Regional A&S Entry Review

So in the MidRealm, we have a thing called the Kingdom Arts and Sciences competition. In order to qualify for that competition, you have to score a 1st or 2nd place at one of the six regional competitions that happen around the kingdom in the three or four months prior to Memorial Day, when Kingdom A&S and Crown Tournament are held.

This past weekend, I went to the Constellation Regional A&S, which was also the same day that a friend of mine was getting laureled (in period music!) and also, the last Founding Baron and Baroness of the old Baronies was stepping down — Moonwulf and Takaya were handing over the Barony of Rivenstar to a new couple.

This post, though, will be about the A&SA process, and how it went, and my score and comments from the judges.

The entry was performed by myself and my Laurel, Mistress Amelie: “In Darkness” by John Dowland — I sang, and she played the Viola De Gamba. Since the piece is originally scored for Gamba AND Lute, Amelie re-arranged the piece so that the instrumental wouldn’t feel so empty. “In Darkness” is a unique piece, different from everything Dowland wrote prior, and the two parts are far more a duet than a song with accompaniment.

The criteria for entering a Music Performance: Vocal entry is located here.
The documentation is in this Google Docs folder here.

The purpose of this post isn’t to really go over the scores. I’ve found that it’s entirely possible for one judge to think that the material is extremely complex, while another thinks it’s not complex at all. No, the really helpful bits are the comments.

So there are six judging categories: Documentation, Methods and Materials, Scope, Skill, Creativity, and Judge’s Observation. The categories are discussed in the criteria linked above, so I’ll just go through each judge’s comments for each category.

  • Documentation:
    • Judge 1 said “Documentation is good. I would have enjoyed a little bit of a pronunciation guide.” That’s legit — I didn’t think about explaining how Elizabethans would have pronounced the words, and to be truthful, we only really got the song locked in a few days before competition. I will definitely see about getting a pronunciation guide in the documentation for Kingdom.
    • Judge 2 said “Nice coverage of the artist.  Would love to see some mention of the type of artists who would have performed it in period.  You’re dancing just west of the 1600 line — not an issue for me, but it would help to strengthen your argument that Dowland could have had an earlier version of this song pre-1600.”  I’m… not sure how I feel about this one.  I’ll have to think about it.  Something published ten years after the end of period to me, is so close, that I’m not sure I care enough about the 1/2 point loss.
    • Judge 3 said: “Well done.  I enjoyed reading the poem and would like to hear you bring out the second voice.”  I am not sure what that means, and I’ll reach out to the judge in question.
  • Methods and Materials:
    • Judge 1 said “Good presentation.  Use of harmonies are not inconsistent with the lyric(s).  The Dowland piece is well grounded in technical skill.”
    • Judge 2 said “Appropriate costume, vocal style.  Maybe go for a more period-looking binder @ Kingdom.”  This is totally something I’m pursuing; I competed at Kingdom with a three-ring binder, and I’ll have something bound for Kingdom.
    • Judge 3 said “Warm ups are important, your voice is rich and warm.”  My big takeaway from the comments here is that every judge seems to have considered Methods and Materials to be different from the next.
  • Scope:
    • Judge 1 said “The scope of this is very broad — it is both interesting.  I would have enjoyed a little more on performance technique and how this piece differed from the ‘standard’.”
    • Judge 2 said “The sharps and flats made this piece challenging, but it would have been more challenging on a fast-paced song.”  I don’t know I buy that.  The pace of the song can make it more or less difficult, but so does the interval from note to note, harmony or dissonance with the other parts/accompaniment, and ability to discern a pattern in advance.  This song is very difficult to perform.
    • Judge 3 didn’t have any comments about Scope.
  • Skill:
    • Judge 1 said “Again – consistency of pronunciating – was this a ‘recitation’ with a musical tone or was this entry able to stand as recited work without the music”  Which I find interesting for two reasons — 1) No one complained about inconsistent pronunciation during the face to face judging and 2) I -thought- that Amelie and I made it very clear that this particular piece requires both parts to work, that it’s a duet, not a solo with accompaniment.  I’ll have to work on making that more clear.
    • Judge 2 said “very expressive” which was very nice of them, thank you
    • Judge 3 didn’t have any comments about Skill.
  • Creativity:
    • Judge 1 said “The ‘modern arrangement’ does relay the sadness, the inconsistent rhythmic pattern accentuated the loss — the exploration is enjoyable for listeners as well as performers.  
    • Judge 2 said “Reflection of emotion done well — great expression of the mode & interpretation of how it could have been performed.”
    • Judge 3 said “This took a fair amount of courage to do SUCH a different sort of piece!  I am still struck by that end note…
  • Judge’s Observation:
    • Judge 1 said “This is an excellent presentation – please continue to explore late elizabethan vocal music — both irregular rhythms and regular rhythms.  I really enjoyed listening to this work — and hope you continue to explore ‘oral’ presentation
    • Judge 2 said “Very nice!  2nd run-through was better — work on warming up your upper range and STEPPING on those high notes.  Warm up those trills to smooth them out.  And relax into it (easier said than done, I know).  The judge is talking about my range — this piece is at the very top of my range but also at the very bottom of the viola-de-gamba’s range, so there’s no room to re-key it down.  The highest notes are a real stretch for me.  More warm-ups are required.
    • Judge 3 said “Repeat performance will improve.”

So there you are.  My entry and the commentary.  I got a first, which isn’t all that important.  Action items to take on the comments:

  • Pronunciation guide — I’ma look up how these words might have been pronounced in Elizabethan England, and provide a guide for the documentation
  • Contemporaries — I’ma look up contemporaries of Dowland and see if any of them published before the 1600 cutoff.
  • Warm-ups — I’ma warm up EVEN MORE before performing than I already am now.
  • Better presentation — I’ma make a new music holder wossnames at Coronation that will look less jarringly modern.

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