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An Interview with Ritchie Blackmore and Candice Night of Blackmore's Night


By Gary Wien

originally published: 06/01/2024

An Interview with Ritchie Blackmore and Candice Night of Blackmore

Blackmore's Night, photo by Michael Keel

Long before Ritchie Blackmore and Candice Night created the renaissance folk rock band Blackmore’s Night, Ritchie told Guitar World that he longed to play medieval music.

“I would love to go back to the 1520s, the time of my favorite music,” Blackmore said in a 1991 interview. The legendary guitarist who was one of the original members of Deep Purple (and inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame with them in 2016) and then formed Rainbow, was having a difficult time finding the style of music he wanted to play.  He found the blues as “too limiting, too confining” and classical music as “always too disciplined.” Friends of his in Germany were playing medieval music and that inspiration never left him.

After working together on a Deep Purple European tour and an album by Rainbow, Ritchie and Candice formed Blackmore’s Night In 1997. The two, who were married in 2008, have created a sound that utilizes melodies from as far back as the 12th century.

“I had never heard Renaissance music before I met Ritchie, except for 'Greensleeves' which I begged my piano teacher to teach me during lessons,” explained Candice. “I didn’t really acknowledge the time period on it though - I was just entranced by the song. When I met Ritchie, purist Renaissance music was all he listened to. He would play tapes of it in the car or in his English tutor home in Connecticut. I would just look out the window watching the snow fall in the middle of nowhere with deer eating grass on the lawn and that music playing in the background and it just seemed to be the perfect soundtrack to nature. Like watching a movie - it all fit and everything made sense. It was beautiful.”

From the outside, it might seem like a giant leap to go from bands like Deep Purple and Rainbow to Blackmore’s Night, but both of those bands tried to defy expectations as well.  On the band’s website, Blackmore’s Night says their music is “a release from the stress of the world.”



 
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Ritchie explains it as “the stress was from the traveling to do with rock and roll, the continual trying to come up with different augmentations of heavy riffs which can be boring, I was getting stale playing the same type of music: heavy rock for the sake of playing heavy rock. I have always been interested in melodic rock - melodies in general. Toward the end of Purple it was just being loud for the sake of being loud so when I heard renaissance music - there were so many incredible melodies that struck a chord with me. That was such a relief in many ways so I jumped off the monster train just to play some melodies more organically.”

An Interview with Ritchie Blackmore and Candice Night of Blackmore

It really began as a personal journey and escape from what the rock and roll world had become for Ritchie in the late 90s,” added Candice. “Having had such success in the 60s and throughout he was used to creative freedom and individuality of bands. But by the late 90s when he reformed Rainbow, the corporations wanted approval over everything. Record companies wanted a say in titles of songs, demos to hear the direction of the album, it wasn’t what he was used to dealing with at all. So, while the other band members in Rainbow were doing their tracks, we were sitting fireside in a farmhouse studio in Massachusetts, playing acoustic guitar and writing songs for our own pleasure. When our friends heard them and said the loved them was when we decided to put them out for the rest of the world. But it continues to be a path of stress release from the pressures of society and form of escapism not only for us when we are creating the music, but for those listening to it as well.”

If images of Renaissance Faire’s pop into your head when you think about songs from that time period, you’re not far off.  The band does dress up and create san atmosphere that feels like you are stepping back in time, but they take the music seriously.  It isn’t a gimmick.

“I don’t take the Renaissance and medieval times lightly like someone who may just attend a faire so that they can wear some tights and get drunk for a day or two,” explained Ritchie. “I live and breathe renaissance times.  I read, I watch other bands play renaissance music, I learn about it. Most of my past time - apart from being with good company - is spent learning about how music was in the 13, 14, 15 and 1600s. When I hear something played by an authentic renaissance band, I get shivers because thats the music that hits my soul. I really don’t get much interest in hearing rock and roll bands.”

“I love getting dressed up in the garb we wear on stage, in glitter and jagged edge skirts, and looking through the veil of another world,” said Candice. “We have braved a path less traveled through the wood with this music for over 25 years, and luckily, there are many who are sharing the path along with us. Obviously we live in the modern world and appreciate all its amenities, but a great thing about living now is being able to enjoy lives from the past time periods and weave those worlds into your world now to make the now more palatable - more exciting and more individually you.”

One of the first things you’ll notice when you hear music by Blackmore’s Night is a myriad of instruments - some of which you may have never heard of before.  It’s extremely freeing for the artists and songwriters as it gives them a palette few bands utilize.

“I think that is what gives our band such a distinctive sound,” explains Candice.  “We have the typical 5 piece band set up but we add other flavors and textures with olden instruments to that. We aren’t by any means a purist band, but when we translate a song from the 15 hundreds, we will add new instrumentation, new lyrics, new arrangement and play some olden instruments along with the freshness of the interpretation of that original song so it is a nod to the ghosts of the past of that melody.”



 
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Ritchie adds, “The organic earthiness of the instruments of the 1500s - parlor pipes, crumhorns, portative organs, shawms, sackbuts, the occasional lute - they’re all wonderful earthy instruments - not plugged into pedals going into a Marshall amp. Not that theres anything wrong with that - I have just had my fill of it. Occasionally I like to have a blast plugging into my Engl amp and blast out. Not very often - even if its just to wake up the neighbors.”

“The hardest to learn is still the guitar,” continued Ritchie. “I’m still working on that, but I have attempted to play the mandola, the hurdy-gurdy, and the nyckelharpa on occasion. I find it very difficult playing the wind instruments which are my favorite renaissance instruments - yet I can't play a note on those so I leave it to Candice. She picked it up immediately.”

I am sure that I am playing all the instruments wrong to someone who is classically trained in them, but I taught myself and get the notes that we need for the songs so...I get to play the instruments Ritchie loves - the shawms, the rauschpfeife, the crumhorn, the gemshorn…” said Candice. “I had to do a whole woodwind ensemble of me playing all the instruments layered on ‘Journeyman’. They’re not easy to play but they are rewarding and necessary for the final sound.”

Further enhancing the band’s inspired sound are keyboardist/back-up vocalist Bard David; Violinist, Scarlett Fiddler; back up vocalist/rhythm guitar, Lady Jessie; bassist/rhythmic guitarist Earl Grey; and percussionist Troubadour of Aberdeen. With lyrics penned by Night, the collective embraces the aura of the old world inn, from madrigals and ballads to good old fashioned Renaissance-inspired pub songs.

Nature is one of the main inspirations behind the original songs by Blackmore’s Night and helps bring about the mystical vibes in their music.

“I have always been inspired by nature, and nature’s magic is very present in each of the songs,” noted Candice. “I believe miracles happen before us daily in the way of sunsets, star filled skies, fireflies, snow fall, changing leaves… But so many of us are caught in survival mode and never see the beauty of all these and so much more presented to us daily. I try to hold that magic and put it in our songs for people to be able to see it a bit more clearly.”

Ritchie says being around nature is always inspiring. “If I see a field and a group of oak trees it makes me feel on top of the world. If I go into a city full of concrete buildings, it depresses the hell out of me, so I try to stay away from concrete cities in general.”

Blackmore’s Night released their first record, Shadow of the Moon, in 1997.  That record went gold in Japan and earned awards worldwide. Their early shows formed the beginning of a fanbase that includes fans of all ages, and one that grows around the world each year. From grandparents to children, everyone is enjoying their medieval mood music and gypsy dances.

In 2024, the band is celebrating the 25th year of their third record, Fires at Midnight. A 25th year edition of Fires will be released later this year just as they did for the 25th anniversary of Shadow of the Moon.

Blackmore’s Night has several shows coming up including Saturday, June 22nd at The Sherman Theater in Stroudsburg, PA; Sunday, June 23rd at District Music Hall in Norwalk, CT; Saturday, June 29th at Berklee Performance Center in Boston, MA; Sunday, June 30th at Academy of Music Theater in North Hampton, MA; and two nights at The Vogel in Red Bank, NJ (Friday, July 5th and Saturday, July 6th). The unique Troubadours, The Wizards Consort, are the opening act for each concert.



 
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Candice and Ritchie feel very strongly at helping local no-kill animal shelters. So, wherever they play, they always invite a local animal shelter or animal rescue organization to set up a donation table at their concert. Names of the charities for each show can be found on the band’s tour page.

Many fans will come dressed in Renaissance clothing, dancing and singing as if time stood still. They help turn the performing arts centers into something reminiscent of a medieval pub. Blackmore’s Night plays everything from Renaissance music to Rock and roll; Folk music to ballads and instrumentals. Fans can expect a set heavy on originals, but with a cover or two thrown in as well - always presented in the band’s own distinctive style.  Covers of "Celluloid Heroes" by The Kinks, and Sonny and Cher's "I Got You Babe" are two found on their albums.

“I have favorites, one being Sonny and Cher’s first record,” said Ritchie. “I always thought it was a great record - maybe the oboe had something to do with it. I have favorite old songs from the 40s, 50s, 60s that we cover now and again. We aren’t strictly renaissance influenced.  Anything that isn’t trendy at the moment is probably what we are.”

Another favorite is ‘Diamonds and Rust’ by Joan Baez,” added Candice. “But there are so many I love singing in this band. From Ritchie’s own past ‘Soldier of Fortune’ makes the set list every night. ‘Lady in Black’ by Uriah Heep is another one we loved doing.”

Blackmore’s Night has been encouraging fans to share their memories, stories, and photos from over the years. It truly is a special community.

“We are so lucky to have such a strong grass roots following,” said Candice. “Many or our fans have become life long friends. Not only of each other when they meet at the shows, but of ours as well. There are many stories over the years, but one that may be a bit different is the fact that we had a fan we knew for decades. He and his wife came to every show. One day we got a message that he had passed of a brain aneurysm. The wife asked us if she could bring his ashes to our home and be spread in our garden. So, he is out there in our yard.”

When asked if there was a fan or two that really touched Ritchie over the years, he replied, “Yes, there was a fan that touched me - so I punched him in the nose!”

His music may have mellowed, but he’s still 100% rock and roll at heart.



Gary Wien has been covering the arts since 2001 and has had work published with Jersey Arts, Upstage Magazine, Elmore Magazine, Princeton Magazine, Backstreets and other publications. He is a three-time winner of the Asbury Music Award for Top Music Journalist and the author of Beyond the Palace (the first book on the history of rock and roll in Asbury Park) and Are You Listening? The Top 100 Albums of 2001-2010 by New Jersey Artists. In addition, he runs New Jersey Stage and the online radio station The Penguin Rocks. He can be contacted at gary@newjerseystage.com.

 

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