Bardic 101 and FAQ

What is a bard in the SCA? - Answer #1  8/15/13

Short Answer:  A bard is someone who does bardicy artsy things especially performing around campfires at night, courts, feasts, kitchens, A&S... 
 
Long Answer:  *Laughs*  
There is no concrete answer to this question.  Probably never will be.  It varies too much from person to person and kingdom to kingdom.
And that's okay and as it should be.
 
Ask 5 different bards and you will get 3 short but very different answers, 1 completely off-topic NSTIW story,
and 1 dissertation on the subject complete with documentation about the differences in Bards in the SCA, What bardic job types there were in various period times, and may include footnotes as to what a 'bard' was to the ancient druids.
 
For the most part - (IMO, types Lorelei- Web Admin) the Bardic Arts are one of the many performance arts in the SCA, but is the one that uniquely tends to have a focus on songs that tell stories and storytelling; are observers, keepers, performers, and often creators of the stories and songs of the history and people of the SCA; as well as works inspired by their Group/Household/Shire/Canton/Barony/Principality/Kingdom pride, events in period, and works about period times or in period settings inspired by events in the SCA.
Along with performing - many bards will add original works to the wealth of material that help support and build up 'The Dream' of the SCA.
Bardic is an Art/Craft - but there is a Social aspect, as well as many opportunities for service to the Society through performance and also organizing entertainment at events.
 
The bardic arts are allied with (but different from) those doing European and western music, madrigal, and chorale music ensembles.  At the time of writing this FAQ (8/15/13) some of the blurry lines of distinction - the European music folks tend to use a lot more concrete documentable sheet music and music theory, and less creation of their own material outside of arrangements of older period works.  They also have a much larger population using instruments rather then vocals.  They tend to focus on 'courtly' music (which was the most of the music that was written down in period) and less on the oral tradition music of the people.  While many bards will utilize these tools - it's not the primary focus.
 
My suggestion?  Focus on WHO are the bards in the SCA,
what sort of bardic or performance art you yourself would like to focus on,
and what being a bard means to you.
 
The rest, as they say, "is detail only."

~Lorelei Skye, Site Administrator

What is a bard in the SCA (& "Period" v. "Non-Period" performance works?) - Long Answer #2  2014, post Known World Cooks and Bards

The question of period v. non-period v. SCA culture is right up there with " 'what is a bard?' ". 
It has been debated, and disected many many times on many lists.  For nearly 40+ years.

So far - typically it seems comes down entirely to where you are (location), and where you are hoping to perform(venue), who you are performing for(audience), and who is organizing any gathering(host).

There are places SCA culture peices are fine, there are other places that will take/be open arms to "trads/moderns' from 1620-1920+, and there are places that will want period-only or period-style with or without documentation.
 _=**And. That's. Okay.**=_

 The SCA is not, and likely never will be, a 'one size fits all' organization.

Yes, there is a trend in bardic to try to learn more, and utilize said knowledge, about different period topicality, music & styles.
 - Which many of the storytellers and poets have been doing for decades.  It's nothing for the musically inclined among us to get knee-breeches or skirts into a twist about.
And if you want to stick with a different style - there are, and will continue to be hosts, venues, and audience, for it.

An SCA bard, according to SCA sources and the bards who paved that trail for us for the past 49 years: poets, storytellers, singers that have a focus on a vocal/verbal narrative which is inclusive of BOTH the legands and stories of the periods and cultures we strive to learn about and emulate that are covered by Region/Kingdom preference and Copora - as well as the feats of our home-grown hero's, legands, culture, and whatnot of the SCA.
 There are MANY other types of performance and performing arts - music, instrumental, courtly music, dance and etc... but that focus on the vocal narrative is more or less a big part of what makes bardic unique.
And again, I am summarizing (and potentially over-simplifying) others I talked to at the recent KWCB as well as from bardic materials I've found dated back from the early- to- mid 1970's.

I digress.

If you find yourself in a more restrictive venue or region and are chafing at the cultural restrictions (or actual guidelines spelled out in a competition) -
...This is/can be a learning opportunity to expand your repertoire to have things to hand that fit these types of occasions.

That part is wholly and entirely up to you- as a performer and as a person: how you choose to deal/cope with this situation when it comes up.
(INCLUDING talking to the organizer and finding out more information for what it is they want, as many competitions and displays are thinking about guidelines and places for scrolls and gowns, not performers.)

As an educational non-profit, yes - The SCA does have clear guidelines of what is considered 'period', and covers a wide variety of time and place from the beginnings Middle Ages (if not earlier?, Fall of Rome?) to the end of the reign of Queen Elizabeth I.
And in the 21st century there are better and more quality sources available at the search function of choice from the comfort of your abode 24/7 from what we've ever had prior to this.
For those who lean into the 'geeky scholars' among us- it's a great and happy mind-enticing exciting thing and they dive right in and enjoy the heck out of it ;)
But.  And that said,

NO ONE -No One- is taking away the welcome, or bardic safe space, of those who are just learning, -or who like the niche they are in and/or created for themselves, by restricting everyone to only one style and/or 'one way or the highway'.
 
There is, and can be, the option to widen the circle so 'period-focused' folks are as welcome as SCA Culture and Trads and etc.
 To even choose to have open performance circles as a chosen hosted style of bardic circle.
 I've been to many of these. I've helped create these.
 I know from my own direct experience - they do happen.

And on the other hand- if a host is trying to create a particular atmosphere (example: Enchanted Ground); it is up to the performer to be a good guest.
AKA- You likely would not request 'Fillet of Spam' at a Tudor style feast, or a Playford dance at a Caroso ball, or break out your best Daffy Duck imitation during an immersion experience for 'Beowulf' or 'Canterbury Tales' reading.

If you don't like it (or don't feel your material fits the space created) - ask the host/ess for guidence.
Or offer to create/host a different circle/venue elsewhere and create the opportunity to perform whatever it is you are looking for with those others of like mind and repertoire.
The rest is details only, and up to you - the performer.

 * * *
 If you made it this far, thanks for reading.
 Handing off the soap-box now.   ...And taking a drink in my glass in case I have a cold,
 Passing the bottle to the left.  ;)

~Lorelei Skye, Site Administrator

General Bardic Circle Etiquette for Participants

- Rule #1:  Don't fall in the fire.
- Be mindful & respectful of the venue and the host
- In most circles, each person performs one piece at a time and the turn passes to the next person
- In general, limit your selection to a reasonable time including the intro (often around 3-5 minutes for songs, 5-8 minutes for stories)
- If you make a mistake, it's ok.  Deep breath, continue and finish as best as you can.  No apologies needed, this happens to everyone.
- "Bardic circle math":  in general 10-12 people = 1 hour at 5 min. average per selection.  Be patient, your turn will come back around.
- Keep track of how many times you go up compared to others in a "leap" or "popcorn" circle
- If you see/recognize the author of material you would like to perform, ask this person to be sure they didn't have it 'locked and loaded.'
- Do not upset the makers of the small humans.  Period.  If there are "smalls" in the audience, keep it family friendly
- Unless the circle is clearly stated otherwise by the host or venue, keep it family friendly
- When in doubt - Stick with the theme and mood of the circle
- Tend to mood of the circle, be aware too many long and drawn out solo works in a row can drain the energy out of a circle
- You like your audience; tune your instrument.  Multiple instruments in a circle?  Check and recheck tuning with each other throughout the night.
- No Pass Shaming.  If someone doesn't wish to perform, or isn't ready to perform - don't pick on them or push someone to perform.
- Audience is important.  Some folks may choose to be there to be entertained by the circle
- Use of technology for lyrics and such:  try to keep e-thing and i-thing technology limited and disguised as best as possible.  Any backlighting can also be distracting for others in dark/low light/night settings. 
- When using a flashlight or small LED light at night bardics to read lyrics by - be careful not to blind anyone in your audience, point it down. 
- Be aware some circles prefer memorization only, or only lyrics 'utilizing technology' that would have been found in your persona's period.  Check in with your host and venue.
- Be good audience for your fellow participants.  Listen to others as you would like others to listen to you.
Including but not limited to:
*  Cel phones - Keep them on silent.  Leave the circle to use them for talk or text - in a dark setting the light is distracting.
*  Don't mumble or sing another piece 'sotto voce'
*  Try not to flip your book overmuch while others are performing
If you are prepping your next turn, you are not listening to the current performer.
*  Leave the circle to prep your instrument, including warming up drum heads.  That "sssshhhhhhhssssshhhhssssshhhhh" sound?  Yeah.
*  If you're going to work on a small craft project, have all your materials handy so you're not digging while another person is performing.  If you have to dig, do it on the breaks, leave the circle, do it between songs/stories.
*  Beware of noisy jingly accessories - may add unwanted percussion

Recording Etiquette at Bardic Occasions

For those Recording:
- Ask the hosts before recording in a bardic space
- Try to get as much information about the performer including contact information when possible and include it if/when posting the video
- Be willing to stop recording or to trash a video when asked
- Do not record anyone who asks not to be recorded
- Before you set up your camera, ask if the folks mind being sat next to
- Watch tripod placement so not to create a trip hazard
- Consider setting your camera back and using the zoom so not to disturb the group
- If concerned about sound quality, consider looking into wireless mics (that could be placed in the center of a circle), or other mics with long cords and adapters
- When using a cell phone or other iThing/eThing device for recording (or taking photos!), please silence shutter sounds and other clicks and beeps the device makes when recording
- No Flash Photography!  It is distracting and can be hazardous to performers.
 
For those around/near audio and video recorders:
- If you find yourself sitting down next to someone who is recording, prepare to sing along quietly or move
- DO NOT PERCUSS NEAR A CAMARA  (including, drums, zills, clapping, etc...)

 

Fire Hopping 101 & Etiquette for SCA Camping Events

 (many good discussion points on Fire Walking 'Fire-hopping' found here: 

What does "Mug the Gate" mean?

In 2013 a group of bards enthusiastically following the idea of Analeda Falconsbridge and Drake Oranwood, started a movement encouraging camps at overnight events such as Pennsic to place a decorated mug visibly on their gate or entryway to the camp to indicate that wandering entertainers are welcome.  We have it on very good authority that one camp at Pennsic used a stein large enough to hold half-a-gallon or more. 
The camp master was heard to say as he hung it (with bright pink ribbons), "Do you think people will notice it?"