The Medieval Fehr

I have recently begun a costume line, Medieval Fehr, to bring to life the women and their songs throughout the centuries, but with a focus on the Medieval to Baroque eras.  My philosophy is to recycle and repurpose clothing and I love to create something new and unique from vintage items. Role models have been my grandma, my mum, and my aunts, who creatively recycled long before it was popular… and I was inspired by Scarlett O’Hara and her “curtain gown” in Gone with the Wind!  My gowns throughout the years of performing have often been designed and created using fabric from gently used gowns and linens found in consignment and charity shops, or using discount fabrics from roll ends hidden at the back of fabric stores… often only $5 – $7 per metre!!   Costumes for Musical Theatre productions are a wonderful way to teach the younger generation to be creative and at the same time be responsible caretakers of our beautiful earth!

Handmade cloth buttons!

Minstrel Thérèse de Fehr is wearing a 15th century linen kirtle designed and made by Fehr in the ‘draping and pinning’ Medieval tradition with 10 handmade cloth buttons, hand-stitched buttonholes, lined with recycled linen and with detached fitted under-sleeves. As was the practice at that time, two gores were inserted at front and two slightly longer gores at back for added fullness. By the 1400’s, gowns became more fitted, bodice necklines lower, and cloth and metal buttons were used as fasteners, placed down the back if the lady had servants or placed down the front for the middle-class maiden who must button herself in! Once securely buttoned, it is off to the Fair for this Medieval Fehr!

“I saw a star rise high in the evening sky; it hung like a jewel, softly shining.” The Lady of Rivendell glows in a gown from Tracy’s Medieval Fehr costume line. This fantasy design with long, flowing non-symmetrical lines in soft, shimmering pink has a contrasting satin underskirt in deep pewter. The underskirt was sewn from a recycled gown discovered in a consignment store. The wide bell sleeves of the gown, cut out shoulders and square neckline trimmed with matching satin create an ethereal lightness while the Swedish clogs in buttery-soft pink leather bring this elven star down to earth.

Hildegarde von Bingen looks saintly in a 12th century tunic with extravagantly long, wide sleeves and modest neckline, tied high at the waist with a wide grey sash. Beneath the unlined tunic is a white chemise undergarment with grey skirt. For this simple Medieval tunic, Tracy doubled the fabric lengthwise and then cut the bodice and sleeves as one piece, leaving only one continuous side seam from tip of sleeve to bottom of skirt. The blue cross shines boldly against the white of the gown, her hair is loosely covered with a sheer white veil, and the cloak, a deep grey-blue in lush velvet with black velvet-lined hood, trails regally behind, befitting an Abbess.


Shap Abbey, 12th Century
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The Medieval Fehr

“Our food is scanty, our garments rough; our drink is from the stream” – Abbot Aelred, 1147
Rievaulx Abbey, Yorkshire, 12th century

Minstrels and merry makers descended on Bogner’s of Penticton at the restaurant’s first annual Mid-Winter Medieval Feast!

The Medieval Fehr… Hair!



It was a delight to introduce Beatriz de Dia’s A Chantar, one of the only remaining works by a trobairitz, female equivalent of a troubadour, from the 12th century.

Thérèse de Fehr, Trobairitz and other merry minstrels!



As well, the audience was treated to O Eterne Deus, Hildegarde von Bingen, 12th century abbess and composer… and works by Monteverdi, Thomas Morley and more! 

Thérèse de Fehr, Trobairitz… ready for the concert!!!




‘A Chantar’ – Tracy Fehr with Saif Eddine Srairi, Oud Palais Ennejma Ezzahra, Tunisia

Shawl woven in North Africa with the ‘paisley’ motif that originated in and was popular in Persia and the east in the Middle Ages




‘A Chantar’ sound clip – Tracy Fehr and Bob Park, Lute – 12th century – Beatriz de Dia, trobairitz

My grandmother’s family was from Paisley, Scotland, which became famous for this pattern first imported from the east with the luxurious Kashmir shawls in the 18th and 19th centuries… Pieces of this shawl still remain in the family and I find such similarities to the shawl I found in Tunisia!


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Concert Ramblings…

Chamber Music along Okanagan Lake with Masterworks Ensemble (Tracy Fehr, Soprano; Elizabeth Lupton, Violin, Viola; Dennis Nordlund, Pianoforte; Jordan Dyck, Cello, Upright Bass)…. 

These house concerts in August, 2011, starting in Summerland and cumulating on the Naramata Bench, were a great success and with full houses each night!  Guests enjoyed the more intimate setting with chamber music played as it was often originally intended.  We were so appreciative of our wonderful hosts who opened their homes for musicians and guests, our lovely venues, and local wineries that generously participated (Summergate Winery and 8th Generation Winery).

September followed in a whirl of activity with several unexpected concerts with Welsh Phantom legend, Peter Karrie and his Phantom Tour, myself taking on the role of ‘Christine’ as well as an opportunity to perform a few arias as well.   Unfortunately publicity on this side of the Atlantic wasn’t sufficiently arranged and attendance was much smaller than Peter (or I) had expected.  September was also a busy time for me preparing for my A Song for Hope tour in North Africa and the UK in October…

I returned to the Okanagan in time for more concerts in November and December! It was a delight to perform with Christine Purvis, organist, and Tracy Stuchberry, piano as part of St. Saviour’s
Chamber Music concert series, a Christmas Celebration.  I truly enjoy singing Handel and Bach with pipe organ accompaniment – what fun!  And then of course adding Mozart to the musical feast with Tracy accompanying was an added joy.  It was a lovely programme with a very appreciative audience.

Two Penticton concerts this Christmas raised over $1000 for the livelihood project, one with Voices in Song at St. Saviour’s Anglican Church and one with myself and several of the Voices in Song singers at the Penticton First Baptist Church. It was a priviledge to send this large donation to ACT! Thank you to all who have supported this work by attending concerts and through generous donations.

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A Song for Hope tour news

A Song for Hope tour news…

Read more about the A Song for Hope tour on the tour’s Facebook page.

More photos can be found on the Gallery page!

I love the blue doors and shutters of *Tunis*. This intensely blue door welcomed me when I first arrived at my home for the week.

This blue, a reflection of  sky and sea, is in startling contrast to the whitewash of the buildings and is seen in the ornate architecture along the sea at La Marsa* and Carthage*; it shimmers under the Mediterranean sun at the hillside Sidi BouSaid*; and shows in the extraordinary disparity of a clean white and blue backdrop against the thick air, a mingling of dust, incense, exhaust fumes and smoke, of downtown *Tunis*. 

It was again a busy two and a half weeks of traveling, singing, and meeting with mothers and ACT workers and local supporters. I spent the first week in Tunis giving several vocal workshops, first for local worship leadersand later in the week at the American Cooperative School working with students and leading a school assembly, and performing in concerts at the British Ambassador Christopher O’Connor’s residence and co-hosted by our Canadian Ambassador, Ariel Delouya, at St. George’s Anglican Church and at the American Cooperative School.

 

 

 

I was also interviewed by an on-line magazine, TunisLive.net and able to talk about the work ACT is doing with single moms in the country and about my fundraising efforts – this was a breakthrough and has encouraged further media interest on the plight of single moms and their lack of rights and education opportunities.

I was so pleased to have Peter accompany me on the piano for these concerts and to spend some time with both Peter and his wife Kathy. I was hosted by Sarah from ACT and got to know and appreciate both Sarah and my other host, Awatif – her mom made me a big batch of Harissa to bring home!  I met so many lovely people this time, Bishop Bill and his wife Hilary from St. George’s; ACT’s new President Howard and his wife Janet; many single moms and their children; and many local Tunisians!!

In the UK, I spent three separate weekends in London with my cousins, Colin and Ali and their two little girls,Emelia and Olivia (who was only four weeks when I first arrived!). I also spent several days with dear friends
Graham and Andrea in Eastbourne, East Sussex. I was priviledged to see their work at Old Towne Community
Church in Eastbourne and see a little of Glyn and Emma, Sam and Carys as well! I sang at the drop-in centre and still think and pray for those folks there.

 

 

 

After three days in Eastbourne I traveled back to London for an interview on Premier Christian Radio on Maria Toth’s “Woman to woman” morning show and then north to Sandbach, Cheshire for an evening concert, a morning chat and a few songs at Sandbach Girls’ School, and one last interview on Cross Rhthms Radio in Stoke-onTrent.

My cousin Simon Cliff accompanied me on guitar and we had a great time making music together and raising funds for Tunisia! My hosts in the north were my uncle and aunt, Chris and Brenda Cliff so it was lovely spending time with family enroute as well.

Over $8000 was raised through concerts in both the UK and *Tunisia* and so much more awareness has been raised which means new supporters and future donations to the work!

Livelihood news… I was able to meet with many of the new moms in the capital city. Several of these women started their training this past summer in patisserie, IT and weaving. Others were helped to start clothing businesses, selling their wares from their homes or at the local souks. Here are some of the stories they told me, some heartbreaking….

MHer boyfriend left her when she found out she was pregnant. Her family rejected her as to have
a baby out of wedlock is shameful for a family. M found she could make money as a prostitute. However, once connected with *ACT*, she was able to take the patisserie training and has been off the streets for three years now – it was a journey as the temptation to make “easy” money was great. But her life is changing! M lives in a one room flat with her son and does her patisserie business from this room – recently the roof caved in whilst she and her son were sleeping and so she must now find another place. She is hoping for a two room flat where she can live in one room and work out of the other.
M also supplements her income by serving food at a local school.

Z has a disabled boy of 10 years – the government has paid for a special stroller for him but she is struggling to survive. She was helped to start a clothing business and sells clothing out of her home.

Another mother also started the clothing project and sells her clothing in the souk – however, she is struggling to make money with this project as she has difficulty with the landlord of the souk.

S has a teenaged disabled daughter. When I met her, she had just heard they would be kicked out of the one room flat they are in and doesn’t know where they will go.

M took her unwed sister and child in and the family has now rejected both of them, but her own husband is more accepting.  They wish for reconciliation with their family.

L is a single mother with twins (boy, girl). She is allowed to live at home and was given a room to cook, sleep and live in but her family has no interaction with her – she says she is very lonely.

H… The first time one of our ACT workers met her, she was lying on a filthy bed with her newborn son, covering her face. Her mother was screaming at her, “you are a disgrace – a shame on the family”. But after a few months in nurses training and receiving top marks in her class, H told the worker that her mum said to her “I am proud of you my daughter”. H had a difficult year looking for work in her home town, but just now found employment at a local hospital and so her mom will continue looking after her son whilst she works.

Thank you for your interest and support in A Song for Hope and the livelihood project for single moms in North Africa.  You are making a difference in the lives of these women! 

God bless,

Tracy Fehr

 

 

 

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