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devil duck

Da Weekend

So... Friday afternoon we took the Things to the sitter, packed the car, and drove to Crossroads at Canterbury, the Chaucer-themed SCA event we've been looking forward to for a year. After that build-up, it couldn't possibly live up to expectations, but overall it was quite a good event, and some parts were incredible.

It was of course burdened by the addition of the Kingdom Rattan Champions' tourney, which predictably brought in a lot of people who had no interest in the theme of the event... but on the other hand, their presence covered the site rental, and left the organizers with less to worry about financially, so I shouldn't complain.

Many of the East Kingdom's 14th-century Mafia were there (I don't know all the LJ handles), as well as a few people who normally do other periods and made a reasonable effort at coming up with 14th-century English outfits. But period-theme events are still not in the mainstream of SCA thinking; an SCA event is where you get together with such-and-such friends and do whatever you like to do with those particular friends, regardless of whether it fits into the event's theme. (I have to sympathize, I guess: I've frequently gone to a Crown Tourney or other major event not because I was actually interested in the tourney or other theme, but because it was an opportunity to play with particular musicians I didn't see often.)

shalmestere and I arrived around 8:30, after a four-hour drive from Østgarðr, stumbled around in the dark to find our reserved cabin (thank G*d we didn't have to find a large, flat tent site and set up a pavilion), and went to bed. A loud CRACK woke us up, then another a few seconds later; we concluded they were acorns falling on the cabin roof. About the time we got used to the sound of the acorns, they were replaced with the sound of rain, which went on for the rest of the night and most of the morning. We were starting to get decidedly grumpy.

We had a joint set (taking turns with Master Toki and his students) scheduled for 12:00-1:00, or maybe it was 1:00-2:00, so after we found the performing space (a tent that ate sound), we sat for a while tuning harps and warming up, to an enthusiastic audience of a dozen small children. Then the actual performance time, loose as it was, approached; heralds cried the camp to announce the performance; the rain tapered off; and the audience dwindled to half a dozen people who were about to perform themselves. We did a set of "seasonal" songs ("Miri it is while sumer ylast", "Sumer is icumen in", "Winter wie ist nu dein kraft", "Ecco la primavera", and "Nu welcom somer", the last of which was Chaucer lyrics set to music by a Midrealm music laurel named Peregyn). About the time shalmestere sang "Nu welcom somer with thy sonne softe", the sun came out, the sky cleared to a gorgeous blue, with little poofy white cumulus clouds, the works, and the world looked a bit more promising.

We listened to a few tales and songs by Toki's students, then took the stage again for a set of pilgrim songs ("Stella splendens", "Cunctissimus con canentes", "Laudemus virginem", and "Splendens ceptigera") and a set of 14th-15th-c. English lyrics that survive without music, but which we had fit to music of the same vintage ("Hogyn came to bower's door" and "The fals fox"). Then we grabbed some lunch, listened to several pieces by the Carolingian Quire, then swapped our strings and tabor for shawms and started wandering the marketplace, playing a piece or two at each spot.

By this time we were tired of standing and carrying around instruments, so we retired to the cabin to practice our feast pieces: three brief shawm pieces to announce the arrival of various courses of the feast, and "Par maintes fois" for two recorders, to fill the role of birdsong in a feast entertainment. We had agreed that shalmestere would do the very flashy top line on a soprano recorder, while I would do the somewhat-slower countertenor line on the alto. But the best-quality and earliest-style recorders we have are an SA pair of Ohanessians we bought a year ago; both have "historical fingering" (slightly different from the standard modern Baroque fingering) and the alto is in G, which always throws off my sight-reading a bit. I try to play the alto when I can, to give myself a challenge and practice, but I kept getting lost in what should be a reasonably easy line.

The marketplace emptied out as people assembled in the hall for court. We didn't know of any reason to sit through an estimated two-hour court, but we carried feast gear and instruments up to the hall and sat outside the packed hall, entertaining the other people who were likewise waiting to get in and set up for feast.

OK, the feast. Probably the most elaborate and historically-coherent feast I've ever attended in twentymumble years in the SCA, and everything tasted good to boot. Pickled artichokes, onions, mushrooms, and baby cukes... beef with mustard sauce... mushrooms and leeks... four brewets of rabbit, pork, chicken, and lamb respectively... venison with frumenty... urchins made of sausages and slivered almonds... quail legs... garlic pie... fennel in sops... salmon in puff pastry... goose with carrots... I managed to try everything, and have seconds of a few things, in between getting up every few minutes to play a shawm flourish or the "Par maintes foys" (all of which went OK, if not perfectly; the hall was noisy, so I don't think anybody could hear the Carolingians when they played or sang, but they could hear our shawms, and probably our recorders because everybody's attention was on the actor playing St. Thomas at the time). In addition to the "Legend of St. Thomas and the Birds", there was an edible sotelty of a chest of gold, accompanied by a brief dumbshow presentation of the Summoner's Tale (is it? the one with the three robbers who all kill one another over a chest of gold), and a dramatic presentation of the Miller's Tale, accompanied by a less-edible but elaborate sotelty, and the parading of St. Thomas's incorruptible remains around the hall until St. Thomas arose from his bed, blessed all those present, and walked off.

Where do you go from there? Mostly to bed ourselves. The next morning we and many others were wandering around the site with a slightly hung-over look from having eaten so much the night before. Anything else would be anticlimactic at that point, so we packed the car and headed home.

The site is way off the beaten track, requiring about a dozen turns on little country roads to get there from the interstate, and I was somewhat worried about reading the directions backwards to get home.
Kudos to Quintavia for the clever direction signs: they're painted onto hinged pairs of boards, with "SCA" and an arrow on each front side, and "Exit" and an arrow on each back side, so if the boards are set up properly at a 90-degree angle, they actually direct you both in and out. As a result, getting out to the interstate wasn't nearly as difficult as I expected.


We thought that was you, but we weren't sure, and we were off to another gig.
Damn! That WAS you! (More than once I said to hudebnik [approx.] "Yanno, that blond guy in white and blue *looks* like metahacker--but doesn't he have whiskers?" I also tried making eye contact, and you didn't seem to respond--it was confusing....)
The playlist and feast sound divine!