minstrel: Period music can get in your veins
wl835 at victoria.tc.ca
Sun Mar 12 20:01:25 PST 2000
*Warning! This post is very long and needs editing. It does contain some
ideas, thoughts and issues, but they are buried in rambling and irrelevant
information. This post is also mined with personal opinion, some
grown from frustrations or irritattions. Please read and filter at your
I live in Northern An Tir. It has taken quite a bit of convinceing
on the part of my friends to make me admit that I am a performer so I
don't deny them any more. I adore a great deal of period music. I have
shouted down drunken goons when they have booed my intro and I have told
them that "These guys were a bunch of drunk farmers without any cable. Of
COURSE it'll be dirty." And then *not* rubbed it in when they start to
appreciate a good English catch. This is just a bit of my background and
what I love to do, since I also like some filks. There are a lot of
absoluty terrible, vulgar and obscene filks out there. I won't sing them,
learn them, and a few I will leave the fire for if they are sung. I have
also had a hand in writing catch lyrics to period music with a wicked
scene of humour and a vague SCA reference. Once, some friends and I sang a
filk for a music Laurel known for her intense dislike of filk. She
actually did fall off her chair, taking the Queen down with her in a
giggling lump. It was period music, clever lyrics, risque without being
crude. I still sing that one. I have travelled around a great deal of An
Tir as well as a bit of the West and Estrella for several years. "Bardic
culture" is certainly not the same thing to everyone, but we all have our
own ideas, even if they are frustrated but a mojority of other people.
All of that above is intended to show a balance in my likes as
well as the gaps in my experiences. I am trying not to be biased. The next
bit is my idea/issue/solution.
Time tested and true: Enthusiasm!
I have, with help infected people with period or "original
material period style" material. New sonnets, Shakespearian scenes, new
translations of Old French plays. I have seen the classic "stick-jock"
request a ballad, or seen a burly smith grace a dinning hall with a
elegant tenor plain-song. I personally believe the key is enthusiasm. If
we *are* performers, troubadors, entertainers, maybe even bards, then we
must step up to the plate and show themn how it is done. I have had hours
of fun on long road trips filking Sting songs with lyrics about nasty
border guards or locking the keys in the truck at a gas station. And we
sing them in the car, once or twice in a "Remember when? Oh don't worry,
it's an IN-joke." moment over dinner after dance practice, and then we
leave them be. My energy at the event itself is most often pumped into
period, could-be-period, or original-but-it-sounds-period material. I can
spin out a Russian folk-tale and later talk about the general arche-types
of the hero and heroine, who Babba Yagga is supposed to be, why you MUST
talk about the girl's hair (it is VERY important) and why they so often
have "unhappy" endings. I can tell you a story of Jack and why it is
related to early American folk-tales and why it is different. And often,
this part of the story gets told at the fire circle too. So many people
are hungry for information, are eager to learn and experience new things.
We have to be there to give it to them.
Medieval performance was not always just to entertain. It was
there to teach, to comfort, to preach, to poke fun at, satirize, laud,
cheer, lament, and to inspire. We must do that too. And the more we do it,
the more we will get back in our own enjoyment and the enjoyment of
others. In the name of all those whose shoulders we stand on, it is our
I would like to leave you with an image, a moment.
Every year in the North of An Tir, two great cities clash. It
isn't over land, or policy or people, it is just done and all fighters
must answer the call. And every year a Baroness seeks to talk a walk, a
stroll from the high hill to castle. She is guarded by her seargents, her
yeoman, her gallants, her Baron and all those who seek her favour and the
challenge of being her guard. This year past I became seargent to another
Baroness but my Lady bid my to guard the one who walks, the one who faces
the dangers of the brigands every year. I went to the place, this war to
On the Sunday morning we all arose early so as to get the best
position, to scout out the brigands hiding spots and to ensure we were all
ready at the start. I gathered my harness and hefted my axe and helm over
my shoulder. We were set to march out all together, and rambling band of
guards with eyes open and watching. We set out from the point together,
looking up through the shanty town, past the merchants stalls and up the
long hill to the start of the walk-down. As we began out march, someone
started to sing.
I couldn't hear quite clearly so I shuffled up the line to better
catch a line. I knew the song. Not the verses but the chorus. A
heart-lifting march of strong music and harmonies. A language I didn't
know but I knew that feeling. We were marching to fight, to defend, and to
take part. I joined in. Others followed. As we crossed the base of the
hill, the entire band was singing. The leader carriying the verse in
lilting tenor tones, the entire rest of the company in the chorus. Some
high, some low, others as best they could. I carried a pale drone to his
tenor and then joined low on the first half, and lifted high on the second
half of the chorus.
All of us, all forty of us, men and women, marching high, marching
up the hill, with the strains of a centuries old battle hymn leading us
on. I have always enjoyed that song. I may not be the most religious of
people but I enjoy good music, secular or non. I have never had chills as
such as those before, but I hope I will find them again. A troop of
fighters, marching north, up the hillside, echoing through the valley.
Gaudete, gaudete, chritos es natos, ex maria virgene, gaudete.
That was one of the most amazing moments of my life. My scouting
unit of three did get ambushed by my ex-boyfriend and ten other men on the
walk-down (Same ambushed I tried the year before when *I* was a
brigand!) but we got a runner out in time to warn the rest of the troops.
But that music stayed with me the rest of the week.
I hope to finish learning more music like that for the next big
war. Maybe you might want to spread such ideas in your area?
*End of ramble. I need to finish some Middle English and pass out
before the early shift tomorrow.*
I hope some of this made sense. I am a student, I don't sleep much.
Lady Ekatarina Borisovna Kieva,
Northern Regional Chatelaine
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