[Bards] Performance in the SCA

Martha Schreffler mot at swbell.net
Fri Jan 24 21:00:15 PST 2003

I have never participated in a performance-oriented
competition in the SCA where documentation is
required.      I'm posting this message to solicit
from all of you, and especially those who judge these
competitions, what we are striving for in the SCA as
far as performance and where the line is between
entertainment value and periodicity in both
competition and SCA music/performance in general.

I looked up the A&S judging form for Performance. I'm
not sure if this is the method that is always used for
competition but it seemed a good starting point. The
form lists the following categories:

Documentation (10 pts.) How well does the
documentation support the categories below?

Authenticity of Piece/Style (10 pts.) Was the piece
either created in period or created using period
form(s); how well does the performance follow period

Complexity / Difficulty of Piece (5 pts.) How
difficult is the piece to prepare and perform?

Technical Skill (10 pts) Elements - Blocking,
choreography, timing, in tune, in rhythm, elocution,
diction , projection, Volume, harmony, blending.

Presentation and Interpretation (10 pts.) Movement,
bearing, flourishes, manner, creativity,
ornamentation, introduction, grooming, appropriate

Overall Impression (5 pts.) Wow appeal, audience
reaction, emotional engagement.

I've started to do some research in my area of
interest (Folk Music of the British Isles) to better
understand  how to perform and document "period form
and style" and also whether or not this period style
would have any presentation and "wow" appeal.

I've discovered that, documentation-wise, building a
case for pre-1600 is not easy. I could support my
songs being sung in the 17th and 18th centuries
because that's when people began to write "folk" music
down. If you go with the definition of folk music
being not "formally composed" and passed on via the
oral tradition, you can understand the problem with
early documentation! I found a list of English songs
that are documented as being from my period. It's a
very small list - it's not always known what tunes
were used. They are written in an archaic (to me,
unintelligible) English which, if revised to modern
English, would no longer fit period-style rhyme and
meter. Some period songs have over 400 verses! I'd be
very tempted to make these songs more palatable to the
modern ear and attention span in performance.

In the area of performance style, when I studied folk
music in college I learned that the "traditional"
singer (in our American tradition, at least) does not
sing with any emotion but rather serves as the channel
for the piece and not as its interpreter. I saw an
example of this style in a film documentary. The
singer kept a very deadpan face. He spoke the title of
the song, sang it very straight-forwardly without
emoting and, at the end, repeated the title. Watching
his performance I did not find him to have "flourish"
or "wow appeal" though his style was authentic. I
found it interesting to see and learn about but I
would tend to add the emotional content to keep the
attention of my modern audience.

Here are my questions/discussion points:

***If it turns out his deadpan style holds true for
folk singers in period, would the entrant receive more
points or less for singing this way?? I'm guessing to
the modern eye and ear he would not score well on the
last three criteria on the form. Which audience-appeal
palate are we rating against? The modern appeal or
it's appeal in period?***

***Is documentation always a requirement in
performance  competition? Is it written or an oral

***I'm curious about the competitions held to pick
bards for Baronies or a Kingdom. I served in the
Baronial capacity once but through an entirely
difference mechanism. Are the performers judged on how
entertaining the general SCA public might find them or
will they serve more as educators, promoting perhaps a
less generally appealing, but more authentic, style of

***What are we striving for as performers in the SCA?
Is our role to help create an atmosphere (perhaps a
bit Hollywood-esque) that contributes to the "feel" of
the Current Middle Ages? Or are we to be serious
scholars placing more emphasis on an attempt to
recreate an authentic period rendition of performance?
 Is there a place for both?***

Input appreciated!


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