Songs that Remind me of Silent Heroes: the Afghan people

songs to remind of Silent Heroes

My latest contemporary fiction, Silent Heroes, looks at the War in Afghanistan from a different perspective: that of the soldiers taking part in it and of the Afghan people caught in it. Because there are always two sides to a story. Part of my research was listening to music. I’ll share with you a few songs that now remind me of the courageous Afghan people.

Pentatonix – ‘Mary Did You Know’

The first time I heard Mary Did You Know, it was sung by my daughter’s college choir. I thought there wasn’t a more beautiful tune, nor more heartbreaking lyrics.

Mary Did You Know is a Christmas hymn to Mary, Mother of Jesus, but I feel that any mother can relate to it, especially the mothers of soldiers. While researching and writing Silent Heroes I often asked myself, how must these mothers feel like?

The soldier’s mothers, back home in the safety of their big cities, yet not able to pinpoint on the map the exact location of their children? How they felt in the first moment they heard their child will fight in Afghanistan, as a soldier?

The Afghan kids’ mothers, each morning they face another day of war, knowing that when their child leaves through the door it might be the last time they see him?

‘Mary did you know that your baby boy would one day walk on water?
Mary did you know that your baby boy would save our sons and daughters?
Did you know that your baby boy has come to make you new?
This child that you’ve delivered, will soon deliver you

Mary did you know that your baby boy will give sight to a blind man?
Mary did you know that your baby boy will calm a storm with his hand?
Did you know that your baby boy has walked where angels trod?
When you kiss your little baby, you kiss the face of God.’

Pentatonix, Mary Did You Know – Songwriters: Buddy Greene / Mark Lowry
Mary, Did You Know? lyrics © Warner Chappell Music, Inc, Universal Music Publishing Group, Capitol Christian Music Group (source)

Creedence Clearwater Revival – ‘Fortunate Son’

This song was released in 1969, during the peak period of the U.S. involvement in the Vietnam War. To me, it speaks more of the unfairness of disadvantages between different social classes, the unfairness that a war plays on the civilians of a country, an unfairness that will project itself over the future generations.

‘Some folks are born made to wave the flag
Ooh, they’re red, white and blue
And when the band plays “Hail to the chief”
Ooh, they point the cannon at you, Lord
It ain’t me, it ain’t me, I ain’t no senator’s son, son
It ain’t me, it ain’t me, I ain’t no fortunate one, no.’

Songwriters: John C Fogerty
Fortunate Son lyrics © The Bicycle Music Company. Find lyrics here.

Afghani Rabab: “Valley” Folksong

Music speaks so much about the spirit of a nation, and so are its national instruments. There is so much intensity in this song, a love for life. I can see the sun rising over the Hindu Kush Mountains and the Afghan women spinning in dance, children chasing one another over rocky rivers, catching fish to take back to their mother to cook for dinner. One of many beautiful songs that remind my of unknown Silent Heroes, Afghan people too.

Afghani folk-song entitled “Valley” written and performed by Quraishi and accompanied by Samir Chatterjee on tabla.
A rubab, robab or rabab is a lute-like musical instrument originating from central Afghanistan. The rubab is mainly used by Pashtun, Tajik. sadly, making a rabab today is a dying art.

Afghani Rabab. songs-remind-Afghan-people
Afghani Rabab. SONY DSC

“They are Shiites and, most of the time, anti-Taliban,” Marcos went on. “Pashtuns dress differently and are easy to recognise. They tend to leave an end of their headdress loose so they can cover their mouth and noses in the dust storms of southeast Afghanistan, where they mostly live. Pashtuns are indo-Iranians by race and language. They mostly wear a qmis, which is a loose-fitting shirt that reaches down to the knees and a shalwar, pants tied with a string at the waist. Pashtuns typically have dark skin and more western features.”

Silent Heroes by Patricia Furstenberg
Pashtun culture. songs-remind-Afghan-people
Silent Heroes by Patricia Furstenberg

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I’m Gonna Love Me Again, Elton John, Oscar Winner

I’m Gonna Love Me Again, Best Original Song from Rocketman, composed by Elton John and Bernie Taupin adds an Oscar to the long list of accolades – Golden Globe Award, Critics’ Choice Award, Satellite Award, Golden Derby Awards, and plenty more!

What an Oscar experience 2020 has been! With Parasite, winner of Best Foreign Language film, also winning Best Picture, Best Director (Bong Joon-ho), and Best Original Screenplay.

Perhaps Renée Zellweger, 2020 Oscar winner of Best Actress for her role in Judy (celebrating the life of legendary performer Judy Garland), said it best, thanking her “emigrants folks who came here with nothing but each other, and believed in the American Dream, how about this.” “Our heroes unite us. The best among us who inspire us to find the best in ourselves… when we look at our heroes we agree, and that matters… we agree on our teachers and we agree on our courageous… men and women in uniform who serve… when we celebrate our heroes we are reminded of who we are.”

Have you noticed that Renée climbed to the podium to receive the Oscar to the first notes of Over the Rainbow? (“Somewhere over the rainbow, Way up high, And the dreams that you dream of…”).

I think we all need to be remembered to love ourselves a little bit MORE.

(I’m Gonna) Love Me Again by Elton John, Taron Egerton Lyrics – wins Oscar for Rocketman

Oh, the joke was never hard to tell
Threw my spare change in the wishing well
The dream alone is always in your hands
If that don’t fill the boy and build the man
A heart has many secrets, so I’m told
Through the years, a theory can grow cold
I’m up to be the king, it’s gotten clear
The voice inside my head is the one I hear
Singing, I’m gonna love me again
Check in on my very best friend
Find the wind to fill my sails
Rise above the broken rails
Unbound by any ties that break or bend
I’m free, and don’t you know?
No clown to claim he used to know me then
I’m free, and don’t you know?
And oh-oh-oh, I’m gonna love me again
The golden age was somehow bittersweet
But now the past lies sleepin’ in the deep
The peaceful days that followed hollow nights
A kiss or touch could feel like Kryptonite
Praise the Saints that hung up on my wall
For trust is left in lovers after all
A whispered word emergin’ from a tale
My wake-up call to claim the cursed spell
Well, I’m gonna love me again (love me again)
Check in on my very best friend
Find the wind to fill my sails
Rise above the broken rails
Unbound by any ties that break or bend
I’m free, and don’t you know?
No clown to claim he used to know me then
I’m free, and don’t you know?
And oh-oh-oh, I’m gonna love me again
Sing, I’m gonna love me again
Check in on my very best friend
Find the wind to fill my sails
Rise above the broken rails
Unbound by any ties that break or bend
I’m free, and don’t you know?
No clown to claim he used to know me then
I’m free, don’t you know?
And oh-oh-oh, oh-oh-oh
Oh-oh-oh, I’m gonna love me again
I’m gonna love me again
I’m gonna love me again
Source: LyricFind. Songwriters: Bernard J. P. Taupin / Elton John(I’m Gonna) Love Me Again lyrics © Universal Music Publishing Group.

Thrilled to see Charlize Theron nominated again!

Song lyrics and movie clip are property and copyright of their owners and are provided for educational purposes and personal use only.

The #MusicMonday meme was created by Drew @ The Tattooed Book Geek. You can pick a song that you really like and share it on Monday. I thoroughly enjoyed this blog feature on Mischenko’s lovely blog, ReadRantRockandroll .

silent heroes
Silent Heroes, the new action thrilling book by Patricia Furstenberg. Looking at war from a different perspective. Get it from Amazon.
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The Oldest Christmas Carol, Jesus Refulsit Omnium

Oldest Christmas Carol. Wise Men and Infant Jesus in Manger

The oldest Christmas Carol historians have knowledge of is a 4th century motet or Epiphany: ‘Jesus Refulsit Omnium’ – Jesus, Light of All the Nations – exactly translating Jesus, the brilliance of all. It depicts the sudden realization that enlightened the Magi, the Wise Men, when they finally arrived to the stable where infant Jesus had been born and it was created by St. Hilary of Poitiers between 310 – 367 (most probably without any instrumental backing).

Listen to this touching rendition of Jesus Refulsit Omnium as performed by the Chamber Choir of George Watson’s College at the annual Festival of 9 Lessons and Carols at St Giles’ Cathedral, Edinburgh, on 16th December 2015:

You can find the choir, a capella sheet music here. The lyrics in Latin are below:

Jesus refulsit omnium
Pius redemptor gentium
Totum genus fidelium
Laudes celebret dramatum

Quem stella natum fulgida
Monstrat micans per authera
Magosque duxit praevia
Ipsius ad cunabula

Illi cadentes parvulum
Pannis adorant obsitum
Verum fatentur ut Deum
Munus ferendo mysticum.
(Source)

 The Magi by Henry Siddons Mowbray, 1915 . oldest christmas carol Jesus Refulsit Omnium
The Magi by Henry Siddons Mowbray, 1915

This is the English translation by Kevin Hawthorne, PhD :

‘Jesus, devoted redeemer of all nations, has shone forth,
Let the whole family of the faithful celebrate the stories

The shining star, gleaming in the heavens, makes him known at his birth and, going before, has led the Magi to his cradle

Falling down, they adore the tiny baby hidden in rags,
as they bear witness to the true God by bringing a mystical gift.’

Saint Hillary of Poitiers, whose first name comes from the Latin word for happy or cheerful, hilari, was a Bishop of Poitiers who later received the title of Doctor of the Church. It is worth mentioning that in Latin doctor means ‘teacher’ – thus Doctor of the Church recognized a significant contribution brought to theology through research, study, or writing. Three hymns are attributed to St. Hillary of Poitiers thus making him the first Latin Christian hymn writer.

Charles Bosseron, Adoration of the Magi. oldest christmas carol Jesus Refulsit Omnium
Charles Bosseron, Adoration of the Magi

What exactly is a motet?

A motet is a short, sacred vocal composition. I love the etymology of the word motet. Originating in the Latin movere, ‘to move’, it depicts the movement (against each other) that the various voices produce during the song. Yet considering motet as a diminutive deriving from the French mot, ‘word’, it depicts a ‘little word’ – thus a short song.
The medieval motet most probably became the sacred Renaissance madrigals.

I am Christian Orthodox, yet I love the peace that washes over me when I listen to Catholic vocal compositions, late-medieval to present. My native language, Romanian, resonates closely to its Latin roots and the one year of Latin study I did in school has added an aura of mystery and enchantment to this now dead language.

I hope you enjoyed listening to what is believed to be the oldest Christmas carol, Jesus Refulsit Omnium.

Song lyrics and movie clip are property and copyright of their owners and are provided for educational purposes and personal use only.

The #MusicMonday meme was created by Drew @ The Tattooed Book Geek. You can pick a song that you really like and share it on Monday. I thoroughly enjoyed this blog feature on Mischenko’s lovely blog, ReadRantRockandroll .

Wishing everyone a blessed Holiday Season!

Which one is your favorite Christmas song?

You might also enjoy reading A Journey through the Medieval City of Sighisoara, Romania.

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Exploring Romania’s Top Movie Locations: Peles Castle

Romania Movie Locations Peles Castle

I invite you to join me in exploring Romania’s top movie locations – Peles Castle today! I’ll show you the locations as depicted in the motion pictures as well as the genuine places.

As a reader and a cinefile, I do love a good location, more so if I’ve walked the streets or explored the castles depicted in it. And if I haven’t, a visit is often planned. Or at least dreamed of.

A Princess for Christmas and Peles Castle, Sinaia

A charming Christmas romance suitable for all ages, A Princess for Christmas was shot during 2011. At the invitation of her late sister’s father in law, a young American woman travels with her niece and nephew to a castle in Europe ahead of Christmas, where she charms everyone with her kindness and art knowledge , including a dashing Prince… It is Europe, after all! Staring Katie McGrath, Roger Moore, and Sam Heughan (yes, Outlander’s very own Jamie Fraser) as well as a few Romanian actors, Razvan Oprea, Oxana Moravec, Madalina Anea.

Let’s go exploring this Romanian movie location, Peles Castle.

exploring Romania movie locations, A Princess for Christmas, Peles Castle
First sighting of Peles Castle in A Princess for Christmas
exploring Romania movie locations, Peles Castle featured in A Princess for Christmas
Peles Castle in the winter of 2016, when we last visited

Peles Castle belongs to Hohenzollern Family, a German ruling dynasty. The castle was built between 1873 – 1914 in Neo-Renaissance style, at the order of King Carol I of Hohenzollern-Sigmaringen. Kind Carol I was the monarch of Romania between 1866 – 1914 and under his reign Romania gained its independence from the Ottoman Empire in May 1877.

King Carol I first visited this pristine area in 1866 and fell in love with the majestic mountainous scenery. In 1872 the Crown purchased 5 square kilometers of land near the Piatra Arsă River naming it the Royal Estate of Sinaia.

Peles Castle in summer
Peles Castle during the summer of 2012

The architectural plans submitted by German architect Johannes Schultz were the fourth ones presented to King Carol I and the most original ones. The King did not want a copy of some European castle, but something unique. The cost of the work on the castle alone was estimated to be 16,000,000 Romanian lei in gold (over. US$ 120 million today). King Carol I and Queen Elizabeth lived in Foişor Villa nearby during the construction of Peles Castle.

exploring Romania movie locations - Peles Castle in A Princess for Christmas
Peles Castle in A Princess for Christmas, the Rolls pulls in front of the castle
Peles Castle as featured in the movie A Princess for Christmas
A wider shot of the castle’s main entrance
Main gate of Peles Castle in the movie A Princess for Christmas
A close-up of the main entrance
Peles Castle, Sinaia, the main entrance
Here is the same main entrance of Peles Castle during our summer visit.

Queen Elisabeth of the Romanians, the wife of King Carol I, on the building process of Peles Castle

‘Italians were masons, Romanians were building terraces, the Gypsies were laborers. Albanians and Greeks worked in stone, Germans and Hungarians were carpenters. Turks were burning brick. Engineers were Polish and the stone carvers were Czech. The Frenchmen were drawing, the Englishmen were measuring, and so was then when you could see hundreds of national costumes and fourteen languages in which they spoke, sang, cursed and quarreled in all dialects and tones, a joyful mix of men, horses, cart oxen and domestic buffaloes.’

Queen Elisabeth of the Romanians
exploring Romania movie locations. Sam Heughan at Peles Castle, Romania, in movie A Princess for Christmas
A close-up of Sam Heughan as he arrives in A Princess for Christmas at Peles Castle
exploring Romania movie locations
The same entrance as above – known as the visitor’s entrance.

Several auxiliary buildings rose simultaneously with the castle: the guards’ chambers, the Economat Building, the Foișor hunting lodge, the royal stables, and a power plant. Peleș became the world’s first castle fully powered by locally produced electricity.

King Ferdinand I of Hohenzollern-Sigmaringen followed King Carol I at the throne of Romania, 1914 – 1927 (his death), since King Carol I, his uncle, was childless. Ferdinand was nicknamed the Unifier’, Întregitorul as during World War I he sided against the Central Powers. Thus, at the war’s end, Romania emerged as a much-enlarged kingdom, including Bessarabia, Bucovina and Transylvania. Ferdinand I was crowned king of ‘Greater Romania’ during a gorgeous ceremony in 1922.

There was a heartbreaking romance budding between young Ferdinand I and Elena Vacarescu, one of Queen Elisabeth’s ladies in waiting. Yet they both knew that the 1866 Constitution of Romania was forbidding the heir-presumptive to the throne to marry a Romanian. Their love story stirred a dynastic crisis in 1891. Soon after, Ferdinand I married Princess Marie of Edinburgh, Queen Victoria’s granddaughter (of the United Kingdom).

King Ferdinand and Queen Marie also stayed at Foisor Villa during the construction of Pelișor Castle. Pelisor Castle is located near Peles Castle and was built by order of King Carol I for his nephew, future King Ferdinand I. Ferdinand and Marie had six children, the first born is future King Carol II who reigned as King of Romania from 8 June 1930 until his abdication on 6 September 1940.

A morning shot at Peles Castle in A Princess for Christmas
A morning shot in A Princess for Christmas
Peles Castle
And the picture we took 🙂

The symbology behind Peles Castle

Carol II, son of Ferdinand I and Marie, was born at Peles Castle in 1893. Carol I previously bestowed upon Peles Castle the label ‘cradle of the dynasty, cradle of the nation’, so the birth of his first son and heir here was the perfect embodiment of Peles’ true meaning. Carol II spoke Romanian as his first language and was the first member of the Romanian royal family to be raised in the Christian Orthodox faith (the religion of the Romanian people).

But Carol II had a tumultuous personal life that kept him too busy to rule. His son, only five years old, ruled Romania as King Mihai I between 1927 (when King Ferdinand I died) and 1930 when King Carol II felt like returning as a ruler. His ill-planned reign was marked by Romania’s re-alignment with Nazi Germany (something King Carol I of Romania fought against), the adoption of anti-Semitic laws, and ultimately it evolved into a personal dictatorship lasting from 1938 until 6 September 1940, when he was forced by his Prime Minister and authoritarian politician Ion Antonescu to leave the country and live in exile abroad.

Peles Castle as movie location in A Princess for Christmas
Peles Castle in the movie A Princess for Christmas
The same shot, taken during the day 🙂

King Carol II was succeeded in 1940 by his beautiful, smart and patriotic son King Michael I. These were dark times for Romania and the Royal Family. In 1944, King Michael I participated in a coup against military dictator Ion Antonescu. In March 1945, political pressures forced Michael to appoint a pro-Soviet government for Romania. From August 1945 to January 1946, Michael went on a “royal strike” and unsuccessfully tried to oppose pro-Soviet government by refusing to sign and endorse its decrees.

In November 1947 King Michael I was in London, attending the wedding of his cousins, the future Queen Elizabeth II of the United Kingdom and Prince Philip of Greece and Denmark. On the morning of 30 December 1947, Groza, the pro-soviet prime minister of Romania, met with King Michael I and blackmailed him into abdication – or 1 000 imprisoned students, supporters of the Monarchy, will be executed. Michael was forced into exile, his properties confiscated, and his citizenship stripped. In 1948, he married Princess Anne of Bourbon-Parma (thenceforth known as Queen Anne of Romania), with whom he had five daughters and lived in Switzerland.

The Castle was declared a museum in 1953 and is still open for visitors. Peles Castle is located in the northwest of Sinaia (use Sinaia train station to visit Peles). Sinaia is located 48km from Brasov and 124km from Bucharest.

If you do wonder, more movies were shot at Peles Castle, its majestic allure and romantic charm making it fir for royal love-stories and Christmas happy-endings (2018 Royal Matchmaker and A Christmas Prince: The Royal Wedding) but also historical drama (1975 Stephen the Great – Vaslui 1475, 2013 Roxanne, 2001 Carol I), documentaries (2011 Wild Carpathis), or adventure (2008 The Brothers Bloom).

Next time we will explore another one of Romania’s movie locations, Corvin Castle. Why don’t you subscribe to my newsletter and make sure you don’t miss a post?

And, you might like: A Journey through the Medieval City of Sighisoara, Romania.

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Post WWII, The Christmas Song, Music Monday

Christmas song chestnuts roasing

Next to Bing Crosby’s renowned White Christmas, and Judy Garland’s Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas, Doris Day’s Christmas Song, Chestnuts roasting on an open fire is one of the popular songs that hit the radios post WW II.

What is amazing is that Doris had no idea just how musically gifted she was. While recovering from a car accident she would sing while listening to the radio: ‘the one radio voice I listened to above others belonged to Ella Fitzgerald. There was a quality to her voice that fascinated me, and I’d sing along with her, trying to catch the subtle ways she shaded her voice, the casual yet clean way she sang the words.’ (Doris Day)

christmas song Chestnuts roasting
Roasted chestnuts in a paper bag

Doris Day shared a long and fruitful collaboration with Les Brown & His Band of Renown. Here is their ageless collaboration, Christmas Song, Chestnuts roasting on an open fire:

Post WW2, The Christmas Song, Chestnuts roasting on an open fire, Doris Day vocals with Les Brown and his orchestra – lyrics:

Chestnuts roasting on an open fire
Jack Frost nipping at your nose
Yuletide carols being sung by the choir
And folks dressed up like Eskimos
Everybody knows a turkey and some mistletoe
Help to make the season bright
Tiny little tots with their eyes all aglow
Will find it hard to sleep tonight
They know that Santa’s on his way
He’s loaded lots of toys and goodies on his sleigh
And every mother’s child is going to spy
To see if reindeer’s really know how to fly
And so I’m offering this simple phrase
To kids from one to ninety-two
Although it’s been said many times, many ways
Merry Christmas to you
And so I’m offering this simple phrase
To kids from one to ninety-two
Although it’s been said many times, many ways
Merry Christmas to you, Merry Christmas to you!

(Source Musixmatch)
Songwriters: ROBERT WELLS / MEL TORME
The Christmas Song lyrics © Sony/ATV Tunes LLC

christmas song Chestnuts roasting

Song lyrics and movie clip are property and copyright of their owners and are provided for educational purposes and personal use only.

The #MusicMonday meme was created by Drew @ The Tattooed Book Geek. You can pick a song that you really like and share it on Monday. I thoroughly enjoyed this blog feature on Mischenko’s lovely blog, ReadRantRockandroll .

Follow this blog: