Once more to the Ren Faire! If you’re interested in what happened the last week, you can find that here.
I didn’t go with the group this time, though we certainly crossed paths a few times while we were there. It was just me and my kid sister. And I didn’t bother with the knightly garb this time, opting instead for my standard weekend warrior uniform of jeans and t-shirt. Oddly enough, my t-shirt got me into all manner of conversation throughout the day, starting from the moment I got there. It seems there are some who know and/or practice the arts of Fiori dei Liberi. Gee, what are the odds I’d bump into my people at a place like this. lol
I managed to remember to take a few photos that I didn’t take last time, but not many. We’ll start with the front gate. Here are the royals, lining the battlements.
In the near middle wearing red is Margaret, Queen of Scotland. The lady to the right in the exact middle is Princess Mary, and that’s Charles Brandon on her other side. I can’t tell you who the rest of them are, save for the guy on the balcony. That’s Will Somers, official jester to HRH Henry VIII. Henry’s absence was explained in my previous post. Just out of shot on the left is where the cannon is positioned. They fire that off to announce the opening and closing every day.
Let me just start by saying that the crowd level was crazy busy. Easily twice what it was last weekend. To make it worse, they decided this time that the ticket scanners had to find new ways to make the entrance line even slower after starting the pre-show too late and throwing open the gates too late as a result. And honestly, this is the worst thing I can say, because it’s hard to be frustrated once inside. I did learn that there’s an ATM machine just inside the gate. That might have been nice to know last weekend, but this time I came prepared. Good thing too. A crowd that size, all the ATMs had lines all day long.
We went into this with a limited agenda this time. We wanted to see a few performers we didn’t catch last time, I needed to fill in some gaps in my CD collection, and we needed to see/hear Sarah’s new harp, provided it had returned from the repair shop.
Almost immediately we found the pretzel vendor and were quickly interrogated by a couple of court nobles, Sir Turner and Sir Constable. They had questions as to why I was not properly escorting the lady I was with, and as soon as kid sis said she was no lady, their eyes lit up and banter ensued. We had a good 15 minute conversation with them about the court, the park, etc., and they largely spent the entire time trying to convince one another to entertain us.
As we parted ways, we found ourselves next to the glassblowing demonstration just as it was about to start. Why not, right? It’s been a while since I watched Peter and his wife (whose name escapes me at the moment) do their work, but they turn out some amazing pieces. In this case, they created a purple glass pitcher. While they worked, they explained the process and the history of how it coincided with the era. Their glassblowing is awesome. Peter’s grasp on history leaves much to be desired. The man is perpetuating every myth about how nothing of note happened technologically in the Middle Ages. Look up the court of Charlemagne or that legendary city-state known as Byzantium, my friend. Be prepared to be amazed. Regardless, his history of glassblowing was fascinating, and I love watching an artisan ply his craft. If you take note of all of those colors, each of those is a different kind of mineral. Each one has a different quality to it that changes the glassblowing process. I can’t imagine the years it takes to learn something like this, let alone to master it.
Notice ye olde Medieval Flamethrower. *grin* Peter admits they didn’t have them back then, but it does simplify certain aspects and makes the show move at a more acceptable pace. What’s in his hand in the above shot to protect him from the thousands of degrees of heat of molten glass is newspaper. Seriously. It’s folded multiple times and wetted down, but it’s just ordinary newspaper. I don’t think I’ve ever noticed that before.
Adding the handle…
After the demo, we stopped by Lady Prudence Piper’s “picnic.” I adore this woman. She plays harp, ukulele, all manner of percussion, and sings with the voice of an angel regardless of whether she’s doing a ballad or a sea shanty. And if that weren’t enough, she has a rapier wit, an impressively memorized schtick that she operates with, and she almost never breaks character, save when someone asks about a CD. Add to that, she’s big on audience participation. Consummate professional, this one. She did confirm she’s working on a third album this summer, so I’ll have something to look forward to there for next year.
While she was singing, we had another brush with Gandalf (see last week’s post), once more confirming that I am still in the right place. This really is my home away from home. Would that I could afford to keep coming back every weekend.
We hung out with Lady Prudence for quite some time, and by the time we parted ways, it was nearly lunch time. But we wandered some more and ran across one of Scarborough’s longtime legendary mainstay acts, Don Juan and Miguel. This comedy duo is all about cheap tricks and nonsense… and none of it easy by any stretch of imagination. Swordfighting, bullwhips… these guys are masters who delight in their buffoonery. In this particular shot, Don Juan (right) has already whipped some little wooden sticks in Miguel’s hand down to even smaller pieces, and he’s egging on the crown to see if they want them shorter still. Of course they do. And of course he does it. The thing to remember about this sort of thing is that it’s still a live performance. Anything can happen, and it usually does, but as I say, these guys are long time masters of what they do. There are many shows out there like theirs, but they are still the best.
For lunch, we ended up back at the same spot next to the Sea Hag Stage where we were once more serenaded by the Stonehenj Players. I picked up their CDs while I was at it.
After that, I realized I was right next to the Angel Sword booth. This is where I bought my prized weapon of choice seven years ago, so I stopped in to once more shake the hand of Daniel, the master forger who created my blade. Turns out, this will be Daniel’s last season at Scarborough. Angel Sword will continue, and he will continue to make blades, but he’s also starting a new business venture. Seems he’s opening a distillery. So… it’s a good thing I caught him. I showed him a picture of my sword, and he remembered it well. He couldn’t have been more pleased to learn about my (mis)adventures with the blade. Since purchasing from him, I’ve learned how to use that blade. He and another of his salespeople tried to sell me a companion piece to it, and it was SO tempting, but alas, I can’t afford another one as yet. Also come to find out that most of the people working for him are volunteers… who are working to pay off blades of their own. Guess I should have seen that coming. They tried to talk me into that too, but I can’t commit to working every weekend, and I certainly won’t commit to it if it means being tied to the booth. My favorite time of the year becoming a job? No, thanks. But nice try! Regardless, I walked away knowing this was probably the last time I’d see Daniel. It did my heart good to know he appreciated what I did with the sword as much as I appreciated his craftsmanship.
Some wandering around after that. Periodically I’d get stopped regarding my shirt from both Rennie and patron alike, and 20-30 minute conversations would ensue about swordfighting. Kid sis would just roll her eyes and wander in some nearby shops.
We started to get worried when Sarah’s traditional spot on the bridge was vacant… seemingly all day. We ended up over at Cast in Bronze, where as I mentioned in the previous post, her husband Cyrus is the man behind that mask. I asked about her, hoping nothing bad had happened. Turns out, she was playing a couple of weddings on site, which is awesome for them. Extra income is always a good thing. And while I was there, I picked up the remaining CDs I didn’t get to pick up last week. But he’d just ended his show, so…
I walked around the corner to Renaissance Leather and bought me a much-needed new belt for everyday use, seeing as how I could get accurately measured while in my normal civilian clothes. And then we ventured across the way as Tartanic was starting up. Once again, much fun had by all, and I not only picked up the CDs I was missing from them, but one of their pipers has three solo CDs. I grabbed those too. Their new CD that they hoped would be in this week… not so much. They were hoping by the end of the day. Yeah… I’ll be picking that up next year. And then Cyrus’ next show started up, so we walked back across the way to a packed area to see him play. Knowing what I know, this was the last time I’ll get to see him play as Cast in Bronze, and probably the last time I’ll ever hear a carillon played in front of me. His finale for this particular show was Carl Orff’s “O Fortuna.” Weirdness ensued for the entirety of that performance too. There was this little girl standing next to us, probably 10 years old or so, who was celebrating her birthday. She had been jumping up and down on stage during Tartanic’s performance, which they encourage because… why not? It’s not like you can hear her over bagpipes and drums, especially at distance. But this little girl was not only singing during Cast in Bronze — badly, out of tune, and not always the same songs — she was whooping and hollering through the whole thing like the Beatles were on stage. I was wondering if she was maybe autistic, but kid sis thinks she was just spoiled, probably the kid of someone at the top of the Faire’s food chain. Either way, I’d not seen anything like it before. Still, she seemed to have a good time. I know I certainly did in spite of her.
More wandering, and we found ourselves passing by the one place I am absolutely not allowed to go into: the book store. It’s not that I’ll buy everything, because I just don’t want to get books that have been out in the humidity all day and carry them around with me. It’s more a case of I’d build a list and then go nuts at Half Price Books later, and many conversations will ensue with the people running the place because they know their stuff. And to my credit, I didn’t go in. Instead, I got sidetracked by the woman sitting on their stoop.
Leza Mesiah, aka The Moor of Dundee. That’s right, an Irish African, complete with accent and all the history you could want to back it up. She tried so hard not to break character, so when she talks about the outside world, she sees her “descendant through a crystal ball.” This one is a school teacher in the real world, and a self-described music and history nerd… my kind of people. Turns out she used to have a stage show many years ago, back in the late 80s and early 90s, but she found she enjoys being a lane performer much more for the simple fact that she meets more people and has great conversations with them. Can’t argue that logic. She’s personable, funny, engaging… and damned if she doesn’t know the story behind the story for every single song she plays. And based on conversations with other passers-by, she’s picking up new ones from other people as she goes. She pulled me with the ever classic “Scarborough Faire” (because almost nobody plays that there for some reason). Turns out there’s an Elven fairy story behind it that I’d never heard, so the song just got kicked up a notch. Then as we went along, she discovered that I knew most of the songs in her repertoire, so we got into discussions about “The Ash Grove” and “Greensleeves” and a few others. As you can tell, we talked at length. The whole while, she’s mingling with others, and it seems she knows every single patron. She gave me a formal introduction to Queen Margaret as she passed by, which was awesome, and somewhere in the middle of this I got caught up in yet another sword-based conversation thanks to my shirt. Kid sis tells me I’m not allowed to wear this shirt again to the faire. Joke’s on her… I’ve got two others of a similar nature in my closet right now. Anyway, Leza and I picked right up where we left off, and she asked a little about the sword arts and worked that back around into more song. We probably spent close to forty-five minutes with her before reluctantly parting ways. Both of her CDs came along with me because she not only has a great voice, her guitar technique is flawless. She insisted on autographing the CDs too. She just might be the sweetest person at the entire festival, and that’s saying quite a bit. She’s most certainly now on my must-visit list for next year.
Not too far down the path from that, kid sis detoured into a shop that specializes in bags. Upholstered bags with tapestry embroidery, no less. Beautiful work too. I couldn’t resist. I found this one messenger bag featuring the most famous artwork of the entirety of the Middle Ages, “The Unicorn of Chivalry,” aka the Unicorn tapestry.
It’s not something I’ll ever carry in the real world, but whatever. I’ll probably use it to store my ocarina, spare harp strings, electronic tuner, and other random musical odds and ends. It called to me, and they took credit cards. Good thing too, because by this point in the game I had just enough tip money for Sarah. I feel bad about that because I finally got to hear Vesperam Noriega. Beautiful Spanish guitar, and equally beautiful vocals. I could barely hear them (I was sitting in the back and they weren’t at all loud to begin with). I will most definitely be sitting up front with extra tip money in hand next time. Have to say, the rose microphone is a nice touch. Given how soft the guitar was, it’s no wonder she didn’t turn it up to overpower him.
Our friends converged at this stage just before and during the performance. After this, the dulcimer player billing herself as “As You Like It” took the stage, but her show sort of got hijacked and transformed into an on-hands demonstration for a group of young kids. Can’t say I was unhappy about that. Any chance for kids to discover this sort of music, I’m all for it.
After that, the final show of the day for us: my favorite harpist, Sarah Marie Mullen, this time sporting her new harp. This one is a lot bigger than her other one. As she tells it, it may very well be the largest and heaviest Celtic harp out there, with anything bigger tending to be symphonic concert harps and the like. It weighs like 50 lbs, twice what her previous harp weighed.
It’s got a great sound to it too. She’s able to generate quite a bit of extra volume with it through her amp, which in turn attracts more passers-by both on the stage and at her bridge setup.
Once again, she made mention of how she doesn’t yet have her fifth album and called out not-so-subtly that some of us already had her other four (looking directly at me, which caused my friends to laugh). Apparently this is the new running gag. So be it.
After the show, Sarah and I got to talking about the new harp, about the artwork on it that her husband designed, and so on. She’s really proud of this, for obvious reason. In the midst of this, some lady walked up and said that she didn’t have but a couple of dollars, but she was most insistent that she wanted to somehow acquire an album anyway. She was sincere about it, stating that she’s on medical disability, and how she found a calmness in the harp that she’d not been able to find with a great many treatments over the years. She seemed quite desperate. I could see Sarah squirming a bit. She wanted to help, I could tell, and from previous conversations, I knew she was in a position where if she gave this woman a discount, she’d have to give some of the other circling vultures the same discount, thus cutting into her livelihood. And if anyone knows how this woman feels regarding the calming effect of a harp, it’s me. Sarah’s music has quite literally saved my life, as I’ve blogged about in times past, so I definitely sympathize here. I spoke up and reminded Sarah that I’d tipped her more than enough for an album, and if she was good with it, I’d just pay it forward and give the lady my would-be CD purchase. Sarah’s eyes lit up, the lady’s eyes lit up, and I got some much-needed karma points. Once the lady was gone, Sarah thanked me for coming to her rescue, confirming the position I knew she was in. The circling vultures I mentioned buzzed off almost immediately too.
She needed to pack up her stuff and transfer back to the bridge. She had a guy there to help her with her cart and such, but for whatever reason nothing would stay in place, and her bungee cords wouldn’t stay attached. She couldn’t figure it out. It’s never happened to her before, and she’s literally got this down to a fine art as often as she has to move her stuff from spot to spot. So I offered to help carry some stuff. I tried to get her to let me carry the harp, but she won’t let anyone else carry it. If something happens to it, she wants it to be on her head and no one else’s. I can respect that, but I have to offer anyway. Aside from being willing to bend over backwards for her due to the aforementioned point of her music having saved my life, it’s just in my nature anyway. So she carried her harp, her helper rolled the cart, and I carried her chair, tip basket, and a few other odds and ends that kept falling off the cart.
Once we got back to the bridge, she set back up and started talking about these baby birds that had hatched in the tree next to the bridge. Important not to get too close because mama bird was directly overhead, watching. Good safety tip. Sarah got everything setup again and offered me a tune for my help, which I would never turn down. Sadly, if I stayed for more than one, I’d probably not leave, so I forced myself to part company after that, and we stopped by to visit the baby birds on our way out. There are actually three of them. You can’t really make out the third in the back behind the other two in this photo, but there they are…
And so wraps another season of Scarborough for me. It’s still going on through Memorial Day, but money talks, and I have very little of it between car registration, car inspection, Dad’s birthday, and Mother’s Day all hitting in rapid succession. But that’s ok. Most years I only get to go once, so a second visit is a bonus.
Since we managed to somehow methodically make our way from one side of the park to the other without constantly going back and forth all day, I’m not at all as sore as I was last week. And due to it being overcast and me not wearing multiple layers of heavy knightly garb, overheating wasn’t an issue. If it’s possible, I actually enjoyed myself more this week than I did last week.