This has been a rich and exciting weekend, full of connection, engagement, and opportunity (sometimes masquerading as adversity).
Saturday, I attended the inaugural East Kingdom College of Performers (EKCOP) Bardic Challenge event, held in the Barony of Iron Bog (Southern NJ). This was a full scale, all day event, with lots of bards in attendance, including several dear friends from out of kingdom. (We managed to get a photo representing four kingdoms.)
The event took its inspiration from Bardic Madness, which has spread from Northshield to many other kingdoms, as a day of friendly challenges with no competition or judging, including lots of performance opportunities and a number of classes.
I was just a participant, so I know I cannot give full credit for all the work that went on behind the event, and I’m not going to try. I will take a moment to thank Doug Doan, who organized the challenges and scheduled the classes and the performance slots, Ian Douglas, who served as first-time autocrat, and Sólveig Bjarnardóttir, who with her partner Ægir the Lucky produced some 100 pewter tokens for the performers and the volunteers. I taught my Songwriting to Tell a Story class, took a class on coaching and feedback from Faye de Trees, participated in Arden of Icomb’s class teaching some of the Sing for the East anthems, and gave two performances which between them answered four of the day’s challenges.
First, I told another story (which Doug was kind enough to record and post). “Brother Man”, which was a gift from my learned friend Yaakov HaMizrachi, fulfilled the challenges to tell a funny story, and perform something I’d never done before in public. I’d wanted to do this one at K&Q, but I found trying to get it down to 6 minutes always trimmed out all the texture and humor that makes my version worth telling. So here it is in full, and I’m very happy with how it was received.
Later, I shared another new performance, a lute piece by Thomas Campion, “Now winter nights enlarge”. This answered the challenges to perform Elizabethan music not by John Dowland (who, I agree, is a little overexposed), and to do a piece from my persona’s wheelhouse. I’ve only been working on this one for a couple of months, so while it wasn’t perfect, it was fun to perform.
You may have noticed that my beard is missing in these videos. I shaved it last week for an audition for the part of John Adams in an upcoming production of 1776. I was not cast (and I wasn’t looking to play any other roles, since I’ve played other parts in the show before), but the director did call me personally, and was very complimentary about my audition.
Sunday afternoon, I was able to prepare for my next project with some friends who stepped up to help me. I will be entering “I asked of thee a boon” in K&Q A&S Champions at Mudthaw at the end of this month. I’m deeply grateful to the singers who were willing to come out to my house so we could properly rehearse the piece: John Fitz Thomas returned once more to sing Bass; our new Queen’s Bard Laila al-Sanna’ al-Andalusiyya had agreed before K&Q Bardic to sing soprano; and at literally the last minute Sunday morning, my new friend Eithne Inghean Mael Duin (pronounced “Enya”), whose performances I had admired at K&Q Bardic, and with whom I had spent some pleasant conversation at Saturday’s EKCOP event, agreed to stop on her way back up to Connecticut and take over as alto.
I’m very excited about these performers. There is some delightful metatext about having to continually ask new and different people to help me bring to life a song I composed for four voices and lute, whose subject matter is the wonderful things that happen when you have to swallow your pride and beg people to help you bring a project to life because you cannot do it by yourself. This crew brings some wonderful choral chops to it, and I’m looking forward to the result.
This may sound disingenuous, but I want to say it here for the record. Yes, I’m processing the sadness of not getting chosen for things I very much wanted to be chosen for twice now in as many weeks (K&Q Bardic, and then 1776, which is one of my all-time favorite shows). Those decisions were delivered in compassionate ways that made me feel recognized and appreciated.Quite apart from that, this weekend reminded me repeatedly of just how blessed and fortunate I am, how many dear friends have my back and are willing to play in my sandbox and have me in theirs.
I love you all, and I am so grateful for you. I will work to pay this all back and forward with all the tools at my disposal. You are my tribe.