Sunday, September 1, 2002
Elaborate costumes and acres of land drenched in the mystique of a bygone era seem to cast an enchanting spell on those who enter the gates at the Kansas City Renaissance Festival.
Lawrence resident Mark Jameson has performed at the annual autumn fest off and on for seven years and has witnessed the bizarre spectacle first-hand.
Once, while slurping down a bowl of soup between acts, he noticed two patrons staring intently at him.
"They were just absolutely fascinated by this guy in a kilt, eating a bowl of soup," Jameson said. "When I was done they said, 'Oh, that was so great' and gave me five bucks."
Jameson is part of Tartan, a Lawrence Celtic band that plays and sings traditional Scottish and Irish songs at the Bonner Springs festival, which began Saturday and will continue each weekend through Oct. 14.
The shops, re-enactments and scores of performers who wander the festival's shaded lanes reveal something of a living history of 16th-century Europe. Royalty hold court, knights test their skill in jousting contests, artisans and craftsmen hawk their wares and musicians fill the air with medieval melodies.
This year, festival-goers will be able to enjoy the ambiance for 30 minutes longer each day. Gates will open at 10 a.m. and close at 7 p.m.
The featured theme this weekend is "Enchanted Gardens," which will include the grand opening of the Master Garden Tea Room. The festival will conclude in mid-October with treasure hunts and pirate contests during "Swashbuckling Scoundrels" weekend.
Tartan is scheduled to perform all seven weekends of the festival.
Jameson, whose stage name with the band is Corwyn MacMamie, sings lead vocals and plays the bodhran, a flat Celtic drum that's struck with a double-ended stick called a tipper. For performances, Jameson dons a kilt, pulls on knee socks and lace-up sandals and adopts a thick Scottish drawl.
Most of the music that Jameson and the other three band members ï¿½ Elisha Friedman, Erin Graham and Steve Graham ï¿½ play, didn't actually originate during Elizabethan times. That's because Calvinists in 1560 burned most of the music in Scotland, Jameson said, leaving little material to reproduce.
Besides, popular music then amounted to what modern sentiment would consider classical ï¿½ in other words, boring, he said.
"People want to hear fast, funny or bloody," he said.
And they'll pay if they like what they hear.
"Tips are a wonderful part of the Ren fair life," Jameson said. "In the past, some of the performances where we screwed up horrendously, but we were having fun with it and making them laugh ï¿½ because they were entertained, they gave us great tips."
Which is a nice bonus because the pay for performers is modest.
"That's a polite way of saying it," Jameson said, laughing.
Although it's a fun way to combine his love of history with his musical talent, Jameson said performing at the festival was draining. Tartan will perform about six times a day for the duration of the Renaissance Festival.
"You have mixed feelings at the end of the season," he said. "Part of you doesn't want it to end because you've had so much fun, but the other part of you is saying, 'Thank God it's over. I can sleep now.'"