[Bards] Bardic and Performing Arts (Long)

lburgin lburgin at gt.rr.com
Sun Apr 16 12:32:20 PDT 2006

MessageI guarantee there will be a circle at Bordermarch, if only at my camp.  AmberLea
  ----- Original Message ----- 
  From: Kathy Elliott 
  To: 'Ansteorran Bardic list' 
  Sent: Sunday, April 16, 2006 11:56 AM
  Subject: RE: [Bards] Bardic and Performing Arts (Long)

  I've been listening to the various pros & cons of competition vs. bardic circles, and I thought it was time to chime in my opinion.

  Whether at Gulf Wars, Kingdom A&S, or a local group, the ground rules are generally published beforehand.  Most competitions aren't designed to find the best singer, best poet, or best storyteller - they are looking for the best overall performer that day.  If you don't want your sonnet compared to a song or story, then be prepared with multiple pieces.

  We all know that there's a certain amount of strategy involved.  If Master Robin is coming up after me, I'd better pull out my "big guns."  If the performer before you flubs a bit, you might be able to save your best piece for later rounds.  If I'm also competing against static A&S, I'd better have my documentation in order with a "wow" factor, and I'd better do a period/period style piece.  (The fact is, static A&S documentation pretty much blows us out of the water most of the time.)

  If I don't want to play this way, I don't have to enter.  The competitions are by no means required.  I personally enjoy them because they help keep me on my toes - researching new pieces, delving into foreign languages - I feel that the competitions help me bring out the best in myself.

  If you don't like the way your local group does their competition, approach your baron/baroness about a new format.  Or, offer to help with next year's competition.  Volunteer to be the event steward!  The sky's the limit.

  I personally feel that a titled bard should be versatile enough to perform in just about any situation the baron/king requests - whether you are asked to inspire the army, perform for a feast hall, keep the populace happy while court is delayed, entertain drunken nobility with bawdy pieces, or perform for a period luncheon.  I also feel that a titled bard is not just an honorary position - it is a job.  The titled bard of a group should teach, and help organize bardic circles at that group's events for the next year.  If you can't be available for that group, you shouldn't enter their competition.

  The comment has been made that good bardic circles take money to host.  I disagree.  Is largess nice?  Sure.  Are drinks nice?  Sure.  Are they required?  Absolutely not.  How many of you would get up and leave a bardic circle because you weren't given some trinket after you perform?  How many of you have brought your own soda/beer/mead/etc to a circle?  How many of you wouldn't come to a circle just because it wasn't hosted by the local nobility?

  A bardic circle can be as simple as the folks in your campsite entertaining each other around the fire, or you can plan a larger circle and include it in the event activities.  (And small informal gatherings often turn into large circles on their own!)

  Titled bards - I offer you all a challenge.  Before your term is out, host a circle for at least one of your group's events!

  For a larger circle, you will need:
  1.) Someone to bring / collect firewood, and be in charge of getting the fire going, and putting it out.  Or, you can use tiki torches.  If your circle is inside, don't worry about the fire.  Some people prefer hosting a circle under a pavilion lit with lanterns.  That works, too.
  2.) Bring all your chairs, and have your friends bring theirs.  Some people will show up to a circle with their own chairs, but most won't.  If you have a couple of rugs or pillows you can throw down, all the better.  Or, if there are benches available, scoot them together.
  3.) Yourself and a couple of your bardic friends to be the "seed" group.  Call on the former titled bards & the up-and-coming bards of the group.  Learn something loud that you can perform together.  Use a drum or tambourine if you like.  Let everyone hear you.  If they can hear you, they will come.  "Come and be Welcome" is a great starting piece.
  4.) Don't set up in some remote corner of the event.  Let everyone see you.  The middle of the camping area, the list field, etc.  If you're in an indoor feast hall, start your circle before everyone gets cleaned up and leaves.  Otherwise, they won't come back!
  5.) Find a herald at the event to announce your circle.
  6.) If you want alcohol, get in touch with your local brewer's guild.  Give them as much notice as possible, you don't want green mead.  We've had some success passing the hat after populace for the brewer's guild.  (Remember, you can't use SCA funds for this, but our reeve said we could collect money after populace was over.)  Or, tell people it's BYOB.
  7.) Find a couple of friends who have Igloo water coolers, and set up a table with water and lemonade.  (Drape a cloth over the coolers to hide the mundanity.)  I usually provide some extra goblets - someone always forgets theirs.  Check with your local water bearers - they may be willing to let you use their equipment, as long as you're willing to clean it.
  8.) Don't forget to check with the event steward & baron/baroness to make sure they don't have anything special planned for the evening, and to invite them to come.
  9.) Clean up on Sunday morning or when the circle's over.  You don't want to earn the wrath of the event steward!
  10.) Have fun!

  If you are hosting a circle, it's your job to set the tone, keep the circle going, and fill dead space.  Also, to bring the circle back on track if it starts going downhill before you want it to.  (You may or may not want Gilligan's Island filks.)  You can do an open circle, where whoever wants to just jumps up and performs.  This works well for a small-ish group of not-so-shy bards, but I wouldn't do this with a larger group.  A lot of new or more timid performers tend to get overlooked, and it can quickly turn into a one-man-show.

  We've had a lot of success with the "play, pass, or pick" method.  You will need a candle, pinecone, tambourine - something to pass around.  This object is passed around the circle to everyone in turn.  When it comes to you, you can either "play" (stand up and perform a piece of your choosing), "pass" (say no thank you, and pass it on to the next person), or "pick" (Gerald - I'd like to hear Born on the List Field).  If you "pick," that was still your turn.  Even if Gerald was the next person, he still gets his own chance to play, pass or pick.  (If you use this method, be sure to explain it to new folks as they arrive.)

  If you decide to give largess, don't feel like you must give something to every performer, every time they perform.  It's much more meaningful if you only gift items to those performers who really move you.

  One of the other reasons I believe we are seeing lees circles is that we as a kingdom are not camping as much as we used to.  I'm just as guilty - it's hard to camp with three kids - but we used to show up on site Friday night, throw on a cloak, and sit by the fire entertaining each other - or have a circle at the gate.  Saturday, we could stay up as late as we liked, because we didn't have to worry about driving home.  Since I doubt we're going to change the day-tripping trend, what about having a circle in the "dead" time after fighting, before feast?"  Make it family-friendly, and invite the kids.  Not as much fun as at night, but it might be an option at day-only events.

  Okay, enough brainstorming for today.  I cannot attend Steppes or Stargate, but I will be at Bordermarch and possibly Ravensfort.  And, if there's not a circle going, I'll be looking for bards to help me start one!

  Katrina of Coventry


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