Poem for an Ancient Bard

Never mind that there’s no central heating...
(winter won’t last forever).
Never mind that there’s no indoor plumbing...
(we’ll wash this spring).
Forget that there’s a plague raging just beyond the horizon
in some not too distant town...
(we’ll go around it).
Never mind that there’s no electricity, no dentistry,
no refrigeration, nothing to stave off the inevitability of decay.

Ours is a world lit only by fire,
driven from cradle to grave mostly by muscle.
In squalor and filth, in superstition and injustice,
our days are a paradox of longer hours...
yet years that come more quickly.

As for me, I know nothing of a better world...
only: that I would make it so...
one note at a time.

Owain Phyfe

PO BOX 721010

TEL: 248-399-1070
FAX: 248-399-1542
E-MAIL: inngate@nightwatchrecording.com

Editor: Joseph Physician
Jean Elliot
David James
Donna Physician




Malcolm Smith (JPEG: 12K)The growing world of early music suffered a true loss October 27, 1996 as Cantiga and New World Renaissance Band member, Malcolm Smith, passed away suddenly in his sleep at his lake-side house in Lake Estates, Texas. Malcolm and his lady love, Christi, had returned from another successful Texas Renaissance Festival appearance only hours before. Cause of death has been determined to be ‘left ventricular hypertrophy.’

Malcolm has been a valued member of the Nightwatch family, recording with both Cantiga (the group he co-founded with harpist Martha Gay) and the New World Renaissance Band. Over the span of four years, he and his fiddle (and madolin, viola, rebec & gypsy guitar) amassed a considerable discography, starting with NWRB’s Live The Legend in 1992 and ending with the 1996 release, Odyssey. 1994 brought us Once Upon A Time capturing the magical sounds of Cantiga’s many years at festival play. Owain Phyfe, the voice behind the NWRB, said of Malcolm, “His Style was gutsy, explosive and always unpredictable. Two standouts in my mind are his fiddle solo in ‘A La Una’ (from NWRB’s second CD, Where Beauty Moves And Wit Delights, 1993) and the gypsy guitar in Odyssey’
s Hungarian song (cut #4: ‘Minden Allat Orul Az Tavasznak’). Malcolm’s flamenco background brought a free-spirited freshness to all his music.”

Malcolm Brian Smith was born two days after Christmas 1951 in Graves, Texas. He began playing guitar when he was only six years old,
following in the tradition of the Smith family. His Granfather played piano in nightclubs in the days before prohibition, and Malcolm too began soon to display a talent for the keyboard.

Malcolm’s father, while serving as mayor of a small Texas town, was employed as a top chemical engineer at the Gulf Oil Corporation. His oil refinery experience being in demand, he was transferred to the country of Wales in the British Isles. Malcolm, age 10, and family eventually settled in London, England.

The flamenco guitar now became Malcolm’s center of attention. In four years his diligent study earned him a featured performance spot on the David Frost Show, no small feat for a fourteen year old lad. The study of flamenco also led him to Spain where Malcolm had opportunity to learn from some of the best.

Traveling throughout Europe and noting the popularity of American folk music, Malcolm formed the country and bluegrass band’Chickenfeed’ in the Netherlands. And in London, he joined with other troubadors in taking his music into the streets and subways. It was about this time that Malcolm picked up the violin. Says Rio Blue, longtime friend and partner in the group, Celtic Stone, “He never stood still musically. He was always looking for some new instrument to play, some new rhythm to learn. Malcolm was so diverse. We could go out and do a Latin gig and the next day be throwing down some Irish standards. It wasn’t that he could just play the music either. He understood it.”

Back in the United States in the early 1970’s while attending Central Texas University, Malcolm formed The Swampstompers, a hybrid bluegrass band, with the sole intention of making and keeping music fun. The Swampstompers atayed around in various incarnations for over fourteen years. They were a fringe band, almost breaking out into the mainstream. Acts like Lyle Lovett and Bonnie Raitt opened for them while they toured America. A retrospective compact disc is in the works which will highlight the band’s unique sound and style. Malcolm was compiling and arranging tracks for the unnamed album at the time of his passing.

In 1976 at the Texas Renaissance Festival while performing with The Swampstompers, Malcolm chanced to meet harpist Martha Gay. Realizing that they were both headed in the same direction musically, the group Cantiga was subsequently born. Recorder player Bob Bielefeld joined in on Cantiga’s TRF performances and, eventually, Max Dyer added his cello. Meanwhile, as Cantiga was discovering the melodic enchantment of late Medieval and Renaissance repertoire, in the north and on the east coast Owain Phyfe was searching for musicians to form The New World Renaissance Band.

In the fall of 1991, an underground Cantiga cassette (produced by Malcolm Smith) found its way to the Michigan Renaissance Festival and into the hands of Owain Phyfe. Malcolm took Owain’s telephone call and invited him to Texas. A weekend performance at TRF with Cantiga convinced Owain that his search for musicians was over. This was the sound he was looking for.

During the next five years Malcolm shared his talent with thousands of listeners through his performances, both live and recorded, in Cantiga and in The New World Renaissance Band. Today, on upwards of 250 radio stations across North America, his fiddle can be heard. In March of 1996, Nightwatch Recording signed agreements with Renaissance Records in Taiwan bringing the music of Cantiga and The New World Renaissance Band to the far east.

As the world discovers the inspiration and enchantment of the music Malcolm helped to pioneer, his untimely passing has moved many friends and family members to keep his spirit and memory alive. Recording engineer and life long friend, Karl Caillouet, has set up a cyberspace memorial dedicated to Malcolm at website address:


A number of visitors to the site have left poems , pictures, and memories.

Mindful of their loss, friends at The Texas Renaissance Festival have set up The Malcolm Smith Memorial Fund. An engraved bronze plaque will be placed at the gazebo which housed Cantiga’s TRF performances. Plans are also in the works for dedicating a day at the Festival in Malcolm’s honor and awarding a check or money order to: The Texas Renaissance Festival, Malcolm Smith Fund, Route 2 Box 650, Plantersville, TX 77363.

Rarely can someone leave a legacy as meaningful and honest as Malcolm. We know he will not be forgotten. Whenever we cue up Cantiga or the NWRB on the CD player, and the gentle impassioned sound of his strings are given life again through the marvel of an encrypted plastic disc, Malcolm’s talented spirit is with us. Those who knew him well will miss their peaceful, layed-back friend. All of us have gained from his inspiration and his vision for the future of music that was born out of a reverence for the music of the past.


NIGHTWATCH RECORDING is proud to announce that their entire catalogue of recordings will now be available through The CHIVALRY SPORTS RENAISSANCE CATALOGUE. Chivalry Sports Renaissance caters to the medieval and renaissance re-creation audience offering clothing and accessories, weapons, armor, books and music. For more information contact:

Chivalry Sports Renaissance
P.O. Box 18904
Tucson, AZ 85715
(800) 730-5464


When a romantic young sixteenth century commoner fell star-struck in love with the girl of his dreams, the French poet Pierre Guidron chronicled the event in song. Four hundred years later, Owain Phyfe recorded ‘Cesse Mortels De Soupirer’ on his CD Sweet Was The Song. Fifth Column Productions now brings this chivalric tale to the screen. Filmed on location at the Michigan Renaissance Festival, this seven minute music video captures the sights as well as the sounds of the Renaissance via the technology of today.


“It’s sad to hear such a free spirit as Malcolm has passed on. He was the master of the obscure fiddle tune - I remember playing the Houston International festival with Malcolm. He had just gotten back from Europe and was hot into 16th century Finnish dance tunes - odd time signatures, strange keys, and the pickup band (8 of us) with only two practices several months apart. One of the most unusual and most fun gigs I’ve ever played.” ‘Charlie Bones’ Johnson

“This is terrible news indeed. Malcolm was a gentle, talented, enthusiastic and supportive person, and a fine man to have as a friend. We shared many an evening over a span of seven or eight years after “the day’s shows” were over at the Texas Renaissance Festival, and I always appreciated Malcolm’s wry wit and seemingly bottomless cache of obscure tunes. He will be sorely missed by his large circle of friends and admirers. Max McCullough

“Malcolm was like Johnny Appleseed. He went around the country spreading music (instead of apples), and he was friends with the animals and loved nature too.” Bryan Fowler


This issue’s installment comes from Diane M. Denton, who hails from New York,
a true lover of music and a lover of life judging from her kind words.

“Dear Nightwatch,

It only took a moment with the wind in the trees, the sunshine of a flute and the raindrops of a harp, the shifting light on the highs and lows of fiddle and cello, and the calmness in a voice to change my life forever. This is no exaggeration. When I first experienced Cantiga and The New World Renaissance Band at a Renaissance Fair and on the recording “Live The Legend” I knew I was being asked to leave the mundane for the magical. Perhaps I was too eager to go. But it was what my heart so sorely needed: romance, adventure, mythology, the poetry of the sublime and the fanciful; to travel back through the hearts and minds of other times and lands and be sent onwards to where I was surely meant to go.

For me listening to Early Music is like surrendering to a compassionate embrace, feeling sage and even content within its sentiments whether melancholic or joyful. It is enchantment, for how else could it persuade that happiness should not be taken for granted but cherished while it lasts. It is the reality and the dream of life, of love; what the heart feels, the spirit knows and the intellect can only try to understand. With lyrical simplicity it expresses, now as then, our humanity and divinity. Its intimacy is its universality a story, a thought, a desire, a prayer of someone long ago and far away that suddenly becomes our own.

These talented musicians of today not only have the ability but the desire to make this music more beautiful and relevant than ever; those distractions that lead us away from a nobler, kinder, more believing, more melodic and poetic side of ourselves. With every breath that plays or sings its way into my heart, I think of all those other hearts that only need the opportunity to hear it.” I couldn’t bear to edit one word so it ran in it’s entirey.


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