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
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 Bay City ! She plans on going into music therapy for a career. USA
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!
|The (Generic) Talent Show Curtain Rises!|