The Royal Ensemble

6 Apr 2016 by gebhard, No Comments »

   1506088_10100864243391494_1895789034_oBeing part of a Reign is a unique opportunity to be a positive influence, and it is a rare honor. I didn’t truly realize how profound an honor it was until after the Reign was complete.

The year I spent as the “Royal Carrier of Heavy Things” was of the best years I’ve had in the SCA, and I wasn’t even the one who won Crown.  Their Majesties Cellach and Vukasin achieved many great deeds, and some of those remain with us to this day. 

One of the ideas that has remained popular came up in a conversation with Sophia The Orange when she recently asked how The Royal Ensemble got started. The short answer is “because Their Majesties wished to have dancing before court”.  What started out as a simple idea grew into something much more and took on a life of it’s own.

So, How did it get started?

1551480_10152179287186000_281514321_nThough I didn’t know it at the time, it all started shortly after I joined the SCA. In our local group, we had a very energetic young woman who loved to dance, and her energy and joy were completely contagious. Swept up in her enthusiasm, I decided I would learn to play an instrument so she could have “real” music while teaching dance.  A large pile of money spent on lessons and instruments later, I started to drag around an upright bass to every event I attended so I could play with my son (who learned guitar for this project) and anyone else for (at that time) Lady Felice and the other dancers.

Then, something amazing happened. On May 26th, 2013. Sir Cellach achieved something he had been training to do for years. He won Crown.

My memory may be a little blurry now, but during the days and weeks to come, I and several others proposed a few ideas to Their Majesties. I had an idea about a youth program.  They took it, modified it to suit them, then gave it back to me to implement.  The same was true for Mistress Felice who had recently become a dance Laurel.  Her hope was that we could spread the love of dance by having teaching time in the gap before court. I would help get musicians together.

We staged this for the first time, while Cellach was Prince, at North Oaken War Maneuvers.

I’ll be honest.  I’d been playing only for a few years. I played more by ear than by reading. I made up stuff to fill in what needed to be played because there were literally hundreds of dance songs that could be called upon at any moment, and there was no way I could have them all practiced and ready to rock. I was way out of my league. But I thought,  “I don’t need to be good, I just need to know someone who is”.

So a Facebook group was made so Midrealm musicians could communicate with others and talk them into coming to play because no one needs a hour long upright bass solo.  And it worked!  It’s true, if you build it, people come.

I got to meet some of the most amazingly talented people in the musical and bardic world within the SCA.

At Pennsic 42, during soon-to-be Sir Crispin’s vigil, Mistress Zsof pulled me aside and asked me for my help. She asked that I help explain the importance of having a bard to Their Majesties. It turns out, few are able to be as articulate on that front as Mistress Zsof.  Their Majesties took not one bard, but two.

Kari (who is a rock star in every meaning of the word) became the King’s Bard, and Mistress Zsof, the Queen’s Bard.

1511158_10203070911796396_911225292_nThe role the Ensemble filled shifted a little.  Not only did we play for dance before court, I would play for any bard who would allow me to, before, during or after court.

Since we were already at the event, we would often also play through feast, then again for dance at the revel afterward (and sometimes the post party after that).
Probably the best memory I have of this was an event in Aethelmearc called Siege of Harlech. The site is the home of Sir Byron and Sir Ariella, and it also happens to be a literal castle. Rupert (my son), myself and Brigid rocked out in the musician’s balcony overlooking the feast hall for hours.  Feasters sent up hard liquor the entire time.

The whole year, every event had something special and memorable. I could fill hours going over each one and telling of all the amazing people I met.

After the Reign, I expected many of the things They did had lived out their useful lifespan.  Like this blog; Who wants to read the random thoughts of a guy who USED to carry the King’s throne?

I handed over the reins and slowly stepped out from behind the stage. People like Julie Washington, Aaron Elkiss,
Drew Nicholson and many, many others kept the torch going. People with far more talent than myself.  With each new Reign someone else would pick up the reins and continue the project onward taking on the desires of the current Royalty.

It was a great honor to get play alongside so many people who are vastly more talented than myself.

I have many memories I will always cherish of my time playing with the musicians and bards of the Kingdom. I’m eternally grateful for the opportunity.


This is a link to one of my favorite bardic performances.

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