Archive for June, 2011

Coronation is nearing…

I’d just like to give a shout out to the following website:

The owner of this site has put together an absolutely incredible blackwork resource that I shall be utilising in the near future.


Meanwhile, I have been a busy girl, finally completing a chemise to go with the dress I made.

Chemise with dress

Yum, double muslin.  The fabric is incredibly soft and creamy, I’m starting to wish I’d saved it for my chemise instead.
It’s a good thing I made the skirt so much longer than the dress, in the past two months, the intended recipient has shot up in height so quickly that the dress is sitting almost at mid-calf on her.  I have started work on sleeves today, hopefully I will have them finished for Coronation next weekend.

As well as sleeves, I shall be up to my armpits in icing this week, as I prepare to finish off the soteltie for presentation at Coronation.  I also have documentation to complete for the A&S, however, as I won’t be able to actually attend, I’ve still to organise someone to enter my items for me.

It’s going to be hectic…

The Spirit of Lochac, and on writing filk (and why I can’t teach it)

Looking through my blog, I realised that I’ve not yet put in a plug for The Spirit of Lochac.

That’s probably because I wrote it before I started this blog.  Not only that, but it exists elsewhere on the internet, at the Lochac Performers and Entertainers Guild.  However, I am currently constructing a page to place all my song links onto, and I believe The Spirit of Lochac needs to be on that list.

A Lochac warrior stepped out
One bright and shining day
To face a horde of armed men
Upon the battle fray
His armour gleamed, his shield held high,
His sword held fast in hand
As he stepped forth that fateful day
For to protect his land

‘Twas on the field at Rowany
Our hero stood his ground
An army waited by his side,
But not one made a sound.
For on the ridge, an awful sight,
The enemy was vast,
And then they roared, that mighty horde,
And fell upon them fast.

Swords and shields did crash and bang
In dizzy fearsome flight
But every time the one foe fell,
Another joined the fight
Weariness did take its toll
Our hero’s arms ran red
And amongst the gore of those he slayed
None noticed that he bled.

His strength was sapping mighty quick,
In vain our hero tried,
But from one foe, the telling blow
And our dear hero died.
But lies a heart of fortitude
In every Lochac man
And like unto a Lazarus
Our hero rose again.

His pallid flesh was icy cold
But his eyes they burned like flame
A demon in him bursted forth
As each opponent came
The bodies piled within his wake,
None could withstand his might,
And as the last opponent fell
He vanished in the night.

Seven times that day he fell
And seven times he rose,
For Lochac men do not lie down
To face their battle foes.
A horde of men that day he fought,
A horde of men he slayed
For none can match the valour of
A Lochac hero’s shade!

The song was written specifically (at least in part) for Festival, where I received nothing but positive feedback for it, especially from the fighters that heard it.  But the best feedback was the silence after I sang it in the bardic circle, and seconds later, the almost whispered “Huzzah“.

This recording is not the best rendition.  It was recorded when the song was in its very first stages of being settled in my head, and contains none of the tempo changes I use now.  I do intend to re-record this song at some stage, but until then, please, if you see me at an event, don’t be afraid to collar me for a live performance.  So long as my throat is in good condition, I’ll be more than willing.

For those who find the tune familiar, you may indeed have heard it before.  It’s a direct rip of The Handsome Cabin Boy by Kate Bush.

This was not the original tune I had planned for this song.  The original tune was going to be Tempus Adest Floridum, more popularly known now as Good King Wenceslas.  Nor is it the original lyrics.  In fact, very little of the ditty that woke me up in the wee hours of the morning late 2010 actually remains.

I’ve been writing poetry since I was twelve.  Reams and reams of the stuff.  I’m 36 as of the writing of this post, so that makes 24 years of experience.  Writing is like any other skill, it improves with practise.  But for me, writing has never been a process of sitting down with the aim of writing something.  That process works with some people, but every time I actually attempt to write poetry, I end up with drivel.  My best works have been spontaneous, and tend to occur at the most inconvenient times.  The middle of the night, while riding a bicycle, while sitting in a restaurant… I recall one time in particular when I wrote on the back of a shopping docket in eyeliner because I had no paper or pen handy, but the words burning through my mind so quickly that I knew I would lose them if I waited.

For a long time I thought that spark was all I needed for my writing, and if I had continued with that line of thought, you would, instead of listening to The Spirit of Lochac, be listening to The Seven Deaths of ****** (name blocked to protect the innocent), a jaunty tune which describes how one specific SCAdian dies several times in succession.  It was very specific.  I thought he might have taken it amiss that I killed him over and over again in song.  I quite like him, and you don’t try to kill friends.  So I tabled it.  It didn’t scan well, the lyrics were off colour, it just wasn’t going to work as it was.
But editing is an important part of writing poetry, and the core of the story was a good one, so I took what was good and worked with it.  Sometimes you’ve got a heap of good that’s wiped out by just a few lines.  Experience is the only thing that can tell you what to cut and what to keep.

I removed all references to the original victim of the song.  I wanted this to be a ghostly hero rather than a real life person.  And I got rid of the music altogether and stepped back into an easy rhythm which I call “horseplod”, but which probably had a much nicer name somewhere outside of my own head.  Basically, the accent is on every second syllable.  Eight syllables first line, six the second, eight the third, six the fourth, rhyme on the second and fourth lines.  When I’d finished cutting and shaping, which was quite a tedious process, I had 4 verses of usable material.

Later that day I was listening to various ballads, and The Handsome Cabin Boy was amongst them.  It stuck me that this used the same beat pattern I had settled on for my poem, so that was the tune I used.

Unfortunately, the very first person I showed it to (beyond my other half, whom I automatically expect to be biased), after raving at how it read like music, tried to give me the tune she thought I should put with it.  All I heard coming from her lips was the same note over and over again in a rather unrhythmic pattern, which does not a tune make.  At which point I told her I already had decided on using the tune from another ballad (a wonderfully period practice), and sang her the first verse.  Her face turned sour and she told me that I didn’t need to turn it into a dirge, that this should be a more uplifting song, and that I should write my own music, I shouldn’t make filk.

Please don’t ever do this to anyone.

I put this song away for months because of her comments.  I knew it was good poetry, but I wanted it to be good music.   I’d even forgotten I’d written it, as I hadn’t wanted to look at it after hearing negative comments the first time I’d shown my work.  Criticism does not equal critiquing, and can be very harmful.

Eventually I found it again during a tidy up months later,  and reading through it with fresh eyes I found there was a lack within the story at two points.  I didn’t have a description of where my warrior was, or what he was facing (which became verse 2), nor did I have a description of what happened when he rose (this became verse 5).  I spent roughly a week on those two verses.  I knew what I wanted to say, but writing with purpose is not my strong suit.  It was at this point that I decided to make the song specifically for Rowany Festival, as I was steadily gearing up to attend.  Those two verses were, I think,  the thing that took this from good poetry to great poetry.

I then revived the tune.  I was convinced it could sound good despite what had been said, so I persevered.  And thus was born The Spirit of Lochac.

I was asked just a few days ago about perhaps doing a collegia on how to write period style filk.  But I can’t teach that.  I just don’t know how to teach a skill that’s grown from something I do without thinking about it.  Perhaps this blog entry gives a small taste of why that is.

And if you haven’t found the link to the song yet, here it is one more time:  The Spirit of Lochac

(c) Kristine Robinson 2011

Songs 3: I Have a Yong Suster

Also called “The Riddle Song“.

I learnt this one a few months back, it’s a lovely little bouncing ditty that’s easy to memorise.  I originally found it here, along with numerous other sets of lyrics, which I shall probably get to sometime in the future.

I have a yong suster
Fer biyonde the see;
Many ben the drueries
That she sente me.

She sente me the chery
Wythouten ony ston,
And so she dide the dowve
Wythouten ony bone.

She sente me the brere
Wythouten ony rynde,
She bad me love my lemman
Wythouten longynge.

How sholde ony chery
Ben wythouten ston?
And how sholde ony dowve
Ben wyhtouten bon?

How shold any brere
Ben wythouten rynde?
How sholde I love my lemman
Wythouten longynge?

Whan the chery was a flour
Than hadde it non stone;
Whan the dowve was an ey,
Than hadde it non bon.

When the brere was unbred,
Than hadde it non rynde;
When the mayden hath that she loveth,
She is wythouten longynge.

Some notes on the meanings of various words here (Please note that I’ve utilised the glossary listed on Mudcat as I don’t think I could improve upon it.  My own understanding of these terms is derived directly from this list.):

brere: briar, thorny stem of rose
dowve: dove
drueries: tokens, gifts
ey: egg
fer: far
flour: flower
lemman: lover
longynge: longing
ony: any
rynde: bark, rind
see: sea
ston: stone
suster: sister
unbred: not yet sprouted, in seed
wythouten: without

This particular song dates back to C. 1430, and is listed in MS Sloane 2593, along with Adam Lay I-BowndenI syng of a mayden, I have a gentil cok, and others.

Every version of this I have heard has the same basic melody, and all include (basically) the same chorus, though I’ve not found it used in conjunction with the lyrics on any written source on the internet.  “Partum quartum pare dissentum, peri meri dictum domine” appears to be nonsensical pseudo-latin.  I have been unable so far to ascertain whether or not the tune and the chorus are attached to these lyrics in period.

You can find my rendition here:  I Have a Yong Suster.

As always, feel free to download this for your own usage.  Please don’t publish it elsewhere, direct people to this site instead.

Mmm… Treacle Tarts…

This is not a period recipe.  Not that I know of, anyway.  I’m not saying that treacle tarts weren’t made back then, I’m just saying that this is something I got into my head to make, googled a few recipes, then kind of chucked a number of disparate ideas together to make sugary stuff to eat.

I bought some treacle last week.  If you’ve never tasted treacle, it’s awesome stuff.  Like molasses.  Or malt.  Not powdered malt, the syrup malt.  Mmm yum.  And of course, once you have something like that in the house, you have to cook with it.

To make these tarts, I’ve cut out a heap of circles from a sheet of shortcrust pastry that I just happened to have in my freezer, and put them into some pretty silicone cupcake trays that I’ve had lying around for a while.    Then, I’ve taken a glop of treacle.  For those of you unused to such highly scientific terms as “glop”, I’ve used maybe half to three quarters of a cup of treacle.  I’ve put it into a saucepan, along with a squirt of lemon juice (yay for the plastic lemons you can buy in the shape of a bottle!) and a few shakes of powdered ginger.  I’ve heated that lovely mix on the stove and stirred it until everything is mixed, and the treacle is now really runny.  Then I poured in breadcrumbs and mixed it.
You need to be fairly careful with the breadcrumbs.  There’s a consistency you want to maintain: too little means you end up with runny slop, but too much will become a hassle to stir in.  You should play with the mix until you’re satisfied that you’ve got a solid that you can easily spoon into the cases and pat down.

Then I shoved it all into the oven to bake.  I’m working with around 200C in this instance, but whatever you think is going to work best.  I’m a guesstimating cook, and I rarely work with measurements of anything unless I think it’s going to blow up if I don’t.  When the crust was starting to turn golden, I pulled them out.

Then I started again, using golden syrup instead of treacle.


Yummy tarts

The War! and other such stuff…

I have just returned from Great Northern War.  Oh my, it was fun!

For those who are unaware, Great Northern War is an annual SCA event which currently takes place in Samford, QLD, over the Queen’s Birthday long weekend.  There is (unsurprisingly) a war.  I didn’t see the war.  I was too busy doing all the other stuff.

The weekend started off running, as I presented an earspoon to my friend Ragnarr, even before I had started setting up camp.  He was thrilled with it and apparently spent much of the weekend showing it off to others.  I have gained at least one commission from his excitement.  I also presented his Canton with my piece of filk, which he also loved, and which, I gather, may end up being sung often in Stegby.

Court was joyous.  A number of my friends received well deserved awards.  There were so many AOA’s given out, I know there were people I should have been congratulating that I have missed, simply because of the sheer volume of awards.

Over the course of the weekend, there were 26 A&S courses up for grabs.  Unfortunately, they were spaced over 9 course times, so even the most avid A&S junkie was going to miss out on 17 of them.  I managed only 7, due to a) talk early on Saturday morn and b) a migraine Saturday afternoon.  I think this was a valiant effort, and I now know a few things that I didn’t know before, and have a number of things to attempt for my breadth challenge.

I’ve also added two accomplishments to that challenge: making a clasp, and learning how to play Nine Men’s Morris.  I will, at some stage, make a board for the latter, and post it up here, along with rules not pulled from Wikipedia ;).

Dying my fabric

Remember the doona cover I had snaffled from a second hand shop?  Let me refresh your memory here.

I dyed it last night.

I’ve never dyed anything before, so it was somewhat with trepidation.  Especially as I couldn’t find a dye designed to give me the colour I originally wanted (a pale peach would have been nice, but I was always willing to change my mind).  Instead, I settled on Aztec Gold (from the iDye range).

As the fabric was a cotton/poly blend, and the dye I used was solely for natural fibres, it’s picked out the pattern nicely.

The two faces of my fabric, along with the cotton I'll be using for the skirt.

The plain cotton I’m using for the skirt will probably get dyed again, as there are a number of spots where the dye hasn’t taken properly.  My hope is to also get the plain fabric a little darker.  I’m happy with the shade for the patterned fabric, though, and will be starting to put together a plan for the pattern sometime in the next couple of weeks.

Songs 2: Henry Martin

Henry Martin is a lovely old song.  It’s not strictly period though.  It is, however, very close, appearing first in print in the early 17th Century as Child Ballad 167, and being a true story about the exploits of the privateer Andrew Barton and his two brothers.  It later appears with a name change in Child Ballad 250.

Sir Andrew Barton sailed under a letter of marque on behalf of the Scottish crown, but was considered by the English and Portuguese to be a pirate.  Under the guise of searching for Portuguese shipping, Andrew Barton levied a toll against any English ships he happened across also.  He and his ship, the Lion, were captured in August, 1511, at which time he was beheaded.

There is a marked difference between the stories “Henry Martin” and “Andrew Bartin”.  The earlier, being some 82 verses long, gives a full account of King Henry VIII calling upon his lords to stop the piracy, and the subsequent battle in which Andrew Barton is slain.  “Henry Martin”, however, describes a raid against a ship bound for London.

At this point I would like to give a shout-out to the wonderful people at The Mudcat Cafe, with their amazing archive of material, including tunes.  If it weren’t for them, I would not know that the tune for “Andrew Bartin” was still in existence.  When I learn that rather extensive song, it will be coming up under another heading on this blog.

Henry Martin

There were three brothers in merry Scotland
In merry Scotland there were three
And they did cast lots which of them should go, should go, should go,
And turn robber all on the salt sea.

The lot it fell first upon Henry Martin,
The youngest of all of the three
That he should turn robber all on the salt sea, the salt sea, the salt sea,
For to maintain his two brothers and he.

Well, he had not been sailing but a long winter’s night
And part of a short winter’s day,
When he e-spied a stout lofty ship, lofty ship, lofty ship,
Come a-bibbing down on them straightway.

“Hullo, hullo,” cried Henry Martin,
“What makes you sail so nigh?”
“I’m a rich merchant ship bound for fair London Town, London Town, London Town.
Would you pray for to let me pass by”

“Oh no, oh no,” cried Henry Martin,
“This thing it never could be.
For I have turned robber all on the salt sea, the salt sea, the salt sea,
For to maintain my two brothers and me.”

“So lower your topsail and brail up your mizzen,
Bring your ship under my lee,
Or I will give to you a full cannon ball, cannon ball, cannon ball,
And all your dear bodies drown in the salt sea.”

“Oh no, we won’t lower our lofty topsail,
Nor bring our ship under your lee,
And you shan’t take from us our rich merchant goods, merchant goods, merchant goods,
Nor will we point our ball guns to the sea.”

And broadside, and broadside, and at it they went,
For fully two hours or three,
Until Henry Martin gave them the death shot, the death shot, the death shot,
And then straight to the bottom went she.

Bad news, bad news, to old England came,
Bad news to fair London town,
There’s been no rich vessel, she’s cast away, cast away, cast away,
All of them, all of those merry men drowned.

I will admit to having known this song for many years, but this is a) the first time I’ve recorded it and b) the first time I’ve taken a really in-depth look at the history of it.  The words I have written here are the words I sing, and having sung this song many times over the past couple of decades, my version is slightly different to commercial versions (none of the context is changed, only a word or phrasing here or there).  There have been many covers of this song over the course of the 20th Century, and I encourage you to search them out.  Off the top of my head, you should be able to find this song covered by Donovan, Joan Baez, Burl Ives, Figgy Duff, and Sherwood, and I’m sure there are more that I have failed to recall.

In closing, my recording of Henry Martin.

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