Last Saturday, the East Kingdom held its annual Bardic Championship, and I had the surreal experience of participating in this event as one of the MCs and judges. This was hardly the only “first” for the championship, which of course was conducted entirely online for the first time as well.
To all the performers of the East, greetings!
(TLDR: Sign up to perform for your kingdom! C’mon, it’ll be fun! But take a moment please to read the long post anyway…)
This is a strange time we are living through together. The first warmth of spring, and for many, the first traces of hope. Hope that the day is drawing ever closer, when we will once more be able to gather together, embrace, and share companionship, song and story at an in-person event. Even now, we do not know just how many months more that will be. It’s tantalizing and at times maddening, no?
And as we wait, lo, this spring brings a bounty of opportunities to put our performance and research skills to the test, in service to our kingdom. (All of them remote! More time in front of a webcam instead of a fire! Will it never end?) As your kingdom’s Bardic Champions, it can be a little awkward asking for people to sign up, particularly since these events ended up scheduled so close to one another. And yet, this is the calendar we face, and the kingdom needs the support of its performers now.
The weekend before last, the Second Ethereal Bardic Symposium happened, spearheaded by Hilla Stormbringer, the Bard of the Midlands in the Middle Kingdom, and staffed by some dedicated people.
This wonderful weekend of classes, performances, and conversations may well have unexpected consequences (which I will discuss with relish in an upcoming post). But Hilla also set up a round table panel discussion on Neurodiversity in the Bardic and SCA communities, which I was privileged to take part in.
The panel consisted of Hilla, myself, and Ruqayya bint Rabi’a al-Aliyya of Atlantia. It was not live-streamed, but we had good participation from interested parties, both Neurodivergent and Neurotypical, who attended on Zoom. We had the opportunity to get into some “real talk” about issues that come up in the Society, and in Bardic, for those of us who are Neurodivergent. The session is now available on YouTube if you wish to check it out:
Grim and I have been the East Kingdom’s Bardic Champions for just over 11 months now. This has been, it doesn’t bear repeating, a most unusual year–but even as we speak, our A&S Champion counterparts are conducting the competition online to choose their successors, and we have announced our plans to do the same.
The next East Kingdom Bardic Championships will be held on Saturday, April 24 (click for details). Performance is, indeed, the best suited activity for a virtual competition of practically anything we do in the SCA. (Click here to check into the Facebook event. The YouTube livestream will be here.)
Grim and I are looking forward to hearing from entrants (note per the event page: You must email us 2 weeks in advance, so that we can plan out the competition day with a sense of how many competitors we have.
We will be holding an online tech check a month or so out before the event, so participants have a chance to verify that their setups work for live online performance. The participants will be on Zoom, and the audience will be able to watch it live-streamed on the East Kingdom’s YouTube channel.
We will share further updates as it approaches.
Grim and Drake, Sovereign’s and Consort’s Bards
At last, we conclude our discussion of researching, preparing for, and entering a kingdom-level bardic competition, if you’re still interested in it (after the analyses of Round 1 and Round 2). For the final round, I debuted the original song “Hold the Door Open”. I researched the Arthurian legends of Thomas Malory, and wove together five characters to convey messages about modern diversity and inclusion. I chose to use my skills in modern composition to convey the emotions of the words.
The family is at PAX East in Boston for the weekend (Spencer’s birthday present). I plan to do the deep breakdown of last weekend’s final round of competition when we get home Sunday. But in the meantime, I don’t want to keep this new piece, “Hold the Door Open”, under wraps anymore. The video (and the correct lyrics, which aren’t exactly what I sang) are available to the public.
We continue our review of kingdom-level competition prep (from yesterday’s Round 1 analysis). On to Round 2, and how I arrived at “Ode to Birka” as my performance piece. (Note: I am categorizing this as an A&S Journey entry, because the focus of this round ended up being contrafacts of Thomas Campion pieces examined in this series. Before I found the right one, “My love hath vowed”, I made attempts with “Now winter nights enlarge” and “I care not for these ladies”, which will be detailed below.)
As promised, it is time to break down this year’s Queen & Crown’s Bardic Championship as I prepared for and experienced it. I’m going to do one post for each round–not because this was the year I was selected, but because the work that went into each round dovetails with the A&S Journey posts I have been making since last June. We will start with the first round, where I presented John Dowland’s “Clear or cloudy”.
A quest has been completed. Saturday was the East Kingdom Queen and Crown’s Bardic Championship, in the Shire of Caer Adamant (Wilmington DE). Her Majesty Margarita ultimately selected me to be the new Queen’s Champion of Bardic for the next year. My friend Grim the Skald, a returning champion, was chosen as Crown’s Bard.
I will be posting my usual post-game analysis in the next few days, and videos of performances from the three rounds. But for now, I want to just let it sink in, and offer gratitude to some of the many people who made this day unforgettable:
I’m back once again from our King’s and Queen’s Bardic Championships. And once more, it is bittersweet. I was not selected–in fact, I didn’t make the final four this year. Which on the face of it, seems like it should be a real letdown, after having been a finalist the last two times I entered.
And yet, that’s not how it feels. Don’t get me wrong, I am absolutely disappointed, and I’ll have to carry that with me for a little while as I process it, because feelings are stupid. I particularly loved the these royals, Wilhelm and Vienna, and greatly enjoyed the opportunity to get to know them during this reign, and bring them enjoyment as a bard. The idea of being selected by one of them meant a great deal to me. I could feel my overconfidence problem rearing its ugly head.
And then…I actually got there and laid eyes and ears on the competition, and I’m glad to say I sobered up real quick.