Jun 172014

BrothersSmugCloseupAda Palmer and Lauren Schiller frequently perform together as the duo: “Sassafrass: Trickster & King.”  We call it that because Odin and Loki are both tricksters, and both kings, in their way, so the double name invokes both characters.

The next concert by “Sassafrass: Trickster and King” will be at George R. R. Martin’s Jean Cocteau Cinema in Santa Fe on June 22nd (7 PM), as part of the reading by Jo Walton. We’re very excited to be coming – Ada has been touring with Jo all summer and singing at her readings, but Lauren is coming for just this performance in Santa Fe.  We will sing some pieces that go thematically with Jo’s new book My Real Children, and some Norse songs to go with her Norse-themed poetry, which she is reading.  Should be quite the event!

We will also perform at Loncon (Worldcon) in London in August.

Happy Ragnarok, Everyone!

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Feb 222014

100 days ago, it was predicted, based on signs and portents, that today, Feb 22nd 2014 would be the long-foretold day of Ragnarok.  And while we haven’t heard any trumpets sound, cocks crow or hounds howl, it seems an appropriate day to share fresh progress toward our long-awaited Sundown…

First, a fun thing to share:

Sassafrass’s composer Ada Palmer has just started writing articles for, and has written a special Ragnarok-themed article to celebrate the 22nd. Those familiar with our music will recognize many of its thoughts and themes:

Meanwhile, production on the CD and DVD is proceeding nicely.

Our video director is close to a final cut of the DVD footage, and expects the digital video to be finished in March. After that it will need to have menus, navigation and packaging design, but it is certainly on schedule for our projected June completion date. I have seen a few clips from the edited footage myself and they are very powerful, with the multiple cameras providing a great range of close-ups and full-stage shots.

Audio recording is also in high gear. Polishing and finalizing the tracks after we record them is a slow process, so we have not completed any polished tracks since Longer in Stories than Stone which we shared in October, but we have now recorded the vast majority of the audio, with only a few smaller sections left to record. For the present, we’re deep in the sound editing gruntwork, and working slowly and methodically to make sure the tracks come out sounding their best. The largest and most complicated piece, Sundown, is in the very final phase of post-production, just undergoing final sound balancing to make sure every lyric track is clear and crisp. Many of the other songs are much farther from completion, but I’ve recently gotten to hear the raw recordings for Gift of Life, Here’s to Valhalla and the new five-part version of Hearthfire, and I am frankly blown away by how much clearer and richer they sound than any of our past albums. In particular, our new techniques are letting the different simultaneous lyric lines be much clearer, so you can finally actually hear all the words in all the separate parts in the big five and six line pieces. The exponential increase in effort and cost for these recordings is 110% worth-it!

In addition to the main CD and DVD, work is also proceeding nicely on the songbooks, posters and a few other details that have not yet been announced, so we hope to have more exciting news in the next months. Meanwhile we hope you’ll sit back and enjoy this beautiful Ragnarok day. And keep your axe and helmet close at hand for the occasion, just in case a certain unusually-sized puppy comes out to play today…

A busy October!

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Oct 192013

It’s been a busy month!

Ada and Lauren had a great time at Fencon in Dallas at the beginning of the month followed by an excellent house concert with Heather Dale and S.J. Tucker with local friends new and old. Both were fabulous and we hope to return to Fencon again as well as host more house concerts the next time the Heather Dale band or S.J. Tucker come through Texas.

Pegasus graphic

Lauren and Ada are also preparing to go to OVFF next weekend where we’ll be performing Ship of Stone in the Pegasus concert. (Lauren will also be pretending to be a drum set for another nominee.) We’re looking forward to seeing everyone there! If you won’t make it, don’t forget that pre-convention voting is open until midnight Pacific Time on Monday, October 21, 2013, so if you haven’t voted yet, go listen and do so soon!

All of Sassafrass has been working hard on recording this month from our various locations; final editing is almost complete for the title song Sundown, and we’re making great progress with recording Hearthfire, A New World, Here’s to Valhalla, and If I Could Ask You.

Teaching Albums Complete

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Sep 252013

FutharkAlbumCover3We have now completed and launched the two digital teaching albums which were promised as Kickstarter stretch goals. These albums take the songs apart and present each voice and combination of voices individually, so you can hear them alone, making it easier to understand and, especially, to learn these complex pieces. You can stream the music online for free, but each $5 album also comes with downloadable PDFs of the sheet music, lyrics sheets, a MIDI file for computer playback, and a PDF of notes by the composer discussing the piece and its sources.

The Futhark Song Teaching Collection contains a whopping 32 tracks combining the different subsections of the harmony in all different combinations.  This makes it easier to understand the modal harmony, and the explanatory notes discuss not only the origins and meaning of the runes, but give a lay introduction to modal music and discuss how modal elements are used in this and other songs in the Sundown collection.  I heartily encourage you to listen to Longer in Stories than Stone again after reading the discussion of how its modal harmonics work.

The My Brother, My Enemy Teaching Collection features one track with Odin’s voice dominant and Loki’s soft, and one with Loki’s voice dominant and Odin’s soft so you can follow each character individually, as well as the combined final recording (the same version that is on the Sundown album).  Its notes discuss the historical sources, some of the nuances and references in the lyrics, and talk about how Loki and fire are connected, in the myths, and in the Sundown cycle.

Check out these streaming samples:


Longer in Stories than Stone – Final Cut Shared Streaming

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Sep 162013

To thank the community for Sassafrass’s Pegasus award nominations, we are temporarily sharing the fresh-off-the-digital-presses final cut of the Sundown finale chorus “Longer in Stories than Stone.”  It is available streaming only, and will remain online until the end of October, in celebration of the Ohio Valley Filk Festival (host of the Pegasus Awards.) This is the finished final track, of which a clip appears on the Sundown: Preview album, and the whole thing will be on the finished Sundown: Whispers of Ragnarok CD. This gives a real taste of the better quality recording we have been working so hard on, to make the finished CD a real step above our past releases. (Thank you again Kickstarter backers!)  Enjoy, and remember to also scroll down to see the streaming video from Balticon!

The cover illustration, featuring portraits of group members Ruth, Lila, Emily, Lauren and Matt, comes from “The Chronicle” a card inspired by Sassafrass (and by this song in particular), which appears in the “New Tarot,” a project authored by Warren Tusk and illustrated by Leslie Minnis.  A “sequel” to the classic Tarot, the New Tarot is a 78-card Tarot-structured oracle deck about exploring the world and achieving your dreams.  Learn more about the New Tarot at:

Peasus Nominations; Worldcon, Fencon, House Filk

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Sep 082013

Sassafrass is delighted to announce that we have again been nominated for the Pegasus Awards for Excellence in Filking.  This year Sassafrass has again been nominated for Best Performer, and our composer, Ada Palmer, has, for the first time, been nominated for best Composer/Songwriter.

In celebration of the nomination, and to give people a better sample of the full on-stage performance experience of Sundown, we are temporarily releasing this preview of “Longer in Stories than Stone” from the Balticon debut performance.  This video uses the footage from our professional video cameras, and is close to a final cut, but still awaiting some final post-production fixes to details like color tinting and digital zoom.  We hope you all enjoy this sample of the performance, and the taste it gives of what we can look forward to when the DVD is finally finished:

The Pegasus awards are an exciting time, when new, exciting creations from around the filk community are gathered and shared.  We enourage all our friends to visit the Pegasus website to hear samples of all the other great songs, composers and performers who have also been nominated.

In addition, our recent performance at Worldcon was a great success.  It meant an enormous amount to us to be able to bring Sundown to the unique audience which Worldcon attracts, and to share it with so many friends, old and new.  Looking down from the stage and seeing the rapt and often tearful faces of friends was an overwhelming experience for us as we performed.  We remain extremely grateful to the backers of our Kickstarter, without whose support we could never have brought the group to Worldcon.

We are also happy to announce two upcoming TX performances:

Concert at Fencon (Dallas), Saturday October 5th, preliminarily scheduled for 6 PM.  Only two Sassafrass members will be present, Lauren and Ada, so we will concentrate on duet pieces and some of our rarely-performed two-part adaptations of more complex works.
House Filk on Thursday October 10th, in College Station TX, hosted by Lauren and Ada and featuring Heather Dale and S.J. Tucker!  We are delighted to be hosting these wonderful guest performers for our first TX area House Filk, and are talking with Heather about plans to experiment with some harmonies together.  If you are interested in attending the event, please e-mail us or RSVP on our Facebook event page.

Online Pre-Orders Now Available

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Jul 022013

DVDPlaceholderCoverSmallSassafrass is delighted to announce that we now have an online method set up for pre-ordering the CD and DVD of Sundown.

The Kickstarter has closed, but since we continue to receive frequent requests from people who want to order the discs in advance, we have set up our “merchandise” page on Bandcamp to offer the CD and DVD for physical pre-order.  Both are priced at $20, with $6 domestic shipping.

As of right now we do not have an option for combined shipping if you order both at once.  This is because we expect the DVD to be available several months before the CD, so, for those who pre-order both, we will ship each as it becomes available.

We do not yet have it set up to let you pre-order the digital download, but if you want the digital version you can request to be put on a mailing list and we will let you know as soon as is it available.  Meanwhile, our preview album contains three finished tracks from the final CD, the character themes and a bonus rough cut of the creation myth song “Ice and Fire”.

Interview about Sundown on BLT Blog

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Jun 092013
Baldur, Odin and Loki in their traveling cloaks, with chorus behind in more modest human costumes.

Baldur, Odin and Loki in their traveling cloaks, with chorus.

A few updates to share.  First, a very fun literature and culture blog “Bible, Literature and Translation” has done a piece on Sundown with an interview with composer Ada Palmer talking about the source and background of the play.  You can read it here.  Especially for those who couldn’t make it to the panel about Sundown after the play at Balticon, the interview looks at textual issues as well as underlying idea behind the structure of the play and music.

Second, we are now one week from the end of our Kickstarter fundraising campaign, and we’ve passed $13,000.  We’re overwhelmed by how powerful the response has been, and how much we’ve managed to exceed our goal.  Having extra resources has let us start thinking about the next performance, and talk to cons and other venues about where we might perform Sundown next.  We had expected it to be many months until we had another venue, but with these resources in hand we’ve been able to accelerate our plans for a second performance.  For this reason we hope donations will continue to climb in the last week of the kickstarter, since every donation increases the chance that we can travel to perform at more and bigger cons.

And since we’ve passed $13,000, several of Jo Walton’s Norse poems about Odin and Ask and Embla have now been shared with our backers.  We are really hoping we can hit $14,000 so she will write her Loki poem.

A big thanks to everyone who has supported us so far.  We have big plans, thanks to you!  We hope to have some finalized enough to announce soon, so stay tuned!

Sundown Comes! A Victorious Debut at Balticon

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May 312013

Sundown 041 BrighterI am delighted to announce that our first performance of the full stage play Sundown: Whispers of Ragnarok was an enormous success.  Balticon was a fabulous host at every stage, from enthusiastic tech staff who were eager to help us develop exciting lighting effects, to enthusiastic friends new and old who helped with last-minute logistics, to the most enthusiastic audience we could have hoped for.  We especially want to thank several SCA Viking costuming and wireweaving experts who were at the convention, and helped us solve several last-minute costuming issues.  In the end, our historic costumes all came out delightfully, and we were able to display many signature elements of Viking clothing.  A huge thank-you to everyone who helped make this possible!

Below: the moment of Baldur’s murder, with Baldur collapsing on the left, and Hod and Loki on the right, still posed to fire the arrow:



Lauren, Ada and Kara as Odin, Loki and Hella.

Lauren, Ada and Kara as Odin, Loki and Hella.

Our DVD film director Dave Kowarsky reports that the video came out extremely well, and he has high hopes for the DVD.  We had four cameras going throughout the performance, to capture different angles, close-ups and distant shots, so over the next month he will work on cutting and splicing different shots to assemble the best possible video.  At the end of June our composer, Ada Palmer, will get together with Dave at his editing studio in New York to help finalize the cut, and work on DVD extras.

Now we want to do it again!

With the first performance behind us, we’re eagerly investigating venues for a second performance.  We have already received several invitations, but getting so many performers together  requires a lot of planning, so we don’t yet know where we will be able to next perform Sundown.

We are also concentrating on recording, and have a rigorous recording schedule planned for the summer, so we expect to make great progress toward the CD.

We also have great Kickstarter news!

KickstarterButtonThe Kickstarter funding campaign we launched two weeks ago has been a staggering success.  We were staggered by the response, and met our $7,000 starting goal in only 48 hours!

We’re genuinely overwhelmed by the support we’ve received.   This guarantees that we can produce the CD and DVD, but now we are working on stretch goals, to raise more so we can help finance further performances, DVD extras and professional digital mastering for our audio CDs.  As of this morning we hit $11,000, which means composer Ada Palmer will write 24 pages of historical and mythological notes about the making of the play, to be printed in the libretto and shared in PDF with our backers, and Hugo- and Nebula- award-winning author Jo Walton has written two poems about Odin to share with readers and backers (read the first one here) and she has promised more as the campaign continues.  We still have 16 days to go, and we hope pledges will continue to climb, since every dollar increases the chances that we can afford to perform the play again soon.  We have exciting rewards planned if we hit $12,000 or more, including more poems by Jo, and more DVD extras, so for details please check the Kickstarter Updates, and please continue to share our Kickstarter link with friends and families – this Kickstarter is a great opportunity for us to reach new audiences, and share our music through pre-orders of the CD and digital downloads.

Once again, a huge thanks to all our supporters, at Balticon and around the world.  Sundown has been a greater success than any of us could have imagined, and we could never have done it without your support.  Thank you!


Alessandro, Alexa and Matt as our three narrators: Saemund, the Seeress and Snorri Sturlson


Kickstarter Launch!

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May 172013


An exciting day: Sassafrass is launching a Kickstarter to support Sundown: Whispers of Ragnarok! We have some really exciting plans for Balticon and for the CD (period-accurate costumes, eco-friendly packaging, filming the play to make a DVD), and we need your help to make them happen. This is our first time trying out something like this and we have high hopes that with our fans backing us up through Kickstarter, our most ambitious project yet can get off the ground. Check out our project page and preorder your CD and DVD now!

You can support The Sundown Project at any level!  We have exciting ways to say thank you:

  • For just $1 or more we will thank you personally on the Contributors page of our website, and at higher levels we will also thank you in the CD and DVD.
  • For just $10, you can pre-order a digital download of the finished album, while for $25 you can pre-order the CD itself, or for $50 the CD and DVD.
  • For those who pledge more, we have such exciting items as a poster with a beautiful illustration of the Norse Cosmos produced by comics artist friend Rob Snyder, another poster with images from the International Space Station celebrating our space exploration song “Somebody Will“, a libretto, and bound collections of our sheet music.
  • Exclusive thank-you items include a certificate with your name in Runes, and, at high levels, advanced digital access to the tracks as we finish them, before the CD is released.
  • We also have exciting stretch goals planned!
"Your name in Runes."  One of our ways of saying thank-you to our generous backers.

“Your name in Runes.” One of our ways of saying thank-you to our Kickstarter backers.

We have uploaded a lot of new music samples to go with the Kickstarter, as well as lots of new info about the Sundown Project.  Both on the Kickstarter page and on our new main page you can hear streaming samples of the new recording of My Brother My Enemy, which demonstrates our new recording tech, plus the new Futhark Song and a sample of the finale of the cycle, Longer in Stories than Stone.  Our info page about the Play also has new recordings of the Character Themes, and you can hear all the new samples on the Sundown Preview digital album.

For more information, check out our Kickstarter page, and thank you for helping us bring Ragnarok to life!

But there’s even more news: Three New Digital Releases!

To replace our retired albums, Sassafrass has three new online albums available through Bandcamp.

These are the results of our efforts to clean up our old sound, and reorganize our music, new and old, to give people the best taste of the new improved sound quality our new recording and editing techniques can produce.  We have reorganized our old tracks, taken down a lot of the old and rough ones, and consolidated the cleaner ones into three new collections:

  • SundownPreviewCoverThumbSundown: Whispers of Ragnarok – Preview is our way of sharing what we have of the still-in-progress Sundown Norse Myth Song Cycle.  It contains the final recordings of “My Brother, My Enemy” and both versions of “The Futhark Song” (the sweet one and a new eerie modal arrangement), just as they will appear on the final CD.  It also contains recordings of the seven Character Themes which recur throughout the song cycle, letting you spot the influence of each character in the larger pieces.  As a final bonus, it contains a sample of the six-part finale piece “Longer in Stories than Stone” which is still in production, plus it comes with downloadable PDFs including a lyrics sheet for “My Brother, My Enemy,” one for “The Futhark Song” featuring the original runic characters, and the sheet music for the Character Themes.
  • MakeThemAllRealCoverThumbMake Them All Real collects the best tracks from our past albums, digitally remastered by our new sound editors.  They have been re-balanced for volume, filtered for improved microphone quality, and have enhanced clarity of sound and lyrics.  In addition to such favorites as “Somebody Will” and “Fall”, this collection contains a new recording of one of our Norse pieces, the solo version of “A New World (Frigg’s Song), which will appear as a trio on the finished Sundown CD.  As a bonus, the complete album purchase comes with downloadable PDFs of the lyrics sheets with guitar parts for “Somebody Will” and “Threadbare Dragon,” formatted to help you learn and perform them.
  • RemnantsCoverThumbRemnants and Alternates collects favorite rougher takes from all our old collections, trying to gather the best take of each of the pieces we have not yet had a chance to rerecord, plus favorite old versions, gathering selections from six different albums into one. It also contains two live concert recordings never before released online!

All three are available for $5 each through our bandcamp site, and sales help pay for the production of Sundown.

A fourth collection is coming soon!  We often receive requests from friends and fans who still want access to retired rough tracks, which may not be our cleanest, but are still fun.  We are gathering a selection of the best retired tracks and will soon make them available on our website, both streaming and for free download.  Stay posted!

It’s a big day, and this is going to be the most exciting month Sassafrass has had, with the Kickstarter, three digital releases, and the long-awaited debut of the stage version of Sundown at Balticon.  None of this would be possible without the support and encouragement of our many friends, so thank you for being part of this project, and we hope you enjoy!