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Witchvox Chapter: Pagan Music
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Bardic Circle Featuring...
(words & music by Lady Isadora, adapting words by Orlando Gibbon)
The silver swan
Who living had no note
When Death approached
Unlocked her silent throat
Leaning her breast against
The lonely shore
Thus sang her first and last
And sang no more
“Farewell, farewell all joys
O Death, come close mine eyes
More geese than swans now live
More fools than wise”
copyright 1990 Lady Isadora
Lady Isadora ...
(by Lady Isadora, adapting words by Orlando Gibbon)
Audience Count: 9,109
Friday the Thirteenth debut, sometime in the early 1960s. A lucky day. A very good day to dance. Who knew there could be butterflies in October? The theatre lights dim, then go dark. The coughing, murmuring audience is suddenly hushed with anticipation. The blood-red velvet curtains open slowly onto a death-dark stage. From the shadows waft mysteriously the first few eerie strains from the orchestra pit. Ah, yes... the “Dying Swan” from the ballet “Swan Lake”. The stage-lights go up. The music swells, as if to counter the fading beat of dying wings. But-- what’s this? That’s not Pavlova! Not even Pavlova's ghost. Not Maria Tallchief! Not Margot Fonteyn! Certainly not Erik Bruhn, and no way is it Rudolf Nureyev. Who’s that tall, skinny, leggy blonde girl in the white tutu, her pale blonde hair in an almost-tidy bun under the little swan head-dress? She looks as if she hasn’t been en pointe very long... and speaking of long, the feet in those bewitchingly beribboned pink satin toe-shoes aren’t exactly dainty. Ha. Long feet to go with those long legs. Too long for a proper ballerina. But the kid's not bad. Not bad at all.
Hey, wait a minute. Suddenly, the music’s changing. What happened to Tchaikovsky? Where are those violins? The string section? The tuxedoed conductor? That sounds like harpsichord and lute! This music sounds REALLY old. Much older than Pyotr Ilyich. Ancient, even. And lo and behold, as if by magic, the skinny girl is dressed much differently now. Instead of the cute little tutu, she’s wearing a long gown of amazing cloth-of-gold and purple velvet. A twilight shadow newly sparkling, dancing up from Time's mad fancies, out of Queen Elizabeth’s court. No no no, not THIS Queen Elizabeth. Not the prim and proper one we've got nowadays. The other one, from much, much longer ago. The REAL one. The hot-tempered one. The willful one. The one of whom it was said that "she hath a spirit full of incantation", who struck sparks from men's minds, and set a whole new golden era ablaze. The one who was an ace at the lute and "virginals" (as they used to call the forerunner of the harpsichord in the long-ago days of this "Virgin" Queen) , as well as at poetry and Latin and statecraft. The canny one. The wary one. The one who, confounding her enemies, miraculously survived the intrigue-entwined reigns of her sickly boy-king brother, and their even sicklier, not to mention sicker, half-sister, Bloody Mary. Though of course, this enchanting paragon did not survive her own reign, however long and mostly fabulous it turned out to be. No mortal queen can do that. Not even the high and mighty first Queen Elizabeth, the proud, pale second daughter of old King Henry VIII himself. That same "Great Harry" who, while still in his golden youth (or as near as dammit, in his own arrogant mind, at least) , according to folk music legend, wrote the glorious "Greensleeves" for Elizabeth's mother, the infamous Anne Boleyn. But that was back before "Black Nan", as the latter was called in the streets because of the color of her hair (and, to hear it told by some poison-tongued vipers, the color of her heart, as well) ever became Elizabeth's mother. Before Henry accused Anne of witchery and treason because she'd "only" given him a girl-child for his royal heir. Before he'd forgotten all about Anne's captivating dark eyes, and that lustrous, long black hair, and the brilliantly witty repartee which had once so held him in thrall. Before he no longer burned to possess the slim, lithe figure in the velvet gown, with its once-celebrated green sleeves. Before he most cruelly, most heartlessly, like casting off an old cloak, had the thousand-day "Witch Queen" cast into the Tower, falsely accused of fivefold adultery, even with her own brother. Yes, certainly before the King's conveniently offended Majesty "pulled rank" on his quick-witted but ultimately powerless queen consort, and had her very troublesome head struck right off of her very slender, swan-like neck. So tragic... and so much for casting HIM off discourteously. "Oh, Death, rock me asleep..." sang Anne in reply, now sleeved in black, before she knelt.
Say, what happened to the skinny blonde kid? The blood-red curtains? The swan-white tutu? This slender cloth-of-gold girl dancing galliards instead of pas-de-chat has red hair. She's lost the pink toe-shoes, or danced them off. She's almost a woman. "She hath a spirit full of incantation." Hey, who said that? How can any of this be? Only royals may wear purple and cloth-of-gold. And-- old Bess has been gone for over 400 years now. Hasn't she? The old swan died standing, refusing to take to her bed at the end, and her last sad, tired notes have long since died with her. Haven't they?
Recorded: Indianola, Iowa, 1989
Guests/Players: Lady Isadora, vocals and acoustic guitar.
Technical Notes: Vocals and acoustic guitar. Recorded in professional 24-track studio. Music by Lady Isadora, words from "The Silver Swan" by Orlando Gibbon (1583-1625) , adapted by Lady Isadora.
Artist Profile: Excerpted from Isadora's website (Lykaina, webmistress) :
An experienced Witch priestess and ritual artist, Lady Isadora is also a critically-acclaimed singer-songwriter, guitarist, arranger, and producer. She was one of the early founders of the Witch & Pagan musical genre. Her classic albums *The Queen of Earth and Sky*, *Priestess of the Pentacle*, and *The Witching Hour*, long awaited on CD, were re-released on that format Samhain 2010, with new recordings in the works.
Isadora, or "Dizzy Aura", was born on the very first day of the Neo-Elizabethan era, and is very glad to be here, even if she does find the original era much more interesting-- sometimes. After all, there were no Beatles, no detective novels, and no fabulous designer yarns to knit with in Elizabethan days-- and what's worse, there was no Johnny Depp. Or was there?
Isadora is a longtime writer and researcher in a number of diverse fields of interest. She has published articles in various Pagan, New Age, and mainstream journals, is working on a series of novels, and is also compiling for publication a compendium of original rituals, poetry, and essays, entitled *The Pen is a Magic Wand*.
Isadora has been among the most acclaimed Pagan bards for nearly three decades. She has been described by recent reviewers as “Queen of Musical Witches” and “a Pagan National Treasure”, having already earned such accolades as “a voice that rivals Judy Collins’”, “guitar prowess to rival Lita Ford”, and “the Joni Mitchell of the [Witchcraft] movement”. However, Isadora declines to style herself with such titles.
“Of course, I’m very flattered to have been given so much praise, ” she admits. “If somebody says it or writes it, I’ll have it put on my reviews webpage, with great appreciation. If all the promo quotes sell somebody on checking out my music, so be it, and I hope they enjoy my songs. Like any other musician, I want to be able to make a living from my work. Like all musicians, I have my influences. But I don’t want to get stuck on them.
"I’ve always felt it’s the individual voice one represents, and what one brings to music that’s new and unique, that are truly important. I don’t want to play the Jonier-than-thou game some young female singer-songwriters today seem rather caught up in. Yes, Joni Mitchell and other great mainstream recording artists have been pioneering musical sisterspirits for many of us. Listening to their work in our younger years helped awaken the chords of our own beings – and those are the chords we really should be playing, when all is said and sung.
"I put my own Witchy and very personal stamp on my influences, I feel, and took them in new directions. I’ve continued to grow and deepen as a songwriter, so I’m eager to share my previously-unreleased and more recent material with fans, as well. Yes, Joni et al are fabulous, without doubt, but so are we. We’ve got our own voices to raise and our own songs to sing.
"So... I don’t see myself as Judy Collins in a tall black pointy, or the Witch Lennon-McCartney, or Empress of Ethereal Sopranos, or the bitchin’est, bewitchin’est Broomstick Babe of Bards, or whatever. [Laughs and winks.] OK, OK, well, under the circs, I can see I'm FORCED to confess I was once known to certain veddy British male admirers in my desperately mod girlish days in the '60s as "Queen of the Birds", tee hee. A story I shall NOT at present delve into in any detail. [Chokes back a wee chortle-- just barely.] At any rate, I suppose it might be cool to be considered the next Billie Holiday, or the next Hildegard von Bingen-- or maybe a quirkily groundbreaking new combination of the two [laughs again]-- but I'd really rather be the one and only Lady Isadora, anyway. If I happen to be somebody’s favorite musician, then sure, I’m happy, but I do keep it in perspective. Music is an art, not a contest! And there is such a glorious amount of talent in the Pagan music scene these days... a true joy for us all!”
Isadora is co-founder with friend Lykaina of the sorcerously subversive social club network, the Black Witch-Hat Society. In the early 1970s, Isadora was the one and only lonely founder of the only partly tongue-in-cheek Society for the Prevention of Witchcraft Being Called "Wicca". (As she is all too fond of advising to whomever will listen, the original word was documentably "Wiccecraeft", pronounced "WITCH-eh-creft", from the Old English/Anglo-Saxon-- a Germanic, not Celtic tongue.) Isadora, of "mixed" British Isles and Danish descent, has been an avid enthusiast for her own ancestral languages and many others for most of her life. While at university, she was inducted into Delta Phi Alpha, the National German Honor Society, having won a number of academic awards in that language, including two from the German government. One of Isadora's specialties at Bluestocking & Broomstick is the studious pursuit of the Celtic and Germanic branches of the Indo-European language family tree.
A longtime clergywoman of the Craft with legal ministerial status, a trustee of the Universal Federation of Pagans, and a member of ASCAP and the international Fellowship of Isis, Isadora has been a biographee in *The World Who's Who of Women*. Following an absence of some years from the Pagan music scene due to family commitments and other aspects of her life and career, Isadora plans to make it up to her bewitched, bothered, and bewildered fans by releasing a series of long-awaited new albums and gigging as often as possible at festivals and other gatherings and events.
Wrote legendary Pagan journal *Green Egg*:
"In Lady Isadora's voice hear the singing of quartz bowl bells. In her heart feel the dedication of Witch and bard. Her voice slides waterlike from strong high places to splash into pools of evenly-grained alto note progressions, then carries us all willingly down storystreams of love, defiance, ethics, evolution... [Her albums] are a wonderful collection for Pagans, Witches, and writers. Her voice is an instrument of surpassing beauty with which she tells our tales and sings our souls."
Additional review accolades for Lady Isadora include:
"...soaring flutelike exaltation... lushly beautiful melodies combine with words of power..."
"Her pure soprano voice comes from deep within her soul... moving, strong, poetic lyrics... Inspired and fulfilling music, highly recommended."
--*Heartsong Review* (1st review)
"Once more, Lady Isadora touches Pagan heartstrings with her lilting voice and magical melodes... themes of power and mystery... good thinking music...deep messages for contemplation mixed within the lovely harmonies."
--*Heartsong Review* (2nd review)
"... don't miss... sparkles with top professionalism... a voice that rivals Judy Collins' for clarity and emotion.“
--*Circle Network News*
“The Joni Mitchell of the Wicca* movement... powerful...” – Website for “Psyche van het Folk, ” Radio Centraal, Antwerp, Belgium
*Isadora greatly appreciates the praise, but notes that she herself uses only the term "Witchcraft".
"An intelligence not often seen in this field...Raise your expectations for Pagan music.”
– *The Red Queen*
"...a Pagan National Treasure..."
--Michelle Mays, *Fireleap: the Beltane Collection*, et al.
"Like the sirens of mythology, Isadora calls our spirits to join her in ecstacy... this songstress is truly the Queen of Musical Witches."
--SkyDragon of Lucidian, *For the Lady and Lord*
"Isadora sings like the mermaids, full of truth and magic... lyrical, yet politically astute as well. A rare combination..."
--Shekhinah Mountainwater, *Songs and Chants of the Goddess*, *Witch-a-Way*, et al; author of *Ariadne's Thread*
"... a cauldron of mixed delights and metaphors... unique approach and style... the layered voices and harmonies of 'Samhain Fires' would make Freddie Mercury and Queen proud... Candy for the ear, intellect, and spirit."
-- Lord Foxglove, author of *Advancing the Witches' Craft*
“...excellent... delightful... I have absolutely no hesitation in recommending her work.”
– Raymond Buckland, PhD, author of *Witchcraft from the Inside*, *Wicca for Life*, et al.
"Lady Isadora's songs stir the heart of the Witch, and resonate in the endless cycle of things that are ever ancient and ever new."
--Raven Grimassi, author of *Hereditary Witchcraft* at al.
“I was absolutely filled with joy... Every song, every line spoke to the heart... I can’t imagine any Pagan being without them.”
– DJ Conway, author of *Celtic Magic*, *Flying Without a Broom*, et al.
"There's a CD out there actually claiming to be the 'Best of Pagan Song' without Lady Isadora on it. No comment, except that's like having a 'Best of '60s Folk' without Joan Baez!"
--Annie Redbird, MN (via e-mail, used with permission)
"...this gorgeous haunting voice to rival Sarah Brightman, guitar prowess to rival Lita Ford, and a songwriting gift to rival Lennon-McCartney."
--Phoenix NightSong, NC (via e-mail, used with permission)
"Thank you, Lady, for sharing your amazing talent with the world."
--Eternal, poet & writer, of "Support Pagan Artists" website (via e-mail, used with permission)
"You're AWESOME! Thank you thank you thank you for YEARS of enjoyment of your music! You ROCK, sister!"
--Hunter Nolan, musician, NE
“Yum... musical nirvana!! Lady Isadora is a terrific singer... guitar skills to rival Bonnie Raitt... stellar.”
– Listener review on Amazon.com
“... I’ve listened to the lyrics of [Lady Isadora and former partner, Lord Pan] for years now, and nowhere else have I found two people more in tune with what it means to be Pagan... Their songs weave spells... all amazing...”
– Listener review on Amazon.com
"...a joy to listen to...inspiration while I write."
--Bettina Lindsey, author of *Swan Witch*, *Waltz with the Lady*, et al
"... a truly beautiful voice... brilliant."
--Kenny Klein, formerly of Kenny & Tzipora, *Moon Hooves in the Sand* et al; author of *The Flowering Rod*
"... a fabulous achievement."
--Angie Remedi, *The Mother Calls*
"My cat Seraphine has given her emphatic 'meow' of approval-- and believe me, she doesn't impress easily!"
--Lisa Thiel, *Songs of the Spirit* et al
"...miraculous... spine-chilling... a true feast for the heart in all Lady Isadora's works."
--*The Wiccan Rounde*
"... amazing... haunting... a precious gift..."
--*The Beltane Papers* (1st review)
"Listen to this music in a darkened room lit by candlelight, and let the magic happen."
--*The Beltane Papers* (2nd review)
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