In which Galeran earns a spiffy accolade (and a lot of hard work)

Version the Short: I had the good fortune to claim victory at An Tir’s recent Kingdom Bardic Championships. Now I get to wear a big cloak and carry a shiny horn in court, and more importantly, have the responsibility to perform and teach the art of performance throughout the Kingdom for the next year. You can find some lovely photographs of the event by Talentus here.

Version the Long: I had been strongly considering entering this year’s Kingdom Bardic competition ever since last March, when my single entry of Cantiga 322 on harp and voice was so well received by the judges.  I generally dislike competitions in the Arts and Sciences, as I don’t feel that these activities are inherently competitive (topic for a different post), but at the same time there’s a lot to recommend this particular competition.  For one, the judging is highly informed and thorough, and the general skill of the competitors is quite high, so the event is a real pleasure to attend. For two, and more importantly, the position of Kingdom Bard is highly visible and provides the ideal position from which to encourage performers and foster more interest in the Bardic Arts.  I decided that I wanted that particular job and duty, and thus submitted my intent to compete last December.

I’m glad that I did submit that intent, as An Tir seems to have many great performers, but few performances.  This competition was a case in point, as there were only four entrants in the competition (and only two competing for overall best), but more than ten highly competent individuals serving as judges.  Had I not entered, the title would have gone uncontested, and that’s not a healthy thing. I’m not really sure what’s driving the phenomenon, but I’ve rarely encountered music, storytelling, theatre and so forth at An Tirian events, particularly in any organized fashion.  The problem is definitely not a lack of talent, but it may be a lack of encouragement or a dearth of appropriate venues. I hope to work to improve this over the coming year.

In any case, I performed three pieces at the event: the 14th century istanpitta “Tre Fontane” on alto recorder, the 13th century trouvère reverdie “Volez-vous que Je vous chant” on harp and voice, and one of my few SCA bardic compositions, “Laurel Green, Laurel Fair” for harp and voice.  The first two were for the formally judged rounds, the third was for populace’s choice.  The first two received very high marks from the judges, though I really wasn’t that happy with my performance of Tre Fontane.  It is a very difficult piece and some stumbles are almost inevitable, but I had performed it much better in practice.  So it goes. The last piece won the populace’s choice award, and clearly resonated with much of the audience, as I had hoped.

On day two of An Tir’s competition, (yes, it is two days long) each finalist repeats one of their performances for a much larger audience that includes the royalty as well as people that are primarily in attendance for the concurrent Kingdom Arts and Sciences competition.  I reprised the trouvère song (which is better suited to the SCA bardic tradition, more universally accessible and the stronger of my two performances) and definitely nailed it.  I’m very happy with my arrangement of the piece and I performed it as well as I ever have. The grill session after the performance also went well (I’ll chalk it up to the combination of my experience defending a Ph.D. thesis, and the rosewater wafers and hazelnut milk with which Rhi plied the judges).   My challenger Jahnkin de Leeuw chose a Gregorian chant as his final entry and performed exceedingly well.  I was particularly impressed with his control of pitch and tuning  . . . his chosen piece required completely exposed, very long notes. I couldn’t have held such tones nearly as constant as he did!  Still, for better or worse the judges chose my entry for the top prize, and in the closing court I received the cloak and horn of the  Kingdom Bard to wear and keep for the coming year.

I’m still planning out what I’d like to do with the position, but I’m certain that I want to encourage a lot more performances in a variety of genres.  That will certainly involve running some bardic circles and performing in court, but I’m also hoping to showcase some other folks and to insert music into some places where it isn’t as commonly encountered, such as tournaments.  I’d also like to build a greater community of performers, but I may end up with some challenges there due to a potential major division between (self-classified) bards and musicians that I’ll discuss in a subsequent post.

I’ll close with a question for any gentle readers who care to comment.  With respect to the performing arts in An Tir, what would you like to see happen in the coming year? My ear is open to you, and there’s no better position from which to spark some change in that area than the one I now hold.

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7 responses to “In which Galeran earns a spiffy accolade (and a lot of hard work)

  1. Your ear is open? You are a very brave man! That’s like saying “Stand there in my office door and natter at me some more- I have nothing better to do!” 🙂

    I think that the reasons why you haven’t encountered music, storytelling, theatre and so forth at An Tirian events, particularly in any organized fashion are many and varied. I can think of a few…

    First off, our events really aren’t set up in a way to support such activity. Take indoor feasts, for example. For some reason we feel a need to have more and more ‘activities’ through out the day, so that an event that opens a noon is stacked full of things up to the feast, which is then rushed so we can break down, clean up, and be out the door by 10. (If that.) You’re competing against local A&S contests, random classes, games competitions, and as often as not, fight practice in the parking lot. During the feast people won’t stop talking and get offended if quiet is asked so a performer can be heard. I’ve been told “If they can’t hold our attention they aren’t any good” which is complete BS- you have to *get* attention before you can hold it, and who can get it when they’re busy talking to the guy next to them about the latest WoW raid?

    It sometimes helps to have deliberate pauses between courses to allow for music, etc, but that runs up against the clock again, and too often falls to kitchen mishaps. Many years ago (yoiks- 20 I think) I co-cratted a feast event that was set up specifically for performers. The feast started serving in the early afternoon and went into the evening. The theme was loosely based on the Decameron, and everyone was supposed to have a song or a story to offer. That part went well. But attendance was low. (There was some politics happening that were out of my control.)

    If you cruise through camps at camping events, looking for performance opportunities, you’ll get a mixed bag. It used to be that everyone knew all the songs, or at least enough of them that you could sit around and sing together. You’ll see a lot less of that now. You might hear someone drunkenly singing ‘Wombat’s Reign’, or old folk tunes (OOP). I cannot recall the last time I heard someone singing period tunes in camp. (I will readily admit that I have been known to belt out songs from old Hollywood musicals while I’m cooking- Amalric says it’s a little alarming to suddenly hear “I always get/what I aim for/ and your heart and soul/ are what I caaaaaame for!” coming from next door. But when you stir up memory soup, that sometimes what comes up.) But if you know lots of pirate songs or Heather Alexander songs or just plain dirty songs, you’re welcome. :-/ (If there’s fire, you won’t find me there- wood smoke and my lungs do not have a good relationship.)

    Soooo… where does that leave us? With not a lot of performance stuff happening! My best suggestion for what you can do is to travel, take your instruments, and when you can, contact people ahead and get some locals out to play. And if you can do that, they might come out again in their own. 🙂

    Now- are you free Saturday evening at Egils? 🙂

  2. Hi, Liutgard. Wow, there are a ton of different topics in your reply, most of which could spark whole discussion threads on their own. Here are responses to at least some it.

    1) Your summary statement is certainly apt, and it boils down to that fact that if we want things to be different, we need to work actively to change them and organize things ahead of time. So, yes, I am planning a reasonable amount of travel over the coming year, and will be contacting groups well in advance of just showing up with instruments.

    2) Unfortunately, I probably won’t be at Egil’s due to the perennial and frustrating conflict between that and Grand Thing. This year, the latter is the Royal Progress event, and part of the job of being the Royal Bard is, at least in my mind, attending Progress events where possible.

    3) I seem to have a very different perspective on feast performances than you do. I am 100% in favor of having entertainment at feasts, but I am generally quite opposed to silencing the hall for anything but a special performance requested by the event steward or the ranking nobility at high table. My objection comes from both a practical and a period perspective. Practically, it is unrealistic to expect that everyone in the room wants to have their meal turned into a concert. People are there to socialize with friends from hundreds of miles away that they see rarely, or to plan the next event, or to catch up with their significant other who has been running around all day on retinue. Being forced to stop conversation, particularly for a long string of performers, can be an imposition under such circumstances. From a more explicitly historical standpoint (particularly a middle and late period standpoint), shushing the hall for a musician or singer places far too much emphasis on a role that was often that of hired help. Live music was still very often background music in a feast setting, and I think most nobles would have been incredulous at being asked to stop kibitzing in order to hear the viol player better.

    4) I agree that it can be hard to squeeze additional activities into events that are already jam packed. That said, I have been surprised since coming to An Tir that the events actually end at 9:00 or 10:00 (or 6:00!). In other places that I’ve lived, it was very common to have a post-revel at the home of one of the members of the hosting group after cleanup was finished, and such postrevels very often featured a Bardic circle. I don’t know if there’s be interest in such a concept in An Tir (maybe everyone really does go to bed at 10:30?), but I would certainly be happy to run such a circle if provided the venue for it.

    5) On the subject of singing period songs in personal camps, mileage varies, but one might be surprised at how well it can go over, even in places that might seem unlikely. Using a program of exclusively period music, Rhi and I once made a pirate captain weep (with pleasure) and ply us with martinis from a portable wet bar made up to look like the bridge of a galleon. With skulls hanging off it. Really really.

    I’d love to chat more with you about these topics at some point, given that we seem to have substantial areas of agreement and disagreement both.

    Thanks for the thoughts!

    — Galeran

  3. Linette de Gallardon

    Congratulations! That’s wonderful news. I know you’ll do some great things for An Tir.

    I don’t think I’ve even heard your piece “Laurel Green, Laurel Fair.” Do you have a recording, or PDF of the music? I love new music!

    Hope you and your lady are doing well in all your endeavors out there.

    • Linette, the email that I have on file for you (at epix) bounced when I tried to send the PDF as requested. Please provide your current address to me? galeran.chanterelATgmailDOTcom. Thanks!

  4. Hi Linette,

    Thanks, and nice to hear from you! I have a PDF (melody, lyrics and chords) of that song that I can send later this evening. I’ve been meaning to get someone to make a video or recording of me playing this, but so far haven’t gotten around to it.

    Anyone local have the necessary equipment?

    — Galeran

  5. I had been thinking something with slightly better audio, but I suppose that your camera will work 🙂

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