[Bards] Performance in the SCA

John Hirling jhirling at houston.rr.com
Sat Jan 25 06:13:58 PST 2003

[ Picked text/plain from multipart/alternative ]
Greetings to Mot from ihon vinson macfergus

Thank you for your interest in the performance arts and your questions.
 I can only offer one person's opinion, but it is the opinion of one of
those responsible for the most recent incarnation of the performance
judging form.  I believe it is fair to say from the outset that those of
us who take seriously the re-creational  aspect of the society want to
encourage the performance of pre 1600 (or VSOOP) pieces.  I infer from
your post that you would like to document pieces commonly dubbed
'traditional' (a slippery term at best) as period.  You are correct that
that will be very difficult for the overwhelming majority of them are
either not period or are not in the same form -- and may not even be the
same song -- as a period ancestor with the same title.  If you want to
try to make the case, have at it,  but know that Edmund Hillary might
not  take on that mountain!
I'd encourage you to look to period pieces to use in competition. There
are tons of them and many of them are 'wow'!  A good place to start is
http://www.pbm.com/~lindahl/minstrel.html .  Master Gregory has done
yeoman service for the society in researching resources and you might as
well take advantage of his gift to us.

Now, to your questions and discussion points
.  .
Martha Schreffler wrote:

><snip>  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?***
We have no video tapes or films of period performers and precious little
in the way of performance tips in the written record that would cover
*all* performers.  Sadly, some judges have taken the scant evidence and
expanded it to cover all performance (when I run across one of these, I
just bite the bullet and come back another day).  Case in point is the
somewhat oft expressed contention that vibrato was eschewed in period.
That *may* be true.  But some professionals suggest that what was meant
by 'vibrato' in period would be called 'tremolo' today -- excessive and
uncontrolled vibrato.  Moreover, some argue that what was true for
church music was true for all music.  That would make music different
from just about every other form of art.  A good place to start in your
quest would be Timothy McGee's Medieval and Renaissance Music, A
Performers Guide, and A Performer's Guide to Medieval Music, edited by
Ross W. Duffin, both available from Amazon or B&N.

>***Is documentation always a requirement in
>performance  competition? Is it written or an oral
Documentation is not always required but it is becoming more common.
 One reason is that it helps us judge and when one is asked to give up a
goodly portion of an event to serve, all help is appreciated.  You show
 your dedication by going to the forms already.  Write your
documentation "to  the form". By that, I mean, act as if the form was a
questionnaire and your documentation the answer sheet.  When I perform,
I want my oral documentation to be 'in persona.'  It is a different kind
of documentation to set the mood and hopefully take the judges and the
audience away from the competition.

>***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
The answer to this is "yes" :) It will differ from barony to barony,
from competition to competition, from baron/ess to baron/ess.  Most, I
think it is fair to say, will let you set the tone but would love it if
you took your title seriously and did something to elevate the bardic
arts in their area.  As Stargate's titled bard, I held monthly classes
with guests on topics like Ansteorran/Stargate history, songs for
circles (Bardic 101), and accompanying yourself in poetry and song.  I
found that those who had come before me (Mistress Siglinde, Baron Tarl,
HL Kat, Master Avatar, to name a few) were more than willing to share
their time and expertise.  Of course, I always made myself available to
the barons and baronesses I served, wandering or entertaining under
their pavilion should they desire.

>***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?***
I believe there is a place for both.  You probably noticed that in the
judging form  non-period songs created in a period style are considered
as 'authentic' as a period pieces.  In competition, you will want to
document this carefully and fully.  I believe there is also a place for
non-period songs referencing period events (Parcel of Rogues, Follow Me
Up to Carlow) and songs of the current middle ages (Spring Strathspey,
Return of the King, Born on the List Field) and will continue singing
them around campfires or as as I wander with my non-period, steel
stringed, plastic tuning peg guitar.  When I first stared competing,
those types of songs were my repertoire.  Since then, I've found more
fulfillment in honest-to-goodness period pieces.

Hope you find this helpful!



More information about the Bards mailing list