pennsicdance: Dance Music at Pennsic

Octavio de Flores octaviodeflores at
Sun Aug 28 06:32:58 PDT 2005

Some additional comments on the dance music from Octavio de Flores:

First, I want to thank everyone who played for dance at Pennsic this year.
I had to be away for mundane activities on Wednesday and Thursday of the
second week, and I am especially grateful for those who stepped in and took
charge while I was out.  (Thanks Deonna, for organizing and leading the
dance band on Thursday!)  And also, thanks to those musicians who came most
nights to play with such enthusiasm: Inge, Maug, the wonderful father and
son guitar crew and the fun-loving (and musically talented) Purpure and Or
team from Calontir.

1.  The "Dance Music Coordinator" should do a better job of identifying and
publishing in advance where musicians will be needed (and where they will
not be welcome) so the musicians can better plan their Pennsic.

To have a whole dance band willing to play for one of the scheduled dances
(or a whole dance set that is part of a scheduled dance) is a good thing, I
think.  Whether it is a Wolgemut, another "hired band," or more likely a
"chosen volunteer band" (I don't think any of the bands were paid), these
groups organized ahead of time and practiced the music as a band before the
event to improve musical quality, make sure parts were properly assigned,
verify repeat structures, and to select instrumental balance.

Sometimes this can be very selective (snobbish?), say, using only
instruments that might have been used at a 15th Century party, to achieve
one evening of greater authenticity and "improve our medieval experience."
But even if it is just a group of musicians that have rehearsed together, it
may be unreasonable to expect loose musicians to join them on the night of
their performance.  Even an open community band, ever desirous of attracting
new members, does not allow unauditioned and unrehearsed musicians to join
them on the night of their concert.

To those musicians who feel obligated to play every night, but who have
other interests at Pennsic, knowing that another band is responsible for a
night is a blessing--it gives us a guilt-free opportunity to do some other
things.  So if the Dance Music Coordinator next year can make sure we have
identified before Pennsic begins, for each night, where open dance bands are
needed and where they are not welcome, everyone will be better able to plan
and no one will be turned away by surprise when they show up to volunteer
their valuable services.

On the other hand, sometimes even an organized and partially rehearsed band
will welcome additional musicians, especially if they know some of the
music, have music-reading skills and are enthusiastic followers.  As one of
the commenters pointed out, it can really make a novice's Pennsic to be
allowed to join a really good band and play along.  Frankly, I have learned
the most sitting under Master Avatar's direction, surrounded by musicians
who knew the music far better than me.

2.  We need more musicians and more dance band leaders.  It seems that the
consistent number of musicians is down from a few years ago, though that may
just be my perception.  I think it comes partly from the creation of two
dance sites.  You have to achieve a "critical mass" of musicians in one
place before the band can operate successfully.  (How many musicians makes a
critical mass?  It depends on the number of dancers and room acoustics, but
also requires enough musicians who know the music, can produce the volume,
can maintain the rhythm, and will focus attention on the dancers.  It can be
a single musician, if it is the right one!)

3.  The Pennsic Pile continues to improve, but it will help if musicians and
dancers will identify way ahead of time what new pieces need to be in the
pile, and corrections that need to be made.  For next year, we should add
some tempo markings on each piece and guitar chords where appropriate.

4.  Just as there is an effort toward more period dances (restricting OOP
dances to whatever degree), we face the same issue with period instruments.
Period instruments are more expensive and harder to play, but add
wonderfully to the ambience.    I would not want to ban modern instruments,
but wouldn't want to widen their use.  (For instance, a keyboard synthesizer
could produce some period sounds, but would look dreadful in the music pit.)
Also, I understand completely when an organized band dresses the part and
only plays (allows) period instruments.

Therefore, I would like to encourage individual musicians to look into
finding, learning, and playing more authentic instruments, and gradually
(and without much regulation) improve our period authenticity.

Regarding the dance:

1.  I heard many wonderful comments about the dance teachers this year!
Thanks to Judith and Gearhart for organizing and running a wonderfully
successful ball.

2.  Let me commend Maestro Lyev for an excellent job for the last two years
and welcome Adele into this position of leadership.  As she wrestles through
the issues we are discussing, let our love of dance and respect for the
honest controversy govern our communication--guided as well by our love of
each other and the code of honor to which we subscribe.

3.  I know and appreciate the deep feelings on both sides of the OOP issue.
I still love "Hole in the Wall," the dance that brought me in to SCA
dancing.  Some kingdoms rely more on the OOP dances and others have become
more rigid in their enforcement of OOP restrictions.  Therefore,
restrictions placed at Pennsic fall harder on some groups than others and
create more divisive factions.

4.  I am the Gulf Wars Dance Master again this year.  I would again like to
have each principal kingdom host a night of dance.  It will be up to each
kingdom to select the dances they will include on their night.  Last year,
that meant having a night that was about 1/3 OOP dances, but I heard few
complaints.  Perhaps for Pennsic, there could be one or two nights in the
barn (or maybe even in the tent) which are somewhat less restrictive.

5.  How does Black Nag (1673) escape the Pennsic OOP restriction?  If you
argue that it is "similar to" Playford 1, it opens up a pandora's box of
opinions about why my favorite dance is "like" Playford 1.

6.  As Gulf Wars Dance Master, if you would like to participate (teaching,
hosting a revel, playing in the band), please contact me off the list at:
octaviodeflores at

Sorry for the lateness and length of my thoughts.

With love and respect for all of you,

Octavio de Flores

More information about the pennsicdance mailing list