Andrew writes: This summer, I attended “The Gathering of the Fellowship” in Toronto, Canada. I have to say it was amazing. The following recolections were written from my Hotel room. I started writing them as soon as I got back to the room over the next 2 nights in order to get everything I wanted in, before I forgot. Anyway, I hope you enjoy!
As I sit here, at 9:24pm Saturday, look back on the day of days this has been. This morning was great as was the afternoon. Of course I am here reminiscing about my first day here at the Gathering of the Fellowship. It has been great to say the least. My father and I woke-up this morning at around 7am, went and had breakfast, and headed over to the Sheraton Convention Centre and Hotel, where the fun was about to begin. We registered and signed in around 8:15 or so, and headed into the main ballroom for the opening ceremonies.
The opening ceremonies were set to start at 9am, but do to that fact that last week, this event was on the brink of being cancelled, the early goings of the day were a little unorganized. As everyone sat in the room, you could see the anticipation on everyones faces, and the air was electric. The first thing I remember seeing in the room was a group of people in LOTR costumes, and then as I stood up to look around a little from my set, I could see that Ted Nasmith, world-renowned Tolkien artist was sitting a few rows in front of me. We started about 10:05, an hour or so behind schedule, but once it started, everyone was mesmerized. We started things off with an Italian folk band called Lingalad who were accompanied by the amazing abilities of a man named Thoth, this guy was amazing to say the least, he sang and danced and played violin all at the same time while using his 4+ voice octaves! They acted out The Music of the Ainur which was narrated by Kate Robinson. This was all amazing, an I specifically remember that at the end of the performance, everyone was so in awe that no one clapped, until Thoth turned around and smiled, and the room erupted! When the opening ceremonies were through with, it was off to my first session.
A Historians hunt for the sources: Finding Tolkiens Exeter College year books
Hosted by Marcel Bulles, a German Tolkien lover and president of The German Tolkien Society this was a great session, Marcel had been to Oxford and Exeter this previous summer, and was planning to head out for more studies this summer. One thing that caught my eye was that one of the Linguists, who at the time wasnt conducting his presentation until that afternoon, came in, and was sitting among us, it really showed how intimate this event was going to be. A few interesting things Marcel said was about how Tolkien was always writing things in the margins of the books he had borrowed from the Library (often in messy handwriting). This event was really getting good now.
How to become a real Tolkien fan in 30 minutes and even get a diploma
The next event would have to be in my opinion, the best one of the day, it was How to become a real Tolkien fan in 30 minutes and even get a diploma, hosted by Marcel again, with Craig Parker as the guest. Now, if you have ever had the chance to meet Craig, he is amazing, an awfully funny! The presentation started out as Marcel playing a Tolkien teacher, and Craig, a party loving student who wasnt so serious about school. Craig was constantly joking, at one point, he even got a girl who was sitting in the front row to come up on the stage for she was playing games on her Gameboy, Craig asked her what game she was playing, and she said LOTR to much applause from the packed crowd (I feel for the other presenters at this time, they must have had no guests!) After a while, Craig was given the oral LOTR/Tolkien test, and got the same girl to be his Who wants to be a millionaire buzzer. As expected, Craig was always joking and the like, and at one point, Marcel asked if he was really dedicated to this class, and asked him to write a 4 page essay about Tolkien and why he wanted to take this class. Craig took the paper and drew pictures on them, which were later auctioned off (more on that later). At one point the question was Where did Tolkien spend much time by the sea? so Craig opted to phone a friend, immediately someone threw their cellular phone at him. As he asked a friend, I yelled out the answer Leads, which was correct, and he asked if I was English, and I said English, no, Im Canadian Eh! much to the applause of the guests. The next question was What was the name of Tolkiens wife and their were 3 choices, so I yelled out number 3! and Craig being Craig said to Marcel, All 3! In the end Craig got the diploma, and at the end of this presentation, I met him in the hallway for his autograph and we walked for about 10 minutes joking and what not, and this my friends was the starting of our friendship for he and I talked many more times throughout the day. Next up, the big one!
Convention Centerpiece Panel
It was time for the convention centerpiece, with all the major name presenters as the panel and the organizers as hosts. They all began talking about their Tolkien experience and I remember one of the organizers admitting that they had just begun the Sil, and then the guest to asked the question said that she was working on it, and Craig quickly said that he found that quite amusing, and then went off about The Da Vinci Code and how he found it so scary and twisted. When it was Craigs turn finally, he told us how he learned about LOTR through radio, as he had no television until he was 10! He said he always read as he was growing up, but he admitted that he never read the Trilogy until abut 2 months before shooting on the films began, and when he first met PJ, he asked (having not yet read the books) So who do I get to shoot and kill?!. He told us though, that even now, theres only so many Elvish songs about trees he can take. Next up was Tolkien scholar Colin Duriez, you have most likely seen him on the DVDs, he now has a large beard, but told us all about how he came to LOTR, and about the first time he went to a Tolkien Society Event, and how the first question they asked was Do Balrogs have wings? and when he answered correctly, he was immediately invited upstairs for some beers. He went on about how they had one to any drinks and eventually tried to fit all themselves on top of one bed, he said the got to about 40, Craig suggested we try for about 400 today. Next up was a Tolkien linguist whose name escapes me right now. He told us about how he first came to LOTR, and how every book project he got from grade 2-12 was about LOTR, and the first time he met all the leading Tolkien Linguists at a fantasy convention and how he became instant friends with them all, and how on weekends they often have meetings to decipher and learn all Tolkien languages (adding that they never tried to all fit on one bed!). Before his turn was over, he added that he can’t get enough Elvish songs about trees. Next was Bruce Hopkins (Gamling), he to only came to LOTR just before filming, but told us how he so quickly became obsessed with it and how he loves coming to these conventions and meeting us fans. He told on story how he was surfing, just after the release of ROTK, and a fan came paddling out abut 50 feet from shore, got up on a wave and yelled Riders of Rohan!!, Bruce added that he had no armor on or long hair and a beard and Craig asked what about your horse!?. Thus the end of this presentation came about. Moving on .
Auction to benefit ProLiteracy Worldwide
It was now time for the Auction to benefit Proliteracy worldwide, when all was said and done I walked away with 2 LOTR minimates and the WETA Troll Bust. Their were a few surprises including Craig Parkers great work that sold for $250 CDN! Their were quite a few other things like signed books and magazines, busts, bookmarks, games, signed action figures etc. There was one guest who must have spent about $300, so all in all the whole thing was great, and for a great cause.
Day 1, Truly a Day of Days
Thus, the end of day one came to an end, and I was truly a day of days. Now I can look forward to day 2, but now have to say that I will not be able to attend the 3rd day due to my flight being changed (Cant trust Air Canada these days LOL), but I intend to provide as much info on the event and its goingons that I can. Tomorrow is set up to be a great day, with a presentation of Born of Hope the LOTR fanflim and an interview with a man whose father was part of the Inklings, and a great friend of Tolkiens. As well, I have the LOTR stage play to attend, that should be great (even amidst the bad reviews from dull critics who are being blamed for the early departure of the play from Toronto to London. Anyway, I must be getting to bed now.
Day 2, and my final day of The Gathering of the Fellowship, was an experience to say the least. I woke up this morning about 7:30am (local time), and was excited as could be, anticipating the events to come today. After a small breakfast (very small, only 1 muffin LOL), we (my father and I) headed over to the Sheraton Hotel and Convention Centre once again.
Born of Hope
We started things of with a presentation by Kate Robinson, the director an one of the actors of the LOTR fanfilm Born of Hope. The presentation was great and she really struck a chord with her speech. She told us all about the creative process they went through, and let us see the films trailer (no one else has seen it yet). After we were finished up with this presentation (which was really great) we headed over to the next presentation. In closing, I have to say that this was a great film preview, and I would highly recommend going to Born of Hopes’ homepage (listed at the bottom of the page), and get involved or just plain out learn more about the project.
Next on the agenda was a presentation by Thoth, in this presentation, we got to see his 2002 Academy Award winning film Thoth, based on his troubled childhood and how he made peace with his life through LOTR, and more importantly, Tolkien. To give you a little review of the movie, Thoth was born in New York, in 1954, in a mixed race family. He grew up with 3 siblings, but had a troubled childhood. He and his siblings were the targets of racial slurs and the like throughout their childhoods, and a series of terrible events caused Thoths father to leave the family, and never be seen again by Thoth. He found peace in his life through LOTR, and reading the books as a kid made him create a fantasy world of his own, Festad, which he has been developing since he was 12. It includes his own created language and history, which he sings, dances and plays instruments about in musical acts known as the Herma, which is based on the legends and myths of his world. When the movie was over, we got another performance by him, and I have to say that everyone was simply amazed (once again). He then proceeded to tell us all about the technology he needs for his prayformances and how he achieves his musical goals. An interesting fact is that he has never taken a singing lesson in his life, but Im sure everyone in that room today would say WHAT! because he is just that amazing. Another cool fact that I learned first hand was that he believes in equality in life, and in everything, so when I got hime to sign my GOTF picture, he not only signed it normally with his right hand, but withe his left hand he signed it as well, backwards! He signed both sides at the same time so it looked like werdnA Andrew. He’s really an amzing human being, and I can’t wait until we meet again.When the session was over, a new buzz came through everyone, as they realized that next up was yes, The Lord of the Rings Musical, which has been highly anticipated by us all.
The Lord of the Rings Stage Production
As we all got to the Princess of Wales Theatre, and saw the stage for the first time, we were all simply awestruck. The stage itself is split into 16 elevators, not to mention that the entire back wall of the stage was covered by vines and branches that stretched out to about the middle of both theatre walls. Once the show started, everyone was ready for a great show, which they got. I could go on forever about the show today, but Ill try to keep it quick. The beginning was great, it all started out with about 30 hobbits that came out and started to dance and sing while the story of LOTR was explained in detail, with video and a narrator (who had an awesome voice). Once we had been treated to hobbit life, it was time for Bree. On the way to Bree, through the old forest, we first meet the Ringwraiths, who in my opinion were great, although a little tall and bulky for my liking, they were very menacing. While at the Prancing Poney, the audience was treated to a dance off so to speak, which saw the hobbits take on the men in some interesting stile raps and singing. Then it was off to Rivendell, but I have to say I wasnt a fan of this scene, or Elrond. After the Fellowship had been formed, we got to Moria, and I have to give this scene the award for best part of the show. The battle with the Balrog is simply breathtaking. The sound is thundering, and the red and yellow lights are flashing, and we can hear the roaring but see nothing, just Gandalf yelling, until wham! a huge beast (with wings) rises up and then all this black ash paper is blown in your face and gets everywhere. The scene was mesmerizing, and everyone loved it. Then it was time for the 1st intermission.
After intermission, it was back to the show, and on to Lorien. This was great and all, but I have to say that hated Galadriels appearance. She had this, what I call crows nest on her head and it just looked awful. But in Lorien, we get treated to what I believe the best music of the play, and Galadriel does have an amazing solo that just blew everyone away. After this, its off to Amon-Hen, another disappointing scene in my books. The orcs are all bouncing around, and then this Mortal Kombat theme music starts playing, it was awful! Although after Boromir dies, that was a great part, very touching indeed. Once we get into TTT, everything gets rushed, and Helms Deep is rather disappointing actually, although it was exciting. One downside is no Eomer, and in the case of ROTK, there as no Faramir. Another thing I didnt like was Saruman, first of all he was bald, yes bald! And then down his skull, he had this black stripe that from far away look like a Mohawk!
The Ents though, were great, and everyone loved the scene. Merry and Pippin, just as in the movies, really fed off each other, and were just hilarious. On to ROTK.
Once we move into ROTK, you can see that a lot has been skipped. One major thing is that they blended the battle of Pellenor Fields and the Black Gate, together into one battle. With the battle, the men of the West were doing some weird dance routine, and I only saw about 2 orcs in the entire battle. EVERY scene with Gollum though, was amazing. The actor,Michael Therriault, was amazing, and had a great performance that got him the DORA award for best male actor at last weeks awards. The rest was great, especially the Scouring of the Shire, it was great, a little rushed, but it was great that they added it. To backtrack a little, the Shelob scene was great, and one of the better scenes. With that, we saw an end to the show, and I had to buy a shirt, which I did in the gift shop. All in all, I would give the play 8/10, it did lack in areas, but it was all awe inspiring, and gave all who attended a new version of LOTR to ponder and enjoy.
The Art of Ted Nasmith
Once back at the hotel for the rest of the day, we got 3 more events in. To start things off, we got a great slideshow hosted by Ted Nasmith, all about his art. We learned a lot about it and this was a really enjoyable part of the day as well. He has some great new stuff that is in his new calender. He also showed us some of his car paintings, and joked about how they all seemed to have LOTR style backrounds, and that publishers should never tell him to make whatever backround he wants!. A really enjoyable seminar. Moving on..
As we move on, I went over to a little workshop on how to write good Fanfiction, where I met up with Craig Parker again, and we talked for a little while, joking a lot. Craig is a really great guy, and I hope and know that our paths will cross again sometime. Craig and I started talking about pirated books and how he had recieved the 6th harry Potter in an email about a month before it was set to come out, long story short, he said he began to read it and though it sucked, and it couldn’t have been J.K.’s, which in the end it wasn’t. For the final event of the day and Gathering for me, it was a great one.
Interview with M. Colin Havard
My father didn’t attend this one, instead he went to the bar, he said theres only so much Tolkien he can take.This next event was amazing, it was an interview with M. Colin Havard, son of one of the famous Inklings members. We got a Q&A with him, and the wealth of knowledge that was shared with us by him was amazing. He told us all about how he had been to a lot of the meetings with Tolkien and Lewis, as a child of course, and how he would pour their beer into plants. This event was one of the more enjoyable of the Gathering, and I have to thank the older people I was sitting with at the time for this, they were great and we had a lovely conversation, so thank-you to them.
The End of the Third Age
All in all, this event was amazing, and I cant thank to organizers enough. It was simply a once in a lifetime experience and a really amazing weekend. I really hope that there is another Gathering soon, because Ill be there. On a side note, I am trying to push for the next Gathering to be in Western Canada, so all of you Western Canadians, our time is now, so send me an email if your interested in helping out the cause. Many thanks to all the organising staff and all the guests, this was truly and amazing event.