Top 10 Memories from Pennsic 45

A tradition has evolved of sharing one’s favorite moments on returning from Pennsic. Who am I to stand in the way of tradition? In no particular order, my top 10:

  1. My son, Spencer, made me proud (and humbled me) again and again throughout this war. He registered his name and device (Spencer Oranwood…’scuse me, there’s something in my eye). He mustered every day with Clan Okami (who nicknamed him “Ototo”–“Little Brother”). He performed stories at bardic circles, showing continued growth. He asked me if he could be in my concert, and when I suggested that we could do “The Binding of Isaac” as a father-son piece, he went for it. I sang Abraham’s part, but since Isaac sings in the first half and the Lord sings in the second half, Spencer had to find a way to distinguish the two parts, as an eleven year old boy, so the audience had no trouble understanding which part he was playing. (Also, since this is a contrafact of a Thomas Campion song, he had to sing it with the precision and respect that period music requires.) Kid memorized the lyrics in less than an hour. I still remember the look on his face after we moved the key up to make it more comfortable for him to sing, and he said to me, with shining eyes, “That was perfect!” Yes, it was. Marian of Heatherdale (bless her heart) thought so as well, giving him a ring when she got to hear him later.
  2. Another special delight of this Pennsic was watching other newer bards stepping out into their own. (As a caveat, some of these folks have comparable amounts of experience to mine, and are just newer to the Pennsic community.) My dear friend Cedar the Barefoot brought a new war song, “The Shout of the Einherjar”, which rocked the Atlantia Royal bardic circle back on their heels. I got more time to hang out with Aibhilin inghean Daibhidh, whom I’d met at her first Pennsic the previous year, and finally got a chance to spend a bit of time with her friends Angharat Goch and Colette La Trouvere of Caid. And of my beloved fellow Easterners, I notably got a chance to rehearse and perform “We Are the East” with Duchess Caoilfhionn (whose voice needs to be experienced to be believed), and heard Mistress Elizabeth Lovell sing for the first time at Caoilfhionn’s Duchess Bardic Invitational–a beautiful and stunning rendering of “A Grazing Mace”.
  3. While teaching “The New Bard’s Road Map”, I made the acquaintance of the lovely and siren-voiced Leonora Di Ferrara, a talented young bard of the Kingdom of Acre, and was invited to their bardic circle. (Acre is not formally part of the SCA, having split off from it some time back with a slightly different focus, but they have a camp at Pennsic and there is much friendly overlap.) As it happens, Acre is located in the same general area as the Southern Region of the East Kingdom, so I had the opportunity to invite the bards of Acre to our monthly regional bardic circles, and participate in a wonderful evening of song.
  4. Teaching “Thy Name Is Woman: Men on Women in Elizabethan England” was an amazing experience. Putting that class together was a real stretch which challenged me, since it required deeper research than I’ve had to do for anything else. (I had planned to offer it at Wars of the Roses this year, but cancelled that when I realized it wouldn’t be ready in time.) Additionally, putting together a feminist assessment of Elizabethan culture and presenting it from a man’s perspective was a daunting task. And my chosen format, to present a series of quotations from songs and plays to illustrate the societal attitudes about women, was something I’d never tried. (Many thanks to Mistress Zsof and Mistress Aildreda de Tamwurthe for their invaluable feedback when I was developing the class.) In the end, the class was the best-attended I’ve ever taught (over 20 students), and the material was warmly and enthusiastically received. I will definitely have to teach it again, and there are a number of possibilities for future offerings that this has opened up.
  5. My concert on Tuesday night of War Week was a wonderful experience, though the brutal heat that evening was a challenge which affected attendance. Nevertheless, we gave the best show we could for everyone who braved the heat. The process of preparing for the concert was in some ways my favorite part, giving me opportunities to connect and catch up with Caoilfhionn, Efenwealt Wystle, Lucien de Pontivy, Kenneth MacQuarrie, and Adelaide de Beaumont, which I might otherwise not have had. The time and effort these gentles (and my son) poured into making music with me is a gift I can never repay, though I will do my best to try.
  6. There were other opportunities to both try out new things as a performer, and revisit extremely special venues. I had the chance to demonstrate my developing lute skills to a number of people, and braved a couple of songs at the Pennsic Bardic Exhibition on Monday of War Week. I finally had the chance to tell a polished period story I had prepared myself, “The Birth of Oisin”, at a couple of bardic circles. To my delighted surprise, Duchess Líadain asked me to return to the Rose Happy Hour and sing “Lady of the Rose”, and when Queen Ariella of Thornbury agreed…well, I served at the pleasure of her Majesty (like you do). Sharing that piece with its intended audience, and experiencing the laughter and tears it invokes, is a privilege and a pleasure I will strive to be worthy of. And one more special memory worth sharing…I got to hear my work performed by another bard. Faye de Trees sang “Changeling” beautifully at a circle. I have always wanted to hear that piece sung by a woman.
  7. I was glad to get the chance to attend the East and Midrealm’s inter-kingdom bardic showcase. Aethelflied Brewbane and Mistress Alys Mackyntoich, the East’s King’s and Queen’s Bards, did a wonderful job (with my Laurel’s assistance) in creating a warm and friendly inter-kingdom event. I hope not miss it in the future.
  8. Another special pleasure I always savor at Pennsic is the opportunity to bond with some of the other performers I greatly admire within the bardic community, and geek out with them about our craft, in the moments we can find to talk. Among others, conversations with John Inchingham, Rosalind Jehanne, Emer nic Aidan, and Yaakov ha Mizrachi stand out in my memory.
  9. Being part of McGuire’s Marauders. This was our first year camping with them, and the joy was palpable with all the members of my family that we had truly found our people. It’s a wonderful camp full of hospitality and acceptance, which I know we occasionally put to the test. (I will admit that their prime location, right across the street from the Performing Arts Tent and Pennsic University, also does not suck.)
  10. Lorelei Skye deserves her own mention on this list, partly because she was an essential part of so much of what I’ve listed already. Her dedication as Dean of Performing Arts for yet another year showed through, and laid the foundation for an exemplary performance space. Seeing her and Emer come together and create the experience that was their “Sea and Fire” concert once again was joyous beyond belief. Being in camp with her, and therefore seeing it happen at even closer range, gives me new appreciation of the blood, sweat, and tears that go into making performances happen at Pennsic.

Glad for the chance to capture these memories while they are still fresh.


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