One fundamental activity of the guild is an in-depth educational program available to anyone who is interested in a thorough understanding of the past. This internal education program includes regular lectures on some aspect of history, classes in historic dancing and singing, workshops and individual instruction on period clothing design and construction, and other classes and workshops. These are offered for free or for a nominal materials charge to anyone who is interested in participating. Included in the program are interactive theatrical events designed to further this education by allowing guild members to actually experience life in the past first-hand. The scope and seriousness of this educational program is a hallmark of the Guild of St. George.
At the center of all that we do is accurate and beautiful Elizabethan costumes. The guild portrays the upper layers of a society where clothing was the mark of social status. The costumes worn by the members of the guild must therefore be elegant, highly decorated, and perfectly tailored. At the same time, all clothing must be absolutely authentic to the historic reality of the Elizabethan age. Because the guild portrays a limited period of time, our clothing can and must reflect the specifics of fashion, in most cases that of the mid 1570’s. While some characters might wear clothing that is “out of style” and others would wear the “latest” thing, our clothes must have enough constancy to reinforce the scenario of the show.
The costumes worn by the Guild of St. George are created or commissioned by each participating member. The guild’s expert costume coordinators assist, oversee, and approve all costumes. The guild has access to a wide variety of tailors, fabric sources, and other costuming elements and has extensive written costume guidelines that provide the information needed to make costumes to the guilds exacting standards. While the guild does not insist that costumes be hand sewn using narrow cloth made on hand looms, all costumes must look as if they were made without modern technology. Each design element must be traceable to an Elizabethan source, especially period portraiture, but might also include period pattern books or designs used in architecture. All costume designs, including fabric selections, trims, and style, must be presented to the costume coordinators and approved prior to being worn at a Guild of St. George performance.
The settings for the guild’s events demonstrate attention to detail and historical accuracy. The guild owns pavilions, tables, forms, chairs, and other furniture and equipment that reflects period practice and design. Accurate heraldic shields contribute color and identify the notables present.
Music and Dancing
The Guild of St. George is the premier presenter of Renaissance court dances in California. Guild members study under the tutelage of Angene Feves, Aurie Bradley, Leslie Batzloff, and Athene Mihalakis Kovacic to learn how to accurately and proficiently present the enchanting bransles, pavans, galliards, and intricate dances of the high Renaissance. Dance lessons and practice sessions are held throughout the year to introduce the dances to new members and to keep everyone in practice.
Both chapters of the guild have relationships with period instrumental groups who provide live music for our dancing and performances. The New Queen’s Ha’Penny Consort is a recorder consort in San Francisco consisting of members of the Guild of St. George. The Southern California chapter has established an exciting relationship with the Wessex Consort, a mixed instrument early music ensemble (see www.WessexConsort.com).
The southern chapter of the guild features the St. George Early Music Ensemble, a group of twelve singers who have mastered a wide repertoire of renaissance madrigals and ballettos. In cooperation with the Wessex Consort, the EME also presents Elizabethan ayres and songs. The St. George EME is open to all guild members by audition and rehearses twice a month.
The Guild of St. George embraces the things that are lovely, charming, and noble about the past. The guild brings to life the great persons and minds of Elizabethan England: Sir Walter Raleigh, Sir William Cecil, Lord Burghley, Sir Phillip Sidney, Lord Admiral Howard, the fair Geraldine, the formidable Mildred Cooke, the dashing Sir Humphrey Gilbert. The guild presents these notables in their daily pursuits: statecraft and scheming, dancing and fighting, reading and reciting, praying and cursing. Real people, yet larger than life, living in an heroic age.
Wherever possible, the guild presents a complete spectrum of the aristocratic world, including retainers, servants, chaplains and other characters that illustrate the social strata so important to understanding past societies. For most events, we deliberately limit the number of highly ranked characters so that these few can be properly supported by the rest of the cast in a way that demonstrates the Elizabethan social structure.
One glory of the Elizabethan Age is the beauty of the language. Linguistically, the language spoken by modern Americans is closer to Elizabethan than is modern British English, but while the pronunciation may sound familiar, the vocabulary and phasing is very different. The members of the Guild of St. George receive training and practice that allows them to speak the language of Shakespeare and the King James Bible with ease and confidence.