[Bards] Situations That Ruin Bardic Circles

Alden Drake alden_drake at sbcglobal.net
Mon Apr 30 06:13:11 PDT 2007

Bardic circles....what makes a good one...what makes a bad one...  This topic comes up from time to time.  As I see it, I think it boils down to just a few key elements.  

1.  The composition of the circle
This includes how many people are there, but also the demographics of bards of varying degree, bardic patrons, and everyone else.  I don't want to say large or small circles are good or bad, because I've been to large circles that were good and small circles that were bad.  It mainly depends on the ratio of bards to non-bards.  In a pick/pass/play format, a large circle of mostly non-bards usually leaves me sung-out by the end of the night.

2.  What you're there for
Are you at the circle to perform, or to listen?  Do you have pieces you want to try out, or do you want to get folks joining in a sing-along?  Do you want to impress people with your own A-list material, or do you want to encourage that person who is at their very first circle to stand up?  A large circle of mostly bards - no, you're not going to get to perform a whole lot.  A small circle of a few bards - no, you're not going to get much chance to sit back and listen.  Go with an open mind and no agenda and you're more likely going to enjoy yourself.

3.  Having a good facilitator
Someone needs to be in charge of the circle.  This is the person who "makes it happen".  Getting a space on site, getting it on the schedule of events, advertisement, decorations, drinks, snacks, fire(?), etc., all goes into making for a good circle.  The facilitator also has to keep things moving, keep order, stop interruptions, gauge the atmosphere to encourage more enjoyment (hmm..there's been five epic ballads in a row....."Hey <insert name of next person>, why don't you sing something we can all join in?".  The facilitator is much like a court herald, he/she keeps things moving and should keep everyone engaged.

4.  Choice of material
This is very subjective.  20 minute stories, modern filks, period icelandic fish stories presented in their native tongue, jokes, juggling, etc. can all have a place in a bardic circle, if the atmosphere seems right for them.  Bards should be mindful of what's going on around them and judge if they think such a piece will go over well with their audience.

Beyond those four items, I think issues become less impacting.  I've been to one bardic circle that also served as the branch's championship.  It worked, but it was awkward in that it was difficult to discern the competitors from the non-competing performers at the circle.  Encouraging more non-bard audience members is difficult because we are generally a society of people who find more entertainment in the doing than in the watching/listening.  People aren't as likely to stay for a bardic circle after feast becaus in their minds, "they had their fun for the day," and are ready to go home.  Sadly, this also translates into bardic performances at court/feast/during the day.  There's a crappy attitude out there that people call "hostage dinner theater" - where people just want to eat and socialize, and they are so used to hearing bad bardic that they feel trapped and interrupted from what they want to do.  This generally disheartens good bards from even bothering to perform
 in those settings.  Also, the fact that camping at events has generally decreased contributes to smaller circles.  Beyond that, the thing I'll mention is the "lack of circles".  This generally comes down to one thing - someone not standing up to make it happen.  As Stargate's Titled Bard, I make sure that every event Stargate hosts has a bardic circle, and if I can't be the one to run it, I find someone who can (Thanks again Gerald!).  You don't have to be the group's champion to host a circle, you don't even have to be a bard!  You just have to say, "I'll do it."

In service,

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