research, SCA | Tagged , , , | 5 Comments

The long-awaited Theodosius essay

(I don’t know how many of you have been waiting on the edge of your seats for this, but here it is anyway. Formatting’s a bit off in the longer quotes.)

  Theodosius I was the last to rule both halves of the Roman Empire: he inherited one half and conquered the other. Gibbon devotes eight two-column pages (in the Great Books edition, Vol. I pp. 430 to 438) to his early martial prowess. Theodosius’ reign began with putting down the Arians, occasionally with the use of arms, such as when he had to set a guard around the church of St Sophia. After being baptized in 380 A. D. (p. 438), in 381 he convened a council at Constantinople to decide whether the Holy Spirit was of the same substance as the Father and Son, a question which naturally followed from the Arian heresy. Gregory and Basil Nazianzen were instrumental in this and other controversies during his reign.

  The division between catholic Christians and the heretics grew as a result of Theodosius’ edicts against the latter. These were to the effect of forbidding heretics to gather in worship, or to teach their false doctrine, and a penalty of death was considered fitting, though not usually enforced; still, a sort of civil excommunication grew out of these, in which citizens turned away from each other or threw insults (pp 442-3).

  Gibbon devotes quite a lot of space to Theodosius’ character, which is gratifying to the writer of a novel in which he may well make a personal appearance. On page 449 he says, “Theodosius respected the simplicity of the good and virtuous: every art, every talent, of an useful or even of an innocent nature, was rewarded by his judicious liberality.” History, says Gibbon, was his favourite study, which might help to explain why he managed so sprawling an empire so well, having learned perhaps from the mistakes of his ancestors. (I keep wondering, as I read, and check foot-notes, and check them again: how does he know these things? A lot of his sources are contemporary with his subjects, which is good, but other things aren’t cited and I don’t know how much may be from traditions since discounted — and if modern scholarship discounts them, how do we know our scholarship hasn’t misinterpreted or simply lost some major fact? How do we know if we’re right? Coming later in the grand scheme of time does not make us somehow less fallible than scholars of previous ages, but I digress.) Theodosius seems to have been, as was said in another context, an “excellent father and family man”, generous even to the surviving family members of the late Valentinian, whose realm he’d taken over (p. 453). We are told on page 449 again, that he “showed himself much more attentive to relieve the innocent than to chastise the guilty”, but his temperament was choleric, and his mind often indolent, sometimes inflamed by passion.

  Page 451: “Ambrose. . . acted from the laudable persuasion that every measure of civil government may have some connection with the glory of God.” No separation of church and state here, which does bear out one of my original thoughts for the theme of the story. Page 464, also:

They seldom refused to atone for their rashness by submitting, with some

secret reluctance, to the yoke of the Gospel. The churches were filled with the

increasing multitude of these unworthy proselytes, who had conformed, from

temporal motives, to the reigning religion; and whilst they devoutly imitated the

postures and recited the prayers of the faithful, they satisfied their conscience

by the silent and sincere invocation of the gods of antiquity.

But a little later on the same page we also read:

Theodosius might undoubtably have proposed to his Pagan subjects the

alternative of baptism or death; and the eloquent Libanius has praised the

moderation of a prince who never enacted, by any positive law, that all his

subjects should immediately embrace and practice the religion of their sovereign.

The profession of Christianity was not made an essential qualification for the

enjoyment of the civil rights of society, nor were any peculiar hardships imposed

on the sectaries who credulously received the fables of Ovid [me speaking

from my Greek Myth class last year: Ovid doesn’t seem to have believed them

himself] and obstinately rejected the miracles of the Gospel. The palace, the

schools, the army, and the senate were filled with declared and devout

Pagans; they obtained, without distinction, the civil and military honours of the

empire. Theodosius distinguished his liberal regard for virtue and genius by the

consular dignity which he bestowed on Symmachus, and by the personal

friendship which he expressed to Libanius; and the two eloquent apologists

of Paganism were never required either to change or to dissemble their

religious opinions.

  About 389 (390?), a Christian mob destroyed the statue of Serapis in Alexandria. Supposedly an insult to this idol would result in the heavens and earth returning to their original chaos, but that didn’t happen, which was a definite Christian triumph.

  459 “The great and incomprehensible secret of the universe eludes the inquiry of man.” First of all, The Man Who Was Thursday! Secondly, the plea Gibbon envisions for the old Rome of this young upstart ordo seculorum is easy to imagine coming from the Vestals, especially the Vestalis Maxima, who would usually be mature in years.

“Most excellent princes,” saids the venerable matron, “fathers of your country!

pity and respect my age, which has hitherto flowed in an uninterrupted course

of piety. Since I do not repent permit me to continue in the practice of my ancient

rites. Since I am born free, allow me to enjoy my domestic institutions. This religion

has reduced the world under my laws. These rites have repelled Hannibal from

the city, and the Gauls from the Capitol. Were my grey hairs reserved for such

intolerable disgrace? I am ignorant of the new system that I am required to adopt;

but I am well assured that the correction of old age is always an ungrateful

and ignominious office.” (p. 459)

  Also in 381, Theodosius “attacked superstition in her most vital part, by prohibiting the use of sacrifices, which he declared to be criminal as well as infamous; and if the terms of his edicts more strictly condemned the impious curiosity which examined the entrails of the victims, every subsequent explanation tended to involve in the same guilt the general practice of immolation, which essentially constituted the religion of the Pagans” (460).

  All Gibbon has to say about the Vestals, or at least all I can find in those parts of the book about the years during which I’m writing about the Vestal Virgins, is in one sentence and a foot-note. The sentence, on p. 458 in Ch. 28, is as follows: “Six VESTALS devoted their virginity to the guard of the sacred fire and of the unknown pledges of the duration of Rome, which no mortal had been suffered to behold with impunity”. The footnote to that sentence goes on: “These mystic, and perhaps imaginary, symbols have given birth to various fables and conjectures. It seems probable that the Palladium was a small statue (three cubits and a half high) of Minerva, with a lance and distaff; that it was usually inclosed in a seria, or barrel; and that a similar barrel was placed by its side to disconcert curiosity or sacrilege. See Mezeriac (Comment. sur les Epitres d’Ovide, tom. i. p. 60-66) and Lipsius (tom. iii. p. 610, de Vesta, etc., c. 10).” Which is disappointing, as I’m trying to find out what happened to the Vestals after the sacred flame was extinguished, but Gibbon doesn’t even mention Theodosius in connection with such an action.

A. D. 394. Battle against Arbogastes, general of the West, which with the aid of a possibly miraculous dust storm, the East won. “The fate of the empire was determined in a narrow corner of Italy;” four months later Theodosius was dead. (p. 455). Since I can’t seem to find the date of Coelia Concordia’s death (the last Vestalis Maxima and probable man character of this story), it’s hard to know what date to draw a line at and say “No research necessary beyond this point”. But as far as Theodosius is concerned, at this point he has to drop out of it.

Posted in History, Research, work in progress, Writing | Leave a comment

That’s Hlafdige Æschild to you.

(I promise I will not be picky about my title, especially as it’s pretty unpronounceable. I won’t even insist on Lady.)

I have another reason to regret not being at Lupercalia. Jenny delivered it today.

It’s doubly special because my first event, three years ago, was Lupercalia.

Can you guess yet?

For those of you who might not know, for “Individuals who have shown consistency of effort over time within the arts, sciences, service or arts martial and willingness to maintain involvement in the SCA”, the Award of Arms grants the right to a coat of arms and a circlet not more than half an inch high and with no more than one protruberance (I do love having sumptuary laws).


(“Boldly do the quiet deeds boast of her passion for learning and for sharing knowledge newly gained with many of the region. For this do we, Kaydian and Cassandra, King and Queen of Northshield, recognize Æschild of Avonwood with her Award of Arms on this xxiv day of February, AS LII at Lupercalia in the Shire of Rivenwood Tower.” I like the paradox in the first line.)

Another neat thing about it is that Jenny (Christiana), my friend who got me started in the SCA in the first place, made the scroll. She told me a little while ago that she was working on one inspired by an illumination in the Bury Gospels, which are near my persona’s place and time, though she didn’t say it was for me. So today when she showed me, my first coherent words were “So that’s what you were looking at the Bury Gospels’ canon table for!” (You may see the page here.) SCAdians are weird, you know.

Blue and gold are Avonwood’s colours too, so that’s neat, and the star that’s almost a compass in the arch is one of Northshield’s badges.

Now Jean’s going to get after me to come up with a device. . .

With wynn (joy), and yours in service,


Posted in SCA | Tagged , , | 5 Comments

I’m running out of witty titles for the “adventures” posts. . .

At rehearsal on Tuesday someone (I think the double-bass) told Dr Rieppel, just when people were finished tuning up, that it was David’s birthday.

“Oh!” said Dr Rieppel. “Your birthday!” He left his podium and came to the piano. Bacco anticipated him and played the beginning of Happy Birthday deliberately out of tune. “Wait,” Dr Rieppel ordered, and started in the right key.

David sat on his stacked chairs and was embarrassed, not knowing where to look with all the attention on him. At the very end Paul crashed two cymbals and David jumped straight up and looked over his shoulder. Joel bent over laughing at him, though he’d jumped too.

“How old are you now, David?” Dr Rieppel asked.

David squirmed and looked around, but JP not being there (he was sick), found no help. “Sixteen.”

“So you finally are sixteen. Oh good.”

Presently he discovered the absence of his pencil and asked David if he might borrow one. “Sure,” said David, putting his hand in his pocket. Dr Rieppel stepped down from his podium and stood in front of him, waiting. David kept digging in his pocket. Presently he apologized and said, “I’m having a hard time finding it.”

“What do you keep in there?” Dr Rieppel said.

“Um, a calculator, a. . .” His voice trailed off.

One of the pieces for the final concert is Brahms’ Academic Festival Overture. They went through that one by fits and starts. When they finally got to the end David, being next to Lindsey, cut off his own last note in order to reach over to turn the page. Lindsey whispered, “It’s the end!” Almost immediately afterward, Dr Rieppel turned and complimented the cellists on how beautifully they were playing.

Dr Rieppel was telling us plans for the children’s concert (“the pianist is going to play with us in two weeks and then I think we won’t call him back until the day,” he said, to everyone’s shock and worry) when he went off on recollections of other soloists who’d played similar concerts. He remembered a pianist who’d played with the orchestra in 2009 and was this weekend playing with the St Paul Chamber Orchestra, and gestured to David and said, “Were you with us for that one?”

“He probably wasn’t born yet,” Kurt (our oldest musician) said.

“I was seven!” David protested.

“Why weren’t you playing with the orchestra then?” Dr Rieppel demanded. “Slacker!”

Because the piano concerto is Rachmaninoff, Dr Rieppel was talking about him and how he was an obsessive practicer. “Once he was staying in a residential hotel, he’d pay for a couple of months and make it his base, you know, and his next-door neighbour was a banker. One day when the banker got up in the morning he heard him play a G major chord, very softly, on the piano. And then another. And then another. So he thought, that’s interesting. And he went out to work, and came back for lunch, and he could still hear him playing the G major chord over and over again next door. He came back in the evening — still the G major chord. The banker can’t take it anymore. So he goes and knocks on his door, and Rachmaninoff opens it and stands there, this tall Russian with his sad face, and says in his deep voice, ‘Yes?’ And the banker says, ‘Mr Rachmaninoff, when I woke up this morning I hear you playing the G major chord, at lunch I hear you playing still, at night the G major chord. I can’t take it anymore!’ And Rachmaninoff looks at him, and in his sad voice he says, ‘Is getting better, no?’ “

During break Olivia was still sitting by Joel, and I came and stood by her, and David passed behind us with his hands in his pockets and looked very far down at the seated Joel and said, “Thanks for the birthday present.”

“Ha ha,” Joel said, then froze. “You stole my wallet?”

“No! Forgetting me.”

“Oh, oh that. I’m so sorry, that’s a terrible birthday present.” And he began to explain. “I always bring David over from the high school because the poor kid’s got to carry everything he owns,” and David cut in, “and I always remind him, and he says no, no, you don’t have to remind me, I do this every week,” adding, “and the one week I don’t remind him,” at the same time Joel said, “and the one week he doesn’t remind me, I left him behind, and he had to walk all the way over by himself, with his cello case and all that stuff.”

“If my back gets any worse I’m going to blame it on you,” David said. “Actually my back might be correcting itself. It used to be off by six millimetres and now it’s only off by five and a half.”

After break they turned to the Musical Forest. Dr Rieppel took the orchestra and especially percussionists to task for not getting the timing down. “He’s a very tightly wound guy,” he said of the composer, “and when he comes out he’s going to want the timing to be precise. He won’t be rude about it, he’d better not be rude to my orchestra, but he won’t be rude.”

Lindsey, on behalf of the cellists, was asking Dr Rieppel to explain something about their part, and he said, “Sophia, will you make a note that the cellos are being demanding again, put them in your black book.” Since my notebook was already sitting on the floor (I was standing and leaning against the wall), I bent and scooped it up. Lindsey saw and said, “She actually has one!” and some people laughed and others expressed fear.

The violists were being characteristically unruly, and Dr Rieppel said something about the section being disorderly. “Since when has this section been orderly?” one of them retorted.

“It was before you came,” David shot back.

After rehearsal Olivia and I were at her locker when one of the senior members of this much-maligned section came around and said, “Have you seen David?”

Olivia and I privately conferred and concluded that it hadn’t been our turn to watch him. “No,” Olivia called back. But she thought he might be in the back hall, and went and said, “David? David, come here!”

“Why should I?” his voice echoed back from the far end.

“Mrs Wright wants you,” she answered.

“No, no, you should have said ‘Because I said so’,” I said. But he came anyway, reluctantly, and Mrs Wright asked him about accompanists for things.

Posted in Ordinary life | Tagged , | Leave a comment