I had a fantastic day at EK Bardic Championships. Paradoxically, I did and did not achieve my goals. I did not make it to the third round, but I gave exactly the performances I was aiming for. I dialed back the overt theatricality I’ve relied on, in favor of something more authentic and allowing connection with the audience. I came here to deliver something richer than they’d seen from me before, choosing to omit swagger and bravado as much as possible, keeping my introductions short and simple.
This focus meant I chose not to work the crowds. I didn’t get responses as big as I’ve gotten on other occasions. It can be a pretty serious and polite crowd, though there were performers who knew how to get a rise out of them.
But, over the day, I got encouraging feedback from several people, including some bards of repute who took time to tell me they’d noticed the growth in my performance. And Master Lucien, at dinner after the event, mentioned that a couple of Laurels had come up during the day saying, “So, about Drake…” This was new for us both, as it was our first event together as publicly proclaimed teacher and student. Lucien enjoyed hearing it and passing it along to me.
So I performed the way I wanted to. But I figured out before the competition started that I would be going up against an insanely difficult field. It was widely agreed that this was the strongest crop of competitors the East Kingdom has ever seen. (I first attended last year, but this was from a lot of old hands.) It wasn’t just a talented field, but an incredibly experienced field. Every competitor was brought back for the second round, as the judges felt we’d all earned another chance to entertain. There were six finalists in the third round, a larger number than anyone remembered, and every one of them, so far as I could tell, was a veteran of past kingdom competitions. Half of them were Laurels.
In the end, the winners were the two I knew would be tough to beat at the start of the day, Lord Martyn Halliwell (who basically placed third last year, after Grim and Lucien) and Mistress Aife (who was a judge last year and who runs the Concordia monthly bardic workshops).
Much as I wanted to be a finalist, there is no shame in being elbowed out by a bumper crop of veteran entertainers. And I’m pleased that I figured that out before the day even started and recalibrated my expectations accordingly.
So I was only mildly disappointed and not at all surprised to not make round three. I paid attention to the finalists, and studied what these talented veterans were doing that worked for them.
And in my back pocket, I had a consolation that made the results easier to take. I was going to give the final performance of the day at the end of court, after the competiton results were announced, leading in a procession for an elevation to the Order of the Laurel.
But that, as we bards like to say, is a story for another post. It will be forthcoming. (Update: here.) For now, I need to catch up on my sleep.
I’ll just say, if this is what a disappointing day is like, I’ll order more of them.