The Rivenvale Bransle

For this chapter of the Blog, I have invited my former teacher and fellow SCAdian, Scott Pfitzinger to talk about a collaboration that we did for our local shire. First, I will provide a bit of background. Scott has been the dance master of the Shire of Rivenvale for a few years now. After working with him and subsequently developing an interest in this music, I suggested that we work together to create something original in the Society’s spirit of  Creative Anachronism, and to provide something unique and enjoyable for the Shire.

Around the time that we got around to beginning to conspire, I had to move away. We continued our collaboration and I continued my research. For my part, I came up with the tune for the Rivenvale Bransle. It employs the Syllables from the word Rivenevale  for the opening rhythm (two 8ths and a Quarter) to add a connection to the shire. This happened to be during work when I “shouldn’t” be composing. Thank God for Sol Fedge and rhythmic dictation. However, that’s another post for another day.

Scott did his part by surveying the Shire for preferred dance steps, choreographing the dance, and arranging the tune to fit the period. Most of our contact for feedback was through electronic pigeon (aka Email).

This project was very rewarding from both a creative and educational standpoint. I for one, recommend keeping one’s mind open to collaboration opportunities such as this and giving it a shot. In the end, something came out of it that many people are able to enjoy.

………And now to turn it over to Scott.
One of the most enjoyable elements of participating in the Society for Creative Anachronism (SCA) is the “creative” part. This is not just a worldwide non-profit group that tries to accurately depict the Middle Ages. Part of it is creative. Members create new things while learning about them, such as knitting and weaving, cooking, heraldry, illumination and calligraphy, and even physical activities like heavy combat, thrown weapons, rapier, and archery.
In the area of performance, the creation of new works is less common. Some bardic activities include telling stories and singing songs, some of which are written by the modern-day bards themselves. Dance and dance music is a performance category that has even less original material being written. Most of the dancing focuses on learning to accurately perform the dances the way they would have been done in the Middle Ages. Creating new works that fit into style and performance of certain locations and periods of the Middle Ages is a challenge that is not often undertaken.
In 2015, Samantha Hogan (known in the Society as Eleri verch Howel) studied several popular dance tunes from Playford’s and Arbeau’s publications and wrote a new tune that had similar structure, phrasing, and cadence. She sent a copy to me (Scott Pfitzinger, known in the SCA as i), and I added some orchestration to allow a small ensemble to perform it. Then I studied the whole thing for a while, to choreograph a dance that would fit the music. All the steps were ones that were part of early Renaissance dances for which we have documentation.
Once it was all put together, it was presented to our local branch of the SCA, called the Shire of Rivenvale. The dance was called The Rivenvale Bransle since it was our intention to create the dance for our shire. When we ran through it with our local group, we discovered a couple of steps that needed to be tweaked to make them flow better, so members of the shire were also part of the final creative process.
The Shire of Rivenvale has already embraced the dance as their own. It is part of our standard repertoire and the audio, video, and instructions have been posted on our website. Input from other members of the SCA in different regions and kingdoms has been mostly very positive. A couple people have gotten into discussions about very specific steps and what kinds of dances they were used in, but many others have just accepted it as a creative SCA work. Hopefully the Rivenvale Bransle will spread and become a fun addition to other local groups as it has with the Shire of Rivenvale.

As for myself, it was a great learning experience. I have already gone on to complete a second dance and to work on more tunes that can be similarly choreographed. It is a very enjoyable way to be “creative” in the area of dance in the SCA

If you are interested in the SCA, please visit 

Leave a Reply