When We Were Young

I wrote this song for myself and for other friends who have become parents, seeing our lives — and our adventures — change.

It’s not always easy. But there it is.

 

When we were young

our swords were steel

and we fought dragons

We’d oil the moat

and stand to watch it burn.

We climbed mountains

as the snow lay crisp around us.

We bragged of love

and mighty sacrifice.

When we were young

Our arms were strong

our heads were more so

We’d oil our faces

and cavort around the fire.

We’d stumble, falling

as the flowers bloomed around us.

We sang of love

and mighty sacrifice.

When we were young

Our hearts were light

And we were noble.

We’d oil the lamps

and laugh ‘till they were gone.

We left taverns

as the dawn would blush around us.

We dreamed of love

and mighty sacrifice.

When we were young

our cloaks were thick

and we would wander.

We’d oil the cart

and push ‘till she would go.

We picked apples

as the leaves fell all around us.

We talked of love

and mighty sacrifice.

Now we have young

our swords are wood

and we are dragons.

We oil the pans

And pray that nothing burns.

We watch in silence,

as the stars grow bright around us.

We learned of love

and mighty sacrifice.

We watch in silence,

as the stars grow bright around us.

We know of love

and mighty sacrifice.

By Aneleda for Jean, Sorcia, and Gui-Andre

My Summer Brothers

It had been a while since I was struck by song inspiration, which vexed me, but in the days leading up to the EK Spring Crown (in which Sir Culann was fighting for me) I found that my muse decided to come and visit.

This is a song about three men who have been influential to my SCA experience, Culann Mac Cianain, Ian Stewart, and Adam Brennan. I presented this to Angus before I left and to Culann and Brennan on Saturday night after Crown was done, dinner was had. (We made the semifinals! There was steak! There were people! Yay!)

Born of a Pembridge campfire at the War of the Roses, I give you the song, which you can hear by clicking the link.

My summer brothers
Spoke to me across the sparkling flame
My summer brothers
Asked for songs forged of an ancient fame
I sang to them, and to my kin,
as the stars drew closely down
Who that night would have seen the paths
That lead to our renown.

One summer brother came to me
A strong and comely knight.
That summer brother promised me
That beside me he would fight.
Never was I outside his view,
Nor lost in melee’s hold
Careful and watchful, was my shield,
His presence made me bold!

One summer brother came to me
With warriors at his side
That summer brother
Bade me sing, e’re they set out to ride.
Forty fierce and noble men
Brought wrath at his commands,
Yet would soothe my tears and place mulled wine
Within my hands.

My summer brothers
Spoke to me across the sparkling flame
My summer brothers
Asked for songs forged of an ancient fame
I sang to them, and to my kin,
as the stars drew closely down
Who that night would have seen the paths
That lead to our renown.

One summer brother came to me
So by his King assigned
That summer brother
Had given word he’d not leave me behind.
He brought me light to darkened hall
The concerns of all he’d quell,
His vigilant gaze on everything
Assuring all was well.

My summer brothers come to me
Now Duke, Master, and Knight
My summer brothers
Give me joy and stories fine to write.
Our lives have changed in many ways
Since that lazy summer fire
But like the sparks that fleck the night
They warm and they inspire.

My summer brothers
Spoke to me across the sparkling flame
My summer brothers
Asked for songs forged of an ancient fame
I sang to them, and to my kin,
as the stars drew closely down
Who that night would have seen the paths
That lead to our renown

My summer brothers
Spoke to me across the sparkling flame
My summer brothers
Asked for songs forged of an ancient fame
I sang to them, and to my kin,
as the stars drew closely down
Who that night would have seen the paths
That lead to our renown.

This summer sister loves you all,
You taught her to serve well.
This summer sister proudly sings
And your stories she will tell.
Seldom we stand as merry band
For we are rarely free
But I carry each one of you inside
With each joy and victory.

My summer brothers
Spoke to me across the sparkling flame
My summer brothers
Asked for songs forged of an ancient fame
I sang to them, and to my kin,
as the stars drew closely down
Who that night would have seen the paths
That lead to our renown.

My summer brothers
Spoke to me across the sparkling flame
My summer brothers
Will be songs forged of an ancient fame
Yes my summer brothers
Will be songs forged of an ancient fame.

 

Lullaby for the Mistlands

This piece was created for Anonii, Prince of the Mistlands, and his Princess, Helga. Antonii is a friend and has been an Eastern Unbelted Champion, and it was my desire to have a song for him during his reign. It is in celebration of the Mist-Cyguna War which happens every spring.

 

 

O the mighty wall of whitened cloud

Around the swan doth turn.

The mighty host of the brave Mistland

Will stand without concern

And ever there, throughout all time, no battle waged so fair

As the one between the swan and cloud

O would that I were there.

 

Cygunans fight with beak and wing

Their weapons fierce and fine

To cut the wall to the burning sky

Is the swan’s design.

 

Passing through the summer grey

Mistlanders bring the dew

Gathering steam, they build upon the veil

Which hides their retinue.

 

As ordained by the cycling sun,

Lead each with steel and might

Let your honor be your sword,

Favor all within your sight.

 

The bird and brume will ever feud

In contest long campaign

Then in peace shall live a while

As western kindred twain.

 

L’ouseau

L’ouseau – a modern chanson de’ toile based on the “Laustic” of Marie la France by Aneleda Falconbridge 2016


Out in the forest as the gold moon sets

the young knight goes riding, his hound by his side.

I walk to the window, so softly, to watch him

wishing, with sorrow, that I’d been his bride.

 

He stops in the moonlight and stares at my window,

as if he sees me, and holds out his hand

toward the dark stones behind which I’m hidden,

I move and the nightingale sings o’re the land

 

ah l’oiseau ah l’oiseau, so sweetly singing

ah l’oiseau ah l’oiseau swiftly there winging

ah l’oiseau ah l’oiseau merci for bringing

a song to my love.

 

Many days pass with my fine companion

I think of him often  and it makes me smile

I dream of the darkness when I may go fleetly

off to the window to wait for a while.

 

My love comes riding past on a fine warhorse

I dream of joining him there at his side.

He knows that I love him though he cannot hear me

I dare not speak for my husband’s fierce pride.

 

ah l’oiseau ah l’oiseau, so sweetly singing

ah l’oiseau ah l’oiseau swiftly there winging

ah l’oiseau ah l’oiseau merci for bringing a song to my love.

 

Summer has blossomed and gone in the forest

the woods are so quiet adrift with white snow

Soft as its falling I rouse from my slumber

to watch for my true love from my cold window

 

Snow melts to flowers, night song fills the woodlands

my heart is longing to see him again

as the dawn rises my husband awakens

and asks why my slumber is ever in vain.

 

ah l’oiseau ah l’oiseau, so loudly singing

ah l’oiseau ah l’oiseau ever there winging

ah l’oiseau ah l’oiseau wakefulness bringing with songs from above.

 

That will not do, says my husband so fiercely

set and determined to right perceived wrongs

he takes to the forest, his yeoman goes with him

with a score of hunters to catch its sweet songs.

 

from my high vantage I watch them go flying

I pray with all goodness that my love will hide

for to live ever cast from my beloved

shall bring me a sorrow I cannot not abide.

 

ah l’oiseau ah l’oiseau, so sweetly singing

ah l’oiseau ah l’oiseau swiftly there winging

ah l’oiseau ah l’oiseau merci for bringing a song to my love.

 

At last it is evening, the stars are appearing

over the greenwood, I see them come now

when they return my husband comes to me

he stands as he glowers beneath furrowed brow.

 

Within his hand lies a body so tiny

this delicate creature whose voice sang my love

“Here, you may take now the whole night unbreaking

without being wakened by noise from above”

 

ah l’oiseau ah l’oiseau, so sweetly singing

ah l’oiseau ah l’oiseau swiftly there winging

ah l’oiseau ah l’oiseau merci for bringing a song to my love.

 

The light, feathered creature he threw hard upon me

I see its head hanging, like it I am slain.

it struck like a stone where my own soul lay beating

leaving my white breast set with a red stain.

 

I took its small body and wrapped it in linen

placed in a jeweled casket, my heart full sore.

this, my beloved, I have sent as my message

That you shall know why you see me no more.

 

ah l’oiseau ah l’oiseau never more singing

ah l’oiseau ah l’oiseau done is you winging

ah l’oiseau ah l’oiseau no longer bringing

a song of my love.


 

L’ouseau – a modern chanson de’ toile  

based on the “Laustic” of Marie la France (12th century)

Aneleda Falconbridge

This song is a modern retelling of a story by Marie la France, based on her poem, Laustic. 1

The original work is in the Breton language, and the title, Laustic, is the Breton word for nightingale. This particular piece is only found in the manuscript known as Harley 978, or manuscript H.

The story is of two Barons, the lady wife of one is unhappy and loves the other Baron. They visit at a window, and the Baroness uses the excuse of the nightingale’s song waking her when discovered and questioned by her jealous husband. Her husband captures and kills the nightingale, and presents it to the lady by throwing it at her. When it hits her body, it leaves a blood stain. She sends its body to her lover in a small casket, its body wrapped in a piece of cloth embroidered with the story to explain her absence to him. He carries it as a reminder of her.

Marie, whose actual identity is unknown, wrote in the 12th century. Her work focused on themes of courtly love (often tragic) with a strong Celtic influence. She lived in England but is believed to have been born in France.

In the same period, courtly women who were working on handiwork tasks –  particularly embroidery, or fine needlework or weaving – were said to have sung as they worked. The songs which remain of this style of work were recorded in the 12th and 13th centuries and were called “chanson de toile” — song of the cloth — and often had similar themes. Frequently, the basic plot of these narratives was one of longing. A woman might be away from her beloved or perhaps married to someone who is not her romantic ideal. In these verses, the women dream of their lovers as they work and sing sad songs about their situations.

The works surviving are written in Old French and were said to have been set to music, though no surviving link to the tunes survived.

I felt the story by Marie de France was a perfect topic for this kind of modern chanson. The repeating verse echoes the repetitive motion of cloth work, spinning or sewing, as the rhythm of work sets solidly in. These works were also noted for having a refrain, which my version also includes.

The final piece is that the woman in the story, who embroiders the cloth that will wrap the small body, may also sing a chanson de toile as she sews this very story – which is my inspiration for telling this lay in this fashion.

The musical setting is my own creation. The swooping chorus is evocative of flight and the beating of wings as the nightingale flies in the forest between the lovers.

 


 

1 https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/La%C3%BCstic

Laustic, like many other lais by Marie de France, tells of a woman who is heavily monitored by her husband (or some other oppressive authority figure) and has a secret love life which consumes all of her attention. And, like in the other stories, the malicious husband attempts to destroy her happiness. (In some lais such as Laustic, it is unclear whether the oppressive authority forces the woman to have a secret affair or her secret affair causes her to be oppressed.)

Laustic (or ‘Nightingale‘ in English) takes place in an unnamed town with two barons. One baron has married a wise, refined and elegant woman, and the other baron falls in love with her. Since the latter baron has such a good reputation and lives so conveniently close, the wife falls for him as well and they spend as much time as possible standing by their respective windows, talking and tossing little presents to each other. One night, as the wife rises from bed to go to the window, her husband asks why she often gets up in the middle of the night. She responds that she cannot resist listening to the nightingale’s song, which is more beautiful than any other sound. The jealous husband then sets a trap for the bird, kills it violently in front of his wife and throws it at her. Saddened by the nightingale’s death and afraid that by no longer appearing at the window her lover will think less of her, she sends the dead bird to him with an explanation of what happened. The baron then puts the body in a casket made of gold and keeps it with him forever.

The nightingale represents the beauty of love and also its fragility. (The same metaphor is used in Yonec when Muldamarec is mortally wounded in his bird form by the jealous husband.) When the second baron preserves the bird’s body in a casket of gold and always keeps it with him, he is only representing his devotion and love with a physical reminder.[34]” https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Marie_de_France

2. The Harvard Dictionary of Music By Don Michael Randel

3. Burns, E. Jane (2002). “3. Love’s Stitches Undone”. Courtly love undressed: reading through clothes in medieval French culture. U of Pennsylvania P. pp. 88–118. ISBN 978-0-8122-3671-2.

A Bardic Class for Younger Children

I like it when children sing but recognize that it can be a challenge to find good “SCA” music to connect them to. This is why I love rounds! There’s lots of support and everyone can play together.

I was asked if I had suggestions for a class for bardic performance for children and I’ve done some spontaneous work with littles at events, and thought it would be fun to make a more organized class out of it. It’s a lot of what I’ve done “in the field” but with more structure.


Start with introductions and talk about music a bit in period. Ask questions like

What did people do for fun?
When might people make music?
What kinds of instruments were available?
What was ALWAYS available?

Talk a bit about how we make music now.

How is it different?
When do we sing?
Where do we see and hear performances?
What kinds of things do we sing about?

Medieval people sang about a lot of things. They sang about God and saints and about people they knew. Music was important because it was available to everyone.

Sing common children’s rounds to get warmed up and comfortable. Do them in this order if possible.

Twinkle Twinkle Little Star 
Alphabet Song (does this song sound kind of the same as the last song?)
Row Row Row Your Boat
(unison, then try it as a round)

Questions for these songs:

Which song is a story? What is the story about? Songs often told stories about people, places, and events. We call that “narrative” when something is telling us a story.
Which song is a lesson?  What is it teaching us? Songs were used to teach people things sometimes, especially religion and some stories, because songs are easier to remember and also not everyone knew how to read words.
Which songs sound the same? Twinkle Twinkle and the ABC song use the same tune more or less. We call it “contrafact” and in medieval times, like now, many people used the same music to sing different songs.

Some songs changed, some stayed the same!

Three Blind Mice (Thomas Ravenscroft, 1609) comparison is good here. Start with the modern one, then teach the original one.
http://mbouchard.com/aneleda/three-blind-mice-then-and-now

People sang songs that were about other people!

Lady Come Down (Thomas Ravenscroft, 1609):
http://www.pbm.com/~lindahl/ravenscroft/pammelia/pam_36small.html
Lady come down and see the cat sits in the plum tree!

Oh My Love (Thomas Ravenscroft, 1609):
http://www.pbm.com/~lindahl/ravenscroft/songbook/oh_my_loue.html or
http://www.pbm.com/~lindahl/ravenscroft/deuteromelia/deut_37small.html
Oh my love, love thou me? Then quick come and save him that dies for thee!

People sang songs about their problems:

This is an Elizabethan song about complaining, My Goose.

My Goose (trad. probably in SCA period):
http://kodalysongweb.net/sites/default/files/Goose%20Round.pdf
“Why shouldn’t my goose sing as well as thy goose when I paid for my goose twice as much as thine??”

Hey Ho Nobody at Home (Thomas Ravenscroft, 1609):
http://www-personal.umich.edu/~msmiller/rheyhonobody.html
Hey ho nobody home, meat nor drink nor money have I none, yet I will be merry, very merry!

People even sang to sell things!

Songs were some of the first advertisements and music is still used to sell things! Listen to the radio and TV and you’ll hear how that works!

Hot Mutton Pies (Thomas Ravenscroft, 1609): The group can be divided into three sellers for this street call. Or they can learn the whole song. It’s a fun round. They could make up their own products if they catch on fast.
http://www-personal.umich.edu/~msmiller/rcatch52.html
Hot mutton pies hot, buy my dainty young beans, my young beans, crabs crabs any crabs?

People sang in Latin, and other languages.

Viva La Musica (Michael Praetorius, 1571-1621):  Long live music!
http://www-personal.umich.edu/~msmiller/rvivamusica.html

Dona Nobis Pacem (credited to Giovanni Palestrina, 1525-1594): Give us peace.
http://www-personal.umich.edu/~msmiller/donanobis.html
(Do one part at a time, and if you can work a round out of it, it’s good. This is a good ending song too since many people of all ages know it and may join in if invited.)

Other pieces which are good choices for children include:

The Great Bells of Oseney (Thomas Ravenscroft, 1609): It sounds like bells ringing
http://www-personal.umich.edu/~msmiller/rdeut9.html

Go to Joan Glover (Thomas Ravenscroft, 1609): A sweet song about passing notes via song, really.
http://www-personal.umich.edu/~msmiller/rjoanglover.html

Joan Come Kiss Me Now (Thomas Ravenscroft, 1609): This is short and sweet, but has a tricky accidental. Fun to have people sub out other people’s names.
http://www-personal.umich.edu/~msmiller/rjoankiss.html

Any of the Three Country Dances in One – Particulary good is the Tenor Robin Hood.
http://www.pbm.com/~lindahl/ravenscroft/pammelia/pam_37small.html

Encourage your attendees to teach someone the songs they learned and perform them at the bardic circles at the event. 

I have had success bringing the group out into someplace where “the public” can see them and having them perform “in concert” one of the pieces the did better at. It’s always been a big success and everyone has felt good about it at the end. A very positive way to end the session.