This song represents my first attempt at a kingdom anthem. It was written for, and first performed at, the East Kingdom Bardic Championships in March 2016. It was recorded for the Sing for the East compilation album as a duet with Duchess Caoilfhionn inghean Fhaoláin, who was a source of inspiration for the piece.
We Are the East
© 2016 words & music by Eric Schrager
In the sunrise, we march through the fog on the field
’Til your eye sees the bold Eastern banner revealed.
There’s a clamor arising from each sword and shield,
And we roar as we enter the fray.
Though on this day our forces are dwarfed by the foe,
We are Tygers united with valor to show,
Every warrior defending our realm, blow for blow.
Win or lose, they’ll remember this day.
We are the fighters. We are the makers.
We are in service, preparing the feast.
We are the elders. We are the children.
We are all family, for we are the East.
In the work of our hands, and the work of our hearts,
Shaping glass, shaping metal, and thread to our arts.
We are learning, then teaching, all playing our parts
To bring all of our crafts to new heights.
As we sit round the fire, singing old songs and new
And our voices combine, whether many or few,
There’s a bond[*] we create that feels hallowed and true
To sustain us on long winter nights. (CH)
For the long months we plan, putting work before fun,
For each pot that we scrub, for each list that we run,
Be we cook, be we Royal, we do what needs done
For the splendor that must be arrayed.
We researched our designs—are the letters just right?
Scratching ink into scroll, working late in the night,
‘Til the gasp from the court as it catches the light
Marks a memory that won’t ever fade. (CH)
We remember the times we each felt so alone
Though we lived in a kingdom that we’d never known.
Now we’ve found it, embraced it, and made it our own,
And we’re bound here by so many ties.
It’s remarkable now to discover that we’re
Each a part of this tapestry, that much is clear.
In these moments of joy, we fly back through the years
And the centuries fade from our eyes. (CH x 2)
This song was inspired by Duchess Caoilfhionn inghean Fhaoláin (Meredith Bailin Hull) in September 2015 (when she was Crown Princess).
- A series of memes were released on Facebook, beginning with one of Caoilfhionn (you can see them here), with the ending caption “I am the East”.
- At the time, I was first formulating plans to enter the King’s and Queen’s Bardic competition, which is held in late winter, and considered writing something original which would make an impression on both the royals, particularly Caoilfhionn, and the broader audience. The “I am the East” series fascinated me (enough to contribute one myself). I started to imagine a song working from the same theme, stitching together vignettes to create a broad mosaic portrait of the kingdom.
- I asked a number of gentles in our kingdom for experiences and memories of being part of the East in different fields of SCA endeavor: martial, A&S, and service. I got responses from a broad cross-section, including Kenric aet Essex, Lucien de Pontivy, Thyra Eiriksdottir, Eikaterine of Anglespur, Katrusha Skomorokh, Finnguala ingen Néill meic Chuircc, Magnus Hvalmagi, Sabine de Kerbriant, Michael of York, Kiena Stewart, John the Bear, Brid ni Shearlais, Lylie of Penhyll, Elizabeth Lovell, and Antonio Patrasso.
- Another influence on this piece is Baldwin of Erebor’s classic “Welcome to the Current Middle Ages”, a song that gives an overview of what the SCA feels like. I knew that I was hitting it when, a few days after the competition, a Rusted Woodlands friend and fellow bard posted this comment on Facebook: “Outstanding. You made a non-Scadian friend of mine who was listening smile and ask if that was what we do.”
- I made it to the finals of the EK Bardic Competition, and while I was not selected as a royal bard, I was awarded the Silver Brooch by their Majesties Brennan and Caoilfhionn, in large part on the strength of this song. It was done spontaneously, interrupting the planned flow of court, by their Majesties on the spur of the moment. It’s a moment I will never forget, particularly the emotion in Brennan’s voice when he spoke of how the song had moved him…or Mistress Alys Mackintosh’s perfect on-the-fly invention of an oral scroll text, since they had neither brooch nor scroll on hand. It wasn’t a problem; our Eastern courts can take your breath away with or without a scroll.
Intro: G C D D7 Verse 1-4: G C D G C Am D7 D G C D G Cmaj7 Am7 D D7 G C D G C Am D7 D G C B7 Em7 Cmaj7 Am7 D D7 Chorus 1-4: Bm Bm7 Em Em7 Am Am7 D D7 Bm Bm7 Em Em7 Am7 D G D7 Reprise & Ending: Bm Bm7 Em Em7 Am Am7 D D7 Bm Bm7 Em Em7 Am7 D G Em Am7 D G Em7 Cmaj7 Am7 D7 D G C D G
[*] The original lyric, which I sang in the K & Q Bardic performance, was “There’s a space we create that feels hallowed and true”. A friend whose judgment I trust commented that the word “space” felt like a modern usage in this spot, and it took him out of the song. I pondered the feedback, and realized that I liked “There’s a bond we create” better. This is the lyric on the downloadable lyrics sheet, and the version I intend to use going forward (unless, you know, I forget).