Saturday, August 9, 2014

The OUTLANDER Theme Song

I can't imagine a composer more suited to creating the score for the Outlander TV series than Bear McCreary. Growing up, he attended the Scottish Highland Games held every summer in his home town of Bellingham, Washington. He was particularly captivated by the music. He describes the experience on his blog:
"First hearing the rolling and relentless Bb drone of the bagpipe bands get louder as we parked the car and headed towards the grounds gave me the euphoria that most little kids probably feel going to Disneyland."
Before he even graduated from high school, he was researching songs from the time of the 1745 Jacobite Rising in Scotland, about which he says,
"I was awestruck by the ability of these songs to communicate hidden meaning, tales of tragedy and triumph, with deceptively simple melodic lines and evocative harmonic progressions." 
Years later, when producer Ron Moore needed a composer to do the score for the Outlander TV series, McCreary was the perfect fit.

His decision to adapt the Scottish folk tune, The Skye Boat Song, to make it the theme song for the series is brilliant. Originally written to tell the story of Bonnie Prince Charlie's escape to the Isle of Skye after his defeat at Culloden, the song connects with the historical events familiar to readers of Diana Gabaldon's OUTLANDER books.

For the theme song, Bear has taken this well known melody, slowed the tempo, and changed the lyrics to make it a song about Claire Randall, "the lass that is gone." It is haunting and beautiful and unmistakably Scottish.

So that you can hear and compare the two versions of the song, scroll down and have a listen.

This is the original Skye Boat Song, complete with lyrics, performed by The Corries.

The original lyrics were rewritten by Robert Louis Stevenson, the Scottish noveliest, poet, and travel writer(thank you to reader, Jane Warren, for this information), and adapted further by Bear McCreary to fit the Outlander story. Watch the opening credits for Outlander, to hear this version of the lyrics. (And look for the little blue flowers at the base of the stones in the closing frames.)
Sing me a song of a lass that is gone,
Say, could that lass be I?
Merry of soul she sailed on a day
Over the sea to Skye. 
Billow and breeze, islands and seas,
Mountains of rain and sun,
All that was good, all that was fair,
All that was me is gone.

Repeat chorus 
Give me again all that was there,
Give me the sun that shone,
Give me the eyes, give me the soul
Give me the lass that's gone. 
Repeat chorus
Here's the full length song, performed at Spreckels Theater in San Diego, before the world premiere of the first episode of Outlander. Raya Yarbrough is the singer, Bear McCreary is playing the accordion and Paul Cartwright, the violin.


Can't get enough of all things Outlander? Be sure to visit my blog The Outlander Plant Guide

Monday, April 14, 2014

A Gaelic Blessing

This fun little song was part of my community choir's 30th Anniversary concert. I hope you enjoy listening to it as much as we enjoyed singing it!

A Gaelic Blessing

by Daniel Gawthrop

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Outlander Gardeners - Start Your Seeds!

Fans of Diana Gabaldon's popular series of Outlander books are eagerly awaiting the start of the Starz TV series based on the saga, which will premiere in summer, 2014.

In the meantime, what's a fan to do? Why not plant a garden this spring, featuring some of the plants mentioned in the Outlander books?

Here are some suggestions, with links to the seeds offered by Botanical Interests.

Forget-Me-Nots (Myosotis sp.) This is the little plant that started it all. Claire first spotted this plant when she and Frank visited the standing stones. She returned later to collect the flowers, got a little too close to the cleft between the stones, and the rest is historical fiction.

Foxglove (Digitalis sp.) This colorful biennial has long been used as a heart medicine. Enjoy the flowers but do not eat any part of this plant.

Garlic chives (Allium sp.) Garlic has been used as an antibiotic for centuries. The time to plant regular garlic is mid-summer, but you can get the benefit of the medicinal properties of this plant family by using garlic chives. Chives are perennials - they reappear early every spring.

Watercress (Nasturtium officianale) Claire and Jamie's adventures often have them living off the land, foraging for plants like watercress. Watercress grows wild in the Highlands of Scotland. If you happen to live elsewhere, you can plant these seeds, cultivate your own patch and enjoy these peppery greens in salads.

For more about plants featured in the Outlander books, visit my blog, Outlander Plant Guide.

Saturday, March 22, 2014

Can Curry Relieve Joint Pain?

Absolutely! I discovered this by accident after I had a bad fall on the sidewalk and wrenched my knee. Fortunately, nothing was broken, but for a couple of weeks my knee was swollen and sore. In fact, for a few days, it hurt too much to bear weight on it and I had to use a cane.

About a week after the fall, I had a craving for red curry. I was still in quite a bit of pain and it hurt to walk. So rather than hobble into a restaurant, I made a batch of curry at home. I noticed that about 20 minutes after I ate a big plate of it, my knee felt a lot better. Several hours later, the pain started coming back, which led me to wonder what was going on.

A little research showed that turmeric, an ingredient in curry, has long been used in Chinese and Indian (Ayurvedic) medicine as an anti-inflammatory agent. Curcurmin, the volatile oil that gives turmeric its intense yellow color, has the advantage of relieving pain and a host of other conditions, without side effects.

I have arthritis and have found that Western pharmaceuticals don't work for me. They simply don't relieve the pain. They do have a long list of side effects that would make them unacceptable to me for regular use, even if they did work. 

Since this discovery, I have been adding turmeric to soups, stews - wherever the flavor might be complementary - to keep my joints feeling better.

I also add cayenne pepper for its anti-inflammatory and pain relieving properties. I don't need a lot. I substitute it for black pepper in dishes like scrambled eggs. Just a dash will add a slight bit of heat and a whole lot of benefits. (If you are sensitive to nightshade plants, however, you might want to forego the cayenne.)

If you want to try this at home, red curry is very simple to make. I "cheat" and use bottled red curry sauce. If I use the Thai Kitchen brand, available locally at PCC stores, I add more turmeric, cayenne and ground ginger to it, because I like more spicy flavor. I also use Trader Joe's red curry sauce which doesn't (in my opinion) need much extra spice.

I start by sauteing vegetables. I like onions, garlic and red peppers, but you could use matchstick pieces of carrot or celery, whatever you like.

When the vegetables are softened, I add the curry sauce and let the mixture simmer until the vegetables are cooked through. Then I add shredded cooked chicken or shrimp, stir and simmer another minute or two.

While the sauce is simmering, I make rice and steam some broccoli. By the time the rice is done, everything else is ready to put onto the plate.

I like to put down a layer of rice, top it with the curry, put the broccoli on top and then garnish with a generous amount of chopped cilantro. If I have a lime handy, I squeeze some juice over it all.

And there you have it - As Hippocrates said, "Let your food be your medicine."

Sunday, February 23, 2014

Sleeping With Mozart

How is it possible to share a bed with a man who has been dead for 222 years?

It's simple - try learning to perform his music. It stays with you, like a living presence.

In choir, we often talk about "going to sleep" with the music we are working on. Our rehearsals end at 9 p.m. and the music lingers with us for some time afterward. It isn't unusual for a song to be stuck in our heads when we go to bed. I find that to be quite pleasant, actually. But if I wake up during the night, hearing certain pieces of music playing over and over can make it hard to get back to sleep.

We are currently rehearsing "Dies Irae" from Mozart's Requiem Mass in D minor. Ironically, Mozart died while composing this "mass for the dead." He was only 35 years old. I don't know if he knew he was about to die, but the passion and near frantic pace of this music is anything but soothing. It IS beautiful, but it's no lullaby.

So on rehearsal nights lately, I've been doing my best to focus on some other piece of music as I drift off to sleep. Something by Gershwin, for example. Because if I'm going to sleep with a composer, I'd rather it not be Mozart. 


Friday, January 10, 2014

What Is The Moisture Festival?

I have been a fan of Seattle's wild, whacky, comedy/variete Moisture Festival since the first day I heard of it. 2013 was the 10th year of the festival and for 9 of those years, I've either attended shows or volunteered during the festival as a Food Babe. (Food Babes work in the kitchen area backstage serving food and beverages to performers.)

In spite of seeing countless performances, and telling dozens of people about the festival, I am still at a loss for an answer to the question, "What is the Moisture Festival?" A surprising number of people have never heard of vaudeville. Young people are unfamiliar with the concept, since it has been a long time since variety shows aired on television. I find myself rambling on about jugglers, acrobats and yodelers - unable to find the words to describe the magic that happens every spring when a local brewery warehouse is transformed into Hale's Palladium.

Apparently, I'm not the only one who struggles to explain what the Moisture Festival is all about. To help us all out, the clever folks who produce the festival have put together a video of the 2013 season's greatest hits. If you watch this, you'll see what I've been trying to tell you about all these years. Enjoy!


For more information about the Moisture Festival, including 2014 dates and ticket information, visit their website.