The Zoom Where It Happens

This filk, composed in February 2021 was created in response to the events that sparked the First Bardic War (held in May 2021) [1]. I wrote this piece as the SCA “schtick” [2] to justify (and promote) the event.

(It should not be confused with the “The Tomb Where It Happened”, the wonderful filk by Mya Gosling of Good Tickle Brain that friends and I performed in 2018, with her permission. [3])

This page breaks down the background and the writing of the filk. We’ll discuss the production of the video itself in separate posts.

The Zoom Where It Happens

Original lyrics by Eric Schrager (aka Drake Oranwood)

A Zoom call is starting. The Royalty of the EAST and MIDDLE KINGDOMS, along with JOHANN VON SOLOTHURN of ATLANTIA (NEZHKA’S Laurel), are all clearly named in their video frames.

The Kingdom Bards, also clearly named in their video frames, are all squirming nervously: [5]

  • DRAKE ORANWOOD, Consort’s Bard, EAST KINGDOM
  • LAILA AL-SANNA AL-ANDALUSIYYA, former Queen’s Bard, EAST KINGDOM
  • HILLA STORMBRINGER, Regional Bard, MIDDLE KINGDOM
  • HONOR VON ATZINGER, Royal Bard, MIDDLE KINGDOM
  • NEZKHA ORSHINAIA, Rose Bard, ATLANTIA

Sources

The primary source for the filk, of course, is “The Room Where It Happens” from Lin-Manuel Miranda’s Hamilton. This is the most ambitious filk I have attempted to date, as it draws on one of the most complex songs, in one of the most challenging musicals in the Broadway canon. [4]

The challenge of a good filk is paralleling the meter and rhyme structure (and possibly the thematic structure) of the original song recognizably, while still serving the story you came to tell. The particular genius Miranda brought to Hamilton was marrying the rich rhyming and wordplay of rap and hip-hop music to the Broadway showtune tradition. For those who like a deep dive, I have therefore placed the original lyrics side-by-side with the filk lyrics, highlighting all of the original’s rhyming words in green.

To the top ↑

Fanfare. Drum rhythm starts.

[DRAKE] (nervously)
Ahhhh,
Your Royal Majesties! [6]

[CONSULE MAGNUS TINDAL, SOVEREIGN of the EAST] (shortly)
Lord Drake.

[DRAKE]
Sir,
So you’ve heard the news about our—

[CONSULE ALBERIC VON ROSTOCK, CONSORT of the EAST]
Who’s the troublemaker?

[LAILA] (looking down)
Well…

[HILLA]
You know the Journeymen’s Concert?

[FELIX THE JUST OF RAMSEY, KING of the MIDREALM]
Yes?…

[HONOR] (pointing to her Laurel wreath)
Laurels weren’t privy to it— [7]

[MADELEINA DE LA MANS, QUEEN of the MIDREALM]
Honor, please, this isn’t Shakespeare. [8]

[JOHANN]
And all we want to know, is why?

[NEZKHA]
Well, that’s a lot to unpack—

[JOHANN]
Why don’t you give it a try?

[HILLA] (fidgeting)
Hmm…

[LAILA] (quietly, to DRAKE)
So, how’re we getting off… this thin ice?

[DRAKE]
I guess I’m gonna finally have to take your advice. [9]

[LAILA] (incredulous)
Really?

[DRAKE]
Talk less, beguile more…

[LAILA] (rolling eyes)
Oh dear.

[DRAKE]
Do whatever it takes to help them see how we’ve come to war.

[HONOR]
But our King and Queen can spot a faker quick.

[DRAKE]
Well, then the truth is my weapon…

[MAGNUS TINDAL]
Champions!

[DRAKE]
I’m sorry guys, I gotta start.

[NEZKHA]
But—

[DRAKE]
Unless, of course, you’d like to step in?

NEZKHA indicates “no”. Fanfare.

[DRAKE]
A bunch of bards from the Known World sign into a Zoom,

[ALL]
Camaraderie is close—bros.

[DRAKE]
They emerge from the concert with tensions running high:

[ALL]
Diametric’lly opposed—foes. [10]

[DRAKE]
The kingdom bards emerge with an Interkingdom Incident
And paperwork that nobody wants. [11]

[HONOR]
The kingdoms all emerge on the brink of Bardic War!
And here’s the pièce de résistance:

Strumming begins.

[DRAKE]
No one else was in
The Zoom where it happened,
The Zoom where it happened,
The Zoom where it happened.

[HONOR]
No one else was in
The Zoom where it happened,
The Zoom where it happened,
The Zoom where it happened.

[NEZHA]
Who can really say
How a feud is born,
Did I speak with scorn?
It’s all fuzzy next morn—
You just assume that it happens,

[DRAKE]
But no one else is in
The Zoom where it happens…





.

[COMPANY]

The Zoom where it happened,

The Zoom where it happened.



Feud is born

It’s all fuzzy next morn
Assume that it happens



The Zoom where it happens…

Fanfare.

[COMPANY]
Hilla claims—

[HILLA]
Atlantian bards, we had so many, that I might have made a joke
They had invaded the Mid. [12]

[COMPANY]
Hilla claims—

[HILLA]
Laila said,

[LAILA]
If we allied them with the East, we’d overthrow the Known World! [13]

[HILLA]
Was she making a bid?

[COMPANY]
Hilla claims—

[HILLA]
Then Ermagerd jumps up:

[ERMAGERD DE TOURS]
Ansteorra says “Hold my mead!” [14]

[HILLA]
And now we’re in El Cid! [15]

[COMPANY]
Hilla claims—

[HILLA]
Yes, I arranged the meeting.
The concert and the venue, but then we’re competing…
What?!?

[DRAKE]
No one else was in
The Zoom where it happened,
The Zoom where it happened,
The Zoom where it happened.

[NEZKHA]
No one else was in
The Zoom where it happened,
The Zoom where it happened,
The Zoom where it happened.

[LAILA]
No one really knows
How the bards’ll pick a fight,

[ÉADAOIN RUADH]
Incentives that are offered
When a Royal’s not in sight, [16]

[HONOR]
You just assume that it happens,

[HILLA]
But no else is in
The Zoom where it happens…

[COMPANY]

The Zoom where it happened,
The Zoom where it happened,
The Zoom where it happened.



The Zoom where it happened,
The Zoom where it happened,
The Zoom where it happened.



Bards’ll pick a fight



Royal’s not in sight


Assume that it happens



The Zoom where it happens…

[COMPANY]
Meanwhile—

[DRAKE]
Cerian is haggling over ransom for the
Bards of Atlantia (and yes, it’s kinda witty)… [17]

[COMPANY]
Meanwhile—

[NEZHKA]
Temperatures are rising with alliances and battle songs

Bards all shout chaotically.

[NEZHKA]
—It isn’t pretty. [18]

[DRAKE]
Then my good friend Laila, my own predecessor,
Approaches Hilla slyly, and plays the aggressor: [19]

[LAILA]
Maybe we can mold this chaos with intention,
And win a victory from this accident,
A big event…

[HILLA]
What for?

[LAILA]
A Bardic War.

[HILLA]
Tell me more…

[LAILA]
Wouldn’t you like to feel a little less stuck at home? [20]

[HILLA]
Actually, I would.

[LAILA]
We’ll have performers be warriors!

[HILLA]
And we’ll do points and keep score?

[LAILA]
For a full week or more! [21]

[HILLA]
For sure!

[DRAKE]
No!

[COMPANY]
…one else was in
The Zoom where it happened,

[ALL]
The Zoom where it happened,
The Zoom where it happened.

No one else was in
The Zoom where it happened,
The Zoom where it happened,
The Zoom where it happened.

[DRAKE]
Ye gods!

[ALL]
Away they went!
It’s a bloody Interkingdom Incident!

[CERIAN CANTWR] (In the manner of his song “Alchemy”)
Click, BOOM! [22]

[ALL]
Then it happened.

[HONOR] (whining)
I wasn’t even in the Zoom where it happened… [23]

[COMPANY]
Laila Andalusiyya! [24]

[DRAKE]
What were you thinking?
To propose an alliance,
When that was not your station?

[COMPANY]
Laila Andalusiyya!

[HONOR]
Did your Royals know about your boasting,
Or its impact on our kingdom relations?

[COMPANY]
Laila Andalusiyya!

[LAILA]
But don’t you know, when I spoke, I hadn’t noticed
There was talk of kingdom hostages?
I saw all these bards!
Their brilliance and charms! [25]

[DRAKE] (realizing)
You just were giving praise.

[LAILA]
Never meant a call to arms!
But if that’s skin in the game, let’s stay in the game,
Sequestered like we’ve been, how can we play in the game? [26]

[NEZKHA]
We may get love for it,

[HILLA]
Or get hate for it,

[NEZKHA AND HILLA]
This whole year we’ve had to

[COMPANY]
Wait for it, wait for it, wait…

[DRAKE]
Now, this might be heresy

[DRAKE AND HONOR]
But I’d like to leave my kingdom a legacy… [27]

[HILLA AND LAILA]
What do you want, bards?
What do you want, bards?
What will you be doing when the
First Bardic War starts? [28]

[DRAKE]
I,
I want us all in
The Zoom where it happens
The Zoom where it happens [29]

[HONOR]
I,
I want us all in
The Zoom where it happens
The Zoom where it happens

[ NEZKHA ]
I…

Want us all
In the Zoom where it happens…

I…

I want us all in the Zoom…

[LAILA]
I…



I want us all…
I want us all…

[HILLA]
We’ve got to be…
We’ve got to be…
In the Zoom…

[DRAKE]
And the YouTube too! [30]

[COMPANY]
What do you want, bards?
What do you want, bards?
What do you want, bards?
What do you want?





.





.

[COMPANY]
I want us all in
The Zoom where it happens
The Zoom where it happens
The Zoom where it happens

I want us all in
The Zoom where it happens
The Zoom where it happens


The Zoom where it happens

I want us all in
The Zoom where it happens
The Zoom where it happens
The Zoom where it happens


I want us all in
The Zoom where it happens
The Zoom where it happens


The Zoom where it happens

[COMPANY]
A war’s been catalyzed!

[HILLA]
We were left unsupervised… [31]

[COMPANY]
We say our bards need to use their words! [32]

[HONOR]
But when they’re off the leash, it really gets absurd…

[COMPANY]
We need to restart our Dream, [33]

[DRAKE]
But how else can you fight on a livestream? [34]

[ALL]
We spoke the Doom where it happens, [35]

[HILLA AND LAILA]
Now we need you in
The Zoom…

[DRAKE]
You’ve got to be in…
.

[HONOR]
You’ve got to be in…
.

[NEZKHA]
Oh, you’ve got to be in
The Zoom where it happens

[HILLA AND LAILA]
You gotta be, you gotta be,
You gotta be…in the Zoom!

[COMPANY]

The Zoom where it happens



The Zoom where it happens



The Zoom where it happens



The Zoom where it happens


The Zoom where it happens
You gotta be in the Zoom
Where it happens!

[ALL]
(demonstrating mouse click with one finger, then an explosion with both hands)
Click, BOOM! [36]

To the top ↑

Fanfare. Drum rhythm starts.

[BURR]
Ah,
Mister Secretary

[HAMILTON]
Mister
Burr,
sir

[BURR]
Didja hear the news about good


old General
Mercer?

[HAMILTON]
No

[BURR]
You know Clermont Street?

[HAMILTON]
Yeah

[BURR]
They renamed it after him. The

Mercer legacy is secure

[HAMILTON] Sure

[BURR]
And all he had to do was
die

[HAMILTON]
That’s a lot less work

[BURR]
We oughta give it a
try

[HAMILTON]
Ha

[BURR]
Now how’re you gonna get your debt plan
through?

[HAMILTON]
I guess I’m gonna fin’lly have to listen to
you

[BURR]
Really?

[HAMILTON]
“Talk less. Smile
more.”

[BURR]
Ha-ha

[HAMILTON]
Do whatever it takes to get my plan on the Congress
floor

[BURR]
Now, Madison and Jefferson are
merciless.

[HAMILTON]
Well, hate the sin, love the
sinner

[MADISON]
Hamilton!

[HAMILTON]
I’m sorry Burr, I’ve gotta go

[BURR]
But—

[HAMILTON]
Decisions are happening over
dinner

Trumpet fanfare.

[BURR]
Two Virginians and an immigrant walk into a room

[BURR AND ENSEMBLE]
Diametric’lly
opposed, foes

[BURR]
They emerge with a compromise, having opened doors that were

[BURR AND ENSEMBLE]
Previously
closed, bros

BURR
The immigrant emerges with unprecedented financial power
A system he can shape however he
wants


The Virginians emerge with the nation’s capital
And here’s the pièce de
résistance:

Banjo begins.

[BURR]
No one else was in
The room where it happened
The room where it happened
The room where it happened


No one else was in
The room where it happened
The room where it happened
The room where it happened


No one really knows
How the game is
played
The art of the
trade
How the sausage gets
made
We just assume that it happens


But no one else is in
The
room where it happens.





.

[COMPANY]

The room where it happened

The room where it happened



Game is played


How the sausage gets made
Assume that it happens



The room where it happens.

Fanfare.

[BURR AND COMPANY]
Thomas claims—

[JEFFERSON]
Alexander was on Washington’s doorstep one day
In distress ‘n
disarray

[BURR AND COMPANY]
Thomas claims—

[JEFFERSON]
Alexander said—

[HAMILTON]
I’ve nowhere else to turn!

[JEFFERSON]
And basic’ly begged me to join the
fray

[BURR AND COMPANY]
Thomas claims—

[JEFFERSON]
I approached Madison and said—


“I know you hate ‘im, but let’s


hear what he has to
say.”

[BURR AND COMPANY]
Thomas claims—

[JEFFERSON]
Well, I arranged the
meeting
I arranged the menu, the venue, the seating
[BURR] But!


No one else was in
The room where it happened
The room where it happened
The room where it happened


No one else was in
The room where it happened
The room where it happened
The room where it happened


No one really knows how the
Parties get to
yesssss


The pieces that are sacrificed in
Ev’ry game of
chesssss


We just
assume that it happens


But no one else is in
The
room where it happens

[COMPANY]

The room where it happened
The room where it happened
The room where it happened



The room where it happened
The room where it happened
The room where it happened



Parties get to yesssss



Ev’ry game of chesssss


Assume that it happens



The room where it happens

[BURR AND COMPANY]
Meanwhile—

[BURR]
Madison is grappling with the fact that
Not ev’ry issue can be settled by
committee

[COMPANY]
Meanwhile—

[BURR]
Congress is fighting over where to put the capital—

Company screams in chaos

[BURR]
It isn’t
pretty


Then Jefferson approaches with a dinner and
invite
And Madison responds with Virginian insight:

[MADISON]
Maybe we can solve one problem with
another
And win a victory for the Southerners,
In
other words

[JEFFERSON]
Oh-
ho!

[MADISON]
A quid pro
quo

[JEFFERSON]
I
suppose

[MADISON]
Wouldn’t you like to work a little
closer to home?

[JEFFERSON]
Actually, I would

[MADISON]
Well, I
propose the Potomac

[JEFFERSON]
And you’ll provide him his
votes?

[MADISON]
Well, we’ll see how it
goes

[JEFFERSON]
Let’s
go

[BURR]
No!

[COMPANY]
—one else was in
The room where it happened

[BURR AND COMPANY]
The room where it happened
The room where it happened

No one else was in
The room where it happened
The room where it happened
The room where it happened

[BURR]
My God!

[BURR AND COMPANY]
In God we
trust
But we’ll never really know what got discussed


Click-
boom


then it happened

[BURR]
And no one else was in the
room where it happened

[COMPANY]
Alexander Hamilton!

[BURR]
What did they say to you
To get you to sell
New York City down the
river?

[COMPANY]
Alexander Hamilton!

[BURR]
Did Washington know about the dinner?
Was there Presidential pressure to
deliver?

[COMPANY]
Alexander Hamilton!

[BURR]
Or did you know, even then, it doesn’t matter
Where you put the U.S. Capital?
[HAMILTON] Cuz we’ll have the banks
We’re in the same
spot

[BURR]
You got more than you gave

[HAMILTON]
And I wanted what I
got
When you got skin in the game, you stay in the game
But you don’t get a
win unless you play in the game


Oh, you get love for it.


You get
hate for it


You get nothing if you…

[HAMILTON AND COMPANY]
Wait for it, wait for it, wait!

[HAMILTON]
God help and
forgive me


I wanna build something that’s gonna
outlive me

[HAMILTON]
What do you want,
Burr?
What do you want,
Burr?
If you stand for nothing, Burr,

Then what do you fall for?

[BURR]
I
Wanna be in
The room where it happens
The room where it happens


I
Wanna be in
The room where it happens
The room where it happens


I

Wanna be
In the room where it happens

I

I wanna be in the room


Oh

Oh

I wanna be
I wanna be


I’ve got to be…
I’ve got to be…
In that room…


In that big ol’ room!

[COMPANY]
What do you want, Burr?
What do you want, Burr?
What do you want, Burr?
What do you want?





.





.

[COMPANY]
I wanna be in
The room where it happens
The room where it happens
The room where it happens

I wanna be in
The room where it happens
The room where it happens


The room where it happens

I wanna be in
The room where it happens
The room where it happens
The room where it happens


I wanna be in
The room where it happens
The room where it happens


The room where it happens

[COMPANY]
The art of the
compromise

[BURR]
Hold your nose and close your
eyes

[COMPANY]
We want our leaders to save the
day

[BURR]
But we don’t get a say in what they trade
away

[COMPANY]
We dream of a brand new
start

[BURR]
But we dream in the dark for the most
part

[BURR AND COMPANY]
Dark as a
tomb where it happens

[BURR]
I’ve got to be in
The room…


I gotta to be in…

.


I gotta to be in…

.


Oh, I’ve got to be in
The room where it happens


I gotta be, I gotta be,
I gotta be…in the room!

[COMPANY]

The room where it happens



The room where it happens



The room where it happens



The room where it happens


The room where it happens
You gotta be in the room
Where it happens!

[BURR & COMPANY]

Click-
boom!

To the top ↑
Annotations

[1] For context, these events took place during the COVID-19 lockdown that began in March of 2020, and shut down all in person SCA events for more than a year (and reshaped the terms of service of every kingdom champion in the Society, among many others impacted). In February 2021, some 11 months into the lockdown, Hilla Stormbringer and her Laurel Cerian Cantwr, along with many other dedicated staff, ran a virtual (or, as the SCA came to call them, “ethereal”) Bardic Symposium filled with classes and performances for a full weekend. This included two events in which I had the privilege to participate: The Neurodiversity Roundtable where I was a panelist, and the Journeymen’s Concert.

The Journeymen’s Concert had two rules for who would be invited to perform: They could not be a Laurel, and they had to be nominated by someone else. It was of course deeply flattering to be asked, and as a result of its design, it had a large number of up-and-coming bards present, and relatively few Peers in attendance. This meant that neither my co-champion Grim the Skald, nor the Midrealm champion, Honor von Atzinger (who had become a Laurel only a short time prior) were in attendance.

This filk is an attempt to dramatize, more or less accurately, how this event led to the declaration and establishment of the First Bardic War, which began its planning stages almost immediately, and was scheduled for the week of May 15-23. It began with a joke Hilla made, as Master of Ceremonies, toward the end of the concert. Atlantia is famous for its wealth of singer/songwriters, and a sizable Atlantian contingent had been invited, including Nezhka Orshinaia, the newly-anointed Rose Bard, Hákon Hábrók, the new Crown Bard, and their predecessor Alias Ela. As this was a Midrealm event, Hilla commented lightheartedly that a cohort of Atlantian bards appear to be “invading”.

The rest of the shenanigans started in the text chat that was happening on the Zoom conference being used to host the online concert. I’ve included some of the key comments that shaped the tone in later annotations. Obviously, pretty much everyone on the call was tickled and delighted at the idea of creating a war event centered around performance as an alternative to combat. But, as explained in the next note, this retelling required the insertion of some drama and conflict.


[2] “Schtick” in the SCA usually refers to putting some degree of in-universe story around decisions that get made and announced, especially in Court. Often, royals like to make award recipients sweat for a moment, letting them think they might be in trouble somehow, asking them to “think about what you’ve done!” before calling in the members of an Order to welcome their new member.

A war, as the biggest, longest, and most elaborate sort of event the SCA runs, is often enhanced by a good schtick. This is often a version of the “no sh*t there I was” story. This filk definitely falls into that category. Like and like any good “no sh*t” story, the events are played up for laughs, and like any good schtick, the idea is for the participants to present the unfolding silliness with the utmost deadpan seriousness they can muster (a task which falls primarily on the Principals introduced at the start here).


[3] Mya Gosling’s Good Tickle Brain is a delightfully funny webcomic site that primarily focuses on Shakespeare’s plays. As it happens, when Mya discovered Hamilton, she started writing parodies for the site, which was how I fell in love with her work. I asked for permission to perform a few of them, which she granted.

Her filk of “The Room Where It Happens”, “The Tomb Where It Happened”, blew my mind. “Room” is probably my favorite song from Hamilton because of the intricacy, intensity, and playfulness of it. It juggles different points of view, and in many ways is the crux of the show–the moment when the reticent and calculating Aaron Burr watches Hamilton, a volatile dynamo of loud, in-your-face political action, adopt just a little of Burr’s mannered diplomacy, and become a key power broker in the early US government. From then on, Burr decides that he will adopt more than a little of Hamilton’s take-no-prisoners, act-now ambition, setting the two on the course to their fatal duel.

Performing “The Tomb Where It Happened” with my son Spencer, Cedar the Barefoot, and Bird the Bard, required me to get to know the song, and explore the shadings of how one clever writer had filked it, in fine detail. It also required me to write some filk lyrics for it to fill in some gaps that weren’t included in the webcomic in the interest of page space. It was good practice that allowed me to jump into a new filk of this song very quickly.


[4] If you have spent any time with me, or on this website, or both, you are aware that I take songwriting very seriously. If anything, I take comic songwriting almost more seriously than “serious” songwriting, because being funny on purpose is no laughing matter. And particularly, if I was going to filk a song that I’d already seen (and performed) filked well by another writer, I needed to think carefully about what was going to make this filk worth doing. As I reviewed the song, and considered the specifics of the “no sh*t” story I wanted to retell in it, I set up a few guidelines on how I wanted to approach it:

  1. “The Room Where It Happens” is challenging because, like much of Hamilton, well-defined sung choruses are interspersed with basically freestyle rap verses, many of which have very strict beats, but the meters vary considerably in the verses. My objective was to adhere to Lin-Manuel Miranda’s exact meters, stresses, and rhyme scheme wherever possible. When I had to vary the stresses, I would try to get the syllable counts exactly the same as Miranda’s as much as I could.
  2. Another challenge of filk is how much of the original words to change, particularly if there is a passage where the original song lyrics fit just fine with the story you’re telling. For me, it’s a little like using an identity (the actual same word or a homonym of the same word) where a rhyme is called for: it lessens the impact on the audience, because what you’re doing isn’t actually meeting the challenge that’s called for. Even as filks are more entertaining for the most part the more closely they hew, phonetically and/or thematically, to the source work, when you are simply copying and pasting, it reads as if the filk writer is doing no work. I decided for this song that, any place I was using an actual phrase from the original, there had to be some layer of meaning or context expressed in the delivery or the video presentation that was being tweaked.
  3. Finally, for this filk, I saw opportunities to do inversions of the original lyrics in a few places, which, for people who were serious Hamilton buffs, would hopefully pop like Easter Eggs.

Annotations below will demonstrate examples of each of these elements.


[5] This piece presented another new challenge: putting words in the mouths of real, named, SCA people (including royalty), and then asking those people to say or sing the words I had written for them. I was relieved that the bards largely took this with good cheer (though see later note).

Because this filk was written to be performed as a pre-edited video simulating a Zoom call, one option I paid attention to was the naming of the characters at the bottom of their video frames. Carefully naming the five principal bards and their respective royals/bosses, for example, reduced the amount of exposition needed in the lyrics. Ultimately, I made some adjustments to titles in the interests of story clarity: The kingdom bard of the Midrealm (Honor) is actually called the “Dragon Bard”, and Hilla was the “Bard of the Midlands” (a region in the Middle Kingdom), but referring to them as “Royal Bard” and “Regional Bard”, respectively, helped highlight that Hilla igniting an interkingdom war was obviously overstepping her authority (if we imagined the absurd notion that a kingdom bard had such authority without royal consent, it was Honor’s authority, and she wasn’t even present at the concert). I labelled Laila as “former Queen’s Bard” for the same reason: my predecessor proposing such a thing, presumably, put me, as the current royal bard at the time, in a predicament. (It also meant that Honor and I could chew the scenery claiming innocence.) I kept my title, “Consort’s Bard”, and Nezhka’s, “Rose Bard”, so as not to imply that either of us were solo kingdom bards the way Honor (and Éadaoin of Æthelmearc) were. Nezhka and I both had co-champions who were not performing in the song, but whom we did not wish to erase by implication.

Having actual Scadians play themselves would later bind us up another way during the production of the video: It made us highly dependent on the consent and availability of the named folks to do the video and play themselves. In a few cases (as we’ll discuss in the post about producing the video), we had to make some creative adjustments and compromises along the way (such as substituting in Nezhka’s Laurel, Johann, for the Atlantian Royals when they proved unavailable, and the choice to show a couple of frames as still photos and just use audio for their lines, as if they were on the Zoom call but their cameras were turned off).

A final note about this choice: this also meant I would be playing myself in my own song, and indeed using my name, “Drake” as part of a rhyming setup, to parallel Miranda’s use of “Mr. Burr, sir” from the original (see the rhymes in green, on the right, in the lyric layout). This produces some really strained rhymes that follow, but frankly, I couldn’t help myself, and I think they make it little funnier. (My fellow “Hamilfans”, you’re welcome.)


[6] My story had more characters in it than the Hamilton number did, so the alternation of speakers was not going to match up to the original. Still, I wanted to mimic as much of the narrative structure as I could, and push the fidelity a little further by doing something that raised the challenge bar for us: filking the opening prologue as well as the song proper. This would allow us to introduce the framing device, of bards having to answer to their royals/bosses, quickly, and then focus on the events of the concert.

The result gave us a nice clean break between the framing device and the flashback, and allowed us to demonstrate a fanciful take on how a Zoom call works in Gallery View: when enough people join the call, the frames are reduced slightly to allow for more frames to be used in the screen. Thus, we would be able to shift from a 3 x 3 grid in the prologue, to a 4 x 4 grid in the flashback. This also meant that non-principals only had to record the parts of the song they would appear in, rather than a full 5 minute 20-second uninterrupted take for the five Principals (and oof, did that drive us each crazy).


[7] Honor is dodging blame for being involved in the Interkingdom Incident by starting to make the excuse that she wasn’t present at the concert. Laurels were not eligible to perform. (They were of course “privy to it” in that they were welcome to attend, but again I’m trying to shoehorn this information, and some SCA-style language, into very tight lyrical space.)


[8] “This isn’t Shakespeare”: Honor’s royal is chiding Honor for being, well, a drama queen here in her zeal to get out of trouble. It was clear TRM Midrealm had the chops for this sort of “schtick”. They ribbed Hilla mercilessly over starting an “Interkingdom Incident” without authorization a couple of months after the concert–right before they inducted her into the Grant-level Order of the Dragon’s Heart for her service to the realm. (As Hilla said, “They totally got me.”) Her service, of course, included all the online events she ran, including the Journeymen’s Concert and the Bardic War itself.

The use of the “Shakespeare” lyric serves a few low-key purposes:

  • It’s a quick throwaway reference to a period playwright;
  • Shakespeare delighted in scenes of high drama between royals and their subjects at court;
  • An allusion to Mya Gosling’s filk of the same song, “The Tomb Where It Happened”, where I had played Shakespeare as the narrator;
  • And, of course, the most painful rhyme I could find for “Drake, sir”.


[9] One of my favorite aspects of writing a filk that actually cast SCA bards playing themselves was the opportunity to play off my close friendship and rapport with my royal bardic predecessor Laila. While we had only known each other for about two-plus years at this point (she had returned to the East after 15 years living in other kingdoms), we clicked almost immediately as friends, social justice advocates, and outspoken gadflies. We became confidants and sources of support, and I was delighted when she won Crown Bardic (a little easier since I hadn’t made the finals that year). Indeed, since the concert, we became part of a shared SCA lineage when Peregrine announced he was taking her as a student (which I had enthusiastically endorsed).

This filk provided Laila a chance to show off her considerable (but underrated) comedy chops, as we play off our shared history as bards with a tendency to ruffle feathers, not necessarily by intention.

An example of taking lyrics from the original but tweaking via the new context: When I sing the “Talk less” line, I’m setting myself up to be the primary narrator of the flashback that’s about to begin, but I’m also playing off my own well-earned reputation as a motormouth. That actually did come up in the chat during the Journeymen’s concert:

Drake [seeing the chat go off the rails as the Bardic War talk starts] : (And here I was so worried that my cross-talk on chat was going to annoy everyone and make them mutter about me afterward…)

Brendan (Midrealm) : Drake, this doesn’t mean we’re not going to do that…

Drake : Oh, I know… 😉


[10] An example of inverting lyrics from the original, where the event moves the Founders in question from “foes” to “bros”.


[11] In the SCA, the notion of an “Interkingdom Incident” has become a huge part of royal court “schtick” (see earlier note). I have heard tell of conversations and arguments between Scadians of note, particularly in years past when the SCA was still establishing itself and spreading around the United States and the rest of the world, that became the basis for declaring war.

Most of these are McGuffin-type invented drama to give us storylines to play off (since, unlike conventional RPGs or LARPs, we don’t really have Gamemasters or pre-written modules for plot). Some of them can be quite serious, involving atrocious personal conduct (such as the incidents that were the basis for the Mordred character in “Hold the Door Open”).

In the East Kingdom, certainly, it has become common for Royals to accuse someone of “creating an Interkingdom Incident” in court in a tone of stern (feigned) horror, and sometimes asking a member of the populace to “think about what you’ve done”. (Quite often, the “punishment” that is in the offing is being inducted into a prestigious Order, but sometimes, the target will be challenged and sent on a Quest, with the expectation that they perform the demanded feat within the year.)

My friend Agnes was the first person to throw the words out in the chat at the Journeymen’s Concert:

Agnes Marie de Calais : Wait are we starting an inter kingdom incident?

Éadaoin (AE uh deen) Ruadh : lol

Hilla Stormbringer, living up to her name, gleefully posted to the SCA Bardic Arts group on Facebook within the hour, which rapidly included the following subthread (of many):

Bardic Achievement Unlocked: Starting an Interkingdom Incident. Planning for the Great Bardic War has begun!

  • Hilla: Oh crap. I’m the event steward at the event that sparked this. Does anyone know what paperwork is involved?
    • Drake: Oh, man. Paperwork. That’s the problem with Interkingdom Incidents. All the damn paperwork.
    • I believe it goes in the incident report
    • Hilla: Hold my thesaurus.
  • Hilla: Has anyone heard from their royals yet? 🤣🤣🤣🤣🤣

[12] Hilla, the MC for the Journeymen’s Concert, commented about an “invasion” of Atlantian bards, while introducing Nezhka (if memory serves). This was the spark for everything that followed in the Zoom chat.

As I retell it in the filk, once again a bard squirms to deflect blame: “I might have made a joke…”

Hilla did point out to me, as we worked on her recording, that the needs of the rap meter and rhyme schemes had resulted in lines that did not sound like her at all. The sentence is inverted, it’s tricky to say. In particular, while we in the East Kingdom might sometimes use shorthand to describe our regular Pennsic opponents as “The Mid”, no one who lived there would ever do so. They would only ever call it “the Middle Kingdom” or “the Midrealm”. She accepted the constraints I was under, though, and committed to the bit.


[13] While bards on the Zoom chat were happily praising Nezhka’s performance, Laila unwittingly adds fuel to the fire of war by putting the idea of and East/Atlantia alliance into the mix:

Laila al-Sanna’ al-Andalusiyya’ : if we were to combine the bardic armies of Atlantia and the East I’m pretty sure we could take over the whole Knowne World

Cerian Cantwr : Ealdormere, Northshield, and Calontir would put up quite a fight.

Agnes Marie de Calais : ohhhhh bardic army…

Ursula Mortimer : the Midrealm will take you on

Christian Lansinger von Jaueregk : bardic armies?  I’m sensing an epic…

Brendan (Midrealm) : Seven Kingdoms Army?

Hilla Stormbringer : Draco Invictus!!!


[14] Ermagerd de Tours, a bard of Ansteorra (yes, her name is documentable), jumped in and escalated the newly-born conflict by expanding its scope. She actually posted the words “Ansteorra says ‘Hold my mead!'”

(When Ermagerd was unavailable to record her video in time for the project, Aibhilin inghean Daibhidh voiced the line as if there was food in her mouth, and we used the conceit that Ermagerd was off camera during the telling of the story to our bosses because she was “having dinner”.)


[15] Again, I toss in a reference to : Cantar de mio Cid (“The Song of my Cid”, possibly written around 1207), an epic poem celebrating the legend of Rodrigo Díaz de Vivar, popularly known as El Cid (Arabic for “the lord”). Why include this here? A few reasons, none of them great, but as good as any:

  • It’s another reference to period writing that SCA bards have been known to perform. There was a day-long immersive performance of the full piece a few years back, and Kenneth MacQuarrie and Adelaide de Beaumont of Ansterra (aka Ken and Lisa Theriot) wrote a wonderful song treatment of the epic, “The Ride of El Cid”, which I happen to love;
  • The epic is full of wars breaking out, along with royals exiling their vassals, so you could argue that this moment of escalating conflict and political risk in the bardic discussion might have brought that to mind;
  • I needed a phrase that made some sense and ended in a suitable rhyme, and I only had 6 syllables left to work with after Ermagerd’s shouted boast. Thus: “And now we’re in El Cid!”


[16] Ermagerd cracked wise about bribes during the live chat:

Ermagerd: Feed us and we might leave, LoL
or if your cooking is good we might not

Once Hilla posted about this on Facebook (within the hour), that thread took on its own life (some 388 comments), and talk of bribes and bardic mercenaries were all over the place. Of course, with no SCA Royalty from the principal kingdoms involved in this discussion, no negotiations around who would side with whom in a battle would have any weight unless they were approved after the fact.

And, suddenly, the Royal Bards of the East, Atlantia, and the Midrealm were either (depending on your perspective) in the right place at the right time, or the wrong place at the wrong time.

(When we needed a substitute for Ermagerd on the video, I offer the line to Éadaoin, Sylvan Bard, who had repeatedly offered Æthelmearc’s allegiance to the first kingdom that performed a praise piece for her kingdom. I ended up fulfilling Éadaoin’s challenge by performing Gwendolyn the Graceful’s “Banners of Scarlet” and posting it to YouTube. I have no idea whether this broke the Æthelbards’ deadlock to vote in favor of joining our alliance, but figured it couldn’t hurt to try.)


[17] Cerian Cantwr (OL, OP) is a legend of the SCA, particularly the Bardic communities of the Midrealm and its offshoot kingdoms. He was one of the staff responsible for the Ethereal Bardic Symposium (and Hilla’s Laurel), and delights in mischief and humorous songs and stories (as evidenced by his hilarious contributions to this video). After Hilla made her wisecrack on the video, Cerian did indeed immediately suggest that if the Atlantian bards had invaded the Midrealm, the Midrealm should hold them for ransom.

Brendan (Midrealm) : Cerian, do you have to back up your apprentices’ boasts?

Taliesin of Donnershafen : We’ll start a GoFundMe to cover the Bard-geld, Hilla

Jeane Kilmeny : We accept whiskey, chocolate, and bacon

Ki-lin : Didn’t you lure them away for the evening?  What did you use for bard-bait?

Cerian Cantwr : That’s why I suggested holding the Atlantean bards for ransom 🙂

Tommaso : Once you pay the Bardgeld, you never get rid of the bard

Cerian Cantwr : Yeah, whatever you do, do not feed them. <g>

Taliesin of Donnershafen : I accept chocolate and salt-and-vinegar chips? Can I get ransomed plz?

Ealawynn Maeru (Ela) : Cerian, you haven’t seen my eating habits (or my drinking ones!) — keeping me for ransom is quite expensive!

Drake Oranwood : (Especially after midnight.)


[18] In any full-scale SCA inter-kingdom war, the build-up is a lot of the excitement. Which kingdoms form alliances has a huge impact on the outcome (much as in history). The idea establishing alliances, and songs of war, quickly took hold as the notion of bards being the actual participants in a war sank in.

Christian Lansinger von Jaueregk : If the Orlando saga were about bards instead of paladins… 🙂

Kateryn Draper : There’s a song in that…

Ursula Mortimer : Kateryn is right

Jeane Kilmeny : Atlantia would be happy to take your mead, Ansteorra. Won’t be the first time…

Lasair inghen ui h’Airt : This whole experience has been lovely, but don’t ask me to choose between the Midrealm and Atlantia!

This discussion of alliances also exploded on Hilla’s Facebook post.


[19] I’m painting Laila as something of a villain, for the sake of SCA “schtick”, and for parallelism against Miranda’s lyric. After reviewing the filk, Laila has told me she thinks it’s perfect. And she absolutely was the first of us to start envisioning this as a full event. Needless to say, she didn’t exactly have to twist any arms:

Laila al-Sanna’ al-Andalusiyya’ : NOW THAT IS A WAR I WOULD GO TO!

Ursula Mortimer : RIGHT?

Laila al-Sanna’ al-Andalusiyya’ : I seriously want a bardic war now.

Taliesin of Donnershafen : Inter-Kingdom Flyttinge in 3,2,1,….

Agnes Marie de Calais : War points of words

Hilla Stormbringer : This SOOOOOO needs to be an event!!!

Laila al-Sanna’ al-Andalusiyya’ : I’m kind of obsessed with this now…

Ruqayya bint Rabi’a al-Aliyya : Period Poetry Slam. I’d be down

Éadaoin (AE uh deen) Ruadh : O.O let’s do it. Next Known World Bardic, we make it a war

Cerian Cantwr : War of the Words – a Bardic Brawl

Agnes Marie de Calais : A battle of EPICS

Hilla Stormbringer : The Flyting Battle, the Limerick Battle, the Story Battle, the Triolet Battle, archery gets replaced by Haiku….

Christian Lansinger von Jaueregk : Sonnet duels in the fencing lists

Brendan (Midrealm) : Thrown Insult, Siege Mentality, Pointed Riposte…

Laila al-Sanna’ al-Andalusiyya’ : ok, when this concert is over, we might need to start planning for the First Annual Bardic War (name TBD)

Hilla Stormbringer : OMG!

Taliesin of Donnershafen : Alliteration= heavy, ballad = light, terza rima= rapier, haiju = archery…

Drake Oranwood : YAAAAAAS QUEEEEN


[20] Laila reminds Hilla that we are doing online concerts precisely because we are nearly a year into the Covid-19 lockdown, with almost no in-person events across the SCA.


[21] The filk now lays out Hilla and Laila’s Bardic War vision for the audience: a full-scale, week long war event with War Points and everything, centered on performers rather than fighters. Something inclusive that might engage the entire SCA, whether or not they were focused on performance as one of their passions. Something that they hope will continue as an in-person event when the pandemic is over.


[22] What to do with the “Click, boom” lyric from Hamilton (which is one of a long series of harbingers of Burr and Hamilton’s fateful duel which is coming at the end of the show), which is reprised as the final line of the song? There isn’t much one can do here with two words. Here we leave the lyric as it is, and try to lend new context. Cerian (who is known for his irrepressible desire to thrown in background laughs given half a chance) came to mind, and I thought of the “BOOM!” in his song “Alchemy”. Needless to say, he was happy to oblige.


[23] Honor tries in vain, once more, to remind us that she wasn’t here for any of this so the war that resulted is really not her fault. The fun Honor has with this piece is simply a joy to watch.


[24] Back to “schtick”. How dare Laila, no longer kingdom bard, propose a war (which wouldn’t have been my place to do either, but at least I was an official representative of our royals)! As we expressed it in the FB thread that started the night of the concert:

  • [DRAKE]: Of course, Laila cannot make that threat, since she is not at the moment a Royal Bard of the East.
    As luck would have it, though…
    I know a guy.
  • [LAILA]: Can I be a General in our Bardic War? Or an Admiral. I’m good with either. 😉
  • [DRAKE]: oh, totes. But we’ll have to see what Grim’s and my successors have to say in April.

To make this fit the meter, I checked with Laila that she would be okay with shortening “Laila al-Sanna al-Andalusiyya” to “Laila Andalusiyya,” and got her agreement.


[25] This, too, was drawn from the original events. Laila didn’t get around to explaining that her comment about an alliance had nothing to do with the chat about holding the Atlantian bards for random until a week after the concert, during the first War Council. We all fell over laughing.


[26] The excitement around the idea of a Bardic War was in large part about bring some fresh connection and a feeling slightly closer to normalcy back to the SCA. Close to a year of Covid lockdown (at that point) had burned many out on the SCA. The sense of planning for something big, of seeing so many of our friends and loved ones again, was something we all yearned for. Would this be the same as what we were missing? Of course not. But it was something, and importantly, something new.


[27] Honor and I were nearing the end of our year-long terms as royal bards when the concert was held (as was Éadaoin). The opportunity, 55 years into the history of the SCA, to be a founding principal in what might become a new tradition was not lost on any of us. But after a year of no in-person events (something none of us had anticipated when we were selected as kingdom champions), the opportunity to leave some kind of mark was very keenly felt. And I felt it even more strongly a few days later when the idea for this filk came to me.

I had made a few abortive attempts at writing a new humorous filk to lighten people’s spirits over the course of the year, but they kept being about the pandemic and the ways it was shutting everything down. They weren’t really funny, they certainly weren’t particularly inspired. Part of being an artist is recognizing when something isn’t worth completing. This filk, however, filled me with joy and excitement that I had not felt in a year. I felt a drive to create, to enroll my friends in something delightful and head-snapping and truly challenging. This would be a lot of work for a one-time piece: it was about Zoom conferences, it had lots of speaking parts that were being played by actual people, it was never going to work as a live performance at an event after all this was over.

My gut told me that it would be worth it, and the result would stand on its own as its own thing and be enjoyed. And more importantly, it might help promote this idea and get people even more excited about it at a time when so many of us were sick to death of videoconferences and live streams. It became my new obsession when I really needed one.


[28] Various names for the war came bubbling up during the first week of planning. As best I remember it, I was the first one to take Laila’s original “First Annual Bardic War” and shorten it to “The First Bardic War”, which ended up winning the FB poll over “The Great Bardic War”, “War of the Words”, and others. I still feel it was a lean and elegant way to express a fairly lofty vision: the start of a new SCA tradition.

At this point in the song, Laila and Hilla start rapping and singing in unison, taking the lead in this new endeavor as event stewards, and asking the bardic community what it will look like and how they plan to participate.


[29] And now, the bards shift from telling the story of how this began, to inviting the entire populace of the Known World to join them online and take part in this war, as an inclusive undertaking for everyone.


[30] Live-streaming on YouTube makes the most sense in places where we expect a large audience, so I wanted to throw in a reminder that the War will not only be on Zoom. For large scale events, it’s become common practice to have the participants on a Zoom call and the audience watching a YouTube live stream.


[31] “In our defense, we were left unsupervised” is a popular meme that SCA bards in particular love to appropriate, and Hilla did so quite frequently in regards to this war. If the words I wrote for her weren’t always her speaking style, I did try to capture Hilla’s unquenchable boldness and fearlessness. She delivers in the video, especially with her devilish grins here at the end. She is no longer bothering to dodge blame for something she is rightly proud of.

(When her royals actually called her out in Court for this Interkingdom Incident before inducting her into the Dragon’s Heart, Hilla just told them, characteristically, that it was their own fault for leaving a group of bards unsupervised.)


[32] What do we say to young children who have escalated a conflict when they should be able to work out their differences? “Use your words.” Bards are, in many people’s eyes (including our own), little better than children, but if wordsmiths can’t be counted on to “use their words”, who can?


[33] Another example of inverting lyrics from the original: “dream of a brand-new start” becomes “restart our Dream” (the yearning throughout the Society to return to in-person events after nearly a year without them, diluting “The Dream”, as we often refer to the idealized recreation of the Middle Ages that the SCA embodies).


[34] Since we were trying to create a week-long war event in the midst of a Society-wide drought that is likely to stretch at least 18 months, I made the case at one point that bardic performance was the SCA activity best suited to Internet streaming.


[35] “Doom” here is presented in the sense of a judgment or destiny. “Speaking the doom” can mean “passing sentence” or “sealing someone’s fate with words uttered”. Surely if anyone has a knack for this, it’s a group of bards. (Plus, hello? Rhyme?)


[36] Again, rather than rewrite the original lyrics, we give them new context with our gesture on the video. Click the Zoom link, and BOOM, you’ll be part of a war! (I considered “Click, Zoom!”, but “Zoom” doesn’t rhyme with “Zoom”, it’s the same word, and that isn’t satisfying.)


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