Bard skills – Being a good audience

Being a good audience may not seem like an essential skill for a learner bard, but it absolutely is. First up, you will learn more about being a performer from listening to other performers than you will by any other method. You can learn material, presentation skills, technical tricks of all kinds, from the close observation of others.

Secondly, a developed ear and good listening skills work in a great many contexts, to deepen your awareness and insight. If you want to perform, you have to be able to listen. It also means you will be able to listen to yourself as you practice, and sometimes as you perform, to see how to improve, and to strengthen your abilities. In becoming a good audience for others, you become a good audience for yourself, and help yourself develop. By listening, you deepen your relationship with all things bardic; with individuals, with performance in the moment and with the tradition as a whole.

As a bard, obviously you want an audience that will sit attentively and focus on your performance. If you totally invest in listening when in a performance space (or in joining in where appropriate, if that makes more sense) then you invest in the space. You support a receptive audience. If you’re chatting at the bar until it’s your go… if you’re part of the open mic culture that rocks up, does its slot and leaves… why are you going to be treated any differently? It’s possible, in the moment, to get an audience to behave like an audience, and focus. Oddly enough for bands, getting up and dancing can be the best way to make this happen. In most spaces, attentive listening and applause can help draw others in to listening more attentively.

We’re collectively used to passive entertainment where our engagement isn’t called for. The TV doesn’t care how little attention we pay. Recognising that being an audience for live performance is a whole other thing, is really important if we want to make bardic spaces thrive.


About Nimue Brown

Druid, author, dreamer, folk enthusiast, parent, wife to the most amazing artist -Tom Brown. Drinker of coffee, maker of puddings. Exploring life as a Pagan, seeking good and meaningful ways to be, struggling with mental health issues and worried about many things. View all posts by Nimue Brown

2 responses to “Bard skills – Being a good audience

  • Christopher Blackwell

    When I was in Buddhism, several of us were urged to perform, whether we had talent or not. I was the last to learn the key, pitch or the lyrics, in my groups. I sang at the Greek Theater, the Hollywood Bowl, the Santa Monica Auditorium, and the Shrine Auditorium back in the 1970 in English, German, Italian, one African dialect, and Spanish.

    Now before anyone gets too impressed, a bit of reality. Part of the reason for the different languages was to hide some of our talent limits, we learned to repeat the words with proper pronunciation well enough, but none of us knew what the songs meant. The other reality was our Buddhist sect leased those performances, paid to raise money for the sect, so we always had a very friendly audience.

    Let me give you one example. A new young men quartet came on stage at the Shrine Auditorium in Los Angeles, California, and froze with stage fright, lost the lyrics, and even stumbled on the beat.

    Fortunately they got enough out for the audience to figure out what song it was, so the audience ignored the stage fright, and started clapping to the beat. Relieved not to be booed off the stage, the group slowly got its act together, first a bit roughly, but then with more confidence. In the end they were doing pretty good. [Grin]

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