Elf Fantasy in Concert

Laurenskerk, Rotterdam (NL) / Saturday 22 November 2003
Omnia, Schelmish, We-Nun Henk

Elf Fantasy is known for its magazine and various fantasy shops in The Netherlands. They already organized some succesful fantasy fairs. Music was a part of those fairs, and now they wanted to do an evening focusing completely on music, with medieval, folk and celtic sounds.For the first ‘Elf Fantasy in Concert / Fantasy Dance Event’ evenings they selected a special location: the impressive St. Laurens-Church in Rotterdam, one of the few old buildings (completed in 1525) in the centre. Most have been destroyed during the German air raid in 1940. This church was also heavily damaged, but rebuilt after WW II. It’s of course a nice atmospheric place for a fantasy happening.

The event was held on two nights, both with the same program. The entrance fee was quite high, but I had the luck of knowing someone involved. I went there on Saturday. The church was reasonably filled then, much more than on Friday so I heard. The event was held in the same weekend as the new Harry Potter book became available in a record-breaking edition.

When we arrived the formation We-Nun Henk was already playing. To prepare myself I had downloaded some songs from their website. These songs and their concert gave me a positive impression. The seven members of We-Nun Henk play traditional folk music with Dutch lyrics, using old regional tales as one of their sources. Some of the instruments used are violin, double bass, guitars, mandolin, percussion. Their Dutch and Flemish songs are not only nostalgic, but also entertaining. Especially their faster, cheerful songs are suited for festivals, the medieval ballads are nice to listen to at home. One of the highlights was the uptempo ‘Hee!’.

Then we had some time to look around. The large old church is of course a great place. There were a few merchandise stands. The sweet herb wine was very drinkable. We saw many nicely dressed people, in their favourite fantasy outfits. A couple wearing wings received an award for best appearance. The average age was not so high, there were especially many young girls. The mood was rather cheerful, especially during concerts, people were clapping, singing along, shouting, doing funny dances. The opposite from the usual ‘serious mood’ at many ‘alternative events’.

The crowd went very wild when Omnia, a ‘neo-Celtic pagan folk’ band from Utrecht took the stage. Apparently they have many dedicated fans. They have some uptempo percussion songs, but they also played some tranquil instrumental pieces, with didgeridoo, harp, flute and old acoustic string instruments. A varied musical menu, with even some Irish folk. Guestmusician was Oliver from the German formation Faun. Though I did not find each song convincing, I have to make the band a compliment for the entertaining performance. They were communicating a lot and making fun with their fans. Everyone was singing along (in various languages) with the warlike ‘Legionnaire’. They also got a lot of cheers for the LotR-pastiche ‘Get the Halfling!’. A few references were also made to the fact that Omnia, as a pagan band, was playing in a christian church…

There were some intermezzo’s between the concerts, for example from a Gregorian choir and some church organ playing. Quite some people danced to the music of DJ Eol, who played some nice folk and medieval tunes, like Qntal and even Derni?re Volont?.

Final band was Schelmish from Germany. Earlier this year I saw them at the Wave Gotik Treffen in Leipzig. They make cheerful uptempo medieval music, a bit like Corvus Corax. With a lot of beer and wine flowing… It’s a nice sight to see this large band with all their bagpipes on stage. Their music can only keep my attention for a few songs though, it gets a bit one-dimensional after a while. But we had to leave halfway anyhow, to catch our train.

Anyway quite a nice evening. I had not much experience in the ‘fantasy scene’, but I enjoyed the friendly atmosphere. The bands were very different from each other, but each entertaining in their own way. Though there were perhaps a little less visitors than the Elf organization hoped for, I hope and expect that they will organize more musical events in the future.