Historical Fiction & Meaning with DM (Diane) Denton

bardessdmdenton:

Thank you to Stephanie Hopkins for hosting me on Layered Pages and allowing me to take part in her Historical Fiction and Meaning series! It certainly challenged me to be more conscious about writing in this genre. I hope you will read the entire interview, which will only take five minutes or so. As always, I am grateful for those who visit here and hope I offer posts for your enjoyment, but also give you something to think about, and, perhaps, open up new vistas for your reading and reflection.

Here’s an excerpt:

Why Historical Fiction?

In hindsight, my journey towards writing historical fiction began in my early teens when I developed an insatiable appetite for classic literature, period films and plays, and Renaissance, Baroque, Classical, and traditional music. I’ve long had a fascination with the clothes, customs, social and political issues of the past, and I’m attracted to the lives of writers, artists, musicians, intellectuals, and innovators, but, also, ‘ordinary’ folk like gardeners and domestics. All in all, it’s more comfortable for me to write within a historical context; I feel I can reveal myself and still remain hidden. I can indulge my old-fashioned sensibilities yet still oblige my progressive tendencies, because history isn’t static, somewhere dead in time, but a life force for the present and future.

Originally posted on Layered Pages:

Diane Denton

I’d like to welcome DM (Diane) Denton to Layered pages to talk with me about the importance of Historical Fiction and why she chose this genre to write in. DM is a native of Western New York, is a writer and artist inspired by music, nature, and the contradictions of the human and creative spirit. Through observation and study, truth and imagination, she wanders into the past to discover stories of interest and meaning for the present, writing from her love of language, the nuances of story-telling, and the belief that what is left unsaid is the most affecting of all. Having first gone to the UK to study English literature and history at Wroxton College, an overseas campus of Farleigh Dickinson University of New Jersey, Diane remained in England for sixteen years surrounded by the quaint villages, beautiful hills, woods and fields of Oxfordshire’s countryside. She eventually returned to…

View original 1,474 more words

An Aside

Grass, it’s just grass,

I told myself

as I stopped

at the intersection

aside glancing

while waiting to pass through;

roadside grass,

fresh and soft,

sun-tipped,

fingers of the breeze

playing it

like strings on a harp

plucky

in arpeggios

running along with shadows,

disappearing into prickly patches

and secrets

(of being

just grass)

that I keep

as if

I know what they are.

Grass and Teasel cropped

 

 

donatellasmallest©Artwork and writing, unless otherwise indicated, are the property of Diane M Denton. Please request permission to reproduce or post elsewhere with a link back to bardessdmdenton. Thank you.

 

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Music, Passionate Lyricism, and Small Strides

I make small strides. Perhaps I am really moving forward. Like the tortoise. Although, on frustrating days, I feel like the March hare (noted for its hare-graphicsfairy006bwleaping, boxing, and chasing in circles).

It was a struggle to get the Historical Novel Society to review my first published novel A House Near Luccoli. In the end, that review was a very good one and appeared on the HNS’ website, but not in their quarterly print Historical Novel Review magazine.

To A Strange Somewhere Fled has found a smoother path to a HNS review, which is now online and will appear in the August edition of the Historical Novel Review. Thank you to the HNR editor Sarah Johnson who has made this experience so much better the second time around. So there, in itself, is a little step forward that will, hopefully, lead to more readers of both novels.

The reviewer, fellow author Susan McDuffle, had not read A House Near Luccoli, but was able to appreciate the style and understand the essence of its sequel. I find that in itself a great compliment. A sequel really needs to be able to stand on its own as much as possible.

I need to be proud of my accomplishments, as should all who persevere and produce writing, art, or anything to the best of their ability with the intent of adding something positive to this often demoralizing world; especially when it involves endless hours, months, years, and times when giving up seems the more sane thing to do. I usually hide my struggles very well in my writing and pretty pictures; I don’t like to bare my soul directly or complain publicly; I don’t want to appear ungrateful for the blessings in my life. But I have had to deal with some issues lately, things that don’t allow for an easy inner peace, or, at least, challenge my ability to stay in a higher place despite hurt and disappointment weighing me down.

One of my greatest blessings is my editor/publisher Deb Harris of All Things That Matter Press; there isn’t any doubt that our professional and personal relationship has made me a much better writer, but, also, has continually heartened and strengthened me in all ways.  I hope she knows that I hold her in my heart everyday and return the unconditional and enduring love she offers me. She shared this quote with me recently (lions are so much in the consciousness right now, but the following words are almost the opposite of what the cowardly lion in The Wizard of Oz is told – or, perhaps, it is more a case of the circular motion – connectedness – of all things, which takes me back to that March hare analogy):

You cannot be truthful if you are not courageous. You cannot be loving if you are not courageous. You cannot be trusting if you are not courageous. You cannot enter into reality if you are not courageous. Hence courage comes first… and everything else follows. ~ Osho

Here is an excerpt from the Historical Novel Society’s review of To A Strange Somewhere Fled. Please follow the link to read it in its entirety, and, remember, writers need readers, and, when readers enjoy their work, reviews and recommendations to other readers.

f0da9-strange2bsomewhere

Music and passionate lyricism inform this book. Denton’s style of writing is poetic and musical itself, perhaps at times challenging to readers used to a more straightforward narrative; the book lingers in the mind like some elusive and beautiful tune heard through open windows on a summer’s day. ~ read entire review …

Angel Cloud_pe 2

Portion of To A Strange Somewhere Fled Cover Illustration Copyright 2015 by DM Denton

donatellasmallest©Artwork and writing, unless otherwise indicated, are the property of Diane M Denton. Please request permission to reproduce or post elsewhere with a link back tobardessdmdenton. Thank you.

DM Denton Book Launch Pages: Book trailers, Synopsis, Reviews, Buy Links, and more all in one place!

House+cover+front[2]A House Near Luccoli

 

 

f0da9-strange2bsomewhereTo A Strange Somewhere Fled

 A Friendship with FlowersA Friendship with Flowers

The Music of Friends: Cadences and Temperaments

More historical perspectives of To A Strange Somewhere Fled 

The musical players

Keeping true to A House Near Luccoli, much of the foundation of this novel relies heavily on music as expression. The cadences and temperaments of compositions are reflected in Denton’s pacing as well as her confidently executed freedom of narrative … revelations are made, characters introduced, and emotions uncovered with unexpected swells and surges of expression.
~ from review by Casee Marie Clow, Literary Inklings

This plot is as much about music as Donatella’s first story, which covered the time when she was a copyist for Stradella, but in this novel Donatella’s role as a performer is emphasized … Denton writes with a lyrical style which swells, fades, and swells again, creating a perfect setting through its tone as much as its meticulous description. Her words pull her readers to 17th century England like music from that era.
~ from review by Steve Lindahl
, author of Motherless Soul and White Horse Regressions

the secrets and the rhythm within these pages lifts the reader to appreciate the subtle yet daring intricacies of music, passion and life in 17th century England.
~ from review by Martin Shone, author of Silence Happens and Being Human

What an inspired and informed imagination to portray the young Henry Purcell. The author’s descriptions of music, particular musicians, and musical performances make this book a work of art itself. To A Strange Somewhere Fled is a virtuoso performance.
~ from review by Mary Clark, author of Tally: An Intuitive Life and Covenant

 

The term “The Music of Friends” to describe chamber music (1550 to 1750, music characterized by the location of its performance: outdoors, on stage, in church, or in private quarters), was, per Wikipedia, first used by Richard Walthew in a lecture published in South Place Institute, London, in 1909.

Henry Purcell (10 September 1659 – 21 November 1695)

220px-Henry_Purcell_by_John_Closterman

Purcell by John Closterman

It was during my research for A House Near Luccoli that I came upon the claim, noted in the introduction to Purcell Studies edited by Curtis Price, that Henry Purcell had openly regretted Alessandro Stradella’s death and, because of the Italian’s “great merit as a musician”, forgiven his fatal indiscretions.  True or not, it stirred me to somehow bring the celebrated English composer into Donatella’s continuing story, and on reading Roger North’s assertion that the high point of his musical experience was entertaining the ‘divine’ Purcell, I was even more inspired to do so.

Henry Purcell was as obscure a figure as Stradella in terms of how little about his personal life was recorded. Despite his legacy of being a uniquely English composer, he enjoyed and sometimes emulated the Italian style. He met his end at a younger age than Stradella and in a way that left as much conjecture as to why. Was it chocolate poisoning, the result of pneumonia brought on by being locked out of his house by his wife after a night of drinking, or ‘just’ tuberculosis?

He came from a very musical family. His father, who died when Henry was a small child and his uncle, who became his guardian, were members of the Chapel Royal. His brother Daniel was also a composer. Henry had been a child chorister; his earliest known work was probably completed when he was ten or eleven.

The English maestro enters the pages of To A Strange Somewhere Fled at age twenty-four, already appreciated for his celebratory, church, theatrical, instrumental, and incidental music, and overcoming the constraints of the English language to write songs that perfectly complemented the poetry they were inspired by. In 1683 he was an organist for Westminster Abbey and the Chapel Royal and about to publish his first collection and be appointed royal instrument keeper.

He was a man of sorrows as well as joy—of six children born to him and his wife, only two survived to adulthood—his copious creations defining him as the scarce accounts of his life never could.

 

The Italians

After the restoration of the British monarchy in 1660, Italian composers and performers arrived in England to find a welcome and work, some in the court of Charles II where lively, lavish, and constantly evolving entertainment was encouraged, while others visited for brief or extended periods or settled into being employed in or outside of London in churches and theaters and for private concerts.

CHARLES II DANCING AT A BALL AT COURT, C.1660. HIERONYMUS JANSSENS (1624-93). ROYAL COLLECTION TRUST / © HM QUEEN ELIZABETH II 2013

Charles II dancing at court. C.1660. Hieronymus Janssens (1624-93). Royal Collection Trust / © HM Queen Elizabeth II 2013

Carlo Ambrogio Lonati (c.1645–c.1712)

calonatiIl Gobbo della Regina, the hunchback composer, violinist, and singer who initially made an appearance in A House Near Luccoli, was probably born in Milan but little is known of his early life. Lonati first made friends, music and trouble with Alessandro Stradella while both were in Rome under the patronage of Queen Christina of Sweden, and went to Genoa ahead of Stradella where he also preceded him as impresario of the Falconi Theater.

There is evidence that Lonati was in London—seen with a famous female singer—sometime between 1686 and1688.  Ordered out of Genoa after Stradella’s murder in February, 1682, and leaving gaps in his activities and whereabouts for some time afterwards, it’s conceivable he traveled to England before the visit made notable because of the company he kept. His abrupt intrusion on Donatella’s new life was, in the course of writing To A Strange Somewhere Fled, as much of a surprise to me as it was to her.

 

Pietro Reggio (1632 -1685) (I couldn’t find a portrait of him)

Pietro Reggio song set

 

There is much mystery surrounding the life of the “slovenly and ugly”, to quote diarist Samuel Pepys, composer, lutenist, and singer, Pietro Reggio, who was probably from Genoa as he was referred to as Pietro Reggio Genovese. He was employed in Stockholm by Queen Christina before her abdication and subsequent move to Rome where Stradella and Lonati encountered her. Eventually, Pietro traveled to France, and, if the inscription on his tombstone is accurate, to Spain and Germany. He had moved to England by 1664, where Pepys and another writer, John Evelyn, were entertained in very different ways by him. Whereas Pepys wasn’t overly impressed by “Seignor Pedro” who played the theorbo and sang Italian songs, Evelyn included Reggio’s singing in his description of the “rare music” he enjoyed after dinner one evening.

Reggio made his living in London for a time, performing and teaching, and also had associations in Oxford where he may have resided. His claim to fame is a collection of songs he published in 1680, mostly based on the verse of Abraham Cowley (1618 -1667) who was among the leading metaphysical poets of the 17th century.

 

Nicola Matteis (? – after 1714)

Nicola Matteis by Godfrey Kneller, 1682

Nicola Matteis by Godfrey Kneller, 1682

Nicola arrived in England after 1670, apparently not interested in royal service or public appearances, because, as Roger North also indicated, he might have to perform with amateurs.  Despite his resistance, his popularity grew in the 1670’s and 1680’s. He is given credit for having changed the manner of violin playing from the French to Italian style, publishing Ayres for the Violin that provided detailed bowing instructions and directions for tempo and ornamentation. Still, his compositions were difficult and many were discouraged in their efforts to play them. John Evelyn was among those who praised Matteis’ vigorous style that made his performances so memorable.

 

Various Italian, English, Scottish, and French Musicians

Bartholomeo Albrici (1634 – ?), a composer native to the seaport of Senigallia in the province of Ancona in central Italy, taught and played the harpsichord. He spent time in Sweden with his brother, Vincenzo in service to Queen Christina, and traveled with him and their singer sister Leonora (1640’s – 1700?) to London in 1662 where they all were involved in the King’s Musick. Leonora was married to Matthew Battaglia (1640? – 1687), a musician to the Duke of York, later James II. Giovanni Battista Draghi (ca. 1640 – 1708) was an Anglo-Italian composer and organist invited to London by Charles II to help establish an opera house. That project was unsuccessful, but Draghi (nicknamed “Drago”) found other ways to contribute to the music of the court and remained in England for the rest of his life.

Besides Henry Purcell, other English musicians make themselves known in To A Strange Somewhere Fled, including Henry Aldrich, church musician, Canon of Christ Church and eventually Vice-Chancellor of  Oxford University; Henrietta Bannister, wife of John Bannister “the elder” and music tutor to Princess Anne, daughter of James II; Robert Carr, viol player; Charles Coleman “the younger”, possibly a lutenist and theorbist; Thomas Eccles, a violinist who was said to have played in taverns; Thomas Farmer, violinist at the Duke’s theater in London and in service to Charles II and James II; William Gregory “the younger”, lyra viol player, composer and member of the King’s Musick and the Chapel Royal; William Husbands, organist at Christ Church, Oxford; and William Turner, composer and singer who served at Lincoln and St. Paul’s Cathedrals, the Chapel Royal and with the King’s Private Musick.

Paisable music 2

 

Also helping to add a flourish to the midsummer concert in To A Strange Somewhere Fled were Scottish composer and singer John Abell, Gentleman of the Chapel Royal, whose English songs showed Italian influence; and French composer and recorder player, Jacques Paisable (“Peasable” as he was mockingly referred to), who performed at the Drury Lane Theater and married actress and singer Mary “Moll” Davis after she was dismissed as Charles II’s mistress—with a lavish pension and house as a parting gift—when the nubile Nell Gwyn came on the scene.

 

 

To A Strange Somewhere Fled cover back and front

Cover – back and front – illustrations by DM Denton

 

Master Purcell bowed to them all, the back of his wig matted and his coat creased, the ribbons undone on the bottom of his breeches, evidence of a mend here and there in his hose, and his ankles leaning out due to the wear on his shoes. As he straightened, his arms lifted until his hands were close together above his head, reminding Donatella of a priest celebrating the Eucharist, his congregation silent in preparation for the miracle they were about to receive.

~ From To A Strange Somewhere Fled, published by All Things That Matter Press.
The scene: midsummer’s eve concert at Wroxton Abbey.

 

donatellasmallest©Artwork and writing, unless otherwise indicated, are the property of Diane M Denton. Please request permission to reproduce or post elsewhere with a link back tobardessdmdenton. Thank you.

 

DM Denton Book Launch Pages: Book trailers, Synopsis, Reviews, Buy Links, and more all in one place!

House+cover+front[2]A House Near Luccoli

 

 

 

f0da9-strange2bsomewhereTo A Strange Somewhere Fled

A Friendship with FlowersA Friendship with Flowers

A View Through Day Lilies

“If we could see the miracle of a single flower clearly our whole life would change.”
~ Buddha 

Partially, a re-post – I just had to snap this photograph of the proud Day Lilies in my little St. Francis garden, and, of course, once again display the lovely painting just below by my mom, June.

 
Day Lilies resized_pe

Mom's Day Lilies  July 2014

Mom’s Day Lilies – Copyright 2013

A view

through day lilies

bright and brave

growing wild

without abandoning

the perfect plan

for their existence.



donatellasmallest©Artwork and writing, unless otherwise indicated, are the property of Diane M Denton. Please request permission to reproduce or post elsewhere with a link back to bardessdmdenton. Thank you.

Marriage Brokering 17th Century Style

Why would a talented up-and-coming composer, patronized by a Queen and other highly placed individuals, engage in marriage brokering?

To find out “Ms Stuart Requests … the pleasure of your company” – and so do I – at my guest post on “history with a heart” author Alison Stuart’s lovely blog.

This image from Hogarth’s A Rake’s Progress is a little teaser …

Marriage Image - from William Hogarth's A Rake's Progress

And here’s another: Marriage broker – someone who arranges (or tries to arrange) marriages for others, usually between strangers and for a fee.

To see what Alessandro Stradella was up to

a ‘few’ years before A House Near Luccoli

please read on …

Alison and I thank you for the pleasure of your company!

And while you’re over there, please check out
Alison’s novels on her Bookshelf Page

 

 

Picking Flowers off Wallpaper

The photo is torn,

repaired with a trace of damage,

not enough to spoil

My Grandmother Marion Allers a complexion as satiny as ribbon-roses

adorning the effortless styling of

ringleted hair.

Playfulness in a profiled pose

and a smile that seems to be thinking

of something more than

light layers of hand-sewn chiffon

girlishly high-waisted.

The artistic bend of an arm

pointing to possibilities at hand,

a picture of loveliness

even as petals drop

before their time.

I’m marking my 62nd birthday (July 6) by remembering my beautiful and talented maternal grandmother, Marion Allers DiCesare, a recent interview question prompting me to consider – once again – her promising but frustrated and abbreviated ‘story’. She died long before I was born, but has always been a strong presence in my life, especially my sensory and creative life, through the memories of my mom who absolutely adored her – and as you’ll ‘see’ as you read on, she wasn’t the only one who did.

Her family was long established in Oak Park, Illinois, a village on the west side of Chicago that was the haunt of Earnest Hemingway’s family (my mom having babysat for his sister Sunny’s little boy – but that is a tale for another time). From a family history prepared in 1978, it is confirmed that my grandmother’s grandfather William Allers, a cabinet maker, came to the US with his wife and four children from Budby, Nottinghamshire, England in 1848; two more children including my great-grandfather Henry were born in the US. Henry married Ida Shreffler, and my grandmother Marion, their sixth child, was born March 24, 1893. She was only about 4 years old when her mother died in childbirth.

Marion Allers Age 5 resized

My grandmother (with a cousin) is on the right

My grandmother (with a cousin) is on the right

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

My grandmother showed musical promise, specifically as a pianist, at an early age.

Marion Allers Age 18 or so resized

She received her entire musical education at the Illinois College of Music, which was established in 1900, graduating when she was eighteen but continuing there as a teacher.

Illinois College of Music Ad-page0001_pe

My mom managed to rescue the 1924 faculty booklet from family records in danger of being discarded as clutter. It states that Miss Allers’ pupils idolized her, “she made an extensive study of Expression (voice training, breathing, recitation, dramatic training, impersonating, dialect, etc.) and was very “clever” as “Pianist-reader and Monologue entertainer” who “became known throughout the city (Chicago)”, and was “original and versatile.” Her repertoire as a concert pianist included Mozart, Beethoven, Chopin, Liszt, and Tchaikovsky (which I can verify from the sheet music that has come down from her). My mom also recalls her mother playing and singing popular songs from the twenties and thirties, and watching her entertaining, even comical, skits.

Marion Allers Illinois College of Music 2a

The story becomes most fascinating and fateful when my grandmother was approached by the American impressario Florenz Ziegfeld, who was from Chicago, to take part in a European tour with the Ziegfeld Follies.

ziegsplash

Her family wouldn’t allow her to go as “good girls didn’t travel alone or do things like that”.

Ziegfeld Sheet Music - Ziegfeld Follies of 1917 (I'll Be Somewhere in France)

Who knows what career opportunities were missed and whether the disappointment contributed to her suffering a nervous breakdown. There is a scene in To A Strange Somewhere Fled that was inspired by her attempting to pick the flowers off the wallpaper in her bedroom during her mental and emotional collapse.

Marion Allers in 20s resized

She had several offers of marriage she turned down. Then, in her thirties, my Italian blue-eyed grandfather Pierino, who was attractive, cultured, charismatic, and a bit of a scoundrel—not unlike Alessandro Stradella—came on the scene when mutual friends took him to see her perform at the Chicago Civic Opera House.

lyric-opera-of-chicago

In 1995 the Lyric Opera of Chicago began a complex renovation of its home, the Civic Opera House.

 

 

Chicago Civic Opera House front

 

 

 

 

 

 

This time she defied her family to marry him—unaware he was still married to a woman in New York City—finding excitement but also hardship in her decision to do so, because, besides being a bigamist, my grandfather was an unreliable provider and often absent, engaging in dodgy real estate deals with the gangster element in 1930’s Chicago. He was very interested in aviation (my mom remembers going up in one of his very small scary airplanes), took out at patent on a new propeller blade, and became Vice President of a propeller company. You can see the photos of the propellers and factory here.

On the left is Pierino DiCesare, Vice President of the Maynard-DiCesare Propellar Company,

My maternal grandfather Pierino DiCesare is on the left, probably around 47 years old at the time of this photograph, Vice President of the Maynard-DiCesare Propellar Company. Although he lived until I was around ten, I never met him. After my grandmother died, he remarried, then divorced, and fell on hard times, becoming a destitute alcoholic and dying from sclerosis of the liver in Philadelphia.

After my mom and her eldest sister were born, her parents split for a while, got back together and had two more daughters, but the marriage was a rollercoaster for my grandmother, causing financial and emotional hardship. She continued to give piano lessons, until  she became very sick with breast cancer which claimed her life far too soon at the age of forty-six, my mom ten, her youngest sister only four.

My grandmothers obituary

My mother was heartbroken, wouldn’t go to school for months, and to this day can’t speak of her mother without tears. What a joyful presence was lost from the mortal world, but, fortunately, I have felt and continue to feel her spirit around me.

My grandmother getting her hair washed by a cousin. In the twenties she sold her beautiful long auburn hair for $50 - her family was outraged!

My grandmother getting her hair washed by a cousin. In the twenties she sold her beautiful long auburn hair for $50 – her family was outraged!

“Well, wouldn’t you like to come inside and pick some (flowers) off the wallpaper?”
~ from the film, Harvey, based on the play by Mary Chase

 

 

donatellasmallest©All Artwork and writing on this site, unless otherwise indicated, are the property of Diane M Denton. Please request permission to reproduce or post elsewhere with a link back tobardessdmdenton. Thank you.