In the Middle Ages bards, poets, and troubadours traveled all over the Kingdoms of Europe collecting, recounting, and elaborating on the legends of King Arthur and his Knights. These tales – often part history, part morality fable, and part action-adventure – had one unifying element: they all addressed the importance, the challenge, and sometimes the hypocrisy of living by the code of chivalry.
Well if there is a modern counterpart of those medieval traveling storytellers today, it might just be Heather Dale. Heather is an independent Canadian folk musician who spends much of her time on the road performing live concerts of updated medieval and Renaissance folk music – as well as her own original compositions – for audiences of medieval reenactors, Renaissance Faire enthusiasts, and science fiction/fantasy convention-goers.
One of the threads running through Heather’s musical repertoire is a variety of pieces dealing with the legends of the Middle Ages – not just King Arthur, but also Robin Hood, the Norse gods, and Joan of Arc. But the tales of the Round Table continue to be one of her main focuses, and in 2010 she released an album called Avalon, which compiles 19 of her Arthurian songs into a single musical overview of these well-known tales of chivalry, love, and adventure, from the sword in the stone to King Arthur’s final battle.
Heather’s singing, accompanied by her partner and musician Ben Deschamps, infuses New Age/Celtic styling with just a hint of blues, country, and even Cajun jazz, which gives these Arthurian tales both a timeless, classic quality, as well as a lively sense of contemporary popularity – making it sound like chivalry, honor, and the legends of the Round Table are topics that you’re as likely to hear discussed around a nightclub table over drinks as in a university classroom or lecture hall.
Like the medieval tales of romance and chivalry, Heather’s songs are not about helpless princesses and romantic “happily ever after” endings. These are Arthurian tales that are complex, thought provoking, sometimes dark, and rarely do they provide any sort of easy answers for the characters who struggle to live up to conflicting ideals of chivalry – and in that way, these songs seem particularly relevant today, in a world that seems ever more at odds with itself and its own conflicting ideals. Heather’s music really reminds us that, in the original tellings, the legends of chivalry were rarely harmonious.
Heather Dale joins show host Scott Farrell to share some of her music, talk about her love of the legends of Arthur and his Knights, and explore the code of chivalry they follow.Quicklinks – Use the links below to find the on-line resources mentioned in this podcast: