HL Gerald writes:
For those of you who weren't able to make Eisteddfod, let me be the first to tell you that you missed one of the finest competitions I've had the privilege of being a part of. What follows is one poor minstrel's attempt to report on Kingdom Eisteddfod, January 6th, AS XLI.
The weather was cold and blustery through the day. The tent became so crowded with bards and audience that a wall had to be taken down so that others outside the tent could watch the performances. While the weather grew colder toward the later part of the afternoon, enough spare cloaks and heat sources were available that few were uncomfortable (except in the Round of Dread), in which there were 15 varying levels of discomfort). Lady Melody McGregor ran a hospitality pavilion behind the performance pavilion, with welcomed warm drinks and small noshes for hungry bards. The placement of the entertainment pavilion along the walkway gave a good exposure for the competition as it was along a main entry path, rather than being stuck away in a corner of the building, or having to contend with a noisy hall (and they're all noisy, and it IS distracting). Should Eisteddfod return to wandering about the Kingdom, I would recommend that we continue to find ways to hold the competition outside, near a major access path.
Eleanor, it was easy to see, from the start, how much of your heart is taken with being a part of the bardic community. Your words of encouragement before the competition began were heartfelt and welcomed. By the time the competition had started there were fifteen entrants, with Maggie starting off with a wonderful poem that she recited in English, then Chinese, which left the audience floored. I had to follow that!
The first round, performer's choice, was a display of some fantastic pieces of performance that ran the gamut; from a silly poem (Casey at the Crown) performed by your humble servant, to beautiful songs in French (Katrina of Coventry) and stories and poetry. Everyone stepped up to the line and towed it quite handsomely, including those who have never entered an Eisteddfod before, or those who hadn't performed in some time. There was no need to silence the audience, and many stopped on their way to and fro from the hall, to watch as yet another performer took the center and cast their spell.
The second round (henceforth known as the Round of Dread, or RoD), was as much entertainment from the reaction of the contestants as they drew their word/phrase/doom from a small box, with five minutes to come up with a performance to match the w/p/d. Once again, performances ranged from the merely entertaining (mine) to inspirational, heartwarming, and joyful. This round pressed every performer outside of their comfort zone, sometimes by a good bit. Duchess Willow sang! A drinking song! That I want to learn! If you get the opportunity, ask HL Rhiannon to tell you her great (to the nth) grandmother's tale of the origin of Arthur's Round Table. The RoD was filled with good camaraderie and much playful teasing by all the contestants. I believe that Svan even shed a tear (or that might have been because his Ansteorran Shot Glass (tm) was empty). The judges could be heard gleefully chortling as each new vict.... er, contestant picked their entry from the Box of Doom.
Judging the competition were HL Eleanor O'Rourke, HE Ulf Gunnarson, and HL Tigamus Bearbait. These three were set an awful task, to winnow from the fine performances and pick the best of the lot for the final round. Not a soul in the tent envied them their position as time came to choose the two or three contestants. They returned, ready to announce the finalists, but first largesse was given to those that had inspired through the day, or those that lend inspiration through the course of time and their actions.
The three finalists were announced; Finnaican, Rhiannon, and Darius. Their order of performance was Finnaican, Darius, then Rhiannon. Finnaican offered up a new anthem, with accompaniment by fine warriors of Ansteorra, who performed the chant for the background for his anthem. Darius offered a fine poem, bringing some to tears. Rhiannon's offering was a beautiful song that she sang from the heart. All fine performances, and once again, the judges had to make a hard decision.
I would be remiss in my reporting if I didn't mention the fun that was had. The atmosphere was relaxed and playful, with bards having fun. If you weren't able to see the judges table you would have thought it merely a gathering of bards to perform (an idea I'll talk about in another post). In my mind I believe that this was the finest, most fun Eisteddfod that I have participated in. The day was filled with song and story, sung and told by performers who love their craft and were happy to share. Time was taken to rest halfway between the first two rounds as well as between each round, and that was filled with music and dancing and song (Sea Chantys!!!!!) There were many smiling faces, laughter, and a general happiness with the world despite wind or weather.
Oh! The winner? I had to leave before the winner was announced, but a reliable source reports that our new Kingdom Bard of Ansteorra is none other than Finnaican. In her words before closing the competition, HL Eleanor told the gathered crowd that the level of performance was such that had their been a way to parcel the Cloak of State into fifteen pieces she would not have had a second thought of handing each contestant a piece. I can heartily agree.
My hope? That this will be our future. That Eisteddfod will only grow, (maybe have two big tents), and that more of Ansteorra's finest performers will be inspired to join in the competition and fun.
Thus ends my report, poor excuse that it be. Others with finer wit and loftier words may provide greater detail.
In service to the dream with a song in my heart,
THL Gerald of Leesville, a bard of Stargate