Reflections on Pennsic 46

So, there are moments when I really hate having set up a blog. They have a tendency to come after a big SCA event. That’s because most of my SCA friends end up doing Facebook posts where they share what they enjoyed about the event, memorable moments, and people they wish to recognize or thank. They usually run a few paragraphs. And I look at those and think: Wouldn’t it be great if you could just do that? But no…you had to be all clever and set up a blog. Because bard growth blah-blah-blah, so you can’t just do a nice simple Facebook post. You’re going to have to go do a whole blog post on this.

So I end up waiting days, because I don’t want to craft that involved blog post. (Also, I started my new job this week, so I was legit busy.) But eventually, I do it anyway. And if one person who is new to the SCA or bardic draws inspiration because my musings are collected here, and it makes their path any easier, it will be worth it. Or so I tell myself.

Anyway, this Pennsic was a significant milestone to me. It was five years ago that I showed up looking to forge a path as a bard, and connect with the community. I had only set up this website, and founded the Facebook group, a short time before. And it is gratifying to look at this Pennsic, five years later, and see this community from the inside, as we work together to create joy, and welcome new bards to our number.

A lot of my focus was on connections to people–friends new and old. Here, in no particular order, are the ones present in my mind as of this writing :

Juliana of An Tir (who introduces herself at events with her persona name, but doesn’t write it down anywhere online, and is off on her honeymoon so I can’t check). On Facebook many of you know her as Jazzy, and she has been hosting online bardic circles for a few years now. Juliana and I have admired each other from afar (across the full width of a continent, in fact), and I’m delighted to say that I was the one who persuaded her that it was high time she got herself out to Pennsic. One of the fun things when two bards are getting to know one another when they are both still getting established, is sometimes there’s a moment where they’re both not only impressed by one another, but excited to discover that the other is also impressed with them. The process of actually getting to meet in the flesh, and perform and share our thoughts about bardic and explore circles together in person, and offer each other feedback and advice, was incredibly special to me. Not nearly enough people had a chance to sample her talents, since she was only here for Peace Week, but I’m pretty sure that will get fixed next year.

Aibhilin inghean Daibhidh. Aibhilin is another terrific performer with a killer belting voice and a catalog of material that leaves me breathless. She and Juliana were camped with Ansteorra, which is adjacent to my camp, McGuire’s Marauders. Aibhilin knew Juliana pretty well from helping her host the online bardic circles, and she and I had bonded there, as well as last Pennsic. It was wonderful to get more time with her, usually with Juliana, workshopping pieces or just hanging out at camp, when we weren’t going to circles together.

Lucia Elena Braganza. Lucia I had known casually since I’d been involved in bardic. Like her sister Sophia the Orange, Lucia is heavily involved in the Commedia del Arte community, but there is considerable overlap between the two activities. I’m happy to say I got the chance to know her a bit better this war because a number of circumstances threw us together. For one, she just recently apprenticed to my Laurel, Mistress Zsof. For another, shortly after coming under Zsof’s care, she received her own writ of elevation to the Laurel, so she had her vigil at war too. For another, she ran the middle Saturday “peerless bardic” circle at Runestone Hill, which I was thrilled to get back to after a couple of years of missing it. (A bardic circle in the middle of the afternoon, where you can see faces, hear everyone talk, and not inhale campfire smoke, has much to recommend it.) Additionally, as the Middle Kingdom’s Bardic champion, she organized the War Monday East-Midrealm Bardic Invitational circle with Mistress Sabine and Countess Chatricam Meghanta (aka Marguerite) of the East. While I missed the first hour (it conflicted with my concert, because that’s Pennsic for you), I caught the second hour, and had a chance to connect with her a bit in that space, as well as her vigil.

And then, there was this other incredible memory, involving…

Lorelei Skye. Lorelei is, as I know I’ve mentioned before, a stalwart keystone of the Pennsic bardic community, and this year marked her fifth and final year as Dean of Performing Arts at the war. It was also her vigil and elevation to the Order of the Laurel, and as someone who was in her camp for the second year, and I was grateful to be a (very small) part of that. If friendship is about going through difficult stuff together and coming out the other side, then I think it’s safe to say we’re pretty good friends. (That she addressed me as “bard sib” at one point, an endearment I had shared with her five years ago when I was first getting started and appreciated all the insight and support and encouragement she had to offer, helped reassure me of that.)

Lorelei was more responsible than anyone for my getting involved in the Pennsic concert series (that being a key responsibility of the Dean), and I’ve always enjoyed her Pennsic concert on Friday of Peace Week when I’m able to attend them. So when that Friday night, I found out our dear friend Emer nic Aidan wasn’t feeling well and Lorelei needed people to sub in for her regular concert partner, I was happy to help when she asked. Ultimately, she invited Lucia, and I reached out to Juliana and Aibhilin…and the five of us ended up performing with Lorelei on her stage for two magical hours. Being part of that set of SCA standards and kingdom anthems, pitching and catching and improvising and harmonizing and joking and ribbing one another, with maybe 15 minutes of preparation…that is a performance moment, and a bonding moment for four women I adore, that I will always treasure.

Yaakov ha Mizrachi. I’ve mentioned Yaakov before, because he is just that delightful. He is a brilliant and funny storyteller, and a wise and valued friend. I was thrilled to learn from Faye de Trees, at the start of Peace Week that he and his friend Richard Wynn, both of Altantia’s Southwind camp, were both going to be put on vigil for the Laurel, and elevated at war. (Part of the fun was that each of them was told about the other, and was looking forward to the other’s surprise at Southwind’s bardic circle, and when they were both called up, both were speechless with surprise.) Yaakov, I knew, had long given up hope of being elevated, simply because as a religious Jew (both in real life and in persona), it was usually impossible for him to attend enough regular day events, which are almost invariably held on Saturdays. He had made his peace with it, because that’s the kind of guy he is. Attending his vigil to offer him blessings and advice was particularly special to me–I was just afloat with joy at his being recognized. For whatever reason, there is a connection I feel to Yaakov such that seeing this happen to him flooded me with nachas (the joy and pride you feel when good things happen to someone in your close family). As I said to him at the time, “just being your friend makes me a better bard.” And that is the truth.

Cedar the Barefoot and Bird the Bard. If Juliana and Aibhilin were my bard buddies during Peace Week, my dear friend Cedar and my recent friend Bird linked up with me when they arrived at war for middle weekend. And a good thing too, since they were my main performing partners for my concert. They are a pair of talented up-and-comers who finished bonding as fast friends during this war. Bird, who only joined the SCA in February, dazzled with her ability to pick up new pieces and accompany me both on guitar and vocally (she’s another natural harmonist), and is clearly and rightly prized by her local crew in Bhakail. Cedar, who’s been a bard for about three years now, knocked people off their feet with their storytelling as well as their singing and songwriting. I was thrilled to learn that Marian of Heatherdale invited Cedar to her concert as a guest performer, as I had been hoping she would, because Cedar was definitely at the right point in their growth for the opportunity to play for that crowd–for while I’m pleased to say that we played to a packed and enthusiastic house Monday night, there is no other audience like the one that shows up Wednesday for Marian’s show.

Caoilfhionn inghean Fhaoláin. I didn’t get a lot of time with Duchess Caoilfhionn, which is unsurprising given the demands on her time. But I savored the time we got, and am always grateful for the patronage she provides for performers, particularly in the East. It was exciting to be the opening act for her Duchess Bardic Invitational on middle Saturday night, which also featured Sabine (with Bird), Cedar as an invited performer, and my apprentice brother Kari, who introduced me to Viking Metal Bardic, which was stunning. But in particular, getting to share “We Are the East” with her, and hearing her sing the harmonies we had worked on in front of a live audience, both at her Bardic and again at my concert, made my heart happy. I very much want Caoilfhionn to never stop sharing her voice, as a singer and as a writer, with the Society.

The “I asked of thee a boon” Tudor Murder Crew: Udalrich Schermer on lute, Cecelie Vogelgesangkin singing soprano, Cedar singing alto, and John fitz Thomas singing bass. I learned in a deeper way what a challenging arrangement I’ve written (and oh my lord I will never ask a Tudor ensemble to perform without adequate lighting again), but these folks were game to give the piece over at the Duchess bardic, and (sans Udalrich) at my concert Monday night. I appreciated their willingness to dig in, rehearse, and give it their all each time, sharing my most ambitious researched piece with a wider audience.

Efenwealt Wystle. Efenwealt doesn’t need my praise, he’s widely loved for well-known reasons, but I must offer it anyway. Assisting him as the organizer and MC of War Monday’s Bardic Exhibition, singing to his guitar at my concert, and knowing people could (and did) find the “Sing for the East” CD at his shop, Camelot Treasures, Efenwealt is a joyful guy who just does his thing and adds to the fun wherever he goes.

Cariadoc of the Bow. His grace invited me to his Enchanted Ground encampment after the Bardic Expo, which I had long meant to visit. I was flattered, and took Cedar and Bird down to it, where we got to listen to Cariadoc, Yaakov, and other perfomers I enjoy greatly for a few hours. I’m sorry I waited so long to go, it is as enchanting an experience as I’d always heard.

John Lyttleton. I had the chance to take one of Master John’s Bardic Coaching workshops for the first time in 13 years. (Yes, I attended one at my second Pennsic, when I dreamed of being a bard but before I had really committed to it and found the time for it.) Seeing his gentle, wise encouragement at work for all the performers was an inspiration once more. And the moment of mutual recognition when I performed the Hamilton filk for his feedback was a blessing I’ll hold close for a very long time.

Students. I did more teaching this Pennsic (3 classes across 5 sessions) than I’ve ever done before, and for big sessions and for small, the students who showed up were engaged, excited, and fully present. It was an honor to offer what I’ve learned and learn from you.

Sisuile Butler. I must thank Sisuile, a campmate and friend I’ve long adored, for the opportunity to help out a bit at Peace Thursday’s Chocolate Bardic at our camp, but also for her loyal friendship and steadfast support when I most needed it this war.

Zsof. I only got a little time with my Laurel, but it was quality and very much needed. She always has my back, she always sets right what needs to be addressed, and I do my best to learn both from her ideals and her humanity.

Jessa and Spencer. The Oranwood / de Hunteleghe family is a team. Watching my son spread his wings and enjoy the new freedom of a 12 year old at Pennsic was gratifying. Jessa, more than any other friend or partner in my life, is indispensible and adored, and we both know what we mean to each other.

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