Looking back at Pennsic 47

So, even by my sluggish standards, this Pennsic post is really late. We got home three weeks ago. There are a few reasons (excuses) why I didn’t jump on it right away:

  1. Between my job and rehearsals for The Mystery of Edwin Drood (which opens next weekend), I have been very busy and squeezed a bit hard on re-entry the last few weeks.
  2. I did do a few shares on this blog related to Pennsic, including two posts from war, a new song which recapped some of my experiences with a broad brush, and posting my full concert on YouTube.
  3. Because the Sing for the East project added songbooks to our offerings just in time for Pennsic, and we still had some inventory left when we got home, I felt like I was attending to unfinished Pennsic business for much of my first week back. (We did sell out quickly enough on Bandcamp, and have sent this year’s donation to the EK Royal Travel Fund.)

Nevertheless, it’s important to take time to reflect on a two-week event we only experience once a year, and I have lots of people to acknowledge (even if I have mentioned some of them previously).

Let me start by saying this was one of my favorite Pennsics ever. It was different in a number of ways, because I spent more time than I usually do on things other than bardic. That turned out to be very rewarding, opening up opportunities to engage in other activities such as thrown weapons, dancing, volunteering on the Watch for the first time, and just relaxing and socializing.

The performance opportunities themselves were, by and large, delightful. In choosing to spend a little less time looking for bardic circles, I enjoyed the ones I attended that much more, and was able to savor other venues, many of them just private moments with a few people. Those have long been some of my favorite experiences.

Also, let me say it here because I’ve talked about it for a while on this blog. One of my big goals for this War was to push through my stage fright with the lute and perform well without my hands freezing up. I accomplished that goal. I stuck primarily to two pieces, both of which ended up in my concert, “What if a day” and “The Binding of Isaac”. I performed “What if a day”, my most difficult piece (which I fumbled royally at K&Q in February), a lot, for audiences large and small. And while some performances were definitely cleaner than others, my fingers never turned to lead and betrayed me. I sang and played together, and the audiences were able to hear the beauty and intricacy that Elizabethan lute music has to offer.

On that note, teaching “My Guitar’s Persona Is a Lute” was a joy. Both sessions had large turnout, something over 30 students between them, and I bumped into someone almost every day who had kind words to share with me from a friend or family member who had attended the class. (That’s never happened before, hearing not from my students but people they talked to about a class I had taught. It never occurred to me that that would even be a thing, but it touched me deeply.) I’m grateful to everyone who took the time to attend, and I’m glad you found something of value in it.

Finally, the new songs I brought to Pennsic were very well received. It felt terrific to have two new pieces in my pocket for War that in theory were general-audience Bardic (as opposed to a local group anthem and an Elizabethan-style composition like last year), but I wasn’t entirely sure how they would land with audiences. “Plant Your Feet” resonated just as I’d hoped, suggesting I haven’t lost my touch yet, and that, yes, my perspectives on being a bard in the Society are worthy of sharing. (I know I haven’t posted “Shine, Child” yet, but that will be done soon, and I’ll talk more about that particular experience when I do.)

And now, to the thanks I owe. A long but incomplete list:

  • All gratitude for me must begin, as is only right, with my beloved wife Jessa de Hunteleighe. She is my rock, and without her time and care preparing for our Pennsic it would not happen. She was also the one who stressed to me the importance of not over-committing myself before Pennsic began, which made my more varied experiences possible. She was also the one who decided to sign up for Watch, and tagging along with her when she went to do that made my own volunteer shift possible. Thank you for modeling, having my back, and always being there when I needed you, love.
  • Next I must honor my beautiful and talented son, Spencer Oranwood, who spent much of the War off doing his own thing with good friends he made there, but still found time to perform with me, not once but twice, at my concert. He was a late addition to “The Tomb Where It Happened”, but his energy (and percussion) brought the fun of that brilliant bit of filk to a new level.
  • I can’t mention my concert without acknowledging my debt to Bird the Bard. In the year and a half she has been in the SCA(!!!), she has become a highlight of so many people’s experience. How she found the time I’ll never know (ah, youth!), but she was my partner in crime for the bulk of my concert, as well as my adventure delivering “Shine, Child” to the family who commissioned it (more about that below). Not for nothing is she our King’s Bardic Champion of the East, and now that she has moved to Michigan for school, her absence will be deeply felt.
  • My dear friend Cedar the Barefoot is next. We had the very specialized fun of helping each other out with Lin-Manuel Miranda filks at each other’s concerts this year, as they performed our collaboration “I’m Sorry” (based on “You’re Welcome” from Moana–I’ll share later, promise) and joined Bird, Spencer, and me on “The Tomb Where It Happened”. Their first Pennsic concert was terrific fun, as was the all-too-brief time I got to hang out with them this War.
  • Sólveig Bjarnardóttir joined me onstage (and barding around) at her first Pennsic. As I told to the audience beforehand, performing “What if a day” as a duet was a life-hack, allowing me to sing and play on the easy parts of the song, and focus on just playing the descant ornamentation for the song while she was singing. Her bravura singing ornamented the piece beautifully, and I’m deeply grateful.
  • Rounding out the concert was Efenwealt Wystle, who opened the show with me on “Hidden Gold”. Getting to participate in shenanigans with Efenwealt is always fun–in addition to the concert, we hosted the Bardic Exhibition together for the third(?) time, and I contributed to his New Music Sampler CD. His “Worst Bard Circle, Like, Evarrrr” was also a hilarious chance to indulge in the sorts of music (like, say, 19th century sea shanties) that many people still mistakenly assume are the bulk of what SCA bards do. All this while running Camelot Treasures, the primary place people go to find music at Pennsic. I am very lucky in my friends.
  • I can’t thank Scholastica Joycors, the new Dean of Performing Arts at Pennsic, enough for offering me the chance to perform between House Sans Nomen and Marian of Heatherdale on Wednesday night of War Week. I was excited to see her make more prominent space for some newer performers in the concert rotation this year.
  • I got less time than usual with my Laurel this year, but we made it count. Mistress Zsof brought me and some of my apprentice (and former apprentice) siblings to Duke Edward Grey’s camp for a camp concert that had been won for Edward at an auction. Being part of this particular performance family is definitely a point of pride.
  • Speaking of auction prizes, I must once more thank Angela Mori and her daughter Thora for winning the commission for an original song. As I will soon share at greater length, “Shine, Child” is a very special piece to me, and without Angela’s vision and Thora as the model, it would not exist.
  • I was grateful to get a chance to perform the other piece, “Plant Your Feet”, for the person who served as its principal inspiration this War. I will never forget watching Master John Lyttleton’s eyes fill up as I sang the chorus to him, a distillation of the wonderful advice and teaching he has offered to bards and performers, including myself, over the years.
  • I had a special moment with another mentor and inspiration, Master Billy Bardo, while visiting with him at his shop early in the war. After playing “What if a day” for him, he surprised (I think) both of us, by offering me a Bardicci Musician Token instead of the Hoity Toity party token he has often favored me with at war. As recognition for growth as a musician, it was a welcome surprise. And I made sure to make use of the performance invitation, singing my repertoire of Elizabethan songs for the guests Thursday night of War Week.
  • I was very happy to make a wonderful new friend this War while helping out with Performing Arts Tent setup early Peace Week: Melodia Beaupel. She was the one who did as much as anyone to invite me outside my traveled path to thrown weapons, and partnered with me on Watch. I enjoyed introducing her at the same time to the bardic community (though she is an accomplished singer in the Debatable Choir), and look forward to more adventures together.
  • When I attended Master Lyttleton’s performance class last year, I remember my friend Elsa Taliard stepping through considerable nervousness to take on her dream of becoming a bardic performer. This year, I had the delight of watching her take what she had learned, step through a lot of fear, and soar as she found the delight of killing it as a bard. You, Elsa, are a shining example of why I love the bardic community, and why I do what I can to continually welcome people into it. And thank you so much for the gift of those lovely candles. You made me feel very seen, as you know I see you.
  • Speaking of newer bards to keep an eye on, I made another new friend in Macrina Arcangela Paladini, shining in delight at her first Pennsic. She was the one who beckoned me to the dance tent, where I rediscovered my enjoyment of period dance for the first time in years, and who enchanted the Runestone Bardic Circle with her voice. I’m looking forward to more from you as well. (Thanks as well to my former apprentice sister Lucia Elena Braganza, for hosting that daytime circle, one of my favorite places to share music at Pennsic.)
  • I also want to acknowledge Amalie von Hohensee, whom I finally got to meet all-too-briefly after getting to hear some wonderful original bardic tunes she has written this year (particularly “A Song Is the Sharpest of Swords”). We made it out to the Kingdom of Acre’s bardic circle (always a highlight), where I got to see her chops in-person. Looking forward to more opportunities.
  • It was splendid getting better acquainted with Brigit inghean ui Crotaigh, one of the East’s Silent Heralds (someone who translates ASL at court, performances, and other events). She is one of the people putting her heart and talent into making the SCA more inclusive with her signing work, but she is also a beautiful singer. I’m glad my kingdom has her and am excited to see her grow and shine.
  • This was the year that McGuire’s Marauders went from being our camp to feeling like home for my family, and I want to thank everyone in camp for the welcome and the support. (And, while we’re at camp, thanks to J and Elaine for carrying music and songbooks at Designs by J. It was a huge boon to the project.)
  • While I’m mentioning the songbooks: the new songbooks, and the entire Sing for the East project, would not exist without their editor, Linette de Gallardon, who jumped on an opportunity to create the new songbook on two weeks’ notice, and brought me along for the ride. It was an enormous success, and a boon to our kingdom. Thank you, Linette, for letting me be part of this.
  • Gideon ap Stephen finally made it to Pennsic, and brought the Knowne World Bardcast with him! It was a privilege to be featured on the “Live from Pennsic” episode, as Pennsic as such a huge part of my identity as a bard.
  • To my adoptive baron and former boss, Jean-Paul (JP) Ducasse, who took the time to offer me gentle feedback about my “gum-chewing” when I’m playing lute and someone else is singing on the night of Chocolate Bardic. That bit of awareness made a big difference at my concert in particular (you can see me start to do it and catch myself and stop on both songs). Thanks, JP. Honest feedback, kindly given, is always a blessing.
  • Geoffrey of Essex, our Queen’s Bard: Thank you for ultimately making the time for an Elizabethan jam at my camp. That was a blast.
  • One more before I forget: Elizabeth Lovell. Thank you for organizing and inviting people to EK Royal Game Night, and please thank everyone else who helped make it happen. That evening opened up new doors and new friendships (as well as re-kindling old ones) for Spencer, and it changed the whole experience for him.

I know I’m leaving out a lot of people, but I have to stop somewhere. I’ll leave it with this: You’re all in my thoughts, and I wish you as much joy at your future events as I experienced this Pennsic.

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