Music Review: Richard III

Please note the time sensitive Christmas ordering special below, as well as info about band appearance and narrative notes.

Richard III by Ian Churchward and The Legendary Ten Seconds

 Track Titles

  1. Sheriff Hutton
  2. Richard Liveth Yet
  3. Written At Rising
  4. Act III, Scene IV
  5. The Year of Three Kings
  6. Hollow Crown
  7. Remember My Name
  8. Lord Lovell’s Lullaby
  9. Requiem
  10. Royal Title
  11. Ambion Hill

Additional narrative notes are also provided (see below).

r3-3rd-album-front_med_hrHaving read the Legendary Ten Seconds characterized as a folk band, I wasn’t sure what to expect when I received their third CD to review, though I was intrigued with the concept album format whereby all the songs map out historical events. More precisely, they detail a specific series of events pertaining to a key figure: Richard III. This release, aptly titled Richard III, highlights instrumental periods in the monarch’s life, through melodic tunes reminiscent of medieval music itself. Listeners will recognize certain moments in which the band pays homage to their medieval forebears, with particular use of mandola notes, bells, organs and other instruments. However, there is balance with a modern sensibility, so while the music is identifiable as medieval-inspired folk, this is neither the monophonically-textured sound we tend to associate with the Middle Ages, nor stereotypical folk often heard mainly at summer forest fairs. What it does present is much of the heritage—our own—that we are taught about as children and will recognize in themes of truth and loyalty, pastoral poetry and the timeless desire to be remembered. It is all presented here so engagingly that even those who might tend toward reluctance will find themselves drawn in, for the music as well as the history it recounts.

“Sheriff Hutton,” the album’s first song, opens with an immediate sense of storytelling, as if the music itself is performing the gesticulations of one about to move forward into a verbal narrative. It is the perfect song to open the collection owing to this musical smoothing out of one’s apparel as well as the lyrics themselves, which tell of discovery as the speaker describes what he experiences upon visiting three sites: Sheriff Hutton, where as Duke of Gloucester Richard stayed, given its proximity to the north; Middleham Castle, the setting of his formative years and where his beloved son, Edward, was born and tragically dies too young; and Bosworth Field, site of the battle where Richard loses his life and the Plantagenet dynasty comes to an end. The song itself encapsulates the story of Richard’s later life as the singer takes us forward in time to “one fateful day,” having already experienced the sense of loneliness and brokenness that permeate the sites, and mindful of Richard’s own experiences when he himself stayed there.

fotheringhaycastle
Fotheringhay Castle (click image)

There is a newness to this start of the CD, yet also a wistfulness, perhaps undetectable to some unfamiliar with the life and times of Richard III. However, the musical arrangement is such that it acts also like a sort of foreshadowing, for once familiarized, these listeners will be able to detect the melancholy, recognizing it the way readers realize they do clues in a story, leading them to the often typical train of thought that commences with, “What if…?” This is paired with opening to the aftereffects of a tragedy as the album then takes listeners back in time to “see” the events that lead to this moment.

With the singer, or storyteller, we embark on a journey from a time when the infant Richard is noted in the “Clare Roll,” a poem documenting the armorial history of the prominent Clare family, the earls of whom Richard, Duke of York is descended; the second song’s title is drawn from his son’s mention within.

The youngest son of the Duke of York

Born in the castle of Fotheringhay

October 1452

Was the sun shining on that autumn day

Richard liveth yet

Richard liveth yet

Richard liveth yet

Born at the castle on the rise of the River Nene

Noting Shakespearean word order within one line, the song also foreshadows the playwright’s role in Richard’s posthumous reputation, and another depicts a scene from Shakespeare’s Richard III, with several vocalists taking up the roles of different characters as they discuss Edward V’s coronation date. While it may seem a curious choice to base a Ricardian song upon, it sets the stage for Richard’s coming rule while also highlighting a central Shakespearean reconstruction re: the alleged withered arm. While we now know that Richard III suffered from scoliosis, the useless arm is a fabrication.

Male and female vocalists appear on the various tracks and they are used to great effect—to play different roles, for example, as mentioned above; in duets, sometimes partner, others as counterpoint; and perhaps to change up the sound “appearance,” though this is carefully considered as their voices and particular and varying uses of them match the individual pieces of narrative so well one might be forgiven for believing each track was written specifically for those particular voices.

Richard III (click image)
Richard III (click image)

In linear fashion the CD progresses through eras in Richard’s life, including leadership roles in which he must manage shortage and adversity, through to the “year of three kings”—1483—which sees the death of Edward IV, Richard’s brother and monarch, to be succeeded by his son, Edward V. As Edward IV’s heir is too young to assume full duties, Richard is named protector and becomes king, followed by the disappearance and presumed deaths of Edward and his younger brother, also called Richard. Marking a turning point in the album as well as Richard’s life, events in “The Hollow Crown” are depicted from Richard’s point of view, and he discloses that in addition to the grief he feels at his own son’s passing, he knows full well what people are saying about his reign, and the darkness that threatens to overtake him:

This hollow crown upon my head

They say Queen Anne will soon be dead

The sky is dark though it is day

With my book of hours I do pray

Following is a transitional tune, one that could be told from Richard’s perspective, that of a soldier, or even both, in parts. Sung with alternating solos and Dylanesque duets (think “Mozambique” or the even smoother “One More Cup of Coffee”), it is a brilliant approach to take given there, of course, would be many expressing the sentiments within, but also to magnify the reality that Richard himself may have struggled with his decision to go to war. There are plenty of pros and cons, and the loneliness of the tune is mindful of what the monarch may feel in these moments, lost as Edward and, now, Queen Anne are to him. Still, he retains his book of hours and it could be he finds solace in prayer, remaining in low spirits but not remotely near to, as some have suggested, a death wish. The tune ends with a rather rapid fadeout, akin to a musical ellipses, mirroring acknowledgment of the terrible realities of war and remembrance.

From this point on the lyrics reflect thoughts and emotions of others, for the king is dead and can no longer speak. The singer channels these figures, such as Margaret, mourning her brother, killed so viciously, and references antiquarian Sir George Buck’s The History of King Richard III. In the end a ghostly apparition beckons to our storyteller, who acknowledges that some may or may not believe all he has laid out. Important to note, however, is that despite many circumstantial attempts to destroy Richard’s reputation and legacy, evidence exists to prove previous claims false or perverted—evidence available in the Titulus Regius, for example, discovered by Sir George, evidence that, like Richard himself, long lay buried and perhaps some still does—that despite all this, “the truth, it has survived.”

This is a wonderfully evocative account of the life of Richard III, one that will draw listeners again and again.

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The Legendary Ten Seconds was originally a solo music project of Ian Churchward who has played guitar in various bands after starting to play the guitar in 1979. Ian’s first band was called Chapter 29 and after this band split up in 1986 he started a new indie pop band called The Morrisons later that year. This band released a flexi disc which was played on the John Peel show on BBC radio one in 1987. From the late 1990’s until about 2007 Ian also played in a ceilidh band called Storm Force Ten which then became a new band called Phoenix.

Richard III is the third album from the Legendary Ten Seconds. For more information on previous music, click here or images below.

Tant le désirée
Tant le désirée
Loyaulte Me Lie
Loyaulte Me Lie

 

 

 

 

 

You can learn more about Ian Churchward and The Legendary Ten Seconds and their music at FacebookCD Baby, a blog dedicated to The Richard 3rd Projects and Twitter. For Richard III-related links, see Lord Z (and tab above).

Special Notes:  An additional album, The Legendary Ten Songs Of Sir Ian Of Churchward may be purchased as a download from CD Baby OR it can be gotten for FREE before Christmas when purchasing any other album from Lord Z (this link ONLY). Be sure to get it from Lord Z! Additionally, for as long as supplies last, album purchase includes a FREE Ricardian Legendary Ten Seconds beer mat (see and click image below).

Free beer mat with any album purchase from Lord Z (click image)
Free beer mat with any album purchase from Lord Z (click image)

Concert Information:

The Legendary Ten Seconds will be appearing at Stony Stratford in February!!

poster for stratford gig

Narrative Notes:

On Tant le desiree the narratives are written and read by author Sandra Heath Wilson. They are fictional and read from the point of view of Richard III’s mother, Cecily Neville.

On  Richard III  the narratives are historical and factual. These Richard III narratives are written, read and recorded by Matthew Lewis and provide information about Richard III.

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The reviewer was provided with a copy of Richard III in order to provide an honest review.

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Book Review: Revenge and Retribution

Revenge and Retribution (Book VI in The Graham Saga)
by Anna Belfrage

A B.R.A.G. Medallion Honoree

The first installment of this series, A Rip in the Veil, opens with a frustrated Alexandra Lind hurriedly trying to make her way to an Edinburgh meeting when she encounters a crossroads and a thunderstorm, with inconceivably shocking and perilous consequences. The circumstantial combination creates a rent in the fabric of time, and results in a topological defect, as it were, an unstable vacuum that momentarily lifts the divide between eras and violently pulls her through, landing the frightened woman in 17th century Scotland.

revenge-retribution-coverMany of us have expressed the desire—for the sake of curiosity if nothing else—to travel through time, with the caveat that we make it back, of course. Alex, however, meets up with Matthew Graham, an escaped convict wrongfully imprisoned, making his way home, and later concludes she wants to stay. She isn’t idealistic about the shift; she’s not fond of a number of 1658 ways of life and misses parts of her old existence, but decides this time she has been brought to is where she is meant to be, and Matthew is who she is meant to be with. Interestingly, her son Isaac is a part of her old life she doesn’t seem to miss much; Alex carries emotional baggage related to the boy’s birth and she opens up to Matthew regarding this and other portions of her past.

Or would that be her future? This is a question Alex plays with throughout the series, and when we meet up with her again in Revenge and Retribution we find she has known, despite chronological numbers, where her future really is. Since A Rip in the Veil and four subsequent books in the set, Alex’s family have grown and the religious persecution they escape about mid-series has led them to the colony of Maryland. The lifestyle has been difficult but not without rewards and an alliance of sorts has developed between the Grahams and a local tribe of Natives. Alex fears the cost of this alliance, not only from some settlers out to exact revenge, but also the very group from which she has earned a measure of respect.

As in the series’ other installations, Belfrage is tasked with a precarious balancing act: she must weigh the sensibilities of the day with the reality that Alex carries with her: a consciousness often in defiance of those perceptions. So it is not unfitting for Alex to take some of the steps she does, though sometimes foolhardy, given her past experiences in this new/old time. Equally, it makes sense, historically speaking, to observe people referring to indentured servants and slaves the way we might speak of the weather: it varies but it is. Such competing concepts existing side by side—albeit one very much in the minority and hidden from most others—require careful maintenance to remain in the realm of the feasible, and Belfrage not only pulls it off, but also makes it appear easy.

Following a point in which Alex’s transport is threatened with exposure and she a dreaded accusation of witchcraft, she prepares for a hearing at which she will testify on her own behalf.

“What will they ask me?” Alex asked Matthew as he accompanied her to the meeting house later that same day. “It’s not as if I know the whole bloody Bible by heart, is it?”
“It will help if you don’t refer to the Holy Writ as the ‘bloody Bible’,” he said drily. “They’ll ask you from the catechism, and you know most of it.”
“Unfortunately, I don’t always agree with it.”
“That you must keep to yourself. Concentrate on the questions and on replying to them, not on voicing your opinions as to how Lot treated his daughters, or how unfair some of the laws are to women.”
“Hmm.” Alex wiped her hand surreptitiously against her skirts.
All in all, it wasn’t too bad, Alex thought afterwards, curtseying to one after another of the ministers. Despite being barraged by questions from Minister Macpherson, she had acquitted herself well enough to earn herself a wink from Minister Walker.

Although all the previous novels entail some violence and tragedy, within Revenge and Retribution the Grahams reach a turning point, even if they aren’t quite as aware of it as they ought to be. Several previous events, while not occupying large parts of the stories in which they are contained, foreshadow a system that now seems to be breaking apart, or leading to something much larger than anyone might have ever conceived possible. A darker force is ushered in, its influence silently spread, interestingly enough through the keeping of secrets.

We as readers, however, have all the links that individual characters lack, and see the ominous overtones hovering like a dark cloud, embodied at one point in a Voice:

After death—was the Voice dead?
The Voice laughed. Death was a relative in respect of time. For a person born in the future to fall back and die in this time, how could they be dead if they had as yet not been born? No, the Voice clarified, some people died—the lucky ones.

This is not a contemplation—philosophical or realistic—that has escaped Alex. She has learned to move forward, but is intelligent enough to be afraid of certain conditions, even when—especially when—she doesn’t know exactly what they entail. Belfrage’s treatment of Alex very wisely assigns her vulnerabilities peculiar to her, and her anger becomes more wild as events stack up against her. She finds comfort in her husband, Matthew, even following often bitter arguments that test boundaries: between the pair as a couple as well as over the times each comes from. Belfrage’s masterful, lyrical introspections show us both the strengths and frailties within Alex, and brings us, wherever she may be, to the scene as if we are experiencing the moment ourselves.

They lapsed into a comfortable silence, watching as the sun transformed the frosted trees into prisms of magical colour. It was very quiet, the migrating birds long gone, and the remaining sparrows and thrushes keeping low to the ground, or at least going about their business without expending energy on making noise. A crow cawed, it cawed again, and then it was all absolute stillness.

Within the pages of Revenge and Retribution is when Alex faces what may be her most difficult challenges yet. There is indeed a lot of violence and for this reviewer it was the most difficult to read of all novels in the Saga. Belfrage skillfully shows Alex in the same boat experiencing it all, as well as the manner in which she opens up to faith, finding some comfort within and reaching out to her past. Readers feel for Alex’s entanglements, and perhaps the most enthusiastic nod for Belfrage’s talent is how we respond as if Alex were a close friend, someone we care about who is confused and hurting. The author through the series enables each novel to be stand-alones, but rest assured readers will not be satisfied with that, as the next book will always be eagerly sought.

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Read my review for A Rip in the Veil (Book I in The Graham Saga)

Read my review for Like Chaff in the Wind (Book II in The Graham Saga)

Read my review for The Prodigal Son (Book III in The Graham Saga) (with author interview)

Read my review for A Newfound Land (Book IV in The Graham Saga)

Read my review for Serpents in the Garden (Book V in The Graham Saga)

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Anne Belfrage can be found at her blog, which also maps out the The Graham Saga series for readers. Find her as well at Twitter, Facebook and at her Amazon author page, where you can also learn about her newest novel, In the Shadow of the Storm, first in her new series, The King’s Greatest Enemy. 

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This review previously appeared at the blog’s alternate location and a copy of Revenge and Retribution  provided in exchange for an honest review.

Book Review: Witch Ever Way You Look At It

Witch Ever Way You Look At It

By Jennie Orbell

Sometimes books appear in your midst as if by magic. Or, maybe not magic, though there do seem to be other forces whispering into your ear even when you’d decided you were just window shopping.

witchIn my case recently the voices within had been beckoning to me, because once I’d seen it initially, I never really could forget about it. Aye, I admit it, the cover was the first draw, but why not? It’s a great visual: it’s fun, and sassy and well done. And, of course, the play on words gives a little more insight into the plot.

Ah, no wonder the magic.

Witch Ever Way You Look At It centers on Annie and Lizzie, best friends who are there for each other through thick and thin. One year earlier Lizzie had lost her husband, the love of her life, and now is left to care for their small boy, Charlie.

Annie, proprietor of Annie’s Herbs and granddaughter of the local witch, has it made. Yes! The perfect friend, perfect granny, perfect life. “Everything was just plain perfect.” Sure, Lizzie likes to tease her about being a witch (“I am NOT a witch”), but she could allow those conversations to peter out with a few well-placed humorous comments for effect. In the end they always move on to other topics, including her grandmother Wilhemina, or Willie, who often tries to bring Annie’s attention to this or that available male, despite our protagonist’s insistence that her life is happy just the way it is.

Nevermind. Everything is perfect.

And then comes Mace Anderson. Rather quickly author Jennie Orbell playfully delivers an example of the timeless misunderstandings between men and women. Piercing pale-blue eyes nonetheless, Mace gets under Annie’s skin when he moves into a nearby cottage and seems to turn up at the most inopportune moments, catching Annie doing something quite reasonable—usually—but with an offbeat appearance or backstory.

Shortly after Annie arrives home from coffee with Lizzie—at a café where Mace Anderson had been eavesdropping on their quirky conversation and making no effort to hide it—she finds herself underneath her new neighbor’s posh vehicle, attempting to cajole her feline pet, Bat, out from under, where he’d been hiding after stealing a pork chop from Mace’s kitchen.

‘Can I help you with something?’

The words came floating down towards her left shoulder, as gentle as apple blossom falling on dew-soaked grass, and she knew, without a shadow of a doubt, that they had come from her new neighbour. She screwed up her face and mouthed the words ‘Oh God’ to no one but herself. Bat turned, swallowed a large chunk of pork and licked his lips. “You bugger” she mouthed at the cat, before taking a deep breath and crawling out from under the car. A hand was extended from above, which she ignored, and she rose slowly to her feet, tugging down her dress which she felt sure had ridden up to her armpits and had exposed her half-naked body to a total stranger.

‘I was looking for my cat,’ she said, with an ever widening smile.

‘Your cat?’

‘Bat.’

‘Your bat?’

‘Sorry?’

‘You say you are looking for your bat? Don’t they only come out at night?’

‘I said I was looking for my cat, Bat.’

The eyes blinked … twice. ‘You have a cat called Bat?’

Later, as Annie discusses with Willie Bat’s thievery and meeting up with Mace for the first time, Willie is dismayed.

‘We’ll have to keep our eyes on him. He needs to know his boundaries.’

‘Exactly,’ Annie said, with a positive nod of her head. ‘He can’t expect to move in here and rule the roost in a day.’

‘I was talking about Bat,’ Willie said.

With this, the author sets up a series of circumstances and misunderstandings that lead to the absurd, the alarming, even the life altering if they move forward unabated. Some of the results are hilarious, others cause a skipped heartbeat here and there and the author’s telling of them is spot on in her observations of human nature, as is the adroit manner in which she weaves words together. The characters speak to each other in dialogue that is true to life, and I easily heard their conversations as I read, sometimes aloud. Orbell is adept at moving characters through various ups and downs while preserving the integrity of each one’s voice.

She then does one better by creating an underlying thread, one that results in a second storyline, the magic of that being that readers accompany Annie through her trials and tribulations without awareness of this second story. This parallels Annie’s own experience of these events in that she doesn’t seem fully aware of the effect her past has on current circumstances, as well as in how she allows herself to advance toward the future. She believes she is just moving forward.

cute black cat
Bat and his companions never utter a word, yet Orbell gives them voice in the novel, showcasing her love for felines, like the cute kitty above

This dual plotline reveals another strength from Orbell: the ability to pair humorous antics with poignant reality. We also see Annie in ways her public persona does not necessarily showcase: not only as a considerate person, but also an individual with thoughtfully developed interests and concerns, as well as someone quite competent and in a pinch capable of securing the wherewithal and ability to perform. Of course, this type of multi-dimensional character is what readers appreciate, and they will feel the same about the creator, who skillfully pairs wit and wisdom in a balance that can be rather difficult to strike. Orbell does it with dexterity and grace, resulting in a read that is both straight up fun as well as tenderly poignant.

As Annie and readers learn together, her life may not be as perfect as it once appeared to be, though the roads traveled and discoveries made contribute to a shared experience that neither would trade, though for different reasons. On our part, we can also relate to so much of the interaction, perhaps because much of it triggers the sort of coming to awareness (serious as well as light) that enables laughing at oneself, or the softening of a necessary blow, something most of us have also experienced.

After an unsettling encounter, Annie returns to the cottage and confides to her granny:

Annie ran a hand over her forehead; it was damp with sweat. ‘I think I made a fool of myself, Gran, because I told him everything and then I cried.’

Willie made a tutting noise and dismissively waved her hand. ‘Oh, nonsense, don’t you think the man is used to you making a fool of yourself by now.’

Filled with characters we’d love to see again, Witch Ever Way You Look At It is a compelling and rewarding read, one that drew gasps at times, made me laugh and caused my heart to swell. I also loved the passages that include the herbology Willie uses for her spells and Annie’s work with her herb business. It was fun to read about, but also intriguing and made me want to engage in the pursuit as well—all while staying light and on course for the events being discussed.

I will most definitely be reading more from Jennie Orbell, and recommend with much enthusiasm this start to her world. It is singularly spectacular and I won’t complain if the author were to whip up a little more magic and bring these characters to us again.

In fact, that would be perfect.

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jennieFrom her blog, Jennie Orbell writes…

The silly bit:

My likes and loves include positive people, cats with attitude, sponge cakes that rise, snails that stay in other gardens and country music.

I am respectful of all creatures – and human beings who have earned it. An extreme Scorpio who never forgets a kindness (or a hurt)

I dislike self-important/pessimistic/ illogical people, broken promises and all forms of cruelty to animals.

I share my life with my partner, Richard (whom for some strange reason appears to accept all of the above!) two chickens and a tabby cat called Chea.

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Jennie Orbell is the author of several novels including The Sleeping Field, Mulligan’s Reach and Starfish, as well as her most recent, Two Chucks and a Tabby Cat and children’s book Prince Regal and the Forgotten Friends.

You can learn more about Orbell and her world at her fabulous blogTwitter and Facebook.

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