Tuesday, 11 March 2014

On the Importance of Bardic Icebreakers

We've just had our local Newcomers' Feast (timed to be a few weeks after the university year begins, to welcome new Collegians to the SCA), and it was quite excellently filled with bardic endeavours of multiple kinds. A thought occurred to me on a critical factor in this, that I would like to explore somewhat today.

One of the factors in getting the bardic things happening at the feast - of which there were multitudes, from instruments and dance, to juggling, to song, to storytelling, to poetry (okay, a silly poem about a Seussical viking's dietary preferences, but a poem none the less) - was the first few people.

Most of the entertainments were of the "performance to the hall" variety, rather than entertaining the few people at their own table, and being the first one to get up, take everyone's attention, and begin with that is something that many people aren't comfortable with. I know I certainly am not - and that's speaking as a field and court herald of some experience. But, once the solo singing (with group participation on the chorus) had been started, I was actually comfortable enough to take the hall's attention for myself.

I can't speak for the others who put themselves in the centre of attention, but I've certainly noticed that it's the same few people who usually start things off - and to them, I'm rather grateful.

As for what I take from this... I've decided that being one of those people is a worthy goal for myself. I love bardic endeavours of all kinds, provided they're done well, and I certainly look forward to expanding my repertoire (I think learning at least two or three period (or period-plausible) stories should be my next step - songs I know in plenty), but those events where nobody starts things... well, if nobody starts it, nobody can continue it.

The trick there is in the ability to read the mood of the room. Is this feast one where people would like someone to perform for them? Do they want a short song or a long story? Additionally... do I have the ability to put them in a good mood about bardic things? I've seen the effects a story told less than expertly (and of much too great a duration) can have on the mood in a hall - the only entertainment on that occasion was sitting across from someone with his back to the speaker, whose facial expressions contained a less-subtle expression of my opinions of the story, and were comedically exaggerated. At that feast, despite the ice being nominally broken, nobody seemed particularly keen to take to the water (perhaps I should stop stretching this metaphor).

So, that leaves me with a goal of having both the confidence and the performance ability to be a bardic icebreaker for feasts... Watch this space, it may be some time.

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