This is the first in a series of profiles featuring the bards of Æthelmearc, from Baroness Gwendolyn the Graceful, our current Sylvan Bard.

photo by Alexander Ó Chonchobair

photo by Alexander Ó Chonchobair

What’s your full SCA name (and anything else you typically use to introduce yourself)?
THL Alianora Bronhulle, but just Alianora works for me. 🙂

What attracted you to the bardic arts?
I love to sing, but I don’t think I’m all that good at it. [GtG’s note: Yes, you are!] My first AEcademy was a couple months after I joined the SCA, and there was a “Sing We of AEthelmearc” class by the current Sylvan Bard (Orlando). I had so much fun that I joined the Sylvan Singers and have been finding bardic circles ever since.

How long have you considered yourself a bard / scop / scyld / minstrel / term-of-choice?
Almost 3 years now.

What’s your primary form (singer, storyteller, poet, etc.)? Do you play any instruments, and if so, which?
My primary form is singing. I have not played any instruments in the SCA yet.

Where can we find your work? Do you have a brief sample you’d like to share?
The first round of the 2014 Sylvan Bard competition was recorded and posted on youtube by the Viking Home Companion. The video for my performance is here.
I don’t have any other recorded performances that I know of.

What sorts of pieces do you enjoy producing? What attracts you to that style?I like a variety of music. Everything from the funny to serious, filks and period pieces, love songs and war songs. I most enjoy something with a drum to accompany because it changes the feel of the piece. The best performance of ‘The Minstrel Boy’ I ever did was the first time Don Brennan the Misguided accompanied me with his bodhrán. I’ll never forget how it felt.

Describe a favorite performance of your own in the SCA. What makes it a highlight for you?
The day TRMs Timothy and Gabrielle chose me to be the Sylvan Bard, Gabrielle asked me what my third piece would have been if the competition had gone to a third round. My reply was ‘The Minstrel Boy’ because it is my favorite song of all that I do, so she asked if I would perform it at feast that evening. Once they were seated and eating, I stood not far from their table and offered my song to them amidst the chatter of the good gentles eating their meal, and two lines into the song there was silence except for the sound of my voice. I was humbled and amazed at the attention my performance of the song received, and it showed me the power of one bard’s voice.

Describe a performance by someone else that inspired you in the bardic arts. How did that performance guide you to improve your own art? What did it prompt you to do?
In 2014 at ice Dragon, I had the pleasure of listening to Don Brennan the Misguided perform a song called ‘Belt and Chain’. It was amazing, and he is a very spirited performer. I had never heard the song before, and his rendition brought me to tears. In speaking with him later to gush about how much I loved his performance, we started talking about having a piece for every situation as my repertoire was somewhat limited at the time. He inspired me to start collecting songs for different occasions.

What projects are you working on now?
I have several songs that I am brushing up on, one of which was a special choice for the bardic competition at White Hart had it not been cancelled, so it will wait until later. I am also working on learning ‘The Glasgow Reel’ on the violin, but it will be some time before I bring that out for performance.

Who are some of your favorite influences, either for your own research and composition, or for performing within the SCA?
I like the haunting sound of madrigals from period. If ever I were to write something epic, it would be in that style.

What other types of performance do you particularly love to see / hear?
I love the atmosphere around a bardic circle. It is a place to sing familiar songs or to try out new ones. A place where people join in on the chorus and laugh and enjoy themselves.

What advice do you have for someone who wants to be a bard?
Just do it. Stand up at a bardic circle, raise your hand, speak out, and give it a go. I get so nervous before I perform, but I (hopefully) hide it well and I don’t let it stop me from doing something I love. Somewhere someone needs to hear a story or a song, and yours might be the one they need to hear, but they’ll never know until you do it.

Is there anything you want to add?
Music is a love of mine, and in the SCA it has the ability to really pull out the magic of an event and lend ambiance to an otherwise stark venue. At Gulf Wars this year, I met a bard on the road singing her song as she walked along for anyone to hear. I traded her one song for another and we talked about music. Being a bard is a great way to meet people, if even on a small scale, and to spread the dream through music and stories.