In a message to the Middle Bridge, he wrote:
"Good gentles who read these letters, to you come greetings and felicitations, from Christian d'Hiver, your servant.
Their Majesties Tarrach and Fina have, in their generousity, extended an invitation for musicians to play Processional and Recessional pieces at Their Courts. This past week, we had nine musicians, from four different local groups, play together to welcome Their Majesties into Court. That was a very nice feeling: knowing that our music was not only entertaining, but also contributing to the period ambiance of Court.
As I have been allowed the privilege of providing Court music a couple of times now, both as a guest of the mighty Jaravellir Music Guild, and under my own organization, I offer encouragement to those who would like to join in, and advice as to what seems to work well.
1) The court herald and the Royal Chamberlain are your friends. Don't make plans without checking with at least one of them, and preferably both, and preferably well before court. Maybe Their Majesties want a particularly solemn ceremony, without music. Maybe They want to be announced in by a herald calling "Make Way!" (as Mikel the Ram does so well in Calontir). Maybe They've already asked someone else. Maybe you're setting up in the wrong place. Ask, and avoid confusion.
1a) Note that I didn't say "Check in with Their Majesties." It's probably not a good idea to ask Them when They're busy, which is during most of the day at the event. It has been the practice of many Crowns before now, to hear about something like music at court and say either,"That would be nice," or "Let's not," without thinking the schedule through.
2) You don't need nine musicians. (I'm not sure that a single recorder would work well, but a single voice singing might. So might a single trumpet. Certainly, a melody instrument and drum might work, as might two melody instruments.) Three would be my target minimum.
3) Under my organization, we've played on too long. Learn from my mistakes. Once the Royals are in place and ready to speak, wind up. It's okay to wind up in the middle of a passage. (I suppose it's possible for Their Majesties to indicate that they like the music and want you to keep playing, but mostly They're there to conduct business. You're providing ambiance and atmosphere, not a concert.)
4) We've started too late sometimes. If you wait for the herald to finish introducing all the Royal Assembled, you might only have four bars to play before they're all set up. Start in after "All rise for Their Majesties, Tarrach and Fina."
5) We've been too loud sometimes. Heralds are trained to project their voices, but not over a band or choir. As long as the herald is talking, keep the volume down. When he or she is finished, then you can raise the volume.
Some instruments have dynamic control. Recorders do not, so you have to come up with other ways to play quietly. We experimented this weekend by starting with only four players (Sop, Sop, Alto, Bass) while the herald was announcing people, and then coming in with full forces (Sop-Sop-Glock, Sop, Alt-Alt, Tenor, Bass, Perc) after he was done.
6) Good music to play is stately and dignified-sounding. We've done dance music (a courante, Etienne de Terte's Pavan de la Guerre) and other pieces (Holborne's Honey-suckle, a Sinfonia by Banchieri, the Agincourt Carol). I'd avoid music from well-known dances ("Belle qui tiens ma vie" comes to mind as too familiar), really spooky-sounding minor pieces (unless appropriate for the court), and pieces in a fast three.
7) Queen Alys was a tricky woman. At one point in court during the Jaravellir's 30th Anniversary Event, a gentle was being summoned into court from the kitchen, and Her Majesty turned to the musicians who played Her in and said, "Musicians, play something." We all just kind of looked stupid for a couple of seconds, and by the time we'd gotten a piece selected, found the music, and gotten our instruments, the gentle was coming up the aisle.
But it was a great idea. So, we try to keep a piece ready to play during slow times at Court. Frivolous little dance tunes. Short little sacred motets. Villancicos. Anything, really, that sounds entertaining, diverting, and in keeping with the spirit of court, that takes 15-45 seconds. Again, don't be shy about cutting it short if it's time for court to get started again.
We've found it useful to have the msic on the stand, and our instruments near to hand. We've also found it a neat trick to have one musician play, like, the first repeat of a four-bar phrase in a dance tune, and then have everybody else come in on the repeat. That way, the soloist sets tempo and brings everybody else in, and other people have an extra two seconds to get their instruments ready.
If this works, it really adds to the atmosphere of court. Quen Alys was a tricky woman.
8) You're there to provide ambiance, not a concert. It's all part of court. If the populace thanks you, that's nice, and you should respond with courtesy. But, y'know, the herald was performing a lot longer than you, pronouncing those friggin' Gaelic and Russian and German names, and reading from gorgeous but hard-to-decipher calligraphy, and nobody's applauding for _her._ Keep that in mind.
A good way to _avoid_ applause is to play for at least a minute after the Royalty has left. People will have started talking, and they won't stop their conversations to applaud.
If fate and Their Majesties give me the opportunity to provide Court music in the next several months, and you would like to join me, please consider this an invitation to contact me through e-mail or during an event.
If you would like to see the music ahead of time, let me know.
If you're at an event and Their Majesties hold court, and you're the most willing musician to form a band or choir to play Them in and out of court, please talk to the herald and Their chamberlain, and set something up!"
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