My encounters with Owain Phyfe at Pennsic 30 (2001)
by Sasha Furr

I had missed the previous Pennsic, and had consoled myself by listening to my only CD of Owain's every day. This year my main objective was to find him and buy one of each CD he had.

On Tuesday I heard him in the merchant area, but was on my way to meet someone and could not stop. When I came back he was gone and I did not know where he was camped or what his schedule was. But the next day was Midnight Madness, when all the merchants are open until midnight and all the minstrels and performers come out. I knew I could find him then.

Wednesday night, around 8, I began searching the merchant area. I looked around and listened, but all I heard were drums and all I saw was middle eastern dancing and throngs of eager customers. After two hours I sadly gave up, apparently he was not performing tonight. My friend consoled me, saying surely he would be around tomorrow. I went back to my tent and went to sleep.

Sometime later there was all this pounding on my tent poles and a voice yelling "I found him! I found your minstrel! WAKE UP!"

I tossed a cloak over my pj's and grabbed my belt and pouch. Then I ran with my friend, through the still thick throngs of people, to a crowd.

"Is that him?" my friend asked. But by the grin on my face she knew it was and left me. I worked my way around to where I could sit close, between the tent ropes off to his side. He had a microphone on a headset, and was perched on top of the speakers. It was hard to see his outfit, long with sleeves that draped and showed off the swirling pattern of the fabric. I'm afraid that is all my half asleep eyes registered.

There was a young woman dancing off to the side, I ignored her.

He sang three more songs.

I don't remember the first. The second was La Prima Vez, which he explained had its routes in Spain but itself was Hungarian. He ended with "A Health to the Company." It was the first time I had heard him sing it, it made me think of Pennsic ending and brought tears to my eyes. As he sang, people came up and left bottles of beer, mead, and other things for him. He nodded to each one and kept singing.

When he ended he told people to keep in mind the New world Renaissance Band's philosophy to "think of your body not as a temple, but as an amusement park."

I purchased three CDs there, but wanted to tell him my story before I went back to my tent. I thought he'd be amused to hear what lengths a fan would go to hear him. People were asking him for autographs and I waited for them to disperse.

When I told him my story he laughed and said he was out drinking earlier. Several people were asking if he would be performing tomorrow, and where, and when. Sometime during the day, by the Perfumed Dragon, was his reply.

I dared ask for a hug goodnight and got it :-)

Three songs is no where near enough to make me happy. It seems the more of his voice I hear, the more I want. I showed up in the merchant area around 2pm the next day at the specified merchant, he wasn't there. So I wandered around the merchants, checking back until I saw him arrive.

I hurried over. There were never very many people gathered around him at once, maybe 15 at the most and more often only 5. Some people stopped by and talked for a moment, some other minstrels tried to convince him to come play at another location. He said thanks but he liked this spot, it was relatively quiet and had a nice tree for shade. At one point a couple with a fussy baby came by. Owain grinned to them and said "Let's see if these Welsh lullabies really work." The moment he started singing the baby stopped fussing and stared at him, totally fascinated. When the lullaby ended the baby started fussing again, so Owain sang another. Again the baby was silent, staring wide eyed at Owain. This time the baby stayed quiet, the parents thanked him and moved on. Everyone got a good laugh out of that.

Sometimes people requested songs, sometimes he sang what he chose. At one point he said that he wanted to sing what he thought was the most beautiful love song there was, that he was in love with the song itself. I had to reply and said "Owain, I'm in love with your voice, sing whatever you want." He laughed and said he was glad he was already sunburned. The song was La Prima Vez, that he had sung the night before.

He sang the Apollo and Daphne song and I asked if he would ever do a sequel. He looked at me strangely so I explained, "Daphne was turned into a tree. Well, how did Apollo treat the tree? Did he water it and prune it and take care of it? Or was he spiteful and cut the thing down." Owain couldn't answer because he was laughing so hard.

It was another hot day so I wasn't surprised when he said he wanted to break. I was a little surprised when he said "Ok, it's Miller time."

So once again I wandered around until he reappeared. He seemed surprised to see me there again and asked if I didn't have other things I wanted to do. "My plan for this afternoon was to listen to you." I said. I have to wonder how it is he reacts so shyly to such comments. Certainly he is used to, by now, hearing things like this. He said "Thank you." and smiled. People returned bit by bit, but again never very many at once. They would stop by for a minute, sometimes buy a CD, then move on. The dancing woman appeared again and I asked if she traveled with him. "No, just if we're in the same place I dance." was her reply.

I don't' remember which songs he sang that afternoon, or all the banter between us. I enjoyed the relaxed atmosphere, being able to ask questions or just talk with him. After another hour he said it was time to end. Several of us asked if he would be playing again tomorrow. But he said he had to leave in the morning to return to Michigan for the Ren Faire which would run for 7 weekends. I complained that I was in North Carolina and would have to wait until next Pennsic to hear him again. That I wished he would perform somewhere closer.

He said "There is a Ren Faire in North Carolina." But he didn't know if he would be at it. Then he turned to me and said "My lady, hugs are in order." and walked over and hugged me. I think that might be enough of a Phyfe fix to last until next Pennsic!

Before I left I said, "I'll keep checking your website for your schedule!"

"Actually, there is an you should check. They are often more up to date than mine." was his reply. We both laughed at that, then went on our separate ways.

I first met him at Pennsic 28 (1999) during Midnight Madness. The next day I found him performing in the merchant area and sat and listened. This is a photo from then, wish it came out better.