Why the name 'Minstrels' Guild'?

It seems strange to have a Minstrels' Guild. Most people would consider Minstrels and other performers the last group to structure themselves in a guild-like organisation. And for many performers this was true, especially in the social circles the SCA represents: the nobility. Until the 13th century there weren't even guilds in the Middle Ages. But there were groups of performers, for example the Meistersänger in Germany, that had a guild-like organisation. These groups would usually belong to the upper bourgeois classes, and not to the nobility.

Still we have chosen a guild structure for a number of reasons. First, guilds are familiar within the SCA. People know what the name means, what they can expect from a guild. Second, a guild has more hierarchy than a loosely organised troupe. We wanted to make the people that have skill and can help others easier to recognise. Now guild members will know who they can turn to with their questions. Having a Minstrels' Troupe with a clear hierarchy would be much stranger than having a Minstrels' Guild.

We have chosen the name Minstrels' Guild and not the name Bardic Guild. In the SCA what we do are called Bardic Arts, and there are Bardic Contests. But the name Minstrel is much more authentic for the kind of things we do than the name Bard. A Bard is a person who lived in the religious organisation of the Druids in early Celtic societies. He was the one who told stories and sang songs that told the history of the people. His task was more a religious and historical one than the entertainment we have in mind. A Minstrel was a name used in the 12th to 15th century for the performers who would play for the nobility. They didn't all write their own songs, though some did. They would sing the songs of the Troubadours, that were part of nobility, because the Troubadours would not sing their own songs. They were also expected to tell stories and provide other entertainment.

(This information comes from 'Music in the Medieval World' by Albert Seay)

Posted by Jehan de Lorraine at December 7, 2003 10:43 PM