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Debbie Ridpath Ohi reads, writes and illustrates for young people. Every few weeks, she shares new art, writing and resources; subscribe below. Browse the archives here.

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Welcome to my Filk FAQ! If you stumbled here accidentally and aren't sure what this is all about, feel free to read What Is Filk? first. You can also browse all entries here.

Thursday
Apr122007

How does a good concom work with a Guest?

From Bill Sutton (GAFilk):

"Communicate with your guest early and often.
Don't assume your guest knows the drill. He/she may never have been a guest before, in fact may never have travelled on someone else's dime before. Be prepared to walk through every part of the process, from arranging transportation through checking in when the billing is to the convention.

Be specific and explicit when offering the guestship as to: what the con is paying for, what the con is NOT paying for, what activities are expected from the guest, what activities are NOT expected, requested arrival and departure dates. Specify treatment of "guests of the guest" such as partner, children, groupies, etc. in terms of memberships, banquet tickets, room arrangements, and such like.

If the guest is arriving by public transportation, provide someone from the concom to pick up at the particular terminal/airport/station. The only exception should be when the guest is spending time before or after the convention on his/her own - in this case, it is OK to leave transport to or from the hotel up to the guest, but be sure everyone understands the plan.

Don't monopolize your guest! You brought the guest in to be available to attendees of the convention, not as private entertainment for the concom. The reason I like to ask guests to arrive Thursday and leave Monday is so the concom can spend some time with them before and after the convention.

Don't Overprogram! A guest who is doing a concert should have at least an hour and a half (preferably more) of completely free time (time when it is understood he/she will be totally unavailable) prior to the concert. A good rule of thumb is no more than 2 hours of focal point programming (panel/concert where heavy contribution is expected) and no more than an additional 2 hours of "being there" programming (banquet, "meet the guests" session, etc.) per 12-hour convention day. Pro-rate for Friday and Sunday, of course, and remember that autograph sessions can be exhausting for some guests.

Don't expect that your guest will automatically become a regular attendee of the convention in future years. Sometimes this happens, but frequently guests simply get invited too many places to add them all to their list. After all, you probably brought this guest in because your convention isn't a normal stop for him/her."

Comments? Suggestions? Please post below.
Thursday
Apr122007

What is a Listener Guest Of Honor?

This varies from convention to convention.

From Mary Bertke:

"There aren't really set duties for a listener guest beyond what they usually do, because the post of Listener Guest is given as a reward for past services. There are many people in the filk community who are not themselves performers but who are invaluable to filk - either because they bring new people into the community, encourage new performers, or do provide support staff for filk conventions.

At OVFF, the one set duty of the LGoH is to help judge the songwriting contest. Aside from that's it's generally expected that they'll listen to the concerts and the open filk - which they would likely be doing anyway - making sure new people get the chance to sings - see above - and generally making people feel welcome at the convention."

From Steve Simmons:

"I've never been a listener guest, but have always thought that is was a recognition of a someone who is primarily a non-performer but is an active part of the filk community - helps with cons, gives good feedback to performers, and is just generally one of those faces the performers love to see in the group.

Given that, I'd assume the listener guest has no duties except to be what he or she already is - someone whose mere presence can contribute to making the community what it is."

Comments? Suggestions? Please post below.

From Mary Bertke:

"There aren't really set duties for a listener guest beyond what they usually do, because the post of Listener Guest is given as a reward for past services. There are many people in the filk community who are not themselves performers but who are invaluable to filk - either because they bring new people into the community, encourage new performers, or do provide support staff for filk conventions.

At OVFF, the one set duty of the LGoH is to help judge the songwriting contest. Aside from that's it's generally expected that they'll listen to the concerts and the open filk - which they would likely be doing anyway - making sure new people get the chance to sings - see above - and generally making people feel welcome at the convention."

From Steve Simmons:

"I've never been a listener guest, but have always thought that is was a recognition of a someone who is primarily a non-performer but is an active part of the filk community - helps with cons, gives good feedback to performers, and is just generally one of those faces the performers love to see in the group.

Given that, I'd assume the listener guest has no duties except to be what he or she already is - someone whose mere presence can contribute to making the community what it is."

Comments? Suggestions? Please post below.
Thursday
Apr122007

What is a Toastmaster?

The Toastmaster role appears to be defined slightly differently, depending on the convention in question. In general, however, a Toastmaster is usually seen as the Master/Mistress of Ceremonies and does all the introductions for concerts.

===========================

What is a Toastmaster? What responsibilities does a Toastmaster have at a convention?

From John O'Halloran:

"It's tough for me to call a TM a 'guest' because it's a hard working job at filk convention.

A TM is the Master/Mistress of Ceremonies for the convention. Introducing all the concerts, which when a Filk Con has many short concerts and Single/Double shots, can make for a long day.

Some cons may also request that the TM be the time keeper. Letting performers know when they have a limited amount of time left/are out of time or being the arbatrator to allow a encore after time has expired.

In trade the TM usually should receive:
A major full concert slot.
All the perks of being the GOH of the convention.
(Room, board, travel, etc, etc...)
If a member of the concom, no other at con duties."

--------

From Bill Sutton:

"Toastmasters don't always get both room AND travel; it can vary a lot with how healthy the convention is financially."

---------

From Margaret Middleton:

"When I was TM at OVFF awhile back, a large percentage of the performers I introduced were people I'd never heard before. This pretty well forced me to introduce MYself to them ahead of time, in order to get names and faces correctly matched-up, and in one case (The Fibs) to find out how the group-name was pronounced. Even if the TM DOES know all the guests, it is a good idea to check up on what they might have out that is New And Wonderful and they want it mentioned-particularly."

----------

From "mdlbear" on LJ:

"Trying to be both toastmaster and timekeeper was something of a strain; those two functions should be separate if possible.
It was sometimes difficult for me to track down performers before I introduced them; luckily I knew most of the locals. Somebody who isn't as terminally shy as I am would no doubt have an easier time of it."

--------

From Zander Nyrond:

"Well, as a frequent Toastmaster at the British Nycons, which took place at our house twice yearly, the duties consisted of standing over the toaster, putting in whatever anyone handed me (subject to minimal screening: DVDs don't toast well) and making sure the damned machine didn't burn it.
The post carried very little in the way of status, but I flattered myself I was being useful.
Love,
Zander


Comments? Suggestions? Please post below.
Tuesday
Apr102007

Any stage etiquette tips for performers?

Survey: Any tips for performers re: stage etiquette? Please post your answer at the bottom of this page, and I'll integrate it into this FAQ page.



From Tim Ryan:

Know when and were your concert is. If the program book looks like nothing is happening afterward, do not take advantage of it--go into the room with full knowledge of what will take you and the audience to get out of the room on time. It may be committed to something else not in the programming book, be it additional programming or room set-up.

Keep track of time yourself. Be it from a watch, cell-phone, or whatever. Buy a $15 watch or timer if you need one you can see on stage, keep it in your case if you have no other use for it. Or arrange for one person to flash you how many minutes left before the end.

Take personal responsibility for getting things back on time. This is more important for general conventions than say filk cons, or a con where a room is dedicated for filking. Even then, check with your Filk Host (or programming person) if they need you to shorten your concert.

Include time for your take-down. You generally know how long this is. This includes getting your adoring audience out and heading to their next event.

From Dave Weingart:

"Be prepared for your set. Know what songs you’re going to play, in what order, and about how long they take.

Practice. Practice lots. A friend of mine has a sign up at his place: 'An amateur practices until he gets it right. A professional practices until he can’t get it wrong.' The very best thing you can do is be prepared. Practice your onstage banter, practice the songs, practice your timing, practice your body language."

From Mark Berstein:

"Everything Dave said, plus:

Have a written set list, or a binder containing the words and/or music in order of performance. That way, you never lose track of what’s next.

To expand on 'practice your banter', know in advance what you’re going to say in introducing a piece. It doesn’t have to be memorized, just a mental outline.

Speaking of memorization, memorizing your songs, poems, stories, etc., is a Very Good Thing. It allows you to focus on the audience. (You may still want to have words in front of you, just in case, but refer to them as little as possible.)

Sing for yourself and the audience, not the tape. If the recording sounds good, that’s a bonus, but not the primary concern.

Never, ever, apologize in advance. Don’t talk about how you have a cold, or your guitar is being temperamental, or anything that carries a whiff of 'This isn’t going to be any good, and here’s why.' Just relax and have fun, and the audience will, too.

If you make a mistake, keep going. Do not stop and restart the song unless everything is so screwed up that you have no choice. Guaranteed, 95% of the audience won’t notice, remember, or care about that bad note or dropped line."

From Christine Hintermeyer:

"I’m terribly sorry to say that, but: don’t apologise!!! ;o)

The audience is there to enjoy a show. They will tolarate many things short of a good show. But the more professional you’re about it the more you’ll really entertain your audience. Every minute you’re not singing/playing or tell them something funny is a minute they’re more likely to be bored and it’s wasted stage time for both parties involved.

So:

- don’t apologise; smile and sing!

- don’t explain the background of a song in more than one main sentence - if I haven’t read the book I don’t want a summary of it now; have trust in your song and that the perfomance will carry the entertainment; have you ever heard Queen explain what’s the meaning of Bohemian Rhapsody? No one understands that song. No one’s complaining either. This is REALLY important advice for people who write role playing songs. Trust me: we don’t want to know ANYthing else but what you’ll give us IN the song!

:o)"

From John O'Halloran:

"If the con has provided sound reenforcement, ie: mics and a pa system…

If at all possible let the sound crew know in advance what your technical needs are or explain what you’ll be doing on stage.

'Just me and my acustic' are enough if it’s just you.

'Vocal and guitar plug-in. On my 3rd song, I drum' helps with change ups.

'3 backup singers, a back up guitar player and a electric piano' are definitly things to say in advance.

Be polite, but firm if their fussing is bothering you. 'Please stop adjusting the mic, I’m not settled yet.' The mics should be set to how you perform, not you change to use the mics.

However, once you start, don’t suddenly step 2 paces back and 1 to the side either. (Yes, that has happened.)

If you don’t know how to sing into a mic, let the crew know. They can set the mics and the levels to be unobtrusive, yet still give you good sound.

Ignore the equipment and sing to your audience."

From Mich:

"Like these! A few quick thoughts:

* During the set, don’t lose your temper with, or be rude to, the other performers on stage with you, the tech crew, or anyone else helping you make your set happen. Doing a set is a privilege and a joy, not a right, as is any help you’re getting. If you do it at no other times, from the moment you step on stage for your pre-set sound-check, be professional and courteous. To do otherwise reflects badly on you.

* During the set, don’t get angry with yourself. Even if you’re seething inside about missing the instrumental you’d been working on for months because your fingers unexpectedly turned to bananas, force yourself to be unconcerned while on the stage. The audience picks up on anger and, in the UK, makes them embarrassed and want to be somewhere else!

* Give the tech crew what they need ahead of time. e.g. set list. If they want you for sound-check, even if it means you miss something cool, turn up. They’re doing this to help you. Be gracious. Help them.

* Don’t diva. Unless you’ve been told by the concom ahead of time, never assume that you are allowed to over-run. If the concom express any concern about letting you over-run e.g. if you say “do I have time for one more?” and they say “um, not really” or frown, then stop, smile and thank everyone, and get off the stage. The audience will cope. The concom gave you the set. Don’t kick ‘em in the face.

* Without doing a awards speech, give credit where it’s due. (I’m guilty sometimes of being so caught up in the moment that I forget to say who wrote the songs we’re playing, so I need to factor this into my banter…) And thank the audience at the end - they took time out to hear you. “Thanks very much for listening; hope you enjoyed the set - we really did - see you later!”

Stage performing - we LOVES it!

Mich x"

From Gary McGath:

"Keep an eye on your time as you come to the end of your set. Don’t come to the end of your time with a weak piece and then say, “Oh, there’s this piece which I REALLY wanted to end with; can I have just five more minutes?” Plan in advance which pieces in your set list you can drop if you don’t have enough time, and always make your next-to-last song droppable."

From Rick Hewett:

"If your set is really complicated and involves lots of tech adjustment then arrange an ahead-of-time sound-check with the tech crew. Make sure you have a song-by-song who-sings/plays-what list for them to follow, including a clear title for each song and an indication of which one(s) you might drop if time runs short. That way, the techies stand a chance, and re-arrangement during the set will go more smoothly. Of course, it will help if you plan your set with tech adjustments in mind too… ;)"

From Bill Sutton:

"What they said.

Christine Lavin has excellent tips for performing songwriters at http://www.christinelavin.com/tips.html - many of these apply well to general stage etiquette.

One thing I would emphasize is to reduce the amount of talk between songs to a minimum that fits with your personality. If your performing persona depends on telling stories and bantering with the audience, include your talk time in calculating the length of your set list."

From Steve Savitzky:

"Never explain! Never apologize!

Well, hardly ever. But if a song can’t stand on its own without a lengthy explanation, consider setting the explanation to music, unless storytelling is part of your act. In that case, rehearse your intro as intensively as you do your songs.

At a venue like a filk convention, with short concert slots and a tight schedule, there’s often no opportunity for a proper sound-check. Consider setting up microphones and a monitor speaker in your rehearsal space, and figuring out the tech before-hand.

Make sure one or two of your songs are easily dropped, and know exactly how long you need for your finale. (Gary says “next-to-last song”, but sometimes you’ll have two or three that go together.) Have an extra song in reserve just in case you have time for it. Don’t laugh — it can happen!

Sometimes you can arrange things with the preceding or following act to make for a smoother transition — this is especially true if there’s some overlap in the performers. Be sure to warn the Toastmaster, and use their introduction to get yourselves sorted out.

Don’t just practice the songs — practice the stuff between the songs, too."


Other suggestions?
Tuesday
Apr102007

How do I get a turn in the filk circle?

SCENARIO: Grizelda is a filker who sings a capella and tends to be shy. She is sitting in a fairly large open chaos filk circle and after listening for a while, wants to perform her song. However, she has no idea how to signal that she wants to do a song because every time someone's song ends, another filker leaps right in. Grizelda has no obvious instrument, so the other filkers tend to overlook her. Eventually she gets frustrated and leaves.

What Grizelda could have done:



Sit where people can easily see her, like in the front row or inner circle. Even if she doesn't use lyrics, it might be good to have something resembling lyrics (even a sheet of paper) in her lap to clue people into the fact that she has something to perform. From Phil Parker: "The bottom line is, almost every filk circle will support you once you actually get over the threshold to get yourself noticed, but you have to start the process yourself."

When it's time for people to signal they want a turn to perform, Grizelda needs to find some way of getting attention. Suggestions from filkers included slapping a clipboard, strumming someone's guitar or having someone do it for her, beating on a drum or ringing bells, standing up, holding up lyrics, waving your hands. Make eye contact. Lee Gold suggested standing up and starting to sing (and sitting down after you get the circle's attention).

From "redaxe" on LJ: "If your song is a "follower", that is, it is related to the song currently being sung, wait until after the song and clearly and loudly state "I have a follower!" In most polite chaos circles, people will listen to you at that point. If there is a list of songs to be sung, speak up ANYWAY. Tell people you want to sing, and you can take your place in the list."

Ask a more assertive person for help in getting a turn. From Bill Roper: "Find one of the filkers who is singing regularly (but maybe not the one who is singing most often :) ). Whisper in their ear that you've got a funny/serious song on a particular topic and if they could find a place where it would seem to fit in and introduce you to the circle so you could sing it, you'd appreciate it. This usually works, although you may need to wait a bit until the mood comes around..."

From "vixyish" on LJ: "Grizelda can speak as soon as a song ends and say 'could I perform something?' Even if she speaks at the same time as someone is strumming their guitar, I've never *once* seen a circle that didn't respond to exactly that with either 'Sure, go ahead, and Bob will go after you!' or 'Sure; Bob's up right now, and then you'll be next after him.' I've literally never seen this fail. Filkers are marvelously welcoming and accommodating people, if only you SPEAK UP. Just say something."

If the circle is really big and aggressive, trying to get people's attention is going to be more hassle than it's worth. I've seen too many instances where half a dozen filkers start yelling "I HAVE A FOLLOWER!" the -instant- a performer finishes a song or recital, all trying to yell louder than the others. I generally leave to find a smaller circle when the atmosphere reaches this point, whether or not I'm in performance or listener mode. If Grizelda feels similarly, she might consider the following:

Look for a smaller filk circle, perhaps bardic. If there isn't one, then she should find some other filkers who would be willing to start one with her. From Kay Shapero: "In general when you see a lot of folks sitting around and only a handful singing, it's probably time to consider bardic or pokerchip."

What the filk circle could have done:



Keep an eye on the circle and help encourage those who seem shy or unable to break in. Without being obnoxious about it, you could ask, "I haven't heard you do anything yet. Do you have something you'd like to perform?" Sometimes just that encouragement will help a shy filker find the confidence to start.

From Scott Snyder: "I believe that asking a shy person to stand up, shout out, or otherwise bring attention to themselves is basically saying 'The solution to being shy is: Don't be shy', which of course, is not a solution to the problem.

The problem here is one of the circle itself, and what needs to change is not Grizelda's behaviour, but the behaviour of the group. Even a chaos circle should pay attention and notice when someone is possibly ready to sing, and offer that person a turn. Of course, the reality is - this rarely happens. Which is why Chaos works for small groups but breaks down in large groups.

Moderated Chaos is the only situation where I've seen chaos actually work across all skill levels of performers, and would mean that situations like Grizelda's would be minimized.

Now if ol' Griz is going to sit on the outside of the circle, with her head down, and not make any attempt to get the attention of the group - then another group is the answer for her. You have to be somewhere that you feel comfortable enough to stand up and be counted."

From Dave Alway: "A filk circle is a community -- a social -- event. At root, courtesy and etiquette, the morays of any social event, are the keys to a "chaos" filk circle that welcomes new filkers."

From Lee Gold: "I should note that this sound likes what I term Piranha Chaos, and is apt to frighten off shy guitarists too. The long-term solution is for shy people to form their own, smaller circles or for all the singers to be a bit less frenziedly competitive. Singers will feel more secure at doing this if the singers frantically struggling for the next song are queued up rather than having to compete just as frantically at the next moment of silence, and shy people may then ask to be put on the queue list."

From Paul Bristow:
"Ultimately, though, this problem really should be addressed at source: ALL performers, however good and however popular, should have the good grace to check around and see who else is waiting to sing, rather than just jumping in every time they happen to have a good follower. Be disciplined: Ration yourself."

ALSO SEE:

Any tips for shy or nervous filkers?
What's the difference between a 'bardic' and 'chaos' filk circle?


Trapped in a Chaos Circle
TTTO: "Computer Wizard," Cynthia McQuillan? (not sure about the
attribution)
Words by Justin Eiler

Notes: Sort of a first-person perspective on "Filksingers,
Filksingers..."

I'm trapped in a Chaos Circle,
The songs would make a brave soul shake with dread.
I can't get the attention of the singers,
And this filk-sing may go on 'till I'm dead.

I don't have a guitar to get attention,
(Or club the jerk who's singing ose--off key!)
It's been nine hours--I didn't bring my lunchbag!
Oh, will this circle be the death of me?

I'm trapped in a Chaos Circle,
So next day, when the filkers go to bed,
They'll find me dead, but my song will now haunt them...
It's that damn song you can't get out of your head!
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