vinceconaway: (Default)
I'm delighted to be closing the show! I was originally booked for four weekends, but my dates were extended to include the final two weekends of the faire. I really love this festival, surrounded by and working with friends, and it's been a joy to be back.

It's an interesting phenomenon to be an introvert in the entertainment industry. There are social gatherings going on all around me, but I bow out of most of them. I'm looking forward to seeing a vaudevillian comedy show tonight, Esther's Follies of Austin, but I turned down the invitation to kayaking and dinner beforehand. I husband my emotional bandwidth.

My thoughts are starting to drift to the future. I head to Italy in two weeks and I'm starting to get anxiously excited about the trip. As always, my brain is filled both with things that need doing and others that could go wrong. Still, after so many tours this is a familiar place to me, and almost comfortable.

I've really been loving the social time I've had here, even though it feels like I avoid most of it, but three months of solitary travel are a chance to really dive into my own head and work on myself. I'm very fortunate that my business model includes both intense community and deep solitude, in a balance I feel works well for me, tempered as always by the interactions with my audience. Wherever you are on that spectrum, I'm deeply grateful for you all.
vinceconaway: (Default)
It's been awhile since I've posted. Life is ticking along nicely, and I'm pleased with it. The Sherwood Forest Faire has been very good to me, and I'm really enjoying the audience and the large cohort of friends I have as colleagues here. I've recently learned and memorized a 1584 instrumental piece by Galileo's father, Vincenzo Galilei, and I like it better than anything else of his I've done. There are 28 other pieces in that particular collection, and I'm really excited about tackling more of them in the future.

I head to Europe in three weeks! It's starting to feel real. Of course, most of the expenses are already sitting on my credit card, but that adds its own sort of relief to have firm plans in place. I'm thrilled to go back to Italy and explore some new places in addition to some favourites, see Croatia for the first time in years, and to finally fulfill my goal of busking Sarajevo.

My Italy plans include a week in Cremona, which I've only seen before as a day trip. I spent an afternoon performing there once, and I've found their city ordinances and I'm hopeful the polizia interpret them the same way I do. I'll also be busking Vicenza, which I only saw as a "weekend" vacation a few years back. This trip will involve several weeks in Umbria, my grandmother's home region; I've heard amazing things about Orvieto, in particular.

Most interestingly, I've got plans to meet up with friends in Tuscany! I scheduled my time in Pisa to coincide with a visit from friends who are giving/taking a tour. RenAdventures is organized by several close friends, and I'm really excited to hang out with them and their guests, some of whom are also friends!
vinceconaway: (Default)
I've found a favourite coffee house to hang out in! It's a pity that it's a significant drive, so I only come once or twice a week when I can combine it with other errands, but it's a pleasant morning to sit and write.

The Sherwood Forest Faire is going very well for me so far! I'm really enjoying Austin audiences, they're a musician's delight, and it's a real pleasure to be surrounded by friends again after so much time alone on the road. It's one of the great luxuries of my life that I can alternate periods of intense isolation with times of brilliant socializing. Two months alone, two months with friends, three months alone, and another few months with friends: I'm a creature of extremes and this delights me.
vinceconaway: (Default)
I know it's been a hard year for a lot of people, but personally it's treated me fairly well even as I mourn for various people and events. I'd like to thank everyone who made this year so good for my music and travels; it's been a very full year for me, and I can't believe so much has happened in a mere twelve months.

I began the year in southern Ontario, Canada, recording Dulce Melos. I'm incredibly proud of how it came out, and of how ambitious I was with the complexity of its music. I continued my Baroque explorations, delved even further into sixteenth century music, and discovered some fourteenth- and fifteenth-century gems in addition to the Celtic and early medieval music which has long been my foundation.

From Canada I went to Texas, although it minimized my culture shock that I was living in Austin (unofficial motto: "Keep Austin Weird"). I had a truly splendid experience at the Sherwood Forest Medieval Faire, feeling myself absolutely at home among close friends old and new. It's a delightful show with a lot of heart and skill behind it and I relished the experience of playing there. Austin audiences were incredibly welcoming and generous, and between my colleagues and our patrons I had a magical time.

From the newness of Sherwood I returned to my stomping grounds of Gulf Wars, a large SCA (Society for Creative Anachronism) event in southern Mississippi. I had a great time, as my Canadian friends mingled with those I have in New Orleans. We did have a bit of an incident, however, with a massive storm system that swept through. I had just begun a set in the tavern when the intense winds and driving rains began, and I moved my setup to the minstrels' gallery (it's an amazing place). I spent the next few hours at my dulcimer, doing my best to add a bit of calm to the atmosphere. They're calling that night "Gulfnado", and it's a story that will always be shared by those who were there.

I then headed to Italy as I do most years, where I made some discoveries pro and con. Cities that have been good to me in the past, Padua and Bologna, had recently passed anti-busking regulations, and even the nominally friendly city of Perugia gave me some problems. In response, I broadened my busking to cities where I had spent very little time in the past, and was very pleased at my welcome in Prato, Terni, Foligno, and Pistoia. Taranto, Genoa, and Pisa were delightful and reliable as they've been so often in the past, and I'm pleased to have added Foggia to the list of cities where I reliably return.

From Italy I resumed my renaissance festival circuit, picking up in St Louis. I always feel very at home there, with this being my fifteenth year there as a musician, but it was a bit of an oddity; the festival is in the process of moving from the spring to the fall, and these two weekends were "preview" weekends offering a limited version of the show free to the public. Even so, I had a really positive experience, and the weekends were a rousing success.

I then spent a month performing at SCA camping events. It's typical for me to include a few of these throughout my year, as with Gulf Wars, but we were celebrating the fiftieth anniversary of the Society's founding. This meant that I went from St Louis to a ten-day camping event outside Kansas City, and on to a week outside Indianapolis, with a few days visiting my parents before a long weekend at the War of the Trillium surrounded by my family of friends in Greater Toronto.

I then continued my Canadian adventures by spending July as a street performer at Byward Market in Ottawa, the nation's capital. I love Ottawa and, as is a theme in my travels, have a number of friends there. It's my favourite busking pitch in North America, as a historic neighbourhood meets a farmers market under the umbrella of a very helpful and organized management team.

I returned to the States, and to the SCA, for my annual trek to Pennsic, north of Pittsburg. My fifteenth year there, I'm starting to play for the children of people who started listening to me as children, themselves. I taught a class on neat medieval sites to visit in Italy, and I was honoured to co-teach a lesson on street performing with my old friejnd and dear colleague Jack Strauss, who calls himself Dr Henry Best in the Society. We have sharply different styles, and it was a lot of fun to see where our perspectives differed and lined up. I'm especially proud to be a part of this class because it has a history of encouraging artists to become professionals, with several alumni who have gone on to make some brilliant art.

I'm running out of creative ways to say "and then I went someplace else".

So off to the New York Renaissance Faire rode I! It's a truly beautiful show set in a former botanical garden, where I'm surrounded by (you guessed it) good friends, delightedly playing for New Yorkers who live in the live entertainment capital of the world and know how to be a phenomenal audience.

Sadly, the New York Faire overlaps with the new autumn dates of the St Louis Renaissance Festival, but I was able to return for the last two weekends of its season. As I mentioned, the preview weekends had gone off very well, and the full show was an even bigger deal.

After two weekends off, which I spent being a social butterfly in southern Ontario again, I headed south to Louisiana. This was my fourteenth year at the Louisiana Renaissance Festival, after a very difficult year for them. The site flooded in March, under 8 feet of water, and after they had cleaned it up did so again in September. I was deeply impressed at how many people pitched in their labour to make things work, and how well management pulled off the event after two such disasters. Thankfully the weather had gotten the water out of its system, because we only had one wet festival day the entire season for a remarkably good run.

In short, it's been a very good festival season for me. Outside of my live performances, however, I also got a lot more into Internet video this year. I launched a Patreon campaign and I'm very pleased both at its generous reception and with how much fun I'm having. I've been intending to take more video, and this has been a brilliant motivation to keep coming up with new variations. Many thanks to all of my patrons! And many thanks to everyone who has offered me encouragement, feedback, applause, and their business. Without you there could never be me, and I'm deeply thankful.
vinceconaway: (Default)
I'm going to a New Year's Eve party and I just read the invitation; it's a wake for a brutal year, and we'll be bringing sentiments to burn and wishes for the new year. It's a fairly standard Yule ritual, and not my first rodeo. But like everything else, as I approach my fortieth birthday, it carries a lot of memories.


I had just finished my first season at the Ohio Renaissance Festival and I was informally engaged to my girlfriend of two years (no ring, but she had asked and I said, "yes"). I was on top of the world, and when it came my turn to express my thoughts on the passing year and wishes for the next I stood tall.

"It's been a year of music and love, and I hope for even more to come!"

It was a sentiment to remind me to be careful what I wished for. My relationship ended in early April, but I booked my first full summer/fall season of renaissance festival work and was very much on my toes with launching my career. This meant that I was fresh meat on the circuit, and I call that period my "summer of love".

A dear old friend still makes fun of me for breathlessly calling every week to exclaim, "there's this girl!" as I repeatedly fell head over heels at a dizzying rate. I look back on that time with fondness and I'm on good terms with several of the ladies involved, but while I'm glad to have lived it I would never want to repeat it.

What a wild ride it was, and now I'm a lot more careful with my wishes. I'll let you know what I come up with.
vinceconaway: (Default)
I'm booked through July, here's where you can find me!

January 10 - March 7
Busking tour of South America (Santiago de Chile, Valparaiso, Concepcion, Temuco, Valdivia, Villarrica, Vina del Mar, Antofagasta, Calama, Arica, Cusco, and Lima)

March 12 - 16
Gulf Wars (SCA)
Hattiesburg, MS

March 17 - April 9
Sherwood Forest Faire
Bastrop, TX

May 2 - July 27
Busking tour of Europe (Genoa, Vicenza, Cremona, Modena, Orvieto, Gubbio, Foligno, Pisa, Dubrovnik, Mostar, Sarajevo, Split, Rijeka, Ljubljana)

July 30 - August 4
Pennsic War (SCA)
Slippery Rock, PA
vinceconaway: (Default)
Having experienced my first Renaissance Festival at Baycrafters (see Origin Story Part I), I went off to college. I was dating a girl in Dayton, Suzzi Bibby, while going to school in Columbus, and I accumulated a lot of miles between the cities. It was she who introduced me to the Ohio Renaissance Festival.

We went as patrons, and soon were going in costume. We would treat the admission fee as a cover charge and spend all day in the pub, watching band after band. Soon we were playing together the music we were hearing, with my experiments on mountain dulcimer (no relation to my now-primary instrument, the hammered dulcimer) being accompanied by her playing on recorder and bodhrán (an Irish frame drum).

We called ourselves the Tweedford Minstrels, since our music straddled English, Scottish, and Irish traditions just as a fictitious ford on the River Tweed would straddle the countries of England and Scotland. Our first and only performance was at the Ohio State University Medieval and Renaissance Faire in May of 1997.

We had broken up the previous January, and the band outlived the relationship only briefly. I was branching out into new music and we weren't getting together to rehearse as often now that we were dating other people more local to us. I had taken up the cittern, a ten-string instrument that had more volume, more flexibility, and more of a renaissance image. And so I went solo.

In 1998 I played a madrigal dinner, and my hosts Mac and Cheri Corbeil insisted that I audition for the Ohio Renaissance Festival. I didn't feel myself to be ready, but I played the Ohio State Medieval Faire again on my own and gathered the courage to audition for ORF that summer.

To my amazement I got the gig.

Everything else I've done followed from that moment. I discovered that my love of performing went deeper than I had imagined, and I learned that there were people who made a living by traveling the country and bringing joy to their audiences. I investigated the Renaissance Festival circuit and began plotting a future, even as I commuted to North Carolina to fulfill an internship with IBM. A stark choice lay before me, and I was strongly considering Option B.

I have never regretted treading the path less taken.
vinceconaway: (Default)
I was recently approached by someone who wanted the story of how I got into renaissance festivals, since they are compiling such stories into a book. My imagination was fired by the idea, until I realized they were just asking for a detailed questionnaire. I'll still do that, but I wanted to share the details of how I got into this crazy business.

It all started when I was fourteen years old and my parents took me to the Baycrafters Renaissance Faire in Cleveland, over Labor Day weekend. My young mind was blown, and I knew I had found my tribe. I saw a lady play the lute, and I was shocked that such skills were still known and practiced. I saw my first SCA demo, where a group of fighters demonstrated the difference between Hollywood fight choreography and how massed medieval troops actually conducted themselves.

I went back over the next few years, and the memories blur. As a sixteen-year-old independent driver I was in line just as the parade was lining up. They offered free admission if I marched with them inside a giant puppet, and suddenly I was a performer.

The next year I name-dropped a booth name for free admission. Allen Drago's Patchwork Merchant Mercenaries was willing to vouch for us as employees in exchange for helping him take down the giant pavilion at the end of the show, and it was a small price to pay.

During these trips, one or two days a year over the course of my high school career, I made a lot of friends and became closer to ones I already had. I was involved in a lot of adult discussion it had previously been difficult for my teenaged self to engage. And I saw my first hammered dulcimer.

Matt Ableson was the player, who is now an acquaintance of mine. My family is from a dulcimer-playing region of Appalachia, and I later ran across dulcimers there, but my first experience was through what later became my primary venue: the Ren Faire. And I hate to admit it, but my first impression of the instrument was resentment that my girlfriend had a crush on the guy.

To be continued...
vinceconaway: (Holland Head Shot)
Today I'm looking ahead to my Italy tour next month: I'm going to have a slightly smaller dulcimer, which limits me compared to the one I've been playing. I'm adjusting some of my newer repertoire so that I'll still be able to practice it and not need to relearn it before recording next December, and I'm looking back through past repertoire to dig up gems I haven't played in a while.

Specifically, the Italians have responded very well to my original material, but Renaissance Faire audiences prefer the Celtic stuff. Because of that, I've whittled my originals down to a dozen tunes fresh in my head and allowed the rest to get rusty. Now I'm dusting off a lot of that music and letting the jigs and reels atrophy a bit.

I honestly think that one reason I remain so invigorated in my performance career is because of this annual repertoire shift. It keeps me from getting bored, and on my toes!

August 2017

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