Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Heavenly Folk Heroes

Remarkable Bejeweled Catholic Martyrs

I once had the remarkably good fortune to see some remains of Carmelite Nun St. Teresa of Avila. This 17th century Spanish mystic  was being housed for a short while with Carmelite Nuns  in Northern California who were gracious enough to invite me to see her before she was made available to the public. Her presence during this American tour drew thousands and thousands of people. 

Children with disabilities were held before the bejeweled glass case and   men and women sobbed and prayed in her presence in the hopes that the Carmelite reformer would touch their bodies, hearts, and souls.
Honoring beloved Catholic saints has long been a rich tradition. 16th century European Catholic churches preserved and bejeweled what they believed were catacomb saints. Roman corpses that were dug up from underground cemeteries in Rome are considered catacomb saints. These skeletons were celebrated as a way to boost the communities morale after the Protestant Revolution.

To identify if the body was a martyr Smithsonian Magazine explains in an article written about Paul Koudounaris’ Heavenly Bodies: Cult Treasures and Spectacular Saints from the Catacombs (Thames and Hudson Books)  , “If they found ‘M.’ engraved next to a corpse, they took it to stand for “martyr,” ignoring the fact that the initial could also stand for “Marcus,” one of the most popular names in ancient Rome.”It is not guaranteed that these skeletons really are the bodies of the people they are believed to be, but the extraordinary detail and art put into the bejeweling of these bodies make them remarkable nonetheless. 

While many of these bejeweled bones were destroyed in the 18th century, some still exist today, such as the 10 fully preserved bodies in the Waldsassen Basilica in Bavaria. Koudounaris described the skeletons he saw as, “The finest pieces of art ever created in human bone.” These beautiful forms of art, celebrating beloved folk heroes  were a monumental piece of many European Catholic churches in the 16th century, and can still be found today.

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Dance + Environment = Perfect Partners

Dancing to the Music of Nature

Add the wind in the trees to choreographed feet on the ground and what do you get? 
The Soundscape Project is Sonoma State University’s Department of Theatre Arts & Dance fall dance concert.  Three unique interdisciplinary dances move with and through the sounds of Sonoma County’s natural world November 21 through to November 24 in Rohnert Park, CA.

The concept of a multi disciplinary approach isn’t new. Dance has long been an important part of ceremony, rituals and entertainment. Archaeologists have recorded traces of dance from as far back as 9,000 years ago. The old Bhimbetka rock shelters paintings in India and Egyptian tomb paintings depict dancing figures from c. 3300 BC. This form of physical expression has also been part of healing practices and remains a popular story telling vehicle. 

But Soundscape Project  - which brings together theatre, dance, engineering and environmental studies - has something new and important to tell and show us. Moving in sync with the symphony of nature – bird calls, wind rustling through trees, crickets at sunset – remind us of how rich our environment is. Perhaps, more importantly, it can inspire us to connect the dots between our physicality and that of the world we live in.

The unique dance piece, featuring the sounds of the Sonoma State University’ Nature Preserves, was created with the collaboration of professionals working with university students.

Some say it is the perfect merger of art and science because it blends video and acoustic recordings by world renowned bioacoustics expert, Dr. Bernie Krause, with new dance pieces. Krause has been recording wild soundscapes -- the grunting of a sea anemone, the sad calls of a beaver in mourning, the subtle sounds of insect larvae -- for 45 years. Already assured a place in pop culture canon thanks to his musical resume which includes Stevie Wonder and The Byrds, he documents the fading voices of nature that have made our ecosystem complete.

Soundscape Project is choreographed by Christine Cali, Kristen Daley and student dancers and original music is provided by Jesse Olsen Bay.  The work of noted guest choreographers Lisa Jaroslow and Rogelio Lopez will also be featured.

More Info: The performances take place 7:30 pm November 21-23 and at 2 p.m. November 24  at Evert B. Person Theatre, Sonoma State University, 1801 E. Cotati Ave., Rohnert Park, CA 94928. Ticket prices are $10-$17 and do not include $5 parking fee. 
Photo courtesy of SSU Dept. of Theatre Arts & Dance.

Monday, November 4, 2013

Champagne Lies

FolkHeart Press Q/A with Champagne Lies Author

The sparkling wine from the Champagne region of France was the preferred drink of royalty who enjoyed luxury and power in the 17th, 18th and 19th century.  Since then it’s become a favorite choice for the masses.  Today the everyday man and woman have access to this bubbly for a variety of festive occasions.

In Champagne Lies, author Wendy VanHatten*, whose credits also include writing the Max and Myron series and Editor of Prime Time Living Magazine writes about other champagne moments… mysterious ones that include secrets and murder.

I recently asked her about her latest book. Here’s our conversation:

What is Champagne Lies about? Champagne was going to help with their decisions. But it didn’t. From San Francisco to Italy, Stacie can’t figure out how and why things keep happening. Throw in a few murders, a secret vault, a husband she thought she knew, a mystery woman in Italy…and it all ends up in a villa. With enough twists and turns to create some confusion, Stacie is positive she is done being surprised. Guess not…

What inspired you to write your first book? My dad taught me to write travel journals as a kid. My mentor inspired me to move forward and pursue writing.

Do you have any advice for other writers? Keep writing and never give up. Mental blocks are only temporary.

What do you write and why? I write travel articles, children’s books, and mysteries…for the most part.

Are you working on anything new? I am working on the seventh book in my children’s series (Max and Myron) and on a second mystery.

Do you have any hobbies other than writing? Traveling and cooking and wine tasting.

Where can readers find you and your work? Amazon and my website.
Wendy is also a copy editor who has worked her copy editing magic on several FolkHeart Press Books!