Oh gods, thank you! I wish there were a hundred of you! Or at least a dozen… enough that we could work out a roster so the rest of us could have a break occasionally!
How you start is simple: you ask the herald on duty if you can get a quick bit of instruction. The herald will invariably recite some version of the above paragraph, and then throw you in the deep end by getting you to do a bit of shoutage. Don’t be afraid; the herald will be right there, and if you mess up, well… you’d be amazed how much worse some of us have messed up. You’re in good company.
At a feast or revel, you will generally be making announcements, thus:
Oyez! Oyez! My Lords and my Ladies! The Feast Steward requires that the scantily-clad belly dancers currently seducing that knight over in the corner move a bit this way because he’s stuck in the kitchen and he can’t see! Thank you!
The important bits of this are:
- Prepare: Think what you’re going to say. Get all the details, check with the appropriate authorities, and don’t make any announcement that the King wouldn’t approve of. You’re his voice, by tradition. Be professional and competent and bring no shame on yourself or your new profession.
- Play it straight: At least at first, don’t try to be funny (that comes later… much later) because you may misjudge your audience. Even if you’re already a comedian or a performer, you’re a different person when you’re being a herald, and your words are heard differently. Best to play it straight and avoid misunderstanding or irritation from on high.
- Start with “Oyez! Oyez! My Lords and my Ladies!”: The word Oyez is the old French equivalent of “Hear Ye”, and is pronounced /oy-YAY/ or /oh-YAY/. That and the “My Lords and my Ladies” bit give the people in the hall or the park a chance to finish their sentence and pay attention. Make sure you don’t go overboard (”Oh YAAAAAAAY! (pause) Oh YAAAAAAAY! (longer pause) Oh YAAAAAAAAAAAAAY! (pause for deep breath)…”) because their patience is not infinite. Just get a rhythm and go for it.
- Be clear: This matters more than volume. People will stop talking to listen anyway, if they know what’s good for them. Enunciate, speak at SBS newsreader pace, and you’ll do OK.
- Pace yourself: It’s important to keep people’s attention through the whole message. That means no pauses for breath, so short is good, and no pauses for applause, so straight is good. Announce, don’t converse.
- Finish with “Thank you!”: This is to tell people you’ve finished and they can go back to their conversations.
At a tourney, you may be asked (or volunteer!) to do some tourney heralding. There’s a standard litany for most heavy tourneys, which I here reveal, but always check with the local officials — heralds, lists, royalty — to find out the changes. It goes like this:
Oyez! Oyez! In this bout of the Name Of Tourney here meet One Fighter (pause) and The Other Fighter (pause). My Lords/Ladies/Lord and Lady, salute the Crown! (Pause) Salute the one whose favour you bear! (Pause) Salute your honourable opponent! (Pause) Now, for honour and glory, at the Marshalls’ command…
The important bits of this are:
Before the round
- Drink!: You need water. Get a tankard, get it filled, sip from it as you go.
- Stand close: Stand beside the field, inside the three foot safety zone around the field ropes. This means you’re not surrounded and people can see and hear you.
- Consider the accoustics: Rather than shouting into the wind and having your words scattered back at you, use the wind to give you an extra boost. I'm not sure there's a scientific, accoustic reason for this, but it seems to work in practice. Also, don't stand under a roof and shout toward the outside; the way echos work, this ends up throwing away a lot of your volume. Shouting in from outside works better than the opposite.
- Get the cards from Lists: Lists will give you cards with the order of the round on them. Go through to make sure there are no surprises
- Find out the names: If you can, check with the fighters to find out how they pronounce their names. They hate it when you get it wrong, and ignore it when you get it right, but try to get it right anyway.
- Find a runner: This is usually any child or teenager who got roped into it by Lists. In big tourneys there’ll be a network of the little buggers. Their job is to take the cards you got from Lists and bring them back to Lists after you’ve written down who won and lost each bout. If they’re kept well supplied with cards, Lists finds their job a lot easier, and you will be raised in their estimation.
- Check the titles: In the past Lochac used “field titles” only, that is titles earned by right of arms. This is an inane little conceit most regions no longer follow. All titles; including Lord/Lady, Master/Mistress, Baron/ess, should be announced according to the fighter's preference.
- Double-check the double-titles: Some fighters have multiple titles, and some use alternate titles. For example, Herzog Ritter (Duke Sir) Cornelius von Becke may prefer to be known by both titles in either German or English, as the whim takes him. Use of more than one title, 'title stacking' is not encouraged, but do respect his, and all fighters’, wishes in this.
- Announce the order: Fighters love to know in advance who’s fighting whom in each round. You’ll win points with them by announcing it at the start of the round: “In this round, Fighter 1 shall meet Fighter 2, then Fighter 3 will meet Fighter 4…” Finish with “And Fighter 99 has the Bye”. The Bye is the “time off for being odd” bonus. Lucky them. Be prepared to answer questions if a fighter comes up having not quite heard what they wanted to hear.
For each bout of the round
Now, for each bout, follow this pattern:
- Call the fighters: The usual method is:
- The next two are called: “Would Fighter 1 and Fighter 2 report to the field!”
- The ones due after them are warned: “Would Fighter 3 and Fighter 4 arm and stand ready!”
- In a really big tourney — Crown or Festival — the ones after that are given their first call: “Would Fighter 5 and Fighter 6 arm and prepare!”
- Be ready to go: When the fighters are ready the marshalls will give you a nod. Take a deep breath and start immediately.
- Start with “Oyez! Oyez!”: As above. It’s good to get people’s attention, even moreso out in the open.
- Remind people what tourney they’re at, in case they forgot since last bout: What can I say? It’s dumb, but it’s tradition.
- Name the fighters: You’re doing this for the public, not the fighters. It doesn’t matter what order you do it in — we’re not that fussy any more — but watch to make sure you’ll know who’s who when the marshalls point their sticks at the winner later on!
- Do the salutes: You can replace “your inspiration” for the unwieldy “the one whose favour you bear” — I do. Recent discussion with some fighters revealed to me that they prefer the order to be as above: finish with “your opponent” so they’re facing each other for the start of the fight.
- Hand over to the Marshalls: Lochac rules say the Marshalls cry “Lay On”, not the heralds. It makes sense: they’re there because they know a rap from a vambrace; I don’t. Let them say when it’s time for the thumping to start. This gives you as herald a chance to make a run for it away from the ropes and into the crowd, where you…
- WATCH THE FIGHT!!!: I know it’s dull, but you need to watch so you know when one of the lads or lasses gets their thumping and falls over, whereupon you…
- Announce the winner thus: “Victory to One Fighter!” Don’t bother with huzzahs or anything else; they only care about who won.
- Write it down: Mark the card the Lists gave you with a W for the winner and an L for the Los– umm, the other one. If there’s a runner, give them the card.
- Carry on: A fast game’s a good game. Go straight on, presuming Lists has given you enough cards.
At the end of the round
- Finish: When the bout is over, finish with “Thus ends this round of Name Of Tourney“.
- Announce the eliminations: Lists may want you to announce who’s been eliminated in a double-elimination tourney (the most common kind). Announce it. This is one opportunity for you to ham it up (slightly!). Announce the sad passing away from their wounds of a number of fighters. Sympathise floridly. This is where the fighters have given up on their chance at glory for the day; giving them one last bit of attention doesn’t hurt!
- Find a replacement: You shouldn’t do more than about ten bouts in a row without a break. Keep an eye out for another volunteer. If you can’t find one, don’t be afraid to refuse to continue for the sake of your health… and then come and give me (or your local herald) a thumping for not organising things better!
You may also be called on to make other announcements. Look to your guiding herald for this, or just wing it if there’s no one there, keeping the “Duty Heraldry” suggestions in mind at all times of course!
I know this all seems complicated (I’m amazed at how long this is; I expected this to be a short entry!) but it quickly becomes second nature. Rely on your fellow heralds — you’re part of the largest single community in the SCA now! — and you’ll do OK.