Wednesday, April 23, 2008

My Band gets into King Richard's Faire!

My band, Diabolis In Musica, just got accepted into King Richard's Faire, the largest ren faire in New England, which has been going on for 26 years. This is a really big thing for us, because the whole experience sort of validates what we set out to accomplish, musically.

The audition was quite an experience. We were all nervous, and trying to make sure that everything was just right. The acts that were on before us all seemed like acts we've seen before. a duo or trio of people, with a guitar and occaisional penny-whistle, singing 19th century Irish drinking songs (LIke the Wild Rover), and a few sea shanties and pirate songs (like Drunken Sailor). The judges actually interrupted people's performances to tell them to play something else, because they were sick of hearing people select the same music for 26 years! That sort of worried us, since our music is loud -- we were thinking we either wouldn't hear them when they wanted us to stop, or they would just tell us that we were too loud. The room for auditions was not large, either -- just a large office, as opposed to a stage. We didn't find out why people were interrupted until after the whole experience was over, so seeing it without knowing why was sort of scary.

We apparently were the only people who came in costume. That was a plus. They thought it showed dedication. We also went right into character as soon as we were in costume, and agreed to enter the room like we were at the faire, so that the judges would get a feel for our show as we perform it.

We started out with Tourdion, a 14th century French Drinking Song, where the Violinist drinks a bottle of wine and gets progressively tipsy as the song goes on. As soon as we started playing, the smiles came to their faces. They did not interrupt us. So we went right into our second number, which was a bagpipe & shawm number, our famous "Nonesuch" medley. Their jaws dropped, and they looked astounded. When we were done, they actually applauded, and started asking how long we'd been playing. Then one judge asked "Where have you all been for the last 26 years?"

They said we were probably the first real medieval music act they'd seen, and they asked for an encore, so we hit them with our comical version of Cantiga 100, which is like a battle between me and the violinist, Where the Violinist and I keep pushing each other out of the way, to play the song. I "win" by breaking out the bagpipes and startle her from behind. They loved it. We were in. This means a huge commitment, since the fair lasts 2 months on weekends, and we don't even know if we'll all be able to do all 8 wekends. We agreed to do at least 4 weekends, because that's realistic.

It's a huge break because they pay well, and we will be seen by a lot more people. We're all just so excited and I kind of have the feeling, from their comments, that we are trully pioneering. Ren Faires in the USA rarely have this kind of music, and there is this list of about 12 songs that minstrels play all over the country ad nauseum. The Scottsman Song, Wild Rover, Drunken Sailor, Greensleeves, greensleeves, and more greensleeves, done on guitars gets really tired after a while. There's plenty of bagpipers around -- but most are strictly Highland who don't do the ren faire thing, and shawm and other period instruments are prohibitively expensive for a lot of people.

So we're probably the first in New England to give real authentic European-style medieval/renaissance/folk performances. Most people have never heard the music we play, except maybe on a BBC historical drama on PBS, or as background music in one of the Elizabeth movies. To Americans, we're fresh and new. To Europeans, we're just imitating their groups. That's our niche, and we're hoping to encourage more people to get into this kind of music.

Hopefully, we'll have a whole CD of music to sell people when Faire Season comes around. After that, I just hope the band stays together and we can focus on putting together a show that has staying power. I know from past Ren Faires that stagnation is a problem -- If you do the same act each year, without much variation, then your act will be forgettable. We'll need to come up with new music each year, new comic schtick, and be fresh year after year.