RIDGEFIELD — Jimmy Buffett boasts a legion of worldwide followers affectionately dubbed “Parrotheads,” and of course “Deadheads” have been part of the tie-dyed jam band scene since the late 1960s.
But since its formation two decades ago between former radio personality, model, and vocalist Candice Night, and her soon-to-be husband — former Deep Purple and Rainbow guitarist Ritchie Blackmore — their band Blackmore’s Night has also amassed a colorful and highly dedicated following.
Blackmore’s Night — also featuring keyboardist/backup vocalist Bard David, bassist/rhythmic guitarist Earl Grey, percussionist Troubadour of Aberdeen, violinist Scarlett Fiddler, and backup vocalist/shawm player Lady Lynn — has since earned global acclaim for its replication of authentic medieval and Renaissance-themed music.
In an exclusive chat with The Newtown Bee ahead of the band’s July 28 arrival at The Ridgefield Playhouse, Night explained how the style of music that would define her band grabbed hold of her and never let go (much like Ritchie) after she heard it playing at Blackmore’s former Connecticut home when they started dating in 1991.
“I had never heard of Renaissance music before I met him, and I went to visit him in Redding at his big dark Tudor house. It had a minstrel’s gallery and the only songs he ever had playing around the house were purist Renaissance and medieval music,” Night said.
“So experiencing the music in this big English Tudor house as the snow was falling outside was like stepping back through the veil of what the Renaissance time period could be,” she continued. “That visual experience combined with the audio was the perfect marriage, a cathartic moment for me — a very intense transformation for me being in the woods in this new relationship.”
Night said hearing that music, in that environment, opened a door for her on many different levels.
“When Ritchie started playing acoustic instruments doing backing tracks near the end of his time with Rainbow, we’d be sitting by the fireplace and I’d be writing words for him that were inspired by this escape from the modern day, the stress and pressures of this world,” she said. “At the beginning we never thought we’d be putting this out for anybody. We almost did it from a very selfish perspective, but when our friends heard it and said they would buy it, we thought maybe the rest of the world would like it, too.”
According to the band’s advance, Blackmore’s Night has earned several gold records among their 10 studio albums while establishing a track record of sold-out shows. Going far above and beyond a typical concert experience, their sound — a mix of acoustic/electric troubadour folk-music with fantasy-themed lyrics — transports listeners to an old world style tavern, inviting everyone to leave their modern day stress at the door and join along with the festivities.
Night describes their tours like a traveling gypsy circus, where fans don full and sometimes elaborately authentic costumes of the age. She said Blackmore’s Night has always encouraged fans as well as first-timers to dress in their finest Renaissance attire.
“They get dressed up like they are part of the cast of Robin Hood or attending a Renaissance Faire, and after 21 years, they are bringing along their children, too. It really is kind of like a Grateful Dead following, they come to wherever we are playing around the world, and they make friends and shows become sort of like a family reunion for them,” she said. “They sleep on each other’s couches and they travel together and it has become this amazing and cohesive family unit. It’s amazing to watch, and it’s so nice to look out there we see them sharing the magic of the music.”
She said many fans of Deep Purple and Rainbow have embraced the band and continue to attend shows to witness the talented Blackmore deftly traversing a range of electric and acoustic guitar, mandolin, mandola, and hurdy gurdy, while Night’s vocals and command of seven medieval woodwind instruments (bagpipe, chanters, shawms, and pennywhistles, to name a few) deliver captivating melodies.
“I played piano before I met Ritchie, and took singing lessons, but the whole thing started when he picked up a penny whistle from a new age shop we were visiting. It sat on the kitchen counter for about six months collecting dust, and I told him either he starts playing it or I’m throwing it out,” Night recalled. “So then I gave it a shot and I was able to naturally find all the notes where they were supposed to be. And it had such a great sound and was so portable, I took it with us wherever we went.
“After that we started incorporating more and more similar instruments and started collecting them from different places around the world,” she said. “But I admit I’m completely self-taught, so I’m sure anyone who is formally schooled on any of those instruments is saying ‘She’s not using the right reed, or the right fingering.’ But that’s okay because we’re getting out of them what we need to — they’re very unique sounds. So today I’ve got about nine medieval instruments I’m using at every show, which melds together with new arrangements and lyrics to breath new life into old-style songs.”
Blackmore’s Night recently released a 20th anniversary compilation entitled To The Moon And Back: 20 Years And Beyond. The collection of catalog classics includes rerecorded versions of “Moonlight Shadow,” “Somewhere Over The Sea,” “Coming Home,” and “Writing On The Wall.”
“We compiled the songs after taking to social media — strange because we’re so anti-technology, right? But we polled the fans and so many of these fans have special connections to these songs,” she said. “We did a spreadsheet and we basically took the most popular songs for the first CD. Then for the second CD, we took a lot of time revisiting some of our other songs so we sort of let them breathe, and we’d do a tweak here and a tweak there to make them as perfect as we could.”
The band’s latest project also includes three new songs: Blackmore’s “Land Of Hope and Glory,” a reworking of British patriotic anthem “Pomp And Circumstance March No. 1” written in 1902;, a cover of the Rainbow tune “I Surrender,” with Night providing the vocals; and “Ghost Of John,” featuring the vocals of Autumn Blackmore, the 7-year-old daughter of Blackmore and Night.
“She introduced us to that song. She was doing acting, singing, dance lessons, and around Halloween she came home with that song, so she gets finding credit,” Night said, laughing. “She is singing all the time and our lives have become a musical. So I had never heard ‘Ghost of John,’ and my husband instantly fell in love with it, sat down and put chords to it, and I think she made her sing it more than 100 times that day. And I did some research and apparently some schools and kids sing this. It’s a worldwide thing, so I added some more verses to it and it only felt right that we let her finish it up on the album.”
Blackmore’s Night with special opening guest Wizards Consort hit the stage of The Ridgefield Playhouse on Saturday, July 28 at 7 pm. For tickets ($52.50), visit the box office at 80 East Ridge in Ridgefield, call 203-438-5795, or visit ridgefieldplayhouse.org.