Having written lyrics for two peerage elevations before, I had started to feel comfortable in composing them. So when Dame Cristiana asked me to help with Gerald’s surprise elevation, I jumped at the chance to write something for this dear friend and most excellent person. The notice was short, however, and although I was not pressed for time in composing the piece, I was unable to also arrange for any of the talented singers I know to do the actual performance. …So I volunteered myself.
Those who know Gerald are aware that religion and the history of liturgy in the Middle Ages are among his interests. A processional hearkening to one which may have been performed in a religious context would be appropriate for him; tempered, of course, for the secular nature of an SCA peerage elevation.
My research began by seeking processional pieces from the 14th century. These would be Catholic rites, as appropriate for Gerald’s persona. I settled on “Ave maris stella”, a Gregorian chant used as a processional throughout the late Middle Ages during the Ordinary Mass.
Ave maris stella,
Dei mater alma,
Atque semper Virgo,
Felix caeli porta.
The problem which jumped out at me right away was the brevity of the piece. I timed the singing of these words done by a professional men’s choir at a mere fifteen seconds, which is too short for an outdoor processional. At the advice of my knight and fellow wordsmith Sir Richard FitzAlan, I decided to compose the piece to be sung both in Latin and in English, thus doubling the performance time. Just as with Aelisia’s processional, the English verse would not be a mere translation of the Latin, but would be written with consistency of meter and syllables so as to be singable.
I began with the Latin. As with “Ave maris stella” I wanted the piece to be addressed to the potentate (in this case, the Crowns of An Tir). In addressing Them, I also chose to avoid the patriarchal tropes used to often address Queens. Although Queen Rauokinn can certainly be described as beautiful, radiant, inspirational, etc. I chose to describe her instead by her lioness-like ferocity.
Ave potens princeps,
Ecce ars hominis.
Laurum in fronte ponunt.
Which translates as:
Hail mighty ruler,
Behold this man for his science.
Place a laurel on his brow.
However, that translation doesn’t have the right meter to be sung to the “Ave stella maris” music. So the English version is slightly different, which also gave me the opportunity to work in Gerald’s “art’ as well as his “science”.
Hearken mighty lion,
And ferocious queen.
See this man for his art.
Honor him with laurels.
I finished the piece in good time, and began practicing in the shower and in the woods behind my house. My “dress rehearsal” so to speak, was in a vacant shower stall the morning before the ceremony. For your listening pleasure (sarcasm), here is one of the recordings. Unfortunately I did not get a recording of the actual performance.