Performance Material

Jennifer Tifft jgtifft at
Wed Sep 13 12:55:24 PDT 1995


I'll put a penny or two into this pile.

I am primarily a solo performer of spoken and sung verse. Most of
what I do is original material, and many of the tunes are my own.
I have recently been working with a number of verse-forms found in
the 13th & 14th centuries and having a lot of fun with them. But,
my focus is not on the resurrection of the old, but the use of the
old to speak to the new - crafting pieces using the 'documentable'
forms that say things about what is happening here, and now, in
our Kingdoms. And, indeed, for me, the speaking to the Current 
Middle Ages experience comes higher on my list than documentability
of form or style (only a little higher, but still).

I have period pieces in my repertory, and will perform them, certainly
in preference to things I know to be Victorian or Georgian or whatever.
But even so, I have sung _The Dowie Dens of Yarrow_ on occasion at SCA
campfires. This is where what Tangwystl posted a couple of days ago
comes in - who is your audience, and what are you trying to do?

The way I usually look at it, 'bardic art' has three venues: 'court',
'hall' and 'camp'. The 'camp' venue is singing for/with your friends,
the campfire circle, fairly relaxed people entertaining themselves with
music & stories and riddles and the like. Out here in the West the 
Darkclaw bardic circle is a very good example of this. Everyone is 
welcome, anyone can sing, and a very broad range of material is
presented. Essentially, everyone is performing as _part_ of the group.

What I am calling the 'hall' venue (no better term has come to mind
yet) is more public, and involves performing _for_ a group - feast
entertainment sets, finding a corner on Merchant's row and singing
for the passers-by, performing for those bardic circles that have
structures and traditions - where choice of material and skill of 
performance are going to be judged by a very disparate audience.
This is actually the venue where the most _education_ can happen,
because this is where you are reaching the most people - they will
hear you even if they are not listening. 

The 'court' venue is, at its simplest, performance on behalf or at the
behest of the 'crown.' This is the 'all eyes are on you' spot, where
what you do is _communication_ more than entertainment. This is the
gift of a poem to the new Queen, the invocation of the ideal that is
chivalry, the song that affirms 'this is who and why we are'. This is
a performance position that is both exhilarating and very unforgiving.
The 'command performance' aspect means that there will be some very
critical ears out there (I mean the sense of attentive & informed
judgement, not indiscriminate fault-finding). But the position also 
gives you the position (and the permission!) to as it were sing the 
will of the Crown to the soul of the populace, and the need of the
people to the soul of the Crown. To stand in Taliesin and Aneirin's
shoes, if only for a moment.

These three venues are not determined solely by location, but also 
by audience composition and occasionally by the performer's own
personality and intention. The 'crown' is not necessarily the King
but could be Prince or Baroness or Duke or Mistress or _anyone_ with
enough personal power, respect and position to command a following and
attention. (I have not yet been to Cariadoc's Enchanted Ground,
but I expect that the evening entertainment there is (or often is) at
the 'court' level.) 

So, who is your audience, and what are you trying to do? When you know
that, your choice of material, performance styles, introductions, etc
all become more straight-forward to determine, though not necessarily
any easier to perform.

On the term 'bard'. It happens that for me and my 'persona' (Irish/Scots,
10th - 14th century [I am also a costumer, and make and wear many 
different styles]) the word 'bard' is appropriate as a descriptive,
(and I hope that I live up to _my_ ideas of what that means _for_me_)
but I dislike the use of the word as a title, except in reference to
a position (Bard Wander - wince -, Julianna, Bard of the Mists, - smile).

That's probably more than enough from me for now----

Wander Riordan, vcts, OGB (Order of the Golden Branch - Bard of the
Mists emeritus)
jgtifft at

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