Summer Solstice

The summer solstice occurs annually between June 20 and June 22 in the northern hemisphere , when the tilt of a planet’s semi-axis, in either the northern or the southern hemisphere, is most inclined toward the star (sun) that it orbits. Earth’s maximum axial tilt toward the sun is 23° 26′. This happens twice each year, at which times the sun reaches its highest position in the sky as seen from the north or the south pole.The summer solstice occurs during a hemisphere’s summer. This is northern solstice in the northern hemisphere and the southern solstice in the southern hemisphere. Depending on the shift of the calendar, the summer solstice occurs some time between December 20 and December 23 each year in the southern hemisphere ln reference to UTC. Though the summer solstice is an instant in time, the term is also colloquially used like midsummer to refer to the day on which it occurs. The summer solstice occurs on the day that has the longest period of daylight – except in the polar regions, where daylight is continuous, from a few days to six months around the summer solstice.Worldwide, interpretation of the event has varied among cultures, but most recognize the event in some way with holidays, festivals, and rituals around that time with themes of religion or fertility. Solstice is derived from the Latin words sol (sun) and sistere (to stand still)

The celebration of Midsummer’s Eve (St. John’s Eve among Christians) was from ancient times a festival of the summer solstice. Some people believed that golden-flowered mid-summer plants, especially Calendula, and St. John’s Wort, had miraculous healing powers and they therefore picked them on this night. Bonfires were lit to protect against evil spirits which were believed to roam freely when the sun was turning southwards again. In later years, witches were also thought to be on their way to meetings with other powerful beings.The solstice itself has remained a special moment of the annual cycle of the year since Neolithic times.[3] The concentration of the observance is not on the day as we reckon it, commencing at midnight or at dawn, as it is customary for cultures following lunar calendars to place the beginning of the day on the previous eve at dusk at the moment when the Sun has set. In Sweden, Finland, Latvia and Estonia, Midsummer’s Eve is the greatest festival of the year, comparable only with Walpurgis Night, Christmas Eve, and New Year’s Eve.In the 7th century, Saint Eligius (died 659/60) warned the recently converted inhabitants of Flanders against the age-old pagan solstice celebrations. According to the Vita by his companion Ouen, he’d say: “No Christian on the feast of Saint John or the solemnity of any other saint performs solestitia [summer solstice rites] or dancing or leaping or diabolical chants.”As Christianity entered pagan areas, midsummer celebrations came to be often borrowed and transferred into new Christian holidays, often resulting in celebrations that mixed Christian traditions with traditions derived from pagan Midsummer festivities

In Great Britain from the 13th century, Midsummer was celebrated on Midsummer Eve (St. John’s Eve, June 23) and St. Peter’s Eve (June 28) with the lighting of bonfires, feasting and merrymaking.In late 15th-century England, John Mirk of Lilleshall Abbey, Shropshire, gives the following description: “At first, men and women came to church with candles and other lights and prayed all night long. In the process of time, however, men left such devotion and used songs and dances and fell into lechery and gluttony turning the good, holy devotion into sin.” The church fathers decided to put a stop to these practices and ordained that people should fast on the evening before, and thus turned waking into fasting (Festial 182).Mirk adds that at the time of his writing, “…in worship of St John the Baptist, men stay up at night and make three kinds of fires: one is of clean bones and no wood and is called a “bonnefyre”; another is of clean wood and no bones, and is called a wakefyre, because men stay awake by it all night; and the third is made of both bones and wood and is called, “St. John’s fire” (Festial 182).” These traditions largely ended after the Reformation, but persisted in rural areas up until the 19th century before petering out.

Other Midsummer festivities had uneasy relations with the Reformed establishment. The Chester Midsummer Watch Parade, begun in 1498, was held at every Summer Solstice in years when the Chester Mystery Plays were not performed. Despite the cancellation of the plays in 1575, the parade continued; in 1599, however, the Lord Mayor ordered that the parades be banned and the costumes destroyed. The parade was permanently banned in 1675.Tansys Golowan – A Cornish hilltop bonfire on Midsummer’s eve.Traditional Midsummer bonfires are still lit on some high hills in Cornwall (see Carn Brea andCastle an Dinas, St. Columb Major). This tradition was revived by the Old Cornwall Society in the early 20th century. Bonfires in Cornwall were once common as part of Golowan, which is now celebrated at Penzance, Cornwall. This week long festival normally starts on the Friday nearest St John’s Day. Golowan lasts several days and culminates in Mazey Day. This is a revival of the Feast of St John (Gol-Jowan) with fireworks and bonfires

.Midsummer festivals are celebrated throughout Scotland, notably in the Scottish Borders where Peebles holds its Beltane Week. The Eve of St. John has special magical significance and was used by Sir Walter Scott as the title, and theme, for a pseudo-ballad poem. He invented a legend in which the lady of Smailholm Tower, near Kelso, keeps vigil by the midnight fires three nights in a row (see above) and is visited by her lover; but when her husband returns from battle, she learns he slew that lover on the first night, and she has been entertained by a very physical ghost.In Wales it is called Gŵyl Ifan, or Gŵyl Ifan Ganol Haf (St John’s of Midsummer) to distinguish it from Gŵyl Ifan Ganol Gaeaf (St John’s of Midwinter, the feast of John the Evangelist). Great agricultural fairs used to be held at this time, along with merriment and dancing. A bonfire was also kept this night. With the advent of non-conformist beliefs on the Welsh socio-political culture, this (among so many other similar festivals) suffered greatly, and its observance finally died out in SE Wales by the end of the 19th century. However, since 1977, a folk-dance revival started in Cardiff, and is held now annually on this feast day June 24, Midsummer Day, the feast of St. John the Baptist, is one of the quarter days in England. In recent years on the Summer Solstice, English Heritage has run a “Managed Open Access” to Stonehenge for the Summer Solstice celebrations.

 

 

John Taylor (Duran Duran)

John Taylor, English musician wth 1980′s new romantic band Duran Duran celebrates his birthday on 20th June. formed in Birmingham in 1978 Duran Duran were one of the most successful bands of the 1980s and a leading band in the MTV-driven “Second British Invasion” of the United States. Since the 1980s, they have placed 14 singles in the Top 10 of the UK Singles Chart and 21 in the Billboard Hot 100. Their debut single “Planet Earth” was released n 1981, with their self-titled debut album, Duran Duran, released in June the same year. By 1983, the band was a global success story, and went on to have many other hits including  Union of the Snake, Girls on Film, Rio, Wild Boys, The Reflex, Hungry like a Wolf and New Moon on Monday.

While they were generally considered part of the New Romantic scene along with bands such as Spandau Ballet when they first emerged, they later shed this image. The band worked with fashion designers to build a sharp and elegant image that earned them the nickname “the prettiest boys in rock.” The band’s controversial videos, which included partial nudity and suggestions of sexuality, became popular in the early 1980s on the then-new music video channel MTV. Duran Duran were among the first bands to have their videos shot by professional directors with 35 mm film movie cameras, which gave their videos a much more polished look.

The band were also early innovators with video technology in their live stadium shows.   The group was formed by Nick Rhodes, John Taylor and Stephen Duffy, with the later addition of Roger Taylor and, after numerous personnel changes, Andy Taylor and Simon Le Bon. (None of the Taylors are related, and Roger Taylor is not to be confused with the Queen drummer of the same name.) The group has never disbanded, but the line-up has changed to include guitarist Warren Cuccurullo from 1989 to 2001 and drummer Sterling Campbell from 1989 to 1991. The reunion of the original five members in the early 2000s created a stir among the band’s fans and music media. Andy Taylor left the band in mid-2006, and London guitarist Dom Brown has since been working with the band as a session player and touring member.

Tribute to Sir Nigel Gresley

60007 Sir Nigel Gresley at Bewdley during the Severn Valley Railway Spring Steam Gala

60007 Sir Nigel Gresley at Bewdley during the Severn Valley Railway Spring Steam Gala

Having seen loads of awesome Gresley designed A4 Pacific steam locomotives down at the Severn Valley Railway over the years, like Bittern, Union of South Africa and Sir Nigel Gresley, I thought I would do a post on Sir Nigel Gresley himself,  Born 19 June 1876 he became one of Britain’s most famous steam locomotive engineers, who rose to become Chief Mechanical Engineer (CME) of the London and North Eastern Railway (LNER). He was the designer of some of the most famous steam locomotives in Britain, including the LNER Class A1 and LNER Class A4 4-6-2 Pacific engines. An A1, Flying Scotsman, was the first steam locomotive officially recorded over 100 mph in passenger service, and an A4, number 4468 Mallard, still holds the record for being the fastest steam locomotive in the world (126 mph). Gresley’s engines were considered elegant, both aesthetically and mechanically. His invention of a three-cylinder design with only two sets of Walschaerts valve gear, theGresley conjugated valve gear, produced smooth running and power at lower cost than would have been achieved with a more conventional three sets of Walschaerts gear.

Gresley was born in Edinburgh, but was raised in Netherseal, Derbyshire, a member of the cadet branch of a family long seated at Gresley, Derbyshire. After attending school in Sussex and at Marlborough College, Gresley served his apprenticeship at the Crewe works of the London and North Western Railway, afterwards becoming a pupil under John Aspinall at Horwich of the Lancashire and Yorkshire Railway (L&YR). After several minor appointments with the L&YR he was made Outdoor Assistant in the Carriage and Wagon Department in 1901; in 1902 he was appointed Assistant Works Manager at Newton Heath depot, and Works Manager the following year.

This rapid rise in his career was maintained and, in 1904, he became Assistant Superintendent of the Carriage and Wagon Department of the L&YR. A year later, he moved to the Great Northern Railway (GNR) as Carriage and Wagon Superintendent. He succeeded Henry A. Ivatt as CME of the GNR on 1 October 1911. At the 1923 Grouping, he was appointed CME of the newly formed LNER (the post had originally been offered to the ageing John G. Robinson; Robinson declined and suggested the much younger Gresley). In 1936, Gresley was awarded an honorary DSc by Manchester University and a knighthood by King Edward VIII; also in that year he presided over the IMechE.During the 1930s, Sir Nigel Gresley lived at Salisbury Hall, near St. Albans in Hertfordshire. Gresley developed an interest in breeding wild birds and ducks in the moat; intriguingly, among the species were Mallard ducks. The Hall still exists today as a private residence and is adjacent to the de Havilland Aircraft Heritage Centre, with its links to the design of the famous Mosquito aircraft during World War II.In 1936, Gresley designed the 1,500V DC locomotives for the proposed electrification of theWoodhead Line between Manchester and Sheffield. The Second World War forced the postponement of the project, which was completed in the early 1950s.Gresley died after a short illness on 5 April 1941 and was buried in Netherseal, Derbyshire.He was succeeded as the LNER CME by Edward Thompson.

Happy birthday Lionel Richie

American singer-songwriter, musician, record producer and actor Lionel Richie was born this date June 20, 1949 in Tuskegee, Alabama. From 1968, he was a member of the musical group Commodores signed to Motown Records. Richie made his solo debut in 1982 with the album Lionel Richie and number-one hit “Truly”.As a student in Tuskegee, Richie formed a succession of R&B groups in the mid-1960s. In 1968 he became a singer and saxophonist with the Commodores.

They signed a recording contract with Atlantic Records in 1968 for one record before moving on to Motown Records initially as a support act to The Jackson 5. The Commodores then became established as a popular soul group. Their first several albums had a danceable, funky sound, as in such tracks as “Machine Gun” and “Brick House.” Over time, Richie wrote and sang more romantic, easy-listening ballads such as “Easy,” “Three Times a Lady,” “Still,” and the tragic breakup ballad “Sail On.”   By the late 1970s he had begun to accept songwriting commissions from other artists. He composed “Lady” for Kenny Rogers, which hit #1 in 1980, and produced Rogers’s album Share Your Love the following year. Richie and Rogers maintained a strong friendship in later years. Latin jazz composer and salsa romantica pioneer La Palabra enjoyed international success with his cover of “Lady,” which was played at Latin dance clubs. Also in 1981 Richie sang the theme song for the film Endless Love, a duet with Diana Ross. Issued as a single, the song topped the UK and US pop music charts, and became one of Motown’s biggest hits. Its success encouraged Richie to branch out into a full-fledged solo career in 1982.

He was replaced as lead singer for The Commodores by Skyler Jett in 1983. His debut album, Lionel Richie, produced another chart-topping single, “Truly,” which continued the style of his ballads with the Commodores. Richie’s 1982 self-titled debut contained three hit singles: the U.S. #1 song “Truly”,”You Are” and “My Love.”His 1983 follow-up album, Can’t Slow Down won two Grammy Awards, including Album of the Year, propelling him into the first rank of international superstars. The album contained the #1 hit “All Night Long”. Several more Top 10 hits followed, the most successful of which was the ballad “Hello” (1984), Richie had three more Top Ten hits in 1984, “Stuck on You” (#3), “Running with the Night” and “Penny Lover” in 1985 Richie wrote and performed, “Say You, Say Me,” for the film White Nights, winning an Oscar for his efforts as well as reaching on the U.S. charts.He also collaborated with Michael Jackson on the charity single “We Are the World” by USA for Africa, In 1986, Richie released Dancing on the Ceiling, his last widely popular album, which produced a run of US and UK hits including “Say You, Say Me”, “Dancing on the Ceiling” , “Ballerina Girl” and “Se La”

Richie remains popular to this day and in 2004, he appeared on Top Gear as the “Star in a Reasonably Priced Car” where he was interviewed by host Jeremy Clarkson and During his lap, the Suzuki Liana he was driving lost a wheel due to hard cornering. In November 2005, he performed with Kenny Rogers on a CMT Crossroads special. Richie was also the headliner at a 2000 Fourth of July tribute concert with Fantasia Barrino at the Philadelphia Museum of Art. On May 7, 2006, Richie performed on the main stage (Acura Stage) at the New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival. Richie released his eighth studio album entitled “Coming Home” on September 12, 2006. The first single of the album was “I Call It Love” and was premiered in July 2006, becoming his biggest hit in the U.S. in ten years. The album was an incredible success for Richie in the United States, peaking at #6. His adopted daughter Nicole Richie stars in the music video for this track.

On December 9, 2006, Richie hosted and performed live on the British television show An Audience with Lionel Richie. Two months later, he performed “Hello” on the 49th Grammy Awards show. On November 25, 2007, he made a surprise appearance on the Australian Idol grand finale performing “All Night Long (All Night)” at the Sydney Opera House. Richie donated to Barack Obama’s 2008 Presidential campaign. On May 2, 2008, he became the 21st recipient of the George and Ira Gershwin Lifetime Achievement Award at UCLA’s annual Spring Sing and Recently, he announced that he would like to get The Commodores back together soon, “or in the next 10 years no one will care.” On December 31, 2008, Richie performed in Times Square for the New Year’s Eve celebration and ball drop. He also performed on the 2009 season finale for American Idol with Danny Gokey.  On July 7, 2009, Richie performed “Jesus is Love” at Michael Jackson’s memorial service and A new album, Just Go was released in spring 2009 – around the time Lionel confirmed there is to be a Commodores reunion in the near future.