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Philadelphia LOTR Concert Reviews

July 14, 2004 at 8:20 pm by xoanon  - 

Cassie

I just returned from a wonderful evening at the Mann Center in Philadelphia. My family and I sat in this open-aired theater and were transported once again into the fantastic world of The Lord of the Rings, via Howard Shore’s emotionally evocative score. The evening started with a brief film in which the composer apologized for not being there, but assuring us we would enjoy it just as much. We most certainly did. We were lucky enough to be in the sixth row center, where we got the full impact of the experience. The orchestra played with heart, and the chorus was exceptional. The boys’ choir sang like angels, and hit all the high notes right on target. Sissel was elegant and beautiful- and also quite angelic in her styling. The
audience was very into the show, and were of all ages- obviously the movies touched a lot of people in a special way. The applause was hearty- we were all very appreciative of hearing our favorite themes live and having the screen above with the artwork to help us reference the music to the scene.

If you can, go see this concert!!!

——

James

Hello. I attended the Philadelphia performace of the Trilogy concert last night and wanted to give a little report.

The night started off with a message from Howard Shore, who could not make the performance, as he introduced the guest conductor, John Mauceri, and gave a brief history of their relationship together. The performance was amazing. They did selections the main points of the films, playing mostly Fellowship songs in the first half, with Two Towers and Return of the King being divided up into the second half. The sound was amazing, although there were some microphone problems with the female vocalist, Sissel, who performed some of the songs in Two Towers and Return of the King.

John Mauceri, who helped Shore arrange the music from the movies into a playable symphonic performance, did an amazing job and really brought the music to life. If anyone is near any of the cities where this performance will be playing in the future, I highly recommend going.

—–

Ann

The weather was simply lovely last night, and nowhere else moreso than at the Mann Center just outside of Center City Philadelphia, PA. This was where Howard Shore’s Lord of the Rings Symphony was performed, unfortunately, without Howard, who could not be there due to a scheduling conflict. Did it matter that the conductor was the Philadelphia Orchestra’s John Mauceri? Truthfully, it did, a little.

But of course, it was Howard’s brilliant score that we were there to see/hear, and that was performed by the orchestra, the Philadelphia Singers Chorale, the Keystone State Boys Choir, and guest vocalist Sissel. The first half of the show is the music from Fellowship; the second half is both Two Towers and ROTK. Throughout, pencil drawings and maps were projected on a screen behind the performers.

For me, the more recognizable music is in Fellowship — after having seen this film probably close to a hundred times, I can close my eyes and not only picture the scene the melody comes from, but hear the actor’s dialog in my head. This is less true of the other two films, and I suppose this is the case for most people, who simply haven’t lived with these as long as FOTR. So for me, the first half was truly the best part (although “May It Be” was very much missed). Nonetheless, there are gorgeous themes in Two Towers and ROTK too, most notably The Riders of Rohan, in the former, and the Gondor theme/lighting of the beacons. Sissel’s rendition of “Into the West” was a definite highlight of the evening as well. She has a beautiful voice and gave the song her own flavor. Not Annie Lennox but very very good.

That is not to say that there weren’t some flaws in the presentation, in my opinion. Some of the artwork that was chosen to accompany the music was blah and virtually unrecognizable, and at one point, was just white, as if possibly clouds? Much of it was rough — like pencil drawings a child could have made. During Lothlorien’s music, all we were shown was branches — a bit boring after a few shots. It also appeared that at a few points in the program, incorrect images were synched to the music (e.g., sketches of Bag End were shown during the coronation (“You bow to no one”) — true, the Hobbit theme is played at that point but….). Quibbling, perhaps. But a few drawings of characters other than Gollum, which were Alan Lee’s, and obviously of “movie Gollum” (except for John Howe’s famous sketch), a random Rohirrim rider (Theoden?) and Arwen in her jeweled headdress, would have been nice. I was hoping for those gorgeous drawings of the characters/actors at the end of ROTK but sadly, those were not included. Why actual screen caps of the films were not used or at the very least, interspersed among the drawings, is anyone’s guess. At the very least, more dynamic, colorful artwork would have greatly improved the show.

I had some logistical complaints as well. The Mann’s sound system appeared to be off, and Sissel and the chorale vocalists’ microphones were nowhere near as loud as they needed to be; Sissel was virtually inaudible during the opening verse of “Gollum’s Song”. I also pitied anyone sitting on either side of the amphitheater because if you were not directly in the center, you could not have seen the screen (there was only one and any potential side viewing would have been blocked by the speaker towers).

However…it was a very, very enjoyable evening for the most part and thrilling to hear these oh so familiar pieces performed live by a symphony. Curiously, there were not a lot of people wearing Ringer paraphernalia — I was one of the few wearing an “appropriate” t-shirt. No one in costume either. It is obvious that our phenomenon is everyone’s phenomenon, and that’s really gratifying to see.

——

Ringer RoddyP

The “Lord of the Rings” trilogy has been lauded by many people across the world as a perfect example of many cinematic parts – direction, acting, cinematography, etc – coming together to make an incredible whole. Last night at the Mann Music Center in Philadelphia, another element of this masterpiece was showcased – it’s music.

To begin with, when I found out that Howard Shore would not be able to conduct the Philadelphia Orchestra because of scheduling conflicts, I was almost ready to ask for a refund for my tickets. He was one of the chief reasons I wanted to attend this event. But John Mauceri, the guest conductor and long time collaborator with Shore, proved that he knew the material and its nuances very well. He conducted the orchestra to a performance that was very, very close to the actual recordings of the soundtracks.

Accompanying the orchestra were two separate choirs – the Philadelphia Singers Chorale and the Keystone State Boychoir. When the music was deep in the Mines of Moria, the Philadelphia Singers had me conjuring images of long ago dwarven voices. And the Boychoir was equally evocative during the music’s journey into the Elven realms. But it was the soloist Sissel who was called upon for the performances’ most ethereal touches, and when she sang her solo notes and the lyrics for “Gollum’s Song” and “Into the West,” the audience was held in thrall.

The performance was divided into six movements, in an arrangement that closely resembles Tolkien’s six-book structure. The music was also performed in the order it appeared in the film, so that it began with “The Prophesy” from FOTR, ran through the music from that film, then TTT, the ROTK, ending with an otherworldly “Into the West.”

The multimedia portion of the event was simple and yet greatly added to the performance. Throughout the entire night illustrations by Alan Lee and John Howe were displayed on the screen. We could see the detail put into Aragorn’s sword during the playing of the song “Anduril” and also see the drawings of the Balrog during “The Bridge of Kazad Dum.” I think showing these drawings, and not stills from the film, was an excellent choice. It simultaneously allowed those who associate LOTR with the films chiefly to be reminded of those images and those who associate LOTR with their memory of the pictures they created in their heads while reading the books to recall them.

The setting of the venue could also have not been more perfect. The Mann Center is half enclosed, half open to the surrounding trees of Fairmount Park. During “Lothlorien” for example, one could stare out into the trees illuminated by the fading sun and imagine what it would feel like to walk in that elven realm. There was a cool breeze for most of the night and many families enjoyed lounging on the grass in the general admission area. This wasn’t a symphony for any particular age group. In the row in front of me was an elderly couple who were frequently consulting the program to see where they were in the piece and behind me there was a family with two small children.

I’ve been listening to movie soundtracks for years, and I believe – the works of John Williams and Danny Elfman not withstanding – Howard Shore’s score for the LOTR trilogy is the most textured, stirring, and operatic movie score ever produced. The music that accompanied the three LOTR films can and will stand on its’ own for years to come, and last nights performance only certified this. I strongly recommend to anyone who can attend one of these shows to go out there and be a part of a night you won’t soon forget.

——

Ryan

I was at the Philadelphia Symphony’s performance of Lord of the Rings last night and thought I’d write to you a few of my thoughts. As you may know, Howard Shore had to cancel and John Mauceri took over conducting and he did a great job. I’m sure everyone knows what songs were played so I’ll skip that and just tell you the highlights for me.

When they started playing I had a huge lump in my throat, and tears in my eyes when they entered the Shire. The rest of the Fellowship was nice but felt a little long (the seats were very uncomfortable).
When they came back after intermission, they introduced a very pretty woman named Sissel, who was lead vocalist. This second half was awesome! I was blown away….then came “Evenstar”. When Sissel opened her mouth to sing my jaw dropped, my eyes filled with tears…it was one of the most beautiful things I’ve ever heard. The rest of TTT and King was magical and Sissel’s rendition of “Into The West” was absolutely beautiful. My girlfriend enjoys LOTR, but was never that into the music (she usually groaned when I put on the CDs), but “Into The West” had her in tears (along with half the crowd). I’d say the audience gave a nice 5-10 minute standing ovation when it was over. The show was absolutely wonderful and if the symphony is going to be anywhere near you, you have to go.

—–

HHB

I would love to say this was an incredible evening, and it was, but not in the way I had hoped. The Symphony was broken into 2 parts instead of 3, with FOTR comprising the first half, and TT and ROTK the second.

The first half was good. There were some unexpected variations, the choruses were great, some very good soloists (who, annoyingly, were not listed in the program) and Mauceri did a good job.

The second half was a train wreck. I have never heard such a sloppy performance by the Philadelphia Orchestra and they should be ashamed of giving such a lame performance of Shore’s music. It didn’t sound as though they had even rehearsed it. Sissel, who performed most of the vocal solos in the second half, did her level best to perform as best she could, an amazing feat considering the orchestra dragged relentlessly and her microphone was off at least 50 percent of the time. Whoever was running her mike should be shot – I was in the fifth row orchestra, roughly 20 feet from her and I could barely hear her at all. She was a real pro and never blinked, even though “Into the West” went at half its usual pace. My real rotten tomatoes are reserved for the string and percussion sections, who didn’t seem to be paying any attention to Mauceri at all. He just could not get the strings to budge. During the “White Tree”, I thought he was going to have to stop the orchestra – the strings were playing at half the tempo of the rest of the orchestra, and the snare drum was playing at twice the tempo. I am a classical singer, so I may be more sensitive to this stuff than the general public, but at that point, even the teenager cracking her gum next to me sat up and said “What the….???” How on earth he ever got them back in sync, I don’t know, but he did.

I don’t know if I can express how painful it is to hear music you love being butchered by a sloppy amateurish performance. It goes squarely on the back of the orchestra (and the clown running the sound system) – everyone else did a great job. I couldn’t believe I was listening to a professional orchestra; it has me seriously rethinking my Philadelphia Orchestra subscription. Did they think that because it was movie music, they didn’t need to treat it with respect and practice it or pay attention to the conductor? I can’t help thinking this is the real reason Howard Shore had a sudden scheduling conflict and couldn’t make the performance. If so, he owes Mauceri big time for dealing with this bunch for him.

Posted in Old Special Reports on July 14, 2004 by

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