I'm back from a Renaissance Faire. I play harp and sing with a group of musicians called The Pearwood Pipers. We had a lot of fun, but as usual, ended our weekend gig with the standard question:
Why are the songs that we have the largest audiences for the ones about drinking (or the one where I put on a dress and pretend to be an oyster girl [hint: "oyster girl" is a euphemism]), whereas the beautiful, four-part madrigals by John Dowland (okay, yeah; they're kind of melancholy) make them leave in droves ?
Part of the problem is that it's easier for modern audiences to understand, "Jolly good luck to the landlady; good luck to the barley mow!" than it is "Wilt thou, unkind, thus reave me of my heart (of my heart, of my heart) and so leave me?" But still; these are folks who come to a Renaissance Faire -- surely they've brushed up their Shakespeare? Or is it true that they only came to see the Chicks in Chainmail.
It's a conundrum for us, because as performers, we want large audiences, but as musicians we want to create portals to other worlds with haunting, chilling, music. But maybe our audience is fleeing from the peril of transformative music. (Yes, there is always room for improvement in our music, but I don't think they're fleeing because we play badly.)
Perhaps it's time to make a sandwich board flip sign with a translation of the words and train a little dog to turn the pages...