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   Author  Topic: Musicke's Merrie Companions Back at Ren. Faire!  (Read 177 times)

Music is life, and, like it, is inextinguishable.


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Musicke's Merrie Companions Back at Ren. Faire!
« on: Aug 3rd, 2004, 12:23pm »
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Thank you to everyone that expressed their sadness upon learning that our group had not been invited back to the Bristol Renaissance Faire in 2003.  Thanks to a lot of persistent phone calling and letter writing,  I'm happy to let you know that we are back for the 2004 season!
There was some give and take with management, but we didn't give so much that the group isn't recognizable.  We are smaller in number, but that is actually in line with Dave Fitzgerald's original conception of the group.  We are six or seven instrumentalists (depending on the week) and one full time singer/percussionist.  We have added a second viol player (Kristin Norberg) since we found that it was a lot easier to hear bass lines played on strings rather than recorders.  When we don't have enough recorder players to double every line, the extra strength on the bottom end has really holds things together.  Our only regret is that Kristin will be moving out of the area next year!  (So to all the other viol players out there- get in touch with us if you are interested in playing in 2005!)  
We have done three performances so far this summer, and our new formulation has worked very well.  The group sounds much tighter than I ever remember, and having a regular vocalist enables us to draw more passerby attention- Ryan Morrison is quite noticable when he sings!  Most of the old core is still there- Nancy Chabala, Larry Johnson and Kim Katulka.  Our fourth core player is now Laura Osterlund, but, unfortunately she has been too busy being a 'teen recorder sensation at Amherst and other summer festivals to be with us every week.  Lucky for us, though, she is able to give us four weeks this year.  As an added bonus, with Laura comes the sackbut talents of her dad, Robert Osterlund, to give that extra brassy dimension to our sound.  And having a strong pool of talent to draw upon, we have the musical gifts of Ann Greene, Dale Fitschen, Arlene Ghiron, Dennis Sherman and Linda Wendt to fill in the rotating spots every week.
The only bad part is that the Faire management will never give all of this talent and experience its fair due as far as financial compensation.  When perhaps the most authentic music group at the Faire is only worth around $2 and hour per person (with four of us making only $1 per hour), it is a sad comment on what our art is worth to them.  Yes, I know they only have so much to spend for their entertainers and there are over 1,000 people working at the Faire, but...
The truth is that we're glad just to be back playing.  We've never been in this for the money, even the best of Dave's negotiations never even got us minimum wage.  We do it because we love playing and we think that what we offer- early music on early music instruments- is something vital to the atmosphere of the Faire.  Our repertoire is immense, our knowledge vast.  It is so important that Fair goers not only see the 19th century-and-beyond folk music disguised as Renaissance that is the bulk of the entertainment offered.  Yes, there are a few groups doing the "real thing", but we are a quiet minority.  And our group is the only group with such an expansive playing schedule.
So if you do come up to the Bristol Renaissance Faire this summer on one of our remaining dates (8/15, 8/22 & 9/5), please look for our table near the Kid's Kingdom.  It is our usual set-up of players sitting around a music table groaning with the variety of instruments only Musicke's Merrie Companions offers at the Faire- recorders, cornettos, krums, kortholt, rackett, shawm, sackbut, traversos, bagpipes, cornamuses and viols- plus our hundreds of pages of music.  Sit a while and listen.  Ask questions.  Request a tune (though, please, not Greensleeves for the hundreth time (though we'd play it anyway, really)).  Come sing a song with us or try your hand adding percussion to a Galliarde.  Dance a Bransle or Joan Glover.  Drop a dollar or two in our "Musician's Ale Fund" drum.  And, above all, please fill out the comment cards at the entrance/exit to let the management know that you think what we do is valuable.  We don't have wildly cheering fans applauding us as we complete our small 20 minute sets as most of the other musical groups do.  But we are no less important because our influence on the patrons is more subtle.
I can't think of any other opportunity in our area to expose so many people to the beauties of Renaissance music.  Look at the official stats- the Faire boasts attendance of 150,000+ for the season.  On any given day, that works out to nearly 8,000 people walking by as we play.  I would venture to say that most of the people wandering around the Bristol Renaissance Faire haven't had a whole lot of opportunity to hear "Early Music".  But when they stop for a bit and listen, when you can see how the music touches them- when they start asking questions- you know the seeds have been planted.  And if a few of them are curious enough to search out an early music concert when they get back home, so much the better.  For all of us.
So we may not get paid what we're worth.  We may get hot and sweaty.  We- and our instruments- may get covered in dust blowing up from the paths.  We may get tired, our concentration slipping just a bit as we enter our seventh or eighth hour of playing for the day.  And we may fall exhausted into our beds after a quick shower when we arrive home after 9:00 that night.
But we have come back- with the exception of 2003- every year for 30 years.  Why?  Because to make music is our greatest gift.  And to touch people who might not otherwise ever be exposed to the eternal beauty of the music of earlier centuries- that is our highest calling.  Of course I appreciate other genres of music, but Early Music has always struck a special resonance within me, so my passion fuels my advocacy.  Read the quote that always ends my entries a few times.  Let it sink in.  Plato was no fool.
The ancient Greeks believed that what we listen to had a direct relation to our physical health and mental composition.  Music could shape our personalities and, as an extension, society as a whole.  Harmonic resonance could physically affect our respiration rates and the balance of our "humours".  None of us involved in Early Music will doubt the truth of Plato's ideas, I'm certain.  If you do have any doubt, ask a music therapist or read up on those harpists who play for hospice patients.
Another of my favorites goes something like this- "We are the music makers, we are the dreamers of dreams.  Wandering by lone sea-breakers, sitting by desolate streams; world-losers and world-forsakers, on whom the pale moon gleams; We are the movers and the shakers of the world forever, it seems."  -O'Shaughnessy
(Forgive me if I've missed a word on that, but I believe most of it is there.)  
You may think I put too much value on a small group of people sitting around a table playing a bunch of dusty old music for people who mostly listen only in the periphery.  I guess I just want to make sure that every knows that the members of Musicke's Merrie Companions feel it is so much more than that.  If  we just wanted to play, we could sit in air conditioned comfort in our homes and do just that.  Yes, I am moralizing here.  So be it.  For those of us who make Early Music a central focus of our life, my challenge to you is to get out there and play for people.  No, we shouldn't have to play for free or for minimal wages all the time.  What we do is worth something-quite a lot, in my opinion.  But if we all played a few jobs that we consider "beneath our abilities" or "beneath our worth" every year just because they will open our music to a larger audience, I think it would be a great benefit to our community.  Play at a local festival or farmer's market- maybe a book store or church.  Many of us already do this, I know, but it would be great to see even more.  Early musicians seem to be driven by great passion for what they do- why else would we work so hard at what the general public would consider a tiny fringe of a barely-viable form of music ("classical" in the broad definition)?   There are many things afoot in this town- this website and the nascent Early Music Chicago organization that you can read about elsewhere on the site- which are designed to help us broaden our appeal.  We all must do what we are able- no one person can change the general public's perception of our art- no one person can be involved in every effort- that is why we must function as an ensemble.  Each to his strength, giving only as much as he is able, but no less.  To use our gifts is our challenge.  We must keep our standards as high as we can to represent our art as truly as we can (I am no less a player when I don a Renaissance dress and play in the dust than when I have sat on the stage of La Scala or Orchestra Hall (Symphony Center, now) wearing formal black).  But represent Early Music we must.  Because what we do can make a difference, even if just for a few people whose heavy burdens have left their souls longing for a glimpse of the eternal and beautiful.  Let us show them where to find it.  Many may not find what they are searching for in the music we play, but for those who do...  
And so, Musicke's Merrie Companions will continue to play this year.  And every year to come, if we can do anything to help it.
And we'd love it if all of you could come and listen for a little while.
It's why we're there, after all.  
« Last Edit: Aug 4th, 2004, 8:16am by MasquedPhoenix1 » IP Logged

-KK "Let me make the songs of a Nation and I care not who makes its laws."-Plato
Ryan Morrison


Re: Musicke's Merrie Companions Back at Ren. Faire
« Reply #1 on: Aug 3rd, 2004, 12:46pm »
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*Lord have mercy on my solo*


Posts: 20
Re: Musicke's Merrie Companions Back at Ren. Faire
« Reply #2 on: Aug 4th, 2004, 12:30pm »
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That was beautiful. I don't know what to write really after that.
But I want you to be certain that I will always be more than willing to lend my time and musical services whenever they are needed, whether it's playing at the Ren. Faire or any other occasion.  
I agree with you whole-heartedly.  Grin
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"Think of the cosmic eighth notes."
-Tina Chancey
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