As the Awards Secretary to Their Majesties William and Isolde, I have more duties than just to validate award recommendations and work with the Kingdom Signet to have them completed. I also help to coordinate courts and one new duty that has grown out of that is that I have begun assisting several new vigilants to various peerages with their elevation ceremonies. That can be anything from providing the peerage ceremony template, to customizing the template to writing a custom boast for entrance and a custom scroll text.
When Lisabetta von Atzinger was placed on vigil, she reached out to me for the ceremony template, and over the course of conversation, we decided that I’d provide a custom ceremony and scroll text. The text is below.
The format is called a terza rima, and it’s the form Dante wrote the Divine Comedy in. More information can be found here, but it reads like a kind of a twisted elizabethan sonnet.
Instead of a retelling of Lisabetta’s persona story or deeds of heroism, I went in a different direction; this is a poetic re-stating of the Admonitions of the Masters of Defence. It is something that I hope she can look to when the way around is dark, or wounded, or lost, to help her find her way forward.
The Elevation of Lisabetta von Atzinger
Surrender now to honor, all your life:
Let it guide you to what you hold dear,
For it will help to keep you from all strife.
Virtue is the chain that brings you cheer,
constraint that frees you from perceptions base:
A rudder that will help you certain steer.
Mindfulness will help you move with grace,
And keep your weapon fairly sheathed at peace:
For steps in anger cannot be retraced.
The dragon’s love for you will never cease.
A warmth about your heart for all your days,
And you must of that love always increase.
May truth upon your banner be your blaze;
Your word has always been your strongest bond.
Let tales of honesty be your best praise.
Before your foes your armor you must don,
The greatest duty of your station new:
Do not about you let a sword be drawn.
Exclusivity you should eschew:
Share all you know and have with those who need.
The more you offer, more will you accrue.
Like Atlas, stand athwart the earth, and bleed!
A titan for the just and for the right,
On behalf of those, you ever intercede.
Upon the list-field shall you bring your might:
With skill and artistry you wield your blade,
And ever please the Dragon in her sight.
Let not the sweeter virtues you evade.
With power on the field, yet off with grace,
And kindness unto all then be arrayed.
Your homeland is a fair beloved place,
So always be for King and Dragon land,
And love for all the people you embrace.
These admonitions keep you close to hand,
A Master of Defence before Us stands.
(c) 2017 Drew Nicholson
In addition to writing the Boast and Scroll for Sir Ulrich’s, he also asked me to organize and script out his ceremony. In the MidRealm, the standard Peerage ceremony has someone of the peerage to be awarded to beg the boon, and then speakers, one from each of the other peerages, and sometimes a speaker from the populace.
So a standard knighting would go thusly:
- A knight begs the boon, usually for their squire.
- The Order of Chivalry is called up and affirms the decision to elevate the candidate.
- A Laurel speaks for the candidate’s art or science, a Pelican speaks for the candidate’s service, a Master of Defence speaks for the candidate’s courage, a Royal Peer speaks for the candidate’s nobility, and sometimes a member of the populace speaks for the candidate as well.
- The knight is presented with a belt, chain, spurs and sword
- The knight swears their oath of fealty
- The knight is dubbed and buffeted.
In this case, however, Ulrich wanted something a little bit different. Instead of having five speakers, he had seven — one for each of the Knightly Virtues. This spoke more to the feelings he wanted to evoke. Instead of having the Order affirm his elevation and then have the speakers, he wanted the speakers to present first, and the Order to affirm afterwards. This had two beneficial effects: first, it makes the speakers’ job more important — for perhaps if the Chivalry doesn’t like what they hear, they will change their mind! (They don’t.) But also, it cuts at least in half the amount of time the Order has to kneel. Another change made was that Ulrich was permitted to turn around and face away from Their Majesties, so that he could see the speakers as they said their words for him. And lastly, instead of being presented with spurs, Ulrich was given Arm Rings of Gold as a token of his new station, for as a good Danish lord, Arm Rings were a far greater indicator of high estate and nobility.
Most people in the SCA never achieve peerage, and most of those who do never achieve more than one peerage. I think it’s important to encourage vigilants to seek out and pursue the elevation ceremony they want, even if it means that it runs longer than the standard ceremony. It’s their special time. The audience will understand.
Below is the text for Sir Ulrich’s elevation scroll, which has yet to be completed. I structured it to parallel the Oath of Knighthood, which calls upon Knights to be Prow, to be Reverent and Generous, Shield of the Weak, Obedient to his Liege Lord, Foremost in battle, Courteous at all times, and Champion of the Right and the good. These are fundamental concepts of Knighthood all across the SCA — but since Ulrich is a Viking half-dane, it needed to fit within a viking epic style. Because Ulrich was one of Ragvnaldr’s King’s Champion during the last reign, I also worked to tie some of the imagery in with the Lineage of Ragnvaldr I wrote several years ago.
Deeds day ends! / Ended are doings
Bold Battle Children / Baying for gold
See Sir Ulrich / Celestial warrior
Achieve the Accolade / of Aspirations
Prowess profuse / this potent leader
The list field his vigil / his virtue inviolate
Generous giving / of time and gold
Reverent also / respected and relished
The weak are his work / to shield them well
Both with his body / and his Barony
Vocal his voice / Defense his vocation
Promoting the people / He praises them all
Obedient and able / this epic hero
Ragnvaldr reports / of his results
Constellation Captain / Leading the Corps
Black Raven Reapers / Spread his renown
Battle Berserker / Charging the break-line
Defiant half-dane / Destruction he brings
For fair Arabella / he spreads her word fame
And Regal Ragnvaldr / raining down blows
Courtesy constant / honor constrained
Revealing the right / for others he wrangles
Embodied engagement / Ethics robust
Carrying comfort / service incarnate
Righteous and robust / a champion of respect
Though decisions divisive / e’re needed doing
Noble for newcomers / Chivalry never-ending
Exemplified excellence / Now and ever.
Make full mead cups / Praise the Mighty
Ulrich Ulfson / all the honor
Half-Dane done / with red belt duties
New the Knight / And now it begins.
This past weekend, at the Crown Tournament of William and Isolde, my friend Ulrich Halfdan Ulfsson was elevated to the Order of Chivalry. I was honored to be asked to write his ceremony and all the poetry that went with it. This post is specifically about the boast with which he was heralded into court once his Knight, Sir Denewulf, had begged the boon.
PROTECT US, OH LORD, FROM THE FURY OF THE NORTHMEN!
On comes Ulrich / Into the long-hall
Beloved of Brianna / Un-Belt no more
Hazel eyed hunter / Rises the half-dane
Whither the white belt / Where is gold-chain?
Crossing the coastline / came he to the village
Of Brianna sky-eye / Brought him to love
Smoldering cinders / see ships burned on shore
For Here is the homeland / of Ulrich’s heart
Black Raven reaver / in righteous fury
Stopped Eastern Army / With bold action
He gladly follows / Tyr, god of glory
Learned of the law / lord of the swords
See now the squire / sever his bond
Collar of commitment / returned to comrade
New bond of brotherhood / sought in a boon
New in the knowledge / the accolade, Knight.
Ulrich’s persona story is that as a half-danish viking warrior, he came to Shadowed Stars as a raider, but fell in love with the daughter of a chieftain – Brianna – and burned his ships on the shore as a sign of his devotion to her. Brianna features twice here: once as Ulrich is her beloved, and once as sky-eye; her eyes are blue.
The Black Raven refers to the Raven Company, the fighting household that Ulrich commands.
In the next post, I’ll talk about the scroll text that I wrote (that has yet to be actually written into a real scroll).
There’s no such thing as THE perfect piece of music. Perfection is contained within inspiration, composition, recording, performance, and audience.
But there are lots of individually perfect pieces of music. I’ve got a blog, so I’ma talk about some of them.
Now, I’m an original nerd. I learned to program on a PDP-7, played video games in the arcade and on my Atari 2600, and I cut my SF teeth on Asimov, Clark and Le Guin. When I was a kid, the original Tron movie came out, and I loved it, so when Disney announced the sequel I was completely on board.
I had heard of Daft Punk, but never paid much attention to what had been described to me as a french band that plays keyboards.
I had no idea.
This is one of the loveliest, most perfect, most uplifting pieces of music I’ve ever heard. The low brass entrance, the harmonies that build, ever increasing, until the higher brass and woodwinds come in, then the strings lifting over everything else. It settles, and then at 2:13, the fanfare of the fifth!
Another thirty or so seconds of beauty before the first real electronic instruments come in, so subtle, but supporting everything, and at three minutes, the rush peaks, coming to rest back in the strings, returning to the simple strong themes we started with. Slowly, we come to rest, in the octave, and it ends there.
There are true reasons for why certain intervals, like fifths and sevenths, evoke physiological responses in some people. I’m lucky enough to be one of them, and it’s a better rush than almost anything else I get to do.
The entire Tron: Legacy soundtrack is fantastic, and there are far more “classically Daft Punk” sections, but only this track is so achingly beautiful.
Find my explanation of the Ballade Duet form, and the first instance of one, here.
As I was heralding at Val Day this past weekend, I realized that while I’d written boasts for everyone processing in, I didn’t have any thing to say while TRM, TRH, etc, were processing out. I’d just taken a class on Formes Fixe that morning with Mistress Kasha, so I whipped out the class materials, and wrote this rondeau while standing behind the thrones.
To south the Gulf Wars road does lead,
The armies of the Mid grow strong,
And Edmund rides His battle steed
To south the Gulf Wars road does lead,
A growing appetite to feed
Amidst the dragon war band throng
To south the Gulf Wars road does lead,
The armies of the Mid grow strong!
I also wrote this rondeau for Her Majesty during court because She asked me to. (I set myself up for it, but there you are.) I made up a little tune, that of course I will never remember, but I definitely sang it for her.
I love the color of a leek
It is so bright and shiny green
And when I chew them they go squeak
I love the color of a leek
In stew or soup my hunger piqued
(This song requested by the Queen)
I love the color of a leek
It is so bright and shiny green.
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 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
So a long long time ago, waaay back at Pennsic XXI, I went to the heraldic submissions tent at Pennsic, and sat down in front of the herald (Master Talon) and he documented me up a name (I don’t even think that’s doable anymore, can you register your name or device at Pennsic these days?)
Anyway, the name I came up with was Andrew (my regular name), Blackwood (the last name of one of my drumline buddies from college), MacBaine (the last name of a girl I met in Model UN), the Purple (appelation due to garb by HRM Katya).
That was the first step down a long path that hasn’t been bad, necessarily, but… well, that guy was kind of a jerk. Self-centered, a little too loud, quick to seek the spotlight… always meaning well, never really pursuing anything improper, but showing a significant lack of mindfulness and acceptance.
I’m not that guy anymore. I haven’t been that guy, actually, for about seven years. But memories are long, and names are hard to rehabilitate sometimes, so after trying to use social media and verbal pressure to divest myself of some baggage, I’ve realized that the time has come to make substantive changes in that arena.
Way back when I first apprenticed, a queen told me that Purple could be the color of Royalty, or the color of a bruise. I’m neither, so it’s time to stop.
On friday, I submitted paperwork to the proper herald to register the name Andreas Blacwode. It’s a good, solid Norman name, with a nod to the past, but a sharp break. I have released the name Andrew Blackwood MacBaine the Purple altogether, and I will absolutely be doing my best to not respond to anything but Andreas. (Or any of the regular epithets.)
This will also help -me- remember to be the person I am, and not the person I was.
I appreciate my friends helping me with this.