[Bards] Performing in court

Scott Barrett barrett1 at cox.net
Wed Feb 21 22:05:33 PST 2007

Eeesh. One of the big questions.

Well, take heart, there are different answers for each performer. Glean  
what works for you from each.
The following is my opinion only.

First, let me clarify that I find command performance to be border-line  
unethical. It IS a captive audience, and they had no input as to  
whether they wanted to hear you. It's one reason why I encourage landed  
folk and crowns NOT to do this during feasts because frankly, it isn't  
very respectful to a.) the performer, who must compete with whispering  
servers and flatwear multiplied by a hundred, and b.) the audience, who  
may be tired, catching up with old friends, unable to hear clearly, etc.
If requested to do so, entertain the high table only.

Court, however, is another matter.
Court is the official business/primary theater of the event, and the  
royals have complete control. They also have the complete attention of  
the audience, and they can focus it wherever they wish.
If they decide to make you the focus, you will likely have a respectful  
In these situations, you may not have a choice as to the piece  
performed. The Crown often makes requests at times like these, and that  
is the piece they will get, mood killer or not (most are fairly  
sensitive to the mood, but keep your guard up.)

My rules are...
Front and off center of the thrones, you are almost the center of  
No wandering, no walking. Plant the heel,  project the speel.
Get the audience involved. Ask obvious "yes/no" questions, sing VERY  
familiar songs so they can join in.
Nothing maudlin or creepy, those are too intimate for a court. Instead,  
go for funny or stirring.
I introduce myself rarely or as a lead-in to a joke at my own expense.
When the herald is ready, you are done. If it's a song, finish.  
Storytelling is harder. Cliffhanging is good, let 'em squirm.
Vignettes are better and faster than full stories, moments with a value  
are good for a morality tale or a chuckle.
Adlib a story on the spot, using the local folks in the group or a  
familiar element of the area. The audience will tell you if they want  
that story to be humorous or sentimental. Likely, they want both.
Be ready to be quick-witted in responding to the crowd. Sometimes, the  
best response is a facial expression.

Finally, always bow to the thrones and ask the leave of the Crown to be  
excused when finished. It's a small but important courtesy that can be  
overlooked during applause.

That's my stuff in a nutshell.
Anyone else?


On Wednesday, February 21, 2007, at 09:24 PM, Katherine of Scarborough  

> This is a question--well, a series of
> questions--particularly for the veteran bards and
> entertainers out there, but open to anyone who has
> advice to offer.
> In service,
> Catrin ferch Maelgwn
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