Thoughts on Known World Cooks & Bards

Last weekend’s 8th Known World Cooks and Bards event, held in the Barony of Shattered Crystal in the Middle Kingdom, was absolutely wonderful. (I’ll do my best to avoid excuses for taking so long to write about it, though I am looking at the fading bug bites all over my arms and legs, and reflecting on recovering from a general lack of sleep. Still wouldn’t be the first time it took me a week to post about an event.) It was my first time traveling by plane to an out of kingdom event, and indeed, the first SCA event I’ve attended that wasn’t held in my home kingdom of the East, or neighboring AEthelmearc. It was also my first KWCB, since the last one was held five years ago.

The event was filled with, as you’d expect, great food and wonderful performances, and of course, lots of terrific classes on both subjects. It was really exciting to step outside my familiar environs and get to know performers and audiences that were new to me from the Midrealm, Calontir, and Northshield (though many other kingdoms were represented, and there were many bards who are friends of mine from Pennsic). Toward that end, I taught a couple of classes, performed a concert on Saturday afternoon, and expanded my circle of friends a good deal. Here are a few of the people I was glad to spend time with.

Since neither of my teachers, nor my former Laurel, ended up in attendance at the event, I was grateful that a lineage of Northsheild bards–Owen Alun, his former apprentice Thomas Bordeaux (newly Laureled), and Thomas’s new apprentice Arwa al-Jinniyya–welcomed me to hang out at their tent during my downtime. I was gratified to be invited to Arwa’s apprenticing ceremony–she and Thomas, both brilliant guitarists and talented songwriters, are perfect for each other, and I’m happy to count them both as friends. Meanwhile, I got to know Owen rather better, since I attended his “Patronage as a Bardic Arts” class. He consciously worked without notes so that he could be fully present and authentic with the students (definitely a model I will consider for the future). Later on, he shared with me a wonderful piece of Middle English verse he’s been developing from a period source SCA for audiences. It was a challenging piece, with only a word here and there substituted in modern English to aid comprehension, but his joyous and eager presentation brought it to life.

Silence de Cherbourg of Æthelmearc is a bard I’ve known in passing from Pennsic, but as out of kingdom bards at KWCB, we got some quality time together that I really enjoyed. Silence had performed for years with Efenwealt Wystle as his apprentice, but since Efenwealt stepped away from the Order of the Laurel, and raising young children in the SCA, she has been figuring out her own path. I was happy to wander a little with her at the event, and really hear what she brings as a singer. I wish Aneleda Falconbridge had been there to hear her light up the final night’s bardic circle with “By the Weight of the Chain”.

I had had some online conversations with Elaisse de Garrigues of Calontir, but KWCB was the first time I met her. She attended my songwriting class, and we spent some time in conversation afterwards. She afforded me the privilege of hearing a new song in progress, which I won’t spoil for anyone else except to say that it blew me away. Later, I got to hear her perform another piece of hers, “Guinevere’s Song” at a bardic circle. Elaisse represents some of the best of what the SCA bardic community has to offer, an original voice with a distinct sensibility that she brings to her writing. I’m looking forward to hearing more from her. (And thank you, Elaisse, for reminding me that the primary audience for this blog is bards, and that bards read it.)

Brendan O Corraidhe of the Midrealm is someone I’ve known online and at Pennsic for years. He is a consummate performer, and has shared opinions around bardic from time to time on his blog. We got a little more time in each other’s company last weekend, and I really enjoyed it. His stories and songs were great fun at bardic circles, and he was kind enough to let me know that my portable John Lyttleton was actually a help to him before he performed “Gawain and the Green Knight” as the next onstage act after my set.

I was really excited to finally meet Elshava Bas Riva of Northshield in person, after years of knowing each other from afar. Shava is probably best known in the broader SCA as a videographer, who shares the work of bards across the known world on her YouTube channel. I was as excited as she was for her to record my performances for her channel. More important was the gift of her company and conversation, as well as her help and guidance as an out-of-towner at the event.

I could go on and on, as you can see. I’ll never remember everyone worthy of mention, but I will close with some brief thanks:

  • To Cerian Cantwr, who organized the bardic track at the event, and managed things heroically even as he was processing a recent loss to the community (who he commemorated brilliantly during the Luminaries concert Saturday night).
  • To Baroness Petrona, our hostess, who provided friendship, connections, guidance, and crucially, a sun hat.
  • To Duchess Sir Rowan, one of my SCA mothers-in-law, for making space in your pop-up shade for people to congregate and enjoy, and for hugs. I never get to see you enough.
  • To her Highness Ynes de Jaen of the Midrealm, for making time to hear the piece I wanted to share with you and Rowan (one of the sources), and taking time to share your thoughts on it. Some of the best and most demanding performances are for an audience of one or two.
  • To Jose Sao Pacian of Northshield, another new friend, for camaraderie and support. Your performance class was terrific–the new gem for me was the reminder that breathing is an autonomic system that will support singers better when they don’t think about it and let it just work.
  • To Una Wynnifred Berry of the Midrealm, who put time and research and ingenuity into lighting the stage by candles for the nighttime performances. You served the arts, brilliantly and with passion.
  • To Fiana of Clare of Meridies, my new teacher Toki’s former Laurel, who illuminated the mysteries of Old English poetic forms for myself and others, and who shone as always with your brilliant original Norse myths.

As I said, it was a hell of a weekend. You full? I’m full.

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