minstrel: Apology (Longish)

Janet Rhew ladyjennet at hotmail.com
Thu Mar 9 12:03:30 PST 2000


My fellow musicians,
I normally don't enter into these discussions, but I have an earnest 
suggestion and a question all rolled into one. With all this talk about 
being period and music not being available, I simply had to interject. 
Mundanely, I am a grad student in music, so I have to deal with a great deal 
of music research both in and out of the SCA. To agree about Scottish music, 
and Celtic music in general, yes, it is very difficult to come up with songs 
that would fit a Celtic persona that are also in period. My persona happens 
to be late-period Welsh and, to my knowledge, there are few existing vocal 
pieces that are decidedly Welsh and that are documentably period.  Harp 
pieces we have, vocal pieces, not so much.  That is annoying, but there are 
literally thousands of period pieces be they English, French, Italian, 
German, Middle-eastern, Asian, etc.  These pieces are readily available in 
public and college libraries.  If there is someone out there who honestly 
can't find any, please, let me be of service. There are some truly 
astonishingly beautiful pieces for solo instruments, instrumental ensembles, 
solo voice, and vocal choirs of all shapes and constitutions.  These pieces 
were written by composers like Dowland, Dunstable, Machaut, Dufay, Vecchi, 
Palestrina, Hildegard of Bingen, Thomas Tallis, and hundreds of others.  I 
cannot speak for other kingdoms, but, in Meridies, I only hear this music on 
rare occasions such as Kingdom A&S.  Frankly, this astounds me.

Please understand, I have no problem with filk. As a matter of fact, I have 
written and performed several myself.  Within the SCA there is a time and a 
place for such things, but our enthusiasm for out of period music or filk 
music which we perceive to be "easier" or better listening than real period 
music has all too often eclipsed the much-needed performance of completely 
documentable, readily-available Medieval and Renaissance pieces. We are also 
extremely lax in documenting pieces that are right under our noses.  At the 
very least, you can give a brief biography of the composer as documentation, 
but I have often seen even this small detail over-looked. Don't people ever 
use the New Grove Dictionary of Musicians and Composers? Plus, as a general 
rule of thumb, if you can't find the composer in the New Grove or if no 
composer and no clear date is given, you're going to have a devil of a time 
documenting it elsewhere, and you're probably going to find out that it 
isn't period. Not always the case, mind you, but often.

To sum up what has turned out to be an unintentional rant, there is a ton of 
period music available and volumes of it have probably never, or rarely, 
appeared in the SCA.  Trust me, if you start digging, you'll find more 
period pieces than you know what to do with.  With a little extra work, you 
will find a song to fit virtually any occasion, any mood, any setting.  I 
understand the need of trying to stay strictly within your persona, but 
there is no need to butt your head against the proverbial wall.  Perform the 
music we have, perform it often, and when we are all sick to death of every 
truly period song we can find, then we'll move on to other solutions.

Until that day, I remain,

In service to Crown and Coronet,
Lady Jennet of Rhodes
Principality of Gleann Abhann Choir Director


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