SCA Life

The (bardic) circle is unbroken

So I friend started a post about her own bardic fear inspired by some blog post.  I have no idea what that blog post was but let me share this.

I have been singing probably since I learned to talk.  My mother sang.  Both of my parents played musical instruments in high school.  So I sang.

I remember how I first learned the scales.  It was either Kindergarten or 1st grade (I don’t remember which).  The teacher had a set of squeeky animals that made a pitch.  The song goes, “C I’m Candy Cat.  D I’m Derek the Dog.  E I’m Ernie the Elephant. F I’m Freddy the Frog.  G I’m Gerry Giraffe.  A I’m Adam Ant. (For the life of me I can never remember the name of that f*ing B).  And C I’m Copy Cat.”  I have never talked to anyone who learned their octave that way but I remember it (except for B) very well.  I remember some of the first songs I learned there.  There is one about Orion for instance, “Orion is arisin’. You can see his stars a blazin’. In the middle of a dark December sky.  And it’s never too surprisin’ that the stars are still amazin’ . . . ”

All through school and through college, I sang with a variety of groups, show choirs, acapella choirs, Glee Club.  I was never good enough to be in the “elite” choirs but I was usually good enough to be the understudy to people in the “elite” choirs.  I got my Varsity letter in Music and I held my own at State competitions.

The Penn State Glee Club was one of my favorite experiences.   I learned two of my all time favorite songs there, “Brothers in Song” and “Viva L’amour.”  As the Glee Club, we had to learn the fight songs and of course, everyone in the audience would join in when we sang them.  We would even invite former members of the Glee Club on stage to sing with us.   Any thought of finesse or musicality was out the window.  You sang as loud as you could with as much joy as you had.  It was glorious.

Adulthood meant I had other things to do instead of choir.  I eventually missed it and I sometimes sing with a baroque group in Champaign.  I like baroque music.  There are rules.  Lots of rules.  And wonderful times when someone like Bach will break the rules!  But we do a lot of “modern” music too and it all sounds like the soundtrack to the Planet of the Apes.

On to the SCA.  About 15 years ago or so, a friend brought us to the Festival of Maidens when it was in the Chancellor Hotel.  There was a bardic circle and I was encouraged to attend.  I had no ideas of the rules and I was not able to really figure them out.  I am pretty sure Master John was running it.  Not sure if he was a “master” at the time.  I am pretty sure Master Alexander de Seton was playing the bones in the back.  I do remember Count William of Fairhaven playing the Rocky Road to Dublin after I did a piece.

Most of what I knew were sea shanties, drinking songs, and songs about England.  I had a song book from the Poxy Boggarts and I knew the pieces I knew from listening to a bunch of Ren Faire bands.  I don’t remember much other than feeling totally inadequate.  People were doing pieces they wrote.  People were covering pieces from other people I had never heard of.  I sang maybe 3 or 4 times, probably at inappropriate times as I still couldn’t figure out how this was supposed to work.

About 5 years ago, when I came to the SCA for real, Gertie thought I should be a bard.  She loves to listen to me sing.  I always thought back to the Maidens though.  I can’t write an original song.  I can barely write a poem.  I liked listening to others though.  I would hang out and I got to know some of the musical people in the Middle.  I sing sometimes with Viento Antiqua but long distance rehearsals make that difficult.  I sang with the Known World Choir and met some more people there.  I even bounded with Jennifer Friedman (also forget your SCA name) over John Renbourn’s “Traveler’s Prayer.”

About 1 year ago or so, I sang at my first bardic circle since Maidens so long ago.  I still only really know drinking songs and sea shanties because those are what I love.  Compared to songs about this notable or that Lord, a song about tricking the Devil because Pilsner is mostly water pales greatly in comparison.  I may have sung once or twice since then.

Siobhan talks about Calontir being the Kingdom that sings.  I would love to experience that.  And it might ease some of the fear at Midrealm circles.  It seems to me that it is quite rare when people join in.  Bardic circles sometimes feel like a showcase.  A little help breaking that once in a while wouldn’t be amiss.

I should convince Lorelei to teach the 10 songs every SCAdian should know again and maybe I will even pay attention this time 🙂

I have never experienced rudeness at a Bardic; just the self-imposed feeling that I didn’t belong.  My songs were not high brow enough (yes I know Cerian’s and John’s songs aren’t high brow either).  My songs weren’t period enough.  I felt that the “established” bards could get away with it because they could write and sing a period song if they wanted to.  It was a little like those baroque rules.  You have to know the rules before you can break them.

I have a notebook and I am working on it.  But I understand this fear people have.  It isn’t performance anxiety or stage fright.  I haven’t had that in decades.  It is feeling that I am not worthy.

So this post rambled a bit and ended on a downer.  I am very happy to listen to our performers and my other hobby keeps them well lubricated 🙂  To quote the Boggarts, “we sound much better when your throat is wetter.”

1 thought on “The (bardic) circle is unbroken”

  1. I’m going to be teaching a class at Pennsic about coming to SCA bardic as an experienced performer and how to reconcile repertoire. I’d love your input.

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