Friday, December 21, 2007

Powell River Art Studio Tour performance

As in previous years, on Aug 25th we played at Alfred Muma's studio for the Art Tour. Since Alfred's part of our group he has a busy time greeting tour guests and playing with us, but he seems to enjoy it :-)

In the picture from L to R: Master Stephen of Hunmanby, Isabella (Ann), Alfred, Thormot and Ambrosine.

Although cloudy and rather windy, at least it didn't rain on us this time and the refreshments (thanks to Galen and Joya) were exxcellent!

Thursday, August 16, 2007

Playing in the Rain

On Saturday Aug 11th, the Broken Consort played at the Summer Muse garden concert at Boxwood Cottage here in Powell River. We played last year's Summer Muse too, and enjoyed fine weather and an appreciative audience. This year the audience was just as appreciative, but the weather was.... challenging!

The day itself was grey. When we arrived at the garden and brought our instruments, stands, and other stuff up to the "green room", we realised that the grape arbor being used as the green room had no roof. Just grape leaves. We hadn't noticed this last year, under sunshine, but this year as it began to sprinkle it was brought forcibly to our attention that things were getting wet. Violins and cellos, natural skin drums, and wooden recorders don't like this, not to mention sheet music! Instruments had to stay in their cases till the last minute, a few things got tucked under a metal shelf for protection, and we armed ourselves with clothespins against the wind.

The stage itself was covered by a large nylon parachute. This worked well for keeping the rain off, so we settled ourselves in when our turn came, and started playing. The audience, huddled under umbrellas and with jackets pulled over heads, ignored the wet and gave us their attention. Then.... splash!

Because of its shape, the parachute overhead had a series of dips at the edge, between the guyline attachment points. These dips had been collecting water and they now began to overflow at intervals.

Splash! That was Master Stephen's left leg. Splash! That was my bow hand, and some of the music on the floor in front of me. We huddled closer under the parachute, as far away from the edges as we could get.

Splash! That was my fiddle case. Good thing it was closed.

Things got wetter, and then windier. In spite of multiple clothes pins, my music blew away and I had to switch to following off the part of Lady Cassandra, next to me. The drum skin was damp and made a distinctly muffled sound.

We persevered, right up to the last piece. Several splashing cascades and a wind gust brought us to a just slightly premature end as I cut off the last repeat.

Luckily the next performer was a single individual who could sit right under the middle of the parachute! Being already damp, I sat in the rain to listen to the following performances and enjoyed fiddle music from Kathy, a flute-and-string trio (Ann, Faye and Janet), and Ethnic Junction, a womens vocal and percussion group performing world music from many places.

Then I took everything home and laid it out to dry!

PS: no criticism of our hosts, Anthony and Diana, is intended - the garden was as delightful as always and everything well organised. We just don't expect weather like this in the middle of August!

Sunday, July 22, 2007

Making Music in the SCA

I imagine that everyone in the shire of False Isle, visitors from afar, and old friends from Lions Gate, have noticed that I like to play music. In fact, it's hard to get me to shut up :).

I never stop trying to get other people playing, too.

Why is that? Why not do as many SCA groups do, and settle for the Bard-in-a-Box? After all, the BiaB never runs out of things to play, everyone's got one, it never (well, almost never) plays a wrong note or gets off the beat, it doesn't have to stop to eat or sleep, its strings don't break, it doesn't need to empty spit on the floor, the volume is adjustable, and it never gets offended if you talk while it's playing.

A fair number of those advantages actually turn out to be downsides, many involving the setting of unrealistic expectations and assumptions.

* everyone's got one
unrealistic expectation: music should be everywhere, at all times, is background, and can be ignored

* never plays a wrong note or gets out of sync
unrealistic expectation: real people have to play like that too. You shouldn't play music UNLESS you can play perfectly. Intimidating? You bet!

* doesn't have to stop to eat or sleep
unrealistic expectation: real bards can go on for ever too.... (sometimes it just seems that way)

* it doesn't need to empty spit on the floor
I can't think of a downside to this one!

* the volume is adjustable
unrealistic expectation: just turn it up louder if you want. Never mind blasting the people next door out of their chairs, and never consider quieting your own noise and moving closer so you can hear.

* never gets offended if you talk while it's playing
this contributes to noisy, discourteous audiences at times when one really should shut up and listen - bardic contests come to mind.

OK, so let's scrap the BiaB idea. What are the advantages of real people playing real music?

It's fun. If you've ever done it, you know that making your own music is very satisfying. Making it with other people is even better. There's an amazing energy that comes into play when a group of people play together and everything gels. That doesn't mean every note is perfect. It never is, and it doesn't need to be. To work, it just needs to be "good enough" - and that's very achievable.

It brings all types of people together. Not all of us have that social gene that allows us to walk into a group event and blend right in, chatting with everyone. Group music-making is one of those activities which allows you to be as social as you like - or don't like. No need to talk if you're playing. There's enough structure there to keep the introverts happy, and enough exhibitionism for the extroverts to enjoy it too. It's an easy way for new people to get to know others in the shire (or worse, Barony), because they see the same small group frequently, instead of a randomly-changing larger group at irregular intervals. And it's also one of the few activities that young people can join in with, and find themselves outclassing the adults. Where would the Broken Consort be without our multi-talented Ambrosine?

It's period. Lords and ladies would have had musicians available for any major event, and often as part of the household to play frequently. Religious events were built around music. Later in the SCA period, any educated person was expected to at least appreciate music, and preferably to play and/or sing themselves. Elizabethans followed the Queen's lead and made lots of music. Many people have commented on how much live music adds to the atmosphere at our feasts and events.

It's cheap. Singing costs nothing to start. You don't have to buy tools or materials, or find workspace. Even instrumental playing can be started with a cheap plastic recorder from the thrift store. You don't have to have period instruments to make music.

It makes the shire look good. How many other branches even ten times our size have the amount of music happening that we do? Eventually I'd like to take the Broken Consort "on the road" to show off, even if only to May Bardic in Lions Gate, but as Master Stephen has suggested, Kingdom Bardic is not at all out of the question.

For me, though, the main reason is very simple. I play because I love to. The fact that others enjoy it too is icing on the cake.

Saturday, May 5, 2007

What we play

As in... pieces, this time. More about the actual instruments later.

This is our current repertoire...

Ah Poor Bird
Come Follow Me
He that would an alehouse keep
Hey Ho to the Greenwood
Sumer Is Icumen In
Rose Red
Tallis' Canon (Thomas Tallis)
White Hen

Sellengers Round
Baron's bransle
Bransle de Bourgongne IX (Gervaise )
Hole in the Wall
Pavane "Belle qui tiens"
Pease Bransle
Ronde and Hupfauf

Christmas Music
Personent Hodie
The Boar's Head Carol
Verbum Caro Factum Est

Bacco, Bacco
Cantiga de Santa Maria #1
Carmen in Sol
Joyssance vous Donneray (Claudin de Sermisy)
Tant que Vivray
Blow Thy Horn, Hunter
Edi Beo
Heigh Ho Holiday (Holborne)
It was a lover and his lass (Thmas Morley)
Pase el agoa, ma julieta
Pastime with good company
Saltarello #2
The Servant of his Mistress
Mille Regretz
Ther is no rose
"Motets a jouer sur le pipeau"(set of motets edited by Yvonne Rokseth)

A group of pieces from Lord Dorian Longwind's Music Book (Allemande / Queen's Almayne, All in a Garden Green, Cassandra Bransle, Goddesses, Jouyssance, Nonesuch, Tordion)

And occasional other things which come to hand, mainly a little later into the Baroque.

Thursday, May 3, 2007

Why and how we play (music, that is)

The short and easy answer is: for fun. If you've ever played music in a group, like a school band, you know it's more fun than playing on your own. A small group is even more fun, in many ways, than a large one.

We can chat and joke between pieces, up to a point, without getting the evil eye from the bandmaster and without cutting into the playing time too much. (It's part of my leader job to keep the balance between social chat and playing well over towards the playing side, though).

If someone makes a big mess of their part from time to time, it's more funny than anything else, because we've all done it, even our most experienced members.

We bring beginners into the group and get them started on simple parts in our easier pieces, and help them learn to play more difficult parts as we go along. That does require some work on the part of the new player, of course: if they don't practice in between group rehearsals, they'll be starting from scratch again each time, and that doesn't work. We also lend some instruments for new players to try out.

Mostly, we play for ourselves - for the joy of making music, and making music with our friends. It also helps that we get lots of appreciative feedback from our listeners: we don't pretend to be anywhere near professional standard, but we do reach a good enough level that we're enjoyable to listen to (most of the time) and we get invited back.

Tuesday, May 1, 2007

Introducing the Broken Consort

To all gentles in the Known World doth Lord Thormot mac Otter of Rushen, Shire Bard of False Isle, send warm and tuneful greetings.

What, you may ask, is a Broken Consort? and what or where is False Isle? A broken consort is an instrumental group containing more than one kind of instrument - as opposed to a recorder consort or a consort of viols, for example. False Isle is a shire in the Principality of Tir Righ, Kingdom of An Tir, in the SCA (Society for Creative Anachronism). Mundanely, it's Powell River, BC, on the beautiful West Coast of Canada.

I present to you here our members:

Lord Thormot mac Otter of Rushen (leader, violin, occasional recorder, percussion, music librarian and arranger)
Master Stephen of Hunmanby (music historian, soprano, alto and tenor recorders, lute, guitar)
Ann (soprano, alto, tenor and bass recorders)
Ambrosine (cello, soprano, alto, tenor and bass recorders, harp, lute)
Lady Calycrist Cottier (flute, soprano recorder)
Alfred (pipe chanter, trombone, and percussion)
Elaine (soprano recorder)
Cassandra the Red (soprano recorder)
Her Ladyship Saeunn Hrafnsdottir (viola, alto recorder)

With occasional help from:
Lady Calindra de Silva of Aragon (soprano recorder)
Lord Geoffrey Mylar (violin, soprano and alto recorders)

The picture shows (L to R) Stephen (with Elaine completely hidden behind him), Ambrosine, Alfred, Ann and myself, Thormot, performing for the Writers Festival at Dwight Hall in Apr 2007.