Bardic 101 and FAQ

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 caretakers 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.     
*  (For smokers)  If you are going to smoke or 'vape' (e-cigarettes) - ask if there is a designated smoking area.  Step behind the last row of the circle area and keep downwind.  
If in a pick-plass-play circle and your turn is soon, ask the host to hold your turn until you return.
*  Beware of noisy jingly accessories - may add unwanted percussion

Recording Etiquette at Bardic Occasions

For those Recording:
- Ask the hosts before recording in a performance venue
- If folks are already sitting when you set up, check if they are okay being next to a camera
- Watch tripod and cord placement so not to create a trip hazard
- 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 delete/remove video when asked
- Do not record anyone who asks not to be recorded
- 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 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?"

Here is a brief article from the East Kingdom on Mugging Your Gate.

If that is not enough try a song written about this new tradition written by Drake Oranwood.

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 legends 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, legends, 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. 
~Lorelei Skye, Site Administrator

What is a Bard, and the Bardic Arts, in the SCA? - Revisited 5 years later - A Simplified Answer, #3 5/2018

All Social Media in-joking, (and other arguments aside)- about ‘what is a bard?’, 'What are the bardic arts'?
The earliest reference to this style of performance and works as "Bardic Arts" within the SCA dates back just over 40 years ago (between A.S.10 and 12); and has had a stable definition of what an SCA bard does for at least 30-35 years.

This answer is based from interviews; and, so far, is the longest-standing answer from many Senior Bards, and how they define the SCA Bardic Arts:

"SCA Bards are those choosing a performance style of studied and created works with a strong focus on the narrative; most typically in song, story, or poetic forms.
This includes encouraging original creations, as well as recreation, of materials and styles from period, based on period, things that could have happened in period. And is open to sharing stories from the people, culture, events, and traditions of the 'Modern Middle Ages'.
With the methods of creation and delivery that were similar to Bards in period (which were called by many names depending on country and time period.) - to educate, spread news, and/or to be entertaining - among several other tasks and purposes."

(The wording is paraphrased; although I think I’ve remembered it pretty close. (Drop me an email if not?) This is, in part, based from those Bards who defined the 'Bardic Arts' Art-form; in a forum discussion, during the first "Known World Bardic Congress and Cooks Collegium" (AKA - 'Known World Cooks and Bards') held pre-2000. Some of the phrasing may predate that event by several years, and influenced by those at the forum who started Northshield’s Bardic Madness - now into it’s 28th year.)

(**Edited in; there is also the definition in use on the home page of this site, here:
It is also worth noting here - that as with many arts in the SCA, there are several types of Bardic, and Bards, found within the Bardic Arts.
Generally all work together and support each other- and bards decide for themselves how involved they choose to be in any aspect.
Including (but not limited to!):

1) Social Bardic
There is a very healthy, thriving, *SOCIAL* aspect and venues for the bardic artform, and community - which are well maintained and typically freely open to anyone who wishes to join in.
For those attending - could range from new or exploring bardic, to the casually interested, those who may not perform much/if at all, and those who may simply enjoy sitting and listening to hours of live entertainment and hearing the stories.
As well as those who host and create the wide variety of venues for as many types of bardic circles and revels as there are types of SCAdians.

2) Also under 'Social' Bardic - Bardic Circle/Bardic Revels, Bardic Events; with venue and spaces based on what the hosts create it to be.
These venues can range depending on the host; from a more formal setting such as "Enchanted Ground" at Pennsic where the host is working to create a setting where it is your persona performing what/as would be appropriate to that period/culture; to the "Runestone Bardic Circle" (also at Pennsic)- open to all, and is especially 'Newcomer Portal' friendly.
And very memorable "immersion events" such as the group who hosted a reading of 'Beowulf' - creating an atmosphere setting that was as close to a Period Hall as they could.
Performance spaces like 'The Green Dragon Inn' at Gulf Wars.

In Northshield and Middle Kingdoms there is an event called "Bardic Madness" - full of different challenges (not competitions!) where any one can sign up to try out the different sorts of activities throughout the day. The goal of the event is to create a 'Bardic Safe Space' - where folks who are new to the art can feel comfortable trying things out; and returning/experienced bards continue to challenge and stretch themselves. Calontir has a similar event called Bardic Bedlam. Ansteorra recently had their first 'Bardic Madness' style event in 2017.Many enjoy the period/persona setting of 'Enchanted Ground'. Others, (on the other end of the spectrum) gravitate towards "Adult/Bawdy Bardics" (can be found at camping events). And there are many in-between - of all the sorts/styles of "Come and Be Welcome Wherever You Hale From" - bardic circles and revels.

These often encourage most songs/stories (within, what I call the Bardic '10 foot rule' - a ''reasonable attempt''). Yet if the only song someone new to the circle may know comes from their Ren Faire Favorites, Stan Rogers, Irish Rovers, Clancy Brothers, Broadway...? Most hosts, and those present, will encourage, "Great! Go for it!"
Those present will sing along to the level the new person is comfy with. And if that person feels welcome to stay - after 2-4 hours listening/participating; most find they have made a list of at least 10 new songs they'll want to learn, with several others they'll have learned the chorus, or get 'earworms' from.
....And after 6 months if they keep hanging around, they'll likely be on their way to their own 1-2" bardic binder of lyrics they've collected.
With the rare few - starting to jot down song, story. and poem ideas. Among those - some being asking, and applying: 'what/how did they do this in period times?'

3) The scholastic and creative side of Bardic.
Here is where you find the word smiths, singer-songwriters, the storytellers, the poets.
Who often work very darned hard in this creative aspect, as well learning the history they're bringing alive in their works.  Some bringing in persona aspects, period instruments and music theory, oration styles, and more.  Taking care to try and choose words, to the best effect, for what they create.
*Note: This is not something that comes naturally to most people. Everyone starts somewhere. And can take much patience with oneself, and practice, to learn how to do this.  The hardest part, sometimes, is starting.

These folks are adding new and original works, arrangements, or capturing a particular style of oration.  To the growing repertoire in what has grown into the SCA genre.  There are many original songs and works out there, these writers have shared/encouraged others to learn and perform in SCA setttings.

What these creative bards are doing, adding new stories, and memories, to the repertoire - is important.

Ask a Calontiri if they know what happened at Pheadra's gate; - next if they were there.
It's a bit like asking how many know stories about Pennsic War 4; vs how many were actually there first hand.

And there are bards bringing the story-songs, stories, poems, poetic forms - using period writing/composition into the shared repertoire.
Some will also choose to retell stories and events that happened in period, or build narratives that could have happened in period.
These are the folks most likely to have some cross-over into period performance, and/or might be working with different A&S criteria on what they do.

Some of these bards also may cross the bridges that go between different performing art styles, and participate with those musicians whose focus is on period vocal and instrumental arrangements and recreation. (Or in any of the other variety of performing arts, including Theater and Commedia!)

4) Performance and Entertainers, Those who Record
These are folks (often with years of experience) who present full concerts on various stages. And those who go to the effort to create CD's and other types of recordings of their works. And/Or help produce and distribute these recordings of/for others.
Many who perform on the various stages do also enjoy being in the audience; in a balance with how much they enjoy when it it is there turn to perform.
And I'll include those who are working to archive other's performances in this section; such as 'ShavaSue' and 'Cerian Cantwr' YouTube channels.

There are many other 'stages' around the SCA, some will encourage full concerts - others sharing the stage with different performers. Including pre-Court entertainment, Feast Hall Entertainment, even going in to the kitchens and entertaining those working at preparing feast. The difference when performing in these types of spaces - is, unlike a bardic circle, the audience is made up of non-performance folks with a wider variety of tastes and styles of what they find entertaining. Events may have an atmosphere they are working to create, that any entertainers should work within those boundaries. "Reading the Room", having a solid idea how one can best match the host and audience wants/expectations.

5) Teachers and Organizers
Those who choose to volunteer to teach various the many various aspects of the Bardic Arts to others.
And those who work constructively with various event's staff; organize different types of concerts; MC feast entertainment; create and maintain different types of bardic events; and many more ... - in general, those who work to provide the many different venues for the Bardic Arts to be able to happen.  (With the more 'social venues' covered some under #2 in this list)

The rest, as they say, "is detail only."

~Lorelei Skye, Site Administrator