Sunday, December 17, 2006

Holidaze Issue!


Chocolate marshmallow and Nut candy

You'll need 6 oz. chocolate chips, 1-1/2 Lb. Hershey’s chocolate (use Hershey’s kisses - I use the blocks about .5 lbs.) 1 ea. of milk and dark chocolate, 1 lb. walnuts (leave whole), and 1 lb. of large marshmallows.

Melt chocolate in a double boiler slowly. Grease a cookie sheet. Cut marshmallows in half with scissors. Keep nuts whole from the package. Mix but good. Put on cookie sheet, nicely spread out. And pack together and pour melted chocolate over marshmallows and walnuts. Be sure to spread (pour) chocolate over all the areas on cookies sheet. Put in the freezer for 1 hour, or until the chocolate hardens. Cut into pieces and devour.

from Nanny's Cookbook
Copyright (c.) 2006 by Sherry Ranger.
All Rights Reserved.

Friday, December 8, 2006

Christ! Whadda Mess!

Advent (Latin for "arrival, coming") is the four-week period leading up to Christmas. In German-speaking countries and most of Europe the first Advent weekend is the traditional beginning of the Christmas season when open-air Christmas markets (Christkindlmärkte) appear in many cities, the most famous ones being those in Nuremberg and Vienna. Most stores and shops in Germany, Austria, and Switzerland are open weekends and evenings during Advent. - In Austria the 's' is often dropped in Advent-words (as in Adventzeit or Adventkalender).

The first Christmas tree to decorate the inside of the White House was put up by US President Franklin Pierce in 1856. (German immigrants brought the custom to America.) In England Queen Victoria's husband, Prince Albert (1819-1861) of Saxe-Coburg-Gotha, helped popularize the Christmas tree and other German Christmas customs.

Originally, most German Christmas trees were fir trees (Tannenbäume). Over the years, as the percentage of fir trees in German forests dropped, spruce trees (Fichtenbäume) became more prevalent. But today the word Tannenbaum is still synonymous with 'Christmas tree', or, in Las Vegas, a meteorologist with many homes.

Originally from the Erzgebirge region of Germany, the wood or rope pyramid was the "poor man's Christmas tree." Today it is a popular Christmas decoration in many parts of Germany, usually made with candles and bells that ring as the heat from the candles turns a wooden rotor at the top.

In the 16th century Protestants, led by Martin Luther, introduced “Father Christmas” to replace Saint Nicholas and to avoid the Catholic saints. In the Protestant parts of Germany and Switzerland, Saint Nicholas became der Weihnachtsmann (“Christmas Man”). In the U.S. he came to be known as Santa Claus, while in England children look forward to a visit from Father Christmas.

Candles, with their light and warmth, have long been used in winter celebrations as symbols of the sun in the dark of winter. The Christians later adopted candles as their own symbol of the "Light of the World." Candles also play an important role in the eight-day Jewish "Festival of Lights" Hanukkah celebration.

Caution! The German word das Gift means "poison." If you are mailing a present to German Europe, you may wish to mark it with the German word Geschenk, in addition to "gift."

In pagan times, holly was believed to have magical powers that kept evil spirits away. The Christians later made it a symbol of Christ's crown of thorns. According to legend, the holly berries were originally white, but turned red from Christ's blood.

Saint Nicholas is not Santa Claus or the American "Saint Nick." Dec. 6, the Feast of St. Nicholas, is the day upon which the original Bishop Nicholas of Myra (today in Turkey) is commemorated, and is also the date of his death in the year 343. He was later granted sainthood. The German Sankt Nikolaus, dressed as a bishop, brings gifts on that day. According to legend, it was also Bishop Nicholas who gave us the Christmas tradition of hanging stockings by the fireplace. The kindly bishop is said to have thrown bags of gold for the poor down the chimney. The bags landed in stockings that had been hung by the fire to dry. This Saint Nicholas legend may also partly explain the American custom of Santa coming down the chimney with his bag of gifts.

The word "Kris Kringle" is a corruption of Christkindl. The word came into American English via the Pennsylvania Germans, whose neighbors misunderstood the German word for the bringer of gifts. With the passage of time, Santa Claus (from Dutch "Sinterclaas") and Kris Kringle became synonymous. The Austrian town of Christkindl bei Steyr is a popular Christmas post office, an Austrian "North Pole."

KNOW YOUR RUPRECHT! A demonic figure who used to accompany St. Nicholas to punish bad children with his Rute; based on mythical winter figures going back to pagan times. Rarely seen today. Also known as: Hans Muff, Krampus, or Nickel. In some parts of Germany, Ruprecht is good — just another Weihnachtsmann, and Krampus is the bad guy.

It was the German-American Thomas Nast who gave the US its traditional image of Santa Claus.

When Humanism Gets...Sucular

The following Christmas carols might have been written by the Danse Macabre legal department. Can you guess the original titles?

1. Move Hither The Entire Assembly Of Those Who Are Loyal In Their Belief (answer: "O Come All Ye Faithful!" - ok, now you're on your own! :-)

2. Embellish Interior Passageways

3. Vertically Challenged Adolescent Percussionist

4. First Person Singular Experiencing An Hallucinatory Phenomenon Of A Natal Celebration Devoid Of Color

5. Soundless Nocturnal Period

6. Majestic Triplet Referred To In The First Person Plural

7. The Yuletide Occurance Preceding All Others

8. Precious Metal Musical Devices

9. Omnipotent Supreme Being Elicit Respite To Ecstatic Distinguished Males

10. Caribou With Vermillion Olfactory Appendage

11. Allow Crystalline Formations To Descend

12. Jovial Yuletide Desired For The Second Person Singular Or Plural By The First Person Plural

13. Commence Auditory Reception The Announcing Cherubs Vocalize

14. Kris Kringle Will Be Arriving In The City In The Not Too Distant Future

15. Bipedal Traveling Through An Amazing Acreage During The Period Between December 21st And March 21st In The Northern Hemisphere

16. Its Arrival Occurred At Twelve O'Clock During A Clement Nocturnal Period

17. Exclamatory Remark Concerning A Diminutive Municipality In Judea Southwest Of Jerusalem

18. Song of Mirth About the Seat of the Intellect of an Uncastrated Porcine Male

19. Primary Color Between Green and Violet In The Visible Spectrum Annual Festival of the Christian Church Commemorating the Birth of Jesus

20. Female Ancestor Came Against With An Impact And Knocked Down By Large Deer of the Genus Rangifer, of Northern and Arctic Regions of Europe, Asia, and North America

Ten Holiday Music Ideas!

...for anyone looking for ideas for some NEW music. Here are twelve composers from WITF-Harrisburg, PA's Composing Thoughts on ten different cds. You can click on the composer's name to learn about their episode and also click on the title of the cd (next to the composer's name) to learn more about the album and purchase it.

1. Fred Lerdahl: Time after Time [Bridge Records]

As we learned from the composer, this has nothing to do with Cyndi Lauper or her music, but rather with a style of variations the composer created for the piece and the 1940s jazz standard, Time After Time. Also this recent recording has the Orpheus Chamber Orchestra in Lerdahl's fantastic Waves.
2. Libby Larsen: Water Music [Koch International Classics]

If you're a fan of interesting and lush orchestra music, look no further than Libby Larsen's disc with Joel Revzen and the LSO. In her episode, Libby commented that one of her favorite compositions is the Lyric Symphony, which is featured on this disc. We love it too!
3. Jose Serebrier: Symphony No. 3 [Naxos]
Maestro Serebrier is as skillful writing music as he is conducting it! His latest disc includes the Third Symphony, a work he wrote specifically for this cd. Maestro Serebrier (hear how he says his name here) told us great stories about music and composition - his charm shows as well on this recording. This cd is also a real bargain - you might be tempted to pick one up for yourself besides someone on your holiday list.
4. John Eaton: The Music of John Eaton [Indiana University]
John Eaton is a genius - he won a MacArthur Grant that proves it - and so does this disc! Hear a wide range of music on this cd from Indiana University where Eaton taught for many years. Especially haunting is a selection for harp choir and flute, Cave of the Sybil that John discussed onWITF's Composing Thoughts.
5. Tina Davidson: It is my heart singing [Albany]
Tina Davidson spoke to us from her studio in Marietta, PA and showed us the original artwork that this cd uses for it's cover. She also discussed writing "telescope" pieces - works written for professional musicians and students like Paper, Glass, String and Wood that is recorded for the first time on this cd.
6. Ellen Taaffe Zwilich: Symphony No. 2 [First Edition Recordings] Zwilich's Cello Symphony (Symphony No. 2) is a sumptuous work, and this disc also includes her Double Concerto and Chamber Symphony. First Edition captures the excitement and passion of these works with the Louisville Orchestra. Ellen spoke to us about the Cello Symphony, you can hear the interview segment here: mp3 file
7. Kevin Puts: Inspiring Beethoven [Albany Records]This cd is a sampler from Bowling Green University and their wonderful new music festival. Fans of Beethoven and also of new music will adore Kevin's orchestral tour de force, Inspiring Beethoven. This cd includes comments from the composer before each piece is played.
8. Dominick Argento: Casa Guidi [Reference Recordings]
Not only did this recording win a Grammy, it really shows the depth of Argento's orchestral writing. Frederica von Stade is glorious in the title cut; and the beauty of Argento's skill is demonstrated by the Minnesota Orchestra.
9. George Crumb: Ancient Voices of Children (Complete Edition Volume 9) [Bridge Records]

This recent edition from Bridge is an excellent example of George's genius. You'll hear Ancient Voices of Children, Madrigals Books I-IV, and Eine Kleine Mitternachtmusik as the composer intended - Crumb attended and supervised the recording sessions. He spoke to us at his studio in Media, PA about the importance of inspiring the performer with the score. See some his scores here.
10. Jennifer Higdon/Augusta Read Thomas/Bernard Rands: Dream Journal [Albany Records]

Here is a disc with several of the composers we've interviewed onWITF's Composing Thoughts played by the Network for New Music. It's a charming disc of chamber music for the novice or experienced new music listener. Jennifer Higdon was the first composer we interviewed, and we'll be checking on her with an update this spring, including her upcoming Piano Concerto for Lang Lang. Husband and wife composers Bernard Rands and Augusta Read Thomas spoke to us for Valentine's Day 2006.

Enjoy these selections that we highly recommend, and Happy Holidays from everyone at Danse Macabre!

by John Clare

Poetry from the North (of Nevada)

A Christian Contemplates

The faithful pray, with steepled hands,
for return to light and a baby's innocence.
In this mystery the childish is
our best.
Yet youngsters don't deal
in dilemmas,

Why tread hazzard's path if yearly
a pilgrim should struggle
back to infancy?

Becoming as a child requires

Light returns. Does it bring hope
or fundamental judgmentalists
purveying Jesus glitter?
Does this black light damn
gentiles to darkness?

Angels carol of peace on earth.
Do babies make peace?

What of shepherds?
Do we worship their abiding poverty,
stink of shit and lanolin,
to canonize our superiority?

What of parents---surrogate
father determined to hang
on to his soiled fiancee?
mother jar stores miracles in her heart
valued for silence, receptivity.

And the Magi,
delivering forcasts of death?
What leaders now gift helplessness?

Perhaps we need to reinvent light's return
to value shades of gray,
pray the gray binds us,
leads us, holding hands,
out of the dark.

Holly pricks stay green
yet raise
droplets of scarlet.
Packages hold
status barbs
we don't intend---
the sweater, color of remembered
hatred for a sadistic teacher.
Icicle lights sway,
push warm molecules
into snow that only
needs to freeze.
Manger crosspieces intersect
with the cross.

Season's Schizophrenia

Icicle lights dance on my deck.
Yet inside my house the holiday
wreck piles high in confusion.
This year whirls more and more dreary.
I'm through seasonal shopping
have wrapped most of the stuff
topping my short list now, beat sugar to fluff
for hard sauce. Delicious.
Plum pudding with spices
I fear's too ambitious to whip up this year,
for deep in my heart an angry sore festers,
leaving my spirit with a swollen
blister. I'd like to chuck trappings
into the garbage,
clean up my act, to child Jesus pay
homage; relive Mary's story
of delivery and joy, but age
has reduced those memories to toys,
of candied fantasy. I need to forsake gee gaws
material, keep twelve days of simplicity
with prayer and more spiritual
things of this season, revel in Northern
Lights, cold crackling snow underfoot, rise
to new life in cosmic regard, for nature's
treasures given us by the Lord.

by Elizabeth I. Riseden

O Come All Ye Faithful!

If one of your Christmas wishes is to help bring peace on Earth but you want to do the least amount of work possible to bring it about, you'll probably want to join the First Annual Solstice Synchronized Global Orgasm for World Peace, which takes place on December 22. This experiment will be an attempt to join the world's citizens in a simultaneous orgasm combined with thoughts of peace and love for all humankind. According to their website, "The mission of the Global Orgasm is to effect change in the energy field of the Earth through input of the largest possible surge of human energy". Their hope is that this concentrated positive energy will affect the Earth's energy field enough to reduce the current dangerous levels of aggression and violence throughout the world. While the simple promise of an orgasm is a good enough excuse for Danse Macabre to lend a hand (so to speak) to this project, there might even be a chance to be involved in one of the world's largest experiments in thought energy, as the creators of this event promise that Princeton University's Global Consciousness Project will be monitoring the output of human energy on that day with the hope of seeing a measurable change in the results as have occurred during the 9/11 attack and the Indian Ocean tsunami. Join the positive holiday thought energy at

Christmas Carols from the DSM-V of the American Psychiatric Association

* Schizophrenia --- Do You Hear What I Hear?

* Multiple Personality Disorder --- We Three Kings Disoriented Are

* Dementia --- I Think I'll be Home for Christmas

* Narcissistic --- Hark the Herald Angels Sing About Me

* Manic --- Deck the Halls and Walls and House and Lawn and Streets and Stores and Office and Town and Cars and Buses and Trucks and Trees and...

* Paranoid --- Santa Claus is Coming to Town to Get Me

* Borderline Personality Disorder --- Thoughts of Roasting on an Open Fire

* Personality Disorder --- You Better Watch Out, I'm Gonna Cry, I'm Gonna Pout, Maybe I'll Tell You Why

* Attention Deficit Disorder --- Silent night, Holy oooh look at the Froggy! I have a gig tonight, can I have a chocolate, why is France so far away?

* Obsessive Compulsive Disorder --- Jingle Bells, Jingle Bells, Jingle Bells, Jingle Bells, Jingle Bells, Jingle Bells, Jingle Bells, Jingle Bells, Jingle Bells, Jingle Bells, Jingle Bells, Jingle Bells, Jingle Bells, Jingle,Bells, Jingle Bells, Jingle Bells, Jingle Bells, Jingle Bells, Jingle Bells, Jingle Bells, Jingle Bells, Jingle Bells, Jingle Bells, Jingle Bells, Jingle Bells, Jingle Bells, Jingle Bells, Jingle Bells, Jingle Bells, Jingle Bells, Jingle Bells, Jingle Bells, Jingle Bells, Jingle Bells, Jingle Bells, Jingle Bells, Jingle Bells

Links You Cannot Criss-Miss!

Here's some good work & musicianship from the Las Vegas Brass Band on an arrangement by Tom Wright of "Baby, It's Cold Outside". Pete Cooper and Kellie Ballard are the vocalists. Chuck Jackson conducts and the ubiquitous John Clare recorded it. NB - your default music player will engage to play the selection upon pressing groovy tune here.

Need a vacation? Danse Macabre recommends Lufthansa for all your holiday escapist needs.

In the event you find yourself without a personal Weihnachten Kalender for your computer rig, here's a great one, direct from Das Vaterland. Frohliches Weihnachten!