Great lords, wise men ne’er sit and wail their loss,
But cheerly seek how to redress their harms.
What though the mast be now blown overboard,
The cable broke, the holding-anchor lost,
And half our sailors swallow’d in the flood?
–Queen Margaret, from Shakespeare’s Henry VI
Episode the Third
Handling Water, Music
Slip slidin’ away.
I’ve been reading The Weather Underground (wunderground.com) all week; initially, on Monday, rain was predicted for Saturday and Sunday. Then, by midweek, the rain predictions had been pushed back to Sunday evening. I’ll know in a few minutes which it is, really.
I’m driving northwest on Kuykendahl-Hufsmith Road, and the westering sky is not filling me with optimism. To the east, north, and south, it’s clear as a bell, with just a few cirrus clouds scudding eastwards. To the west, it looks like a sky-shot from A Perfect Storm. This does not bode well. In a quarter-century of concertising, I’ve never had to play in the rain for a long period; sprinkles, an occasional shower, but not all day. As I turn onto the two-lane that leads out to the Festival, the first spatters of rain start to hit the windshield. St. Cecelia is apparently in a foul mood today.
Raining like a mother. First set just getting underway. We’re starting late, primarily because the group that plays in the gazebo before us is in a fine funk because of the rain. They’re a Renaissance dance band, for lack of a more accurate euphemism, and their instrumentation consists of a fiddle, a Renaissance harp, a flute, and some ukelele-like South American instrument with which I am not familiar. They’re scared shitless of the rain, of course — get their instruments wet, and they swell and burst. I glance down at Ye Olde Getzen; water’s slopping off of my hat and cascading over the bell section. Plus, the plume in my hat is drooping, and it’s soaked.
Needless to say, we don’t have a very big audience.
We play through a set of our easier pieces. I pretty much have these down via autopilot now anyway, so I let my eyes wander as I play. We have a sub for Karen (tenor trombone) today; looks like a college kid, named Brian something-or-the-other, one of Karen’s colleagues. He’s playing well, the timbre of his 42B is big and full, but I can guess what’s running through his mind right now — and his girlfriend’s, since she came with him.
It’s raining buckets,, and the wind is blowing the precipitation at about a 45-degree angle, so the gazebo affords no protection. Thankfully, Darryl has always used sheet-protectors to put the music into, so it’s not getting wet. However, my glasses are. I see 4 to 8 images of everything, since I’m viewing the world through an imperfect set of van Leewoenhoek spectacles, what with water droplets on ’em.
This is just great.
I’m soaked. No, really — SOAKED. My shoes squish when I walk, the brocade vest I’m wearing feels like it weighs about 20 pounds, and my TIGHTS are wet — I feel like I’ve pissed my pants. Plus, now it’s quit raining so hard, and the wind is blowing. Wet drawers, cold draft. Yowsa.
Since it’s not doin’ the Noah anymore, Eric and I decide to take a turn about the Festival to chat and see what we can spend poundage on today. He’s hot to buy a rapier to go with the natty doublet he bought, but is having trouble rationalizing 200 bucks for a stage sword. We go to the shop from which he purchased his doublet, but alas, my barrel-chest (not my barrel-paunch, interestingly enough) precludes the purchase. The shopkeeper says they’ll make me one for the same price, but I’m too depressed. I’ll keep wearing Darryl’s loaner that I have to undo the leather straps to wear comfortably.
We pass Sholo. That Sholo gets all the chicks.
The TRF grounds are set up in a big circle — three circles, side by side, to be precise. Just as Eric and I reach the “apogee” of our circuit, it starts to rain again. HARD. We have no choice, really — we slog through the rain to the Sacred Exit Door and get our horns for the noon set.
The noon set is over, not that it matters that much. No one at ALL came to listen to us, since it was raining. However, even when it’s nice the noon set doesn’t get a lot of listeners. The Festival management, in its wisdom, scheduled us at the same time as the noon merchant and performer’s parade. Most people go to the parade anyway.
Still had the parade today, but the weather has divided the patrons today into two groups: The Diehards, who revel in the mud, rain, and filth (it IS more realistic that way, I suppose) and The Hellwiththisers, who decided when the weather turned to shit that it was time to go home. By God, the Bat People are here, though. Takes a lot to keep the Bat People at home. This is Bat Country, after all.
Darryl and I had a discussion about the fact that (so we heard) there have been 9000 people through the gates today already (an average day is, so they tell me, 20K). We finally agreed that if you are a father of three, get you, your wife, and your rugrats dressed up in uncomfortable, mothball-smelling costumes, and drive from Galveston or Austin to come to the Festival, and discover when you get here that it’s a Force 1 hurricane, you have three choices: (a), turn around and drive the 3 hours back home, facing the stony silence of your spouse and the piteous wailings of your disappointed progeny; (b) sit in the car all day, waiting for it to slack up, or (c) dragging everybody out of the car, through the gates, bellowing “We’ll have a good time today, by God, and get your ass out of the mud, Katie.”
Halfway through the third set. Still raining. We’re all soaked, of course. After the first two pieces of this set, my slide was getting sluggish. I walked out of the gazebo into the rain, extended the slide to 7th position, got the slide good and wet, and came back inside the gazebo with a slick slide. God’s spray bottle, man.
We finished our last set about 15 minutes ago, exiting with a whimper instead of our usual bang. The only item of note I saw this afternoon was Sholo the Barbarian striding manfully across the turf. He hit a slimy patch of that lovely red-clay mud and ended up arse-over-teakettle. Chick-magnet, but not cautious. I did NOT laugh. Out loud.
Sunday morning, 20 October 10:30am
Today, Karen is back. Today, it is not raining. Brian’s last words to me before he left yesterday were “How did Karen know what day to miss?” Since K is with child, I’m kind of GLAD she missed yesterday’s shenanigans. Better crowd today, very appreciative. Darryl calls our Sunday morning set “MUSIC FOR SINNERS,” since if your at the TRF, you ain’t eatin’ gefilte fish at the synagogue or genuflecting at the cathedral. Some people laugh when he shouts the name of the set–others just glare at him. Heh. BUSTED.
I always go visit one of the other gazebos when I can this year; there’s a medieval music group called Istanpitta that plays a little closer to the jousting arena. Not only are they good, they’ve VERY GOOD — and more importantly to me, the Medieval/Renaissance scholar, they’re historically accurate. Usually. There are usually three, sometimes four of them, and among them they can correctly encompass the oud, lute, saz, shawms, Renaissance recorders, transverse flutes, hurdy-gurdy, krummhorns, vielles, medieval harp, sackbut, and bagpipes. And they sing, too. In Latin, Hebrew, French, and Spanish. Maybe more.
They also have a belly dancer that performs with them. I dunno exactly why, but apparently her Renaissance “character” (you’re SUPPOSED to have a fictitious history for your costume that describes who you are–I don’t.) migrated from Persia, according to the website.
I noticed the first time I went past Istanpitta’s stage that there was what appeared to be a sackbut hanging from the roof of the gazebo. It was, and Michael Tucker, of Istanpitta, plays it. I’ve played a 16th-century sackbut before, and the sound was similar. After talking with Michael, I discovered how he made his. Tin snips. Yup. Tin snips. Got a student line horn, cut off part of the bell until it looked right, then finished the bare metal so it wouldn’t lop his frickin’ arm off. I guess that would qualify as a rimless bell. Wonder if Edwards makes sackbut bells for my B454.
The audience is livening up — we’ve had quite a nice crowd at points today. It’s always so much more fulfilling to play to an audience instead of being Renaissance Muzack. The crowds have been responsive and even laughing at Darryl’s admittedly horrid jokes. And, to make the day complete, no Drench-a-Wench queries (one would assume they got good’n’drenched yesterday), although Eric and I have noticed a rising tide of Xenas today as opposed to yesterday.
Journey’s end for this week — payed up, happy to be dry, although I know I am going to have nightmares about slipping in the clay mud and landing on my slide, crumpling it into bowtie spaghetti.
Next week, I discover that Karen is going to be out again, and her sub is Thomas Hulten. Yeah, THAT Thomas Hulten. Lead trombone in Spiritual to the Bone Thomas Hulten. I’ll toddle along home now and find a hammer to beat this horn into a plowshare.