A review a number of the performances at Renaissance festivals about Sacramento:
I have patronized four Renaissance faires about Sacramento in the last twelvemonth: Auburn, Folsom, South Lake Tahoe, and Fair Oaks. From one fair to the next, you’ll see a lot of the same acts. Bring along a handful of one-dollar bills and keep them free of your wallet so that you can smoothly and swiftly show your appreciation at the end of pleasing performances.
I had better own at the outset that I have a predilection for magical and musical performances, and I tend not to care for bawdy performances.
The following are rated from okay to very good (so 1 = okay).
Magic with Merloch Silvermaine (5/5)
If you see one act this year, let it be Kim Silverman’s (a.k.a. Merloch Silvermain). Not only is the man a superb showman and not only is the character he plays nothing short of enchanting, his magic is astounding. It will inspire the most jaded and incredulous observer.
I have encountered Merloch Silvermain only at the Auburn Renaissance faire. (Yes, the beard is real.)
The Smith family (5/5)
If you see two acts, let this be the second. Two parents and three girls singing like seraphs. They do a worthy rendition of one of my favourite songs, ‘She Moves through the Fair’. (Here’s another good version to sample.)
I have encountered the Smiths only at the Auburn Renaissance faire.
Paul the Magnificent (4/5)
A magic show. I’ve seen good and bad, and Paul (a.k.a. Brother Paul) ranks among the pretty good. He would be a solid 4/5 except that his opening tricks (involving two bowls and water) were none too wonderful. Nonetheless, I was in amazement at the better portion of his feats.
I have encountered Paul the Magnificent only at the Fair Oaks Renaissance faire.
Yea Jeffrey (4/5)
Jeffrey does juggling tricks, and they’re quite good, but the better value lies in Jeffrey’s character. Jeffrey excels at playing the fool—not in the modern, metaphoric sense, but rather recalling the days when the king’s fool held a position of honour.
Don’t worry, he’s not the sort of fool who is obnoxious or attempts to ingratiate himself through pity. Nor is he overmuch silly. He’s a good showman with a good sense of poise, humour, and timing.
I have encountered Jeffrey only at the Fair Oaks Renaissance faire.
The Method (2/5)
A singing couple. There’s nothing wrong with their act, and indeed sitting for their songs would not be a waste of your time, except that you may find more delightful things to do.
I have seen The Method at every or nearly every one of the Renaissance festivals mentioned up top.
Aryeh Frankfurter (4/5)
Aryeh (pronounced R-E-A) plays Celtic and Nordic music on the nyckelharpa (keyed fiddle). I’ve never seen this fellow take the stage, but I’ve seen him at both of the Folsom Renaissance festivals that I’ve attended. A harp minus track, played through a speaker beside his chair, accompanies. I enjoy this guy’s music enough that I bought a disc from him (Two Worlds One).
I have encountered Aryeh only at the Folsom Renaissance faire.
A cellist and a harpist. Their material is good, though not as engaging as some.
Fowl Tales (3/5)
For children, this might be a solid 5 out of 5. A man and his parrots do tricks in guise of a sailor aboard a ship. The trainer and the parrots are all good performers.
I have seen Fowl Tales at every or nearly every one of the Renaissance festivals mentioned up top.
The Broon show is quite a lark. Broon performs magic, which is good in its own right, but he is also an excellent showman, witty and light on his toes. He will have the audience rolling from their seats with laughter.
Glenn Morgan (3/5)
Glenn plays the hammered dulcimer, and his music is beautiful. I recommend seeking this fellow out. You don’t need to look for him at one of the stages (though he may have booked a couple of times there); he’ll probably be stationed somewhere playing most of the day long. Good for a conversation.
Merrie Pryanksters (2/5)
(Is that really how they spell it?) The pryanksters provide fiddle and dance. As with any other 2/5, this is not a bad performance. Indeed, if you have kids who enjoy dance, have them watch or dance along. Still, it isn’t enough to hold my attention long on most days.
Hay Penny Consort (3/5)
From 2 to 5 ladies playing recorder flutes (from soprano to bass). Lovely tunes in lovely harmonies.
St. Valerius (1/5)
Okay, I haven’t the right to really rate this act, as I only looked in for a minute before moving on. They were performing the well-worn Pyramus and Thisbe piece as recorded in Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream. The fact is that I’m disappointed with nearly all Shakespearean performances, one reason being that upwards of half the cast thinks its character is the clown. Even well-reviewed, supposedly high-brow casts just can’t act. This was the most clownish I have yet seen. (Feel free to leave comments disabusing me of my first impressions.)
The Sell Swords (1/5)
Silliness perhaps suitable for children, but I didn’t remain around long enough to determine the second point for certain. Two “brothers” portraying sailors or pirates.