[Bards] A Question of Categories

Scott Barrett barrett1 at cox.net
Tue Apr 25 19:12:29 PDT 2006

Well, I've thought about this and I had a few comments I wanted to 

What can I say, I care about you guys... I just (sniff) ...I love you 
guys, man!


  I have always been a firm believer in supporting any form of 
performance, no matter the style. I don't care what you do as a 
performer, we all suffer the same tension. We all offer a rather 
personal aspect of ourselves when we step up to entertain, enlighten or 
inspire. I'm not terribly interested in division, but classification 
has some possibilities that should be explored.
  The following is my mad, deranged personal opinion, mine alone.
We can't expect a truly historic bard to appear among us. No one is 
capable of reciting over 100 poems from memory that I know of, but if 
you know someone like that, ask them if they have their group's entire 
generational history memorized and can recite both Kingdom and SCA law 
off the top of their head. We use the term bard as a blanket 
  That being said, the SCA holds the arts of the old bardagh, filidh, 
scops and skalds in high regard. Those arts generally are listed as 
Master Ihon did, i.e., story, song and poem. I'd actually say that they 
are (dum, dum-dum!) Vocal Performers. Poets, storytellers, singers, 
reciters, riddlers and even the dear old herald fall into this class. 
They are singular creatures, operating alone and usually with a 
personal collection of works.
  The second group are poor, under-appreciated musicians, dancers and 
actors. These folks can perform alone with skill, but generally are 
accented by working in a troupe or band, or at least with a second. 
They are students of the technical aspects of entertainment, following 
notation, movements and scripts with rigid dedication. They practice 
together when they can and are always on the lookout for a venue. I'm 
hard pressed to come up with a term for these folks, though Court 
Performers seems the most accurate, as they usually have specific space 
needs and flourish like flowers in a spring rain when they have a large 
audience. This is not to say that the other types of performers don't 
appear in court, on the contrary, "Court" Performers would be those 
most in need of a court-like setting, or a feast.
  Finally, there's that rare and dear class of performer that once had 
the Motley Sash to represent them, but since that order has closed, 
they are now left to find their own niche. Luckily, most are quite 
adept at doing just that. These are the folks I consider Physical 
Performers (I know there is a lot of room for innuendo here, but if I 
can ignore it, you can, too). These are the jugglers, the acrobats, the 
magicians, the puppeteers, the fools. These folks have just as much 
talent in audience interaction and timing as the other two, but they 
have polished a collection of movements, expressions and postures that 
make them highly distinctive. They are a rare lot. They can usually 
operate alone like the VP's, but are perfectly entertaining as groups, 
like the CP's. They have their own singular acts and shticks like the 
VP's but they need exactness in much of their art, like the CP's.

So there you have it, my take on classifications, IF and I repeat IF we 
were to give the idea of classification serious consideration. Two 
broad distinctions, singular or group, and categories, Vocal, Court and 

  These would not be hard lines that must be followed on all occasions. 
Each could have their own competitions, like Eisteddfod for Vocal 
performers, Royal Courtier, His Majesties Fool, etc.
If need be, all could be thrown together into the A&S melting pot and 
survive. I offer these lines of distinction not to divide us but to 
instead provide support and encouragement, as some of the above groups 
don't have as much as they could. It would make all feel welcome 
without feeling misunderstood or out of place, especially at an A&S 


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