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Friday, May 10, 2013

The Tolkien Party and the Talent Show....

were both memorable events from back in January that most you have heard me mention in passing, but never got the whole story! Hence, though it be late in the spring season, I shall endeavor to relay the happenings here……

    My friend J. had thrown many a Tolkien-themed party in the past, but since I had never watched the films or read the books, she had never thought to invite me. However, when I finally did watch the trilogy, the fringe benefits included the chance to be invited to one of the fan-girl/boys get-togethers. Although I’m not a fan (certainly not to my friend’s level, at least!), I do enjoy parties, especially when cool costumes are involved. And this particular party was designated as one in which everyone could dress as their favorite Tolkien character. Hence, my mom helped me dig out a purple dress, scarlet-brocade belt, and gold-painted plastic sword, and I became Arwen for a day!

     There was one itsy-bitsy problem, however. The purple cape that had originally gone with the dress had been loaned to a friend some years back when we were involved in All Saints Day celebrations at a local Catholic Shrine. Fortunately, we managed to get into contact with her again, and she and her mother very considerately paid for it to be shipped back to us. Being a very active “actress-in-training”, my friend was able to understand well the dilemma of piecing together a costume last-minute! So I dress up for the party, cape and all, and my dad took some marvelous pictures of me.

    So party-time arrived, and dad drove me to my friend’s house. The sign on the door read “For Party Business Only”, in memory of Bilbo Baggins, and I was let in by my friend and her sisters. Three were dressed as hobbits, and one as Galadriel. It was perfect, because she was a blonde, too! As we mused over the fact that our mutual hair-colors both fit our chosen characters very well, a few other interesting personages came to the door, including a knight in home-made armor (who identified himself as a character from one of the rarely-read appendixes), a hooded Black Rider, an Elvin Prince in a bathrobe and a Caesar-like crown! Of course, there were also a few more hobbits to go around :-)

     After dining on cold-cut sandwiches, spicy potato chips, soft pretzels with butter, brownies, leftover Christmas candy, and pumpkin pie with frozen cool whip (I delicacy I had never before tasted!), we all sat around in the living room and played Tolkien trivia games. Admittedly, I couldn’t even begin to keep pace with some of the experts in the room, especially because they were obviously more focused on the books than the films! However, things picked up when everyone started “reenacting” favorite scenes in The Hobbit movie. Even though I’ve never seen it, it was a blast watching everyone trying to imitate it!

    After that several of the boys started singing the dwarf theme from the film, in deep, rich voices that I was quite impressed with. In response, I wound up singing “Edge of Night” from The Return of the King. All singers present got a round of applause from the patient listeners as they munched on the goodies they had snatched form the counter! Before leaving, I nearly tripped over Mr. Knight’s scattered armor that he had stripped off due to near heat exhaustion (!), but fortunately no damage was done to myself or the get-up, and the former wearer promptly started packing up his gear in response to my scolding him from across the room! So ended the ever-memorable Tolkien extravaganza.

    Later on in the month, the Talent Show was held in a town nearby for the benefit of a homeless shelter. I auditioned at a local church building, singing “The Flower of Finnae”. This Irish ballad set in the early 18th century is about a girl named Eileen whose lover, Fergus, had left their native town of Finnae to fight in an Irish regiment within the French Army known as “The Wild Geese”, founded by the Jacobite Irish soldiers expelled from Ireland by King William III. She went to the battlefront in search of him, only to learn that he had been killed in an ill-fated engagement at Flanders. Heart-broken yet still devoted, she remained in the land where he had fallen and entered a Benedictine Convent which housed the battle-flag captured by his regiment before their eventual defeat.

    Several weeks after successfully passing the audition, we went to the rehearsal the night before the actual performance. It was held in a high school auditorium, with excellent acoustics and a state-of-the-art sound system. Really, doing a gig with that set-up could really spoil an amateur musician! But anyway, the assortment of performers was really fascinating. The majority of the contestants were either in their teens or early twenties, but several were middle-aged men, a few were under 13, and the special guest-star (last year’s winner) was a Country/Western singer in his 80’s! The different talents displayed were equally diverse. There were pianists, an organist, a trumpet player, a drummer, a baton twirler, multiple dancers, a small Country band, and numerous singers...Pearl of Tyburn among them, and scheduled to go on as the finale act the next day!

    The following afternoon we returned to the high school where I was ushered back-stage to a waiting room with the other contestants. There, I befriended another soloist who was preparing to sing Dolly Parton’s famous “9 to 5”. She and I chatted, exchanged emails, and went through some warm-up vocal exercises together. Meantime, a tall young gentleman decked out in a 19th century style top hat, frock coat, and elegant boots paced back and forth, sucking on a lemon, and practicing his own rendition of a number from Le Miserables. Also, the Country band was seated behind us, trying to properly synchronize their lead vocal and harmony, and one of the pianists was practicing his selection. A charming young man from a Korean background, he gave me repeated encouragements, telling me that nerves were natural, and if one didn’t feel them, something would be very wrong!

     So time passes, and one by one the contestants are called on stage to do their bit. At last, it was my friend the “9 to 5” vocalist’s turn. After a little while, she returned looking slightly distraught. “What happened?” I inquired concernedly. “My voice cracked,” she admitted. I knew the feeling all to well. The catastrophe at Bay City remained fresh in my mind, and I was well aware of the sickening sensation that settles in when things go dreadfully wrong in mid-performance. I gave her what encouragement that I could, and indeed I have no doubt she will make good. She has since told me that she won a prize at another recent contest and plans on entering a contest to get the chance to sing at the largest annual BBQ in the USA! She plans on going into music therapy for a career.

    Anyway, my turn came at the end, and I was called out on stage. I was nervous; I hadn’t sung in front of that many people in a long while, and I shifted about on stage quite a bit (as revealed in the video recording of the event!). After giving a brief explanation of the song and dedicating to my late grandmother of Irish ancestry, I waited for the music to come on. Again, I couldn’t help but be amazed at how beautiful it sounded over those sweeeeet speakers, and I couldn’t help but get excited by the way my voice carried on those marvelous mics! It’s always hard to balance vocal clarity with emotion, but I tried, and I think it went reasonably well. It was fun to hear the applause of that many people, anyway! In the end, the highly-talented organist won the contest and generously donated the prize money to the homeless shelter. My friend the pianist, the drummer boy, and the top-hat chap were placed as well.

    All in all, I’m glad to have been a part of the community conviviality the broke up a difficult and drear winter, and I’ll you posted on other musical and social events yours truly takes part in!

My Costume Inspiration - Liv Tylor as Arwen

The (Generic) Talent Show Curtain Rises!


  1. What fun! And very English!

    - Mack in Texas

  2. That sounds so fun! I went as a Hobbit to a friend's LOTR party and to the midnight showing of the I guess these hobbit costumes are run-of-the-mill. I'd love to see a picture of your Arwen costume! and/or a video of your singing performance! That sounds so cool--I know how amazing it is to be in a really professional theatre with a superb sound system.

  3. Oh, that sounds like so much fun! I wish I was there! Especially when you guys started singing! I could have taught you all "Star of Earendil!" (You'd love it, Pearl - Arwen is supposed to sing it!!)

    The dwarf theme in the film actually takes its lyrics from the book, rendering it completely amazing. : ) That's one area in which the Hobbit films seems to be doing better than the trilogy films did.

    Ah, so you now admit that you might be a fan after all, just not on the same level as some of the rest of us! You're making slow but steady progress, my friend! : ) (I also notice you didn't use the term "Ringer" this time!:)

    I enjoyed finally hearing about these two events. By the way, we need to catch up by phone soon! It's been a long time.

    - Katherine

  4. @Mack: Indeed, it was great fun....and anything involving Tolkien is bound to be English, even if most of the participants don't know it! They just think it's "Middle Earth-ish"! ;-)

    @Carolyn: Your midnight "Hobbit" viewing in costume sounds like it must have been a blast! I'd love to see your costume, as well! Didn't I send you a picture of mine? If not, I'll do so next time I'm at the library!

    @Katherine: Ha, ha.....alright, alright! So LotR is growing on me a bit.....but don't let it go to your head!!! ;-) Yes, please do teach me "Star of Earendil"! Is it a song or poem? I've never heard of it before. Did it debut in the films? I look forward to catching up with you soon!


  5. It would be nice to see this video of your performance, I'm pretty sure everyone here would be in favour of that.

    Also maybe since you need another trilogy to watch, how about one of the Star Wars trilogies? Perhaps?

  6. Sorry, I don't post videos or pictures of myself on the internet for security reasons. We'll see about a viewing of Star Wars, though.....;-)

  7. Hi Pearl!

    Yes, "Star of Earendil" is a song, and no, it's not in the movies. I'd be happy to teach you the song if you would like. : ) I had never heard of it before either until about a month and a half ago, but the melody is so much fun to sing that I now love it! : ) Being a song, though, it might be kind of hard to teach over the internet... I could send you a link to a youtube video, but I don't know if you'd be able to watch it... I suppose we'll just have to have a grand time doing it over the phone sometime soon! After all, we've always said we wanted to sing something together, haven't we? You'll have to teach me "Edge of Night" at the same time!!
    I can post the lyrics here, if you like, but first I need to ask if you know who/what Earendil and Elbereth are. I don't know/remember whether/to what degree they are covered in the films, and the song won't make much sense unless you know who they are.
    I look forward to talking with you soon!

    - Katherine

  8. Here, you don't have to know anything to listen to "The Song of Hope." There's another, longer version "The Song of Hope (duet)" for both Aragorn and Arwen that I'm sure you'd like as well.

    (After some Elvish lyrics):

    At the edge of darkness
    Hope is whispering still.
    Tender, unerring,
    Gently stirring.

    Memories unfurling in the mind.
    Warm winds from a far, forgotten country,
    Long left behind.

    Wandering the empty road in twilight's silver shade,
    Following the hidden paths, lonely and afraid.
    Let the sunlight free the heart forever bound to roam,
    And let the waking morning find the weary traveller returning home.

    In "Star of Earendil," a prayer for the Fellowship's safety, the lines are amended to "alone and unafraid."

    Sorry, this is kind of the best I can do at the moment... I hope you find it enjoyable and I look forward to talking with you soon!

    - Katherine