Tinuvielas writes: Here are the Pro’s (many) and Con’s (some) about RingCon 2005, to be followed by a Summary & Quotes of the John Noble and (part of) the Billy Boyd panel
October, 9th, 2005

“I’m sittin’ in a railway-station, gotta ticket for my destination… hmm-mmm…” – anyone remember that song? Anyone relate to that melancholy feeling of being cast out of Middle-Earth and re-emerging into the bleak reality of a crowded train-ride home, so familiar after three day’s worth of RingCon? Three days of coming-together (which is of course what “con-venire” actually means), of singing – it was a very musical Con, this time, dubbed a “Sing-Con” by some, but more of this later – of laughing and having FUN!

October 14th, 2005, just back from holiday

The above was indeed written on the train, when I was still dressed up as an elf and suffering from the after-effects of overexcitement, of being part of a large, one-minded group, of too much mead and too little sleep and food. But, to quote another ancient song, “sometimes all I need is the air that I breathe and…” to be at RingCon!!! Yes, they managed to pull it off again! Yes, they actually managed to top last year’s experience – and, what’s more, they did it in spite of not inconsiderable odds such as:

a) A totally new location. The newly-opened Esperanto Hotel in Fulda is larger than Bonn’s Maritim, conveniently situated in the Middle of Germany and endowed with a lot of nice terraces where people could go outside and enjoy the beautiful warm weather, but it was scarcely and unlovingly decorated in the opinion of several fans I spoke to, and also in large part coldly lit and not very atmospheric indeed (one fan compared it to a railway-station…). Moreover, at least initially, organisation and staff at the hotel were rather ignorant and totally overtaxed, resulting in fans erring all around Middle-Earth looking for places to leave their luggage, people waiting up late for their overbooked rooms and loooooong lines at the counters;

b) The cancellation of both major stars Sean Astin and David Wenham on short notice because of their filming-schedule. Fortunately, Billy Boyd came instead, but more of that later;

c) The cancellation of John Howe and Colleen Duran because of the flu. All of these cancellations lead to various changes of schedule which were necessary but a bit confusing;

d) Finally, a comparatively lame opening ceremony in a cold hall without funny videos, featuring a Marc B. Lee hard put to explain all of the above to several thousand disgruntled fans. He did it professionally enough and ended up offering free mead and beer to get the party going… yeah, but it still did take the Con a full day to take off, this year, which was a shame.

However, once it got going, like I said, they made it another unforgettable experience, and by “they” I mean not only the organisers, but staff, stars, guests and fans alike. For this year’s RingCon, even more than last’s imho, was a true get-together, a shared experience of those on stage and those below. The interaction was wonderful: fans singing for Billy Boyd during his panel and Billy Boyd performing a beautiful solo on stage; the “elves”-actors joining in the choreographed show put up by the sword-fighting workshop at the Closing ceremony; Mark and Craig and the “hobbit”-actors getting fans on stage to perform with them; or last-minute addition Lawrence Makoare (who said it was going to be his last Con L) playing the fool in the audience during some of the panels. Even Marc B. Lee once got down to the floor to ask Thomas Robbins (“Deagol”) (I think) a couple of questions.

Or take John Noble, who held his first panel Saturday night. Tell you what: I wasn’t excited about him as Denethor, so I didn’t much mind him coming to RingCon (or indeed, not coming last year). But wow, what a surprise: this actor is a wonderful person! A true gentleman, nice, polite, considerate and warm, appreciating the fans, giving each and everyone of them the feeling of being glad to meet them (and indeed shaking every single autograph-seeker’s hand, not to speak of the fact that he gave autographs for free). However, read for yourselves in my transcription of his panel below.

Another thing which made up for the initial difficulties, and which made RingCon 2005 a success after all, was that for the first time (again imho), this year’s several shows were truly spectacular and of professional quality. Whereas last years’ costume contests, for instance, often bore the mark of unintentional Comedy, with contestants seriously re-enacting a scene that was much better re-viewed on DVD, or Germans declaiming Tolkien-lyrics in a heavily accented English, this year’s acts were for the most part witty, funny, each with a twist to them that had the audience rolling on the floor laughing – as when two girls dressed up as “A Leaf of Lembas” and “Galadriel’s Phial” and hopped around the stage dancing to the title-song of grumpy children’s cartoon-character “Bernd, the Bread”.

However, what really totally surprised and overwhelmed everyone present on Saturday night was the following shows. After an exciting stunt-show featuring human (or rather orcish) torches and a guy unexpectedly falling off the ten-meter ceiling in the middle of the hall (onto a thick mattress, sending up billowing clouds of dust), the well-known Boromir-character (he with the wet hair in his eyes “who wants to live forever…”) entered the stage. He was joined by a huge cast of fellow Ring-Stars, all of them fans and amateurs, professionally enacting a highly entertaining quick version of The Lord of the Rings: “Ring-Stars – The Unleashed Tales”. Anyone enjoyed “Shakespeare’s works in 90 minutes”? Well, this one’s a match, and Kudos to director Marc Blasweiler! Most impressive of all (in a literal sense as well, since it was rather loud…) was the score, a perfectly mixed medley of the most hilarious songs fitting for each scene. A few examples, and thanks to my two roommates who helped my poor musical memory out:

  • “I’m too sexy” and “Sex bomb”/Legolas strutting along the stage
  • Buffy’s “Once more with feeling”/The Fellowship marching off
  • “We are the champions”/Helm’s Deep
  • “Who wants to live forever”/Boromir’s death
  • “Don’t stop me now”/Boromir holding the ring on top of the snowy mountain
  • Bon Jovi’s “It’s my life”/Faramir
  • Moulin Rouge “Come what may”/Aragorn and Arwen
  • “Love is a battlefield”/Arwen and Eowyn
  • “For your eyes only” and Guano Apes’ “Open your eyes”/Frodo at Galadriel’s mirror
  • “A fools garden”/Merry and Pippin in Fangorn.

Needless to say, everyone in the audience screamed their guts out with laughter. Anyone who wants to join in is recommend to purchase the Con-DVD (and I’m not getting any money out of this recommendation!).

To finish my cursory impressions… the above-mentioned musical aspect. When Billy Boyd was asked (again) to sing a song during his panel, and had (again) predictably declined to do so uttering his by-now-well-known simple “no”, some 60 girls and women suddenly crept up the main aisle, got up when it was their turn at the microphone, thanked him for coming to the Con, and heartily sang the Hobbit’s Drinking Song to him – sounding indeed rather drunk, I daresay, due to the excitement…

Fortunately, Billy seemed quite impressed, and after several more intelligent questions from the floor about Billy’s musical interests and career, he actually ended his panel saying that he was “kind of feeling bad about not singing to you” and asking for a guitar, which he eventually got. He tuned it lovingly, said with a little laugh “God knows how this is gonna go – gonna have fun, guys” (he was referring to a cold he’d caught waiting at the airport) and finally sang a beautiful ballad all by himself. He really is an accomplished singer with a gorgeous voice, and you could have heard a pin drop in the audience. When he’d finished, he got roaring Standing Ovations.

All in all, Billy Boyd’s appearance at this year’s RingCon totally redeemed his rather cool stance last year. He seemed almost a different person, a lot more relaxed on stage and easy with the fans this time, taking off his shoes and apparently joining in the fun everyone else now seemed to be having, which was great to witness (see my transcript of his panel below).

However, Billy Boyd wasn’t the only one to sing on (or indeed, off-) stage. Peter Tait (aka Shagrat in the film) twice performed a goose-fleshy orc-song he’d written himself, telling about the love-hate-relationship between Shagrat and Shelob, the “spider rumbling in her lair…” – wish I could give you the clever lyrics, but I’m sure you’ll find them on the net somewhere…

Finally – another premiere here – there was an official Elven-choir-workshop this year, born from last year’s enthusiastic get-together and the incredible talent and effort of a young woman, a student of Music, Carola. She had rearranged several pieces of LOTR-music for four female voices and got a disparate band of some sixty women to rehearse them and perform two of them (“Haldir’s Lament” and “Twilight and Shadow”) at the Closing Ceremony. Of course those were the same above-mentioned singers who’d decided spontaneously to surprise Billy with a warm-up-song… (And let me assure you, all were glad that it went down well with him and the audience…). Anyway, since I participated in this event I can’t really say anything about the final outcome except that it was mercifully over quickly once we’d entered the stage; but what I can say is that the rehearsals were a GREAT experience – the one thing that really made the Con worth the time and the money!!!

P.S. “Slash”. For the first time a topic on stage as far as I know, brought up during a panel, and guess whose… J. Quite fitting in so far as some of the Lord of the Rings minor actors present have posed as slashy models for Marja Kettner’s and Storm Constantine’s “Wraeththu – the picture book”, a signed copy of which was given away during the charity auction.

P.P.S. Craig’s and Mark’s panels (yeah, of course it was them with the slashy topic…) are getting to be more and more… well… intimate… (on stage and with the audience). Moreover, their jokes and wordplays slowly but surely assume Shakespearean qualities and dimensions. Like that question about Craig’s “Elven Sword”… fodder for fifteen minutes’ worth of hilarious allusions, culminating in Mark’s extending his … arm to considerable length into the air and declaring that SOME elves not only have a sword… SOME elves have – a SPEAR! (Which of course turned out to be this year’s convention’s running gag.)

P.P.P.S. I just realised I didn’t mention Royd Tolkien, J.R.R.T.s great-grandson, joining the fun. One more handsome male willing to fool around. On stage. P.

On that note… CU next year!?

TBC (tomorrow, I hope) with the transcripts of some of the panels