(Warning. Extreme stream of consciousness
HarmUni pre-registration: 31
HarmUni WDream Chorus: 38
Small con. Big sound. I'll tell you about it
I drove up to the con with Mike and Anne Whitaker
and their son, James. Let me say right here at the outset
that Anne Whitaker carries a tesseract in her pocket. We fit
3 guitars, amplifier, babystuff, carriage, me, *ALL* my luggage,
clothing for Mike and Anne and James, toys, soda, baby pen,
air, and a BED in a small sedan. (Ok- so we got rid of
the bed within a mile. But it fit).
And then we proceeded to turn a two hour drive
from Peterborough to York into four and a half hour horror
of traffic jammed traffic circles, restaurants, and babyminding. (Ok, so the restaurant wasn't a horror, and neither was babyminding
James. Save for the occasional air raid warnings from low
flying hypersonic spoons and chips... But it balanced out
the sentence, dammit! (Yes, James has an Arm. Bowling looks
to be in his future... (Cricket style bowling- not the US
ninepin style... (Yes, I'll stop these asides, soon. I promise.
(Ok, just one more...)))))
(I'll stop now and be nice...)
HarmUni was a small filk relaxicon held in parallel
with Eboracon at the University of York. HarmUni was actually
almost run as the filk track to Eboracon- just one small fact
prevented the impression that this was the case.
"And we walked, 20 miles to the filk room/
lugging instruments upstairs both ways..."
No lie, no exaggeration. I walk a mile in 15
minutes. It was a 20 minute walk all the way across campus to get to the filk site. I figure it was about 1.1 miles from
the food and bar to the music.
On the other hand, if you have to walk, this
is a good place to do it. No major hills, ramps everywhere,
and even a lake in the middle of campus with very scenic
bridges to cross. Ok- so it came pre-stocked with ducks and
geese that would chase you begging a food handout if you stood
still admiring the view for longer than say....45 seconds.
Which meant the obvious of watching where you put your feet.
But on the whole, it was a lovely way to pass 20 minutes.
The goal of HarmUni was to have a filk relaxicon
in England. It really didn't succeed- but not because it wasn't
scheduled well. It was. There was an average of an hour gap
between every single program item. But factor in a 20 minute
walk each way; then the regular time slippage you get at a
con- and you can see how the extra space went the way of the
dodo. From what I understand, the room assignment was a fairly
last-minute thingie; and by Saturday evening about Lissa and
Rafe managed to get about half the programming moved closer
to the amenities.
We got to the University of York at about 7pm.
Checked in, and I found my room. Dang- I haven't lived in
a dorm in over 15 years. It was a nice room; very clean and
cozy. And the community bathroom for the floor was right outside
my door. I win. *grin*
By this time, it was dark. And I took my first
walk across the campus to find HarmUni. The signage was great-
but even so I got lost twice trying to find the right place
in the dark. ( I learned later that the signage was put
into place by the Raftery girls- GREAT going Anna and Emily!). After a bit of running back and forth with luggage, guitar,
etc; I managed to settle in at the filk room just as Mike
Whitaker started his set.
Mike has had some rather severe sight problems
in recent years; and as such has not done a solo concert in
quite a while. He had successful surgery in March to correct
much of the problem- and as such is once again able to see
the lyrics of his own music. It was a treat to see him play.
During the set, he brought up his wife, Anne, and Phil Allcock
in various combinations to help out with the arrangements
of some of his songs.
Mike's concert started at 10pm; and lasted to
11. After which, open filking started. I sat through the first
half of the open circle placing captions in the WorlDream
photo albums; and dragged out the guitar after I was done
Chris (Minstrel) Malme, Joe, Anna, and Emily
Raftery, and Alasdair and Jessica Prett were in the circle,
as well as one half of the Filk GoH, Katy Dröge.
Things seem to close down earlier in Britain
than they do in the US- we were pretty much done by about
2:30am. I think that this is probably because breakfast is
provided- HOT! :) and is free... at ohmigod 8am.
We did instabands at this con, and the sign
up was at 11am on Saturday morning. I managed to drag my tail
out of bed at about that time; and so walked in at about 11:30.
Lissa had anticipated me- I was already signed up in a band
with Andrew Barton, Joe Raftery, Mich Sampson, and Martin
Gordon-Kerr. We quickly gathered, agreed that we would meet
at lunch to determine when we would meet. We then trudged
back across the campus (I'd been in the room all of maybe
15 minutes... we really got our excercise) to get to the
lunch room. Over lunch we agreed to get together to practice
after the 'Filk from Germany' hour later Saturday evening.
After lunch- back across campus to Phil Allcock's
set. Phil is a nasty, nasty, evil man; with a wicked sense
of humor. And just when you think you can't laugh any more;
he hits you with songs so poignant that you don't know what
to do with yourself. Phil- when is the album coming out? Hmmm?
After Phil's set, we were treated to an hour
and a half of the Guests of Honor- Juliane Hönisch
and Katy Dröge. Ju lives in Frankfort. Katy lives in
Hamburg. And the way they sing together; you'd think that
they were either sisters (they're not) or had been
living very closely together for years (they haven't). Honestly, I would travel half the planet to hear these
ladies sing. Oh, right. I am travelling half the planet
this year- partly to hear these ladies sing... :) Part
of the reason for the WorlDream is because I wanted to see
everyone I care about in filk for the new Millennium- and
Yooh and Katy are definitely two of those reasons.
We then proceeded into the Pegasus Nominees
concert, hosted by Mike Whitaker. Performers included Phil
Allcock, Mike and Anne Whitaker, myself, Rhodri James, Valerie
Housden, Talis, and Katy. I think that it was a screaming
success; especially given the STACK of completed ballots I'm
carrying back with me to the States. If you want to vote on
the Pegasus awards, you can do so at www.ovff.org/pegasus/.
You can find more information on the Pegasus awards there as well.
Things broke for dinner at this point- which
was about 5:30. I stayed in the room to start preparing for
my concert set that was to take place at 7p that evening.
It was while doing this that it occurred to me that this was
my first overseas concert set. Thanks, muse. Great.
NOW I get butterflies...Went to dinner after doing some basic
list-management; then up to my room to dress for the concert.
The concert itself is a blur. I remember doing When I Was A Boy and Mike Whitaker's When I Were
A Lad back to back. I remember trying to do material off
of Songspinner and failing badly. The one thing that I do remember clearly;
and will hold with me- is the sound at the end of Merry
Meet. The song ends acapella, with as many people
as possible singing along. The sound that came back
to me after I stopped the guitar and while we were all singing
pulled me in front of the microphones just to hear. It was incredible spontaneous harmony. And that was where
I got the idea that I'd like to hear this con take a stab
at Many Hearts, One
After my set, we were treated to an hour of
German filk from Yooh and Katy, Rika Körte, and Volker
and Kirsten Tanger. My apologies, guys. I was still pretty
much in aftershock from my set- it's like I hit a blur the
moment my set started and the next time I woke up we were
Our instaband did rehearse after the German
Filk program. We started practicing a Phil Allcock parody
(ttto Eleanor Rigby); and quickly realized that this
was not quite the right thing for this con. So, we wrote a song. It's not a good
song. But in some remote reaches of farthest Burma it can
be considered singable... We even decided on a band name-
The Upside Down Ducks. It's because we quack up under pressure.
After rehearsal, went back to the main campus-
the evening's festivities had been moved to a room within
40 feet of the bar. MUCH more civilised. :)
We rehearsed Many Hearts, One Voice;
and especially worked on harmonies for the bridge. I still
get shivers thinking about it...
We then moved on and did the final three songs
from the Tech catagory of the Pegasus Nominees concert (we
weren't able to quite finish in the time allowed earlier);
and proceeded to open filk.
I admit it. I had fun. I had a LOT of fun. And
I had more fun Sunday night; which, unfortunately, has somewhat
eclipsed the fun I had Saturday night...
Sunday morning bright and early at 11am, we
all gathered for the WorlDream recording at the room across
I've been asked by many people what it's like
to be at one of these sessions. I've been intentionally reticent-
because everyone's experience is different. I've seen and
felt joy, tears, laughter, heartsickness, distance, loss,
love, and harmony. I've gotten choked up so's that I almost
couldn't go on. I've almost laughed so hard that I couldn't
go on. All of this and more at every single session.
And I've always come away feeling incredibly,
This session was no exception.
We sat down and did a quick run through of the
song; then stood and ... and...
sang. ah. sound.
It felt, well... you have to have been there. But it
was ... well. it was... (damn. still doesn't work).
And I knew that we had plenty of material for the CD
recorded just in the first shot.
Then I put down the guitar- gave a starting
pitch- and for the next six minutes we sang. Without strings.
Without whistles. Without accompaniment of any sort. Just
human voice- lifted and lifting. It was recorded- but we didn't
do it for the recording. We did it for the joy of singing;
of community, and of togetherness. We didn't trip over the
instrumental section- we sang a chorus through it- with no
preperation. We didn't need the small guitar interludes between
each verse- we were all ready and together at each pause.
Steve heaves a sigh, and tries to get back
to reporting and not reminiscing...
Instabands performed next- and DANG but they
sounded good! It's interesting- everyone worries
that they haven't had enough rehearsal; everyone just knows that they're going to sound horrible- and no one seems to
realize that the synergy created by a band glosses over every
person's individual weaknesses- making the whole much greater
than the sum of its parts.
After the Instabands broke up, Mich Sampson
and Talis both did short sets. I'm sorry to say that I missed
Mich entirely- I was busy recovering just outside the room.
What little I did hear was *wonderful*- she needs to get out
more. Like, to the States. hmmm...
Talis did a purely all-request concert. (Yes,
Seanan, she did X-Libris. And yes, she's seen the pictures
from ConChord. She was delighted. :)) So many people have
commented on the amount of energy encased in her tiny package
that I won't add to the hordes that have said it... oh, wait.
Sorry... I'll just leave it that I can listen to Talis for
hours. And hours. And hours. (Yes, I had to buy a replacement
copy of Archetype Cafe; because it got scratched from being
placed into and out of it's case so many times to listen to
At this point The Con Was Over.
Actually, everybody kind of hung out for a bit.
I went off and played for the ducks by the lakeside- and about
15 of us (Katy, Talis, Simon, David, Rika, Volker, Kirsten,
Mike, Anne, James, Phil, Lissa, Alex, Valerie, Colin) went
out for chinese for dinner.
Why is it that there is Chinese food available
in Britain that you can't get in America? Like toffee bananas
and apples. And sesame prawn toast. And fried crab sticks.
Hmmm? This is a great injustice- and needs to be fixed NOW!
Cuz I can't afford to go to Britain every time I want to eat
We returned to the University for the Poorly
Puppy filk. Much livelier than a Dead Dog...
I had brought over my doublet and hose for my
concert- but it was too bloody hot and humid for them. As
it was, my poet shirt was literally soaked after my
concert- and it's thin cotton.
But, I had dragged this stuff all the way from
the US- I was going to be damned if I didn't wear it at least once. So, in the interest of good, clean fun- I wore
it to the Poorly Puppy filk.
At the filk were It was a full room; with Talis,
Katy, Yooh, Martin GK, Mike, Anne, Phil, the Raftery crew,
Minstrel, Rhodri, Rika, David and a host of others- pretty
much the whole con stayed on.
I realized that here, everything old was new
again. So I pulled out stuff I haven't done in years- Addicted to Blood; Yeah, Yeah; Minstrel; Renaissance Melody were among some of the songs I sang. I also did Snitch
Ball Wizard; Grabthar's Silver Hammer; and Shai!.
Mike commented to me later that he sold out of the Shai
Dorsai! CD based on that one song.
We had marvelous fun.
I didn't get nearly enough sleep, I sang my
lungs out, I got to hear WONDERFUL people singing their lungs
out, we ate, walked, walked, walked, and walked; and spent
a very, very happy weekend in the company of friends and loved
And after two trips to Britain- I've still somehow managed to not make it to getting any Indian food.
Damn. I'll have to come back, I guess.
HarmUni was the weekend before Worldcon; so I took a couple of days holiday during the week. Following that, I had the Flights from Hell to get to Philcon.