minstrel: is / isn't

Corrie Bergeron corrie at solon.com
Mon May 5 12:13:30 PDT 1997

>My experience has been that anything from or about Scotland or
>Ireland has a special dispensation to be from the Period.

        So is Kipling, for better or worse

>The Black Leather Band ("Why Paddy won't be at work today")
>The Old Dun Cow ("Somebody shouted, 'MacIntyre'")
>1000 Miles ("I would walk 500 miles, and I would walk 500 more")
>Synchronicity ("Many miles away")
>Sunday, Bloody Sunday ("How long must we sing this song?")

I started out my minstrel's career playing Tull (Songs from the Wood, not
Aqualung!), Peter, Paul & Mary, Simon & Garfunkel, Kingston Trio, etc. (Yes,
I know I'm dating myself!)  I thought I was getting real sophisticated when
I learned a few Steeleye Span numbers.  

It got old real quick.  There's an old shire newletter cartoon of
[character] looking up at a flying roundback guitar (I play an Ovation) and
saying, "Brendan must be playing Jethro Tull again!"

The crowd at the pub or RenFest won't know the difference.  Friday night
around the fire, or at the post, it doesn't matter.  Consider the audience.
The trick is balancing what your audience's comfort against authenticity.
Comfort usually wins.  It takes time (months, mind you, and longer!) to
train an audience to enjoy for-true period stuff.  Why?  Mostly because the
melodic, harmonic, and rhythmic structure is completely foreign to modern

Some songs are more accessible (i.e., less wierd-sounding) than others.  For
example, (cf my earlier "if you can't teach an alternative, don't
criticize!" post), most folks know the "Rose" round.  (Many learned it at
church camp as the "Love Round.")  There's a perfectly period set of lyrics
in ME, just exotic enough to give the singers a sense of accomplishment.


        "Ros-a, ros-a, ros-a, ros-a
        All nicht by the rose I lay
        Darf Ich nought the ros-a shteala
        Yet Ich bar the flour away"


        "Rose, rose rose, rose
        All night by the rose I lay
        Dared I not the rose to steal
        Yet I bore the flower away"

Lord Owen Alun (btuck at minstrel.com) has assembled _The Northshield
Singbook_, a collection of authentic yet accessible period and near-period
songs, with lyrics and music notation.  I'm sure that he'd be happy to ship
a copy to any interested party.  I think the price is ten bucks, and no, I
don't get a commission.  

Brendan O Corraidhe
"Looking down at the green side beats looking up at the brown side any day."

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