The Method to the Madness

How Bardic Madness came to be and why.

It all started when I decided to go to an A&S fair, in Back then (1990), Northshield was part of the Middle Kingdom, so the fair was set up in the Middle Kingdom old A&S style. I thought that with my newfound interest in poetry and bardcraft, I ought to do something. So I figured I would write up a sonnet. But when I went to look at the documentation rules, it was a mail in category, so I couldn’t actually enter it as the date had already passed. I had just met Irene Tacita and invited her to come along to the event with me, so even though I wasn’t sure about what to do with the poem, I went to the event anyway {it was effectively our first date, and her second event}. During the day I spent some time talking with Mistress Sonja of Prague, then Kingdom Minister of Sciences. She listened to my angst-riddled concerns. I think I managed to not whine too much. At the end of the conversation, I said, “So … I suppose if I want things to be different, I ought to come up with an alternative that I like better and see what people think about it… Thank you for listening to me … I think I have an idea about what I want to do”

On the way home from the event, Irene got to be my sounding board for what such an event might look like.

The plan:

A place where everyone could be heard. Where anyone who wanted to stand up and perform would have a chance to share their work with others. The performances were deliberately single-tracked. Some classes in between the performance times would also be scheduled.

The theory was:

  • An event to encourage composition and performance
  • One track of performances so everyone would hear everyone.
  • A range of topics/activities so people could find things to do that were interesting to them
  • For the range of types of performances that bardic included.
  • Challenges should not generally be answeable in only one format
  • Not primarily contests, because judging would slow things down.
  • The criteria was challenge yourself.
  • Classes were a secondary thing to the performances, because we wanted to maximize performance time.
  • And a post revel to sing until we were sung out.

Patronage as a shared idea came later. The first three years I did the emcee until feast and asked someone to serve as feast herald to announce the performers for the. Challenges. I tasked them with listening carefully to the performers during the day and adjusting the performance order to prevent inexperienced performer from having to immediately follow star, and to talk to the performers about their pieces to vary the tempo. When for Bardic IV i got asked by two people to be the herald and when Rosa note and Johannesburg wanted to offer a contest challenge for the Northshield Motet, that gave rise to the idea of asking people to sponsor challenges. Throwing it open to people to volunteer was Wilhelm Dichtermann’s idea.

Initially class periods were in the morning and performances were in the afternoon. At Bardic IV we discovered that had limitations. We did 16 challenges. The brotherhood of the Iron Chair was a thing. Wilhelm Dichtermann entered every challenge.

Of note at Bardic IV, the creation of a meta-challenge: Gregor Villjemson told a unified story through all of the challenges he entered.

Background

There were already several events in Northshield that happened either annually or ocassionally which moved from one location to another…

A&S moved from one location to another year after year. The Dance Seminar had also been going on — it moved about from place to place, this brought people together and encouraged something of a community of fellow-dancers, and brought the expertise to different places each year. This seemed like a good idea, so we ran with that.

There was also Royal University of the Midrealm which moved around.

The idea of doing a bardic event like this was somewhat crazy. I heard that more than once — so I embraced it as Madness.

My background at the time: I’d been in the SCA for 5 years. I had just started to get recognition as a performer.

I had recently moved from Jararvellir to Nordskogen. While in Jararvellir I had made friends with folk in Windhaven while serving as Northwatch chronicler. So knowing that I wanted the event to end with a good post revel. I approached windhaven about hosting the event and having posterevel at Halati’s house {the house where postrevels often were for Windhaven events. Halati is a superb and amiable host who is fascinated with and excited to talk about many different things}.

I had never autocratted an event before. I had only done one office, specialty newsletter editor, and I only really started doing the bardic thing about a two years before this.

I got my Willow (Midrealm AoA arts award) in bardic at nordskogen warlord, July 1990. So at the time I started the project, I had not yet received my Willow.

The first Bard of Nordskogen contest was January 1991. Cristoforo won.

1991 was the year of my travel boast about which is another story and the year I was apprenticed, shortly after Bardic I.

1991 was pre Internet. We used seneschals flyers to advertise events.

Some notes for those interested in possibly organizing an event based on this model:

Know the community you want to serve. What made the first event work was that I spent much of the year before the event on the road traveling to the groups in Northshield to meet people and find our who the performers were. And I invited them to come and they did.

I also tried to scale and set the challenges to be achievable and interesting to the people that I thought might come to the event, making some of them a bit of a stretch for the more accomplished performers and composers while some of them were simpler for those starting out. Different places that have adopted or adapted the model have tweaked the balance of easy and harder challenges to fit the community in that area. Northshield Bardic varies somewhat based on where in the kingdom it takes place.

Moving the event yearly seems to be important for preventing a group from developing a proprietary interest in the event.

We created the position of provost of the event who is responsible for representing the interests of the community and organising the event year over year. This position is not generally an officer or guild head, just the person who does the job. This autonomy from the system forces the provost to stay closely aligned with the community of performers since their only power is persuasion.

The provosts of the various bardic Madness events try to collaborate and attend each other’s events this is the closest we have to a formal governance structure.

Patrons are sought to encourage excellence in the various performance areas. Ideally the patrons sekected for the various challenges should follow up with the entrants in their challenges and try to engage with them beyond the event itself to help encourage their further growth.

The reason for calling them challenges was to avoid the timing issue and effort cost of formal judging.

The event continues to be an active and vital part of the kingdom 27 years later, and has spread and taken root in at least two other kingdoms, with an initial event having taken place in a third. The event embodies a method but not an exact template. If you are interested in trying to spread the Madness further let me and/or the provosts of the existing Madness events know and we will work with you.

“…We are only mad north-northwest, when the wind is southerly we know a hawk from a handsaw”

Play is the thing.

Impossible is largely an unprovable assertion.

—-

Some history notes principally of interest to Norþshieldingar:

Bardic College: History

“[The charter was] crafted by Lord Raven, C.M. Joserlin, and signed and sealed April 30th, 1994 by Jafar and Catherine, King and Queen of the Midrealm.

“The College held its organizational meeting at Mermaid’s Retreat on May 21st of that year and Ld. Raven was appointed the first Speaker.

“The College holds its annual business meeting at Bardic Madness each year, to choose the new Council members and Speaker.

“Our intention was to create an organization with a minimalistic structure, so that people could not get caught up in the “inner workings” of the college: The only purposes of the college are to encourage bardic performance and bardic activities by and among all people in Northshield, whether they be “professed performers” or not, and to support composers and performers in their work, whether or not they consider themselves “part of the college” or not.” –from the original webpage hosting the charter, http://poet.minstrel.com/ncb/ncbcharter.html, last updated March 17, 1998

Council members are elected at the Bardic College’s one yearly meeting, held at Bardic Madness in early Spring. Two council members are elected every year, and terms are two years long; at every meeting, one of the outgoing council members is chosen after elections by the four current members to the be the Speaker.

Here is a timeline of the College, starting with the first Bardic Madness (which preceded the College):

Bardic Madness I, Shire of Windhaven (Fox Valley, WI), 1991

    :

      • (Wilhelm Dichtermann’s first event.)

      Bardic Madness II, Shire of Shattered Oak (Eau Claire, WI), 1992Bardic Madness III, Shire of Silfren Mere (Rochester, MN), 1993

      • Finn Rex attended this and requested a tourney be held. This was the first event in Northshield not in a Barony which drew royalty since the days of Corin and Myfanwy.
      • Finn was presented with the Northshield “straw poll” results which were tabulated at the Seneschals’ council meeting that morning.

      Bardic Madness IV, Shire of Turm an dem See (Sheboygan, WI), 1994

      • This event was held at a stay-over site which we had from Friday night through Sunday.
      • It was after this one that Raven started talking about founding a college, which was chartered in April of that year and held its first elections at Mermaids that May.
      • Wilhelm entered every single challenge.

      Inaugural council members, May 1994

      • Brendan O’Corraidhe
      • Nawson ben Mas’ud
      • Wyndreth Berginsdottir
      • Owen Alun
      • Speaker: C.M. Joserlin, called Raven

      Bardic Madness V, Colleges of Nordleigh (Northfield, MN), 1995

      • Event information and list of challenges
      • This was the year that the basic format of challenges and classes intersecting started.
      • This was the year that Thorbjorn the Graysides performed the “Ta dum” sonnet to end the evening.
      • Elected: John Chandler Greyfeather
      • Aelfreda, called Goonie (?)
      • Speaker: Owen

      Bardic Madness VI, Shire of Western Keep (Brookings, SD), 1996

      • Morgana bro Morganwg met Wyndreth Berginsdottir at this event.
      • Dafydd, Gwyneth, and Ian attended. Ian gave out tokens.
      • The first singing of “Shield my Kinsmen”.
      • Elected: Herr Wilhelm Dichtermann
      • Rosamund of Trenchfield
      • Speaker: Wyndreth

      Bardic Madness VII, Barony of Jararvellir (Madison, WI), 1997

      • Conn and Kassandra (Prince and Princess of the Northshield) attend.
      • Cybele of Rowangrove receives her Award of Arms.
      • Elected: Lord Owen Alun
      • Lady Cybele of Rowangrove
      • Speaker: Chandler

      Bardic Madness VIII, Shire of Inner Sea (Duluth, MN), 1998

      Bardic Madness South I, called Jongleurs and Japes, at Grey Gargoyles/Tree-Girt-Sea (Chicago, IL), December 1998

      Bardic Madness IX, Shire of Rudivale (Grand Forks, ND), 1999

      • Tarrach and Fiona attend.
      • Elected: Lady Kudrun the Pilegrim
      • Berwyn (?)
      • Speaker: Cybele

      Bardic Madness X, Barony of Windhaven (Fox Valley, WI), 2000

      • Event information and list of challenges
      • Owen hands off North Provost position to Wilhelm.
      • Kudrun and Cybele enter almost every challenge.
      • Elected: Lady Ysolt Pais de Coeur
      • Lady Eliane Halévy
      • Speaker: Dahrien

      Bardic Madness South II, St. Carol on the Moor (Charleston, IL), Dec. 2000

      Bardic Madness XI, Shire of Mare Amethystinum (Thunder Bay, ONT), 2001

      • Saeric and Kenneth attend.
      • Elected: Bantiarna Deirdre inghen ui Bardàin
      • Lady Charissa de la Sirra
      • Speaker: Kudrun

      Bardic Madness South III, Shire of Greyhope (Valparaiso, IN), November 2001

      • Bardic performance given by almost the whole population of Greyhope. For many of the individuals, this was their first bardic performance ever.
      • Attended by several carloads from Calontir, Ealdormere, and Northshield.
      • First challenge entry involving participants from three different kingdoms.
      • Speculation begins on the possibility of “spreading the madness further”, i.e. additional Bardic Madnesses in other Kingdoms.

      Bardic Madness XII, Shire of Rockhaven (St. Cloud, MN), March 16, 2002

      • Wilhelm announces he is moving to Calontir and steps down as Provost. He names Eliane Halevy as new Provost starting with Bardic Madness XIII.
      • Elected: The Honorable Lord Aleksandr Vasilevych Lev of Volynia
      • Lord Cerian Cantwr
      • Speaker: Ysolt

      Bardic Madness South IV, Shire of Vonspring (Lansing, MI), November 23, 2002
      Bardic Madness XIII, Barony of Jararvellir (Dodgeville, WI), February 22, 2003

      • See photos from the event: TE Leif and Astrid’s photos on Their website
      • Event website
      • Schedule and list of challenges
      • Several carloads of visitors from Ealdormere come to add their talents to the day. Second-biggest Bardic Madness ever, held at Folklore Village in Dodgeville, in a lovely hall with an inlaid Compass Star in the floor. Their Excellencies Leif and Astrid, heirs to the Stellar Throne, sponsor a challenge, then stay until the very end of the challenge performances. Master John Chandler and Lord Heinrich co-autocratted.
      • Elected: Lady Ciara of Tor Aerie
      • Lord Dahrien Cordell
      • Speaker: Lady Charissa de la Sirra

      Bardic Madness South V, [location?], November 22, 2003
      Bardic Madness XIV, Barony of Castel Rouge (Winnipeg, MB, Canada), February 14, 2004

      • Pictures from the Unofficial Northshield Gallery
      • Event schedule, class list and challenges
      • Baroness Faerisa and THL Kolbrunna worked magic with an all-subtlety feast. THL Aleksandr Vasilevych Lev of Volynia autocratted. THL Madeleine from Windhaven, after many years as a Bardic Madness patron, broke her silence and performed in one of the challenges. Princess Anne and Lady Heir Giulia attended.
      • Elected: Lady Katherine d’Amiens
      • Baron Berwyn AEthelbryght of Ackley
      • Speaker: THL Cerian Cantwr

      Bardic Madness South VI, Shire of Baile na Scolairi (Bloomington, IL), November 20, 2004

      • Event website
      • Titled “The Feast of St. John the Fool”. John is the patron saint of fools, waterfowl, and lozengy fabric.
      • Steward: Catalin Zöldszem

      Eliane Halevy:

      • XIII: Jararvellir
      • XIV: Castel Rouge
      • XV: Shattered Oak 2005
      • XVI: Huron SD
      • XVII: CAM?
      • XVIII: Misting Waetru
      • XIX: Border Downs
      • XX: Windhaven 2010

      Eithni:

      • XXI: Schattentor 2011
      • XXII:
      • XXIII:
      • XXIV: CAM 2014
      • XXV: Nordskogen 2015
      • XXVI: Rokecliff 2016

      Kudrun:

      • XXVII: Jararvellir 2017