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Seattle LOTR Concert Review

July 20, 2004 at 11:24 am by xoanon  - 

Arwen writes: Between July 15 and July 17, 2004 Seattle residents and visitors alike were offered an amazing gift: the chance to attend not just one, but four concerts conducted by the Award-winning maestro himself, Howard Shore, and performed by the Seattle Symphony at Benaroya Hall. The fans were invited to celebrate the event in true hobbit, elf, or ranger fashion, by attending an Open House reception organized by Linda “Laurelinda” Teller, Founding Member of the Northwesternesse Fan Group on Saturday the 17th between the matinee and evening concerts. Linda had planned the event for almost a full year and worked out all of the details to make sure all of her guests had the best time not only at the concert but also during their visit to her city. She was the most patient and graceful host, and all attendees were very thankful for her hard work.

Having spent most of Saturday taking in the sights of lovely Seattle, I arrived at Benaroya Hall around 6pm, and was greeted by Linda. The event was taking place on the first floor balcony overlooking the main lobby. Costumes had been encouraged, and gentle lads and ladies dressed in their best hobbit, elf or ranger outfits (as well as more conventional 21st century clothing) were hanging out and socializing while munching on savory cold cuts and veggies, and washing it all down with beer, wine, and even soft drinks J Many of the attendees had elected to attend both the 2pm and 8pm performances, and everyone was very enthusiastic about the matinee, which seemed a very good sign for the evening concert. Around 7:50pm everyone made their way into the concert hall and took their seats.

Howard Shore was greeted like a rock star by thundering applause and cheers, and the concert soon started. As much as I enjoyed and admired John Mauceri’s performance of the FOTR score two years ago at the Hollywood Bowl, I must say that is quite an entirely different experience to watch and hear the composer himself conduct his work. It was extremely powerful and I was soon overwhelmed by emotion. The concert was divided in 2 parts – the first part being most of the score from FOTR EE, with the second part (after a brief intermission) covering selections from TTT and ROTK. Throughout the performance, drawings and sketches by Alan Lee were projected on a giant screen above the orchestra. The selection of artwork was subtle enough not to overpower the live performance, it was more like a subtitle, a parenthesis to the music. In addition to being awed by Mr Shore’s maestria, we also greatly admired the soloists, in particular young boy soprano David Farris, and most of all the delightful Sissel, whose pure, beautiful voice brought a lot of Ringers (including myself!) to tears. She delivered wonderful renditions of both Gollum’s Song and Into The West, quite a feat considering how different both songs are. When the very last notes of Into The West died down, with Howard’s right hand raised above his head, almost frozen in time, there was an amazing silence in the entire hall, as if the entire audience were holding their breath, so enraptured we all were in the moment. Howard lowered his hand slowly, turned towards us and the entire hall erupted in overwhelming applause and cheers, giving both the maestro and the orchestra three lasting standing ovations.

After the concert, Linda and her group of Ringers headed to the Artists’ Entrance to wait for Mr Shore and give him a few gifts as a souvenir of the event. One of them was Bilbo’s Red Book, into which the fans in attendance had written a personalized message for Howard; and another was a framed picture of Howard on his arrival to TORN’s One Party two years ago, waving his first Oscar in the air, climbing the stairs of the Hollywood Athletic Club. After a relatively short wait, Mr Shore came out under yet more applause and cheers, a large smile on his face, and proceeded to sign autographs and pose for pictures, to the delight and gratitude of all the fans assembled.

Truly, a spectacular night in a long series of memorable fan-organized events. If Mr Shore conducts the LOTR Symphony in your town, do not miss it. Congratulations to the Seattle Symphony who gave us such a wonderful performance on the night of Saturday July 17th. And many thanks to Linda “Laurelinda” for organizing the event and taking such good care of us all. A few pictures of the event will be coming soon.

—–

Red Giant

I took my girlfriend to see the LOTR symphony Sat July 17 in Benaroya Hall in Seattle. Keep in mind that I had also been on the Red Carpet Tour last Nov-Dec in the Gondor group that went to the world premier of ROTK and also experienced Howard Shore’s debut concert in six movements. It was of course an awesome collection and everyone loved it, and the final standing ovation for something like 8 minutes was the expected and well-deserved ending to the performance.

A few differences and yes some nits I want to point out, since otherwise what can I say other than the perfect concert. I was entertaining myself to collect these little gems since I know all the music by heart so well, so here goes:

GENERAL

There are many times throughout the symphony where Howard would slow down the pieces to – and I am not exaggerating – half the tempo we are accustomed to hearing them at. Two examples: the Beacons as the music swells to show the pairings light across the various peaks was painfully slowed down, the “Behold the dwarf city of Dwarow-delf” grand entrance into the chamber was very slow, and the one that was most jarring was the extremely slow pace of the whole “Forth Eorlingas” ride out of Helm’s Deep and Gandalf’s charge. I know a lot of my pace expectations were from familiarity with the scenes and such, but then again who’s wasn’t? It just made me antsy to “push” the music somehow, will it along to match my images I was seeing. And I now it was Howard’s doing since they were just following his lead, but I wonder why that was done that way; to space out the music to make it last longer, cover last-minute or planned cuts to other songs (see below)? No idea.

FOTR

The man playing the pan pipes and Hobbiton-evoking sounds was excellent, did a great job throughout all the movements when called upon.

Good addition – they added in the violin bit that swells as the Fellowship leaves Rivendell shown only in the EE. From the point where Gandalf says “The Fellowship awaits the ringbearer” until they walk through to the “left” side (ha ha) and out, that was a surprise and good choice as it is probably the single best additional EE scene score-wise in FOTR. It was the most (if not only) notable piece from an EE-only scene I recall.

The boy doing the high-pitched humming was great, but he did have one quick hiccup and recovered perfectly thereafter: in the bit as the Fellowship exits Moria having just lost Gandalf, the second verse of humming which features that initial high-note to lead it off (highest single note in the entire riff), he cracked a little as he clearly strained to hit it, but to his credit hit it he did and from then on it was perfect.

The woman doing the “lament for Gandalf” from Lothlorien looked to be middle-eastern or possibly Indian herself, which I thought fit the style of the music since it also has that quality. Her voice was not quite ethereal and high-pitched and light enough for it as it was in the movie or in NZ’s version of it, but it was still very well done.

Ending of FOTR, as they played the music that saw the Three Hunters leave to “hunt some orc” and Frodo and Sam walk up onto the mountain ridge to gaze out over the Emyn Muil and to Mordor – they forgot to play the light background drumbeat that permeates that piece, which IMO adds a lot to its concluding qualities to the epic first movie in the trilogy. The drummers were there for other pieces needing them like the arrival of Rohan in ROTK and other such battle pieces, but were MIA here for some reason. I kept looking at the drummers who held their sticks expectantly during that whole piece but they never used them.

TTT

Missing music – they only played the very beginning from TT up until the camera starts approaching going inside the mountains for the tumultuous Gandalf vs. Balrog fall. THEY DID NOT PLAY IT!! I could not believe they cut this in favor of some other things (such as the Treebeard buuuuu-dum! Buuuu-dum! weird music). The chanting choral effect alone should qualify this piece to be played, as it was played in New Zealand. I did not like this omission, and in fact the program stated the first song in the second Act was “Foundations of Stone”. Someone needs to remind them that that *is* that portion of the music, not the 45-second French horn introduction to the movie (the mountain fly-over which is great as well).

The first violin playing the Rohan theme (and some others, but this is where I noticed it) seemed to be ad-libbing a little. He added some little transitions that I know are not part of the music as Howard wrote it or at least conducted it in the movie and CD versions. He also was drowned out too often when he was supposed to carry the main tune of a piece. They need better mixing/amplification control or something.

I can’t figure out why a concert would spend time playing that Treebeard hollow-wooden and tuba sounding slow piece, it dragged and on-screen it showed a picture of Treebeard (more of a concept sketch, just like one that appears in the ROTK credits) and simply zoomed in on it in a quirky way and panned around it like 10 times – the same sketch while the song played; I would gladly have traded that time out for any of the other noted missing pieces. It also didn’t sound very good, as it is a very hard piece to play live and with a smaller and unfamiliar orchestra than the larger London or NZ ones. Oh, btw the Seattle Symphony was missing a good 20-30 people, possibly due to needing the space for the chorals (some 200 people).

ROTK

Also missing: ROTK’s Minas Tirith!! How can they leave out that?! When Gandalf and Pippin approach and climb the walls of MT that is a monumental piece, but MIA in the concert (again, in NZ they played it). They cut in after the climactic crescendo at the top with the White Tree (they came in with the softer bit after Pippin says “it’s the tree”, with no sign of the main theme played). They did play the Beacons at least shortly thereafter.

I was hoping for a Billy Boyd-ian solo but was not surprised they did not include that, although I had hoped it would be done by a guest artist.

Speaking of chorals, great job overall as others have pointed out. But the men were definitely not loud enough when they needed to pound out dwarven chants, and the entire chorus should have been much louder (and the voices were entirely drowned out when it should have been vice versa) during the entrance of the Nazgul to Pellinor as they fly down (you know, the awesome screaming moment in the film just after Gothmog spits on the rock that almost landed on him).

The guy in the back right doing Viggo’s chanting at the coronation was way too low (couldn’t’ even hear him although it was clear he was straining to be heard better) and he also had too much of that professional “let me use my vibrato to impress you” for that bit – it is a straight chant, as Viggo himself performed it in NZ at the premiere. I got the distinct impression this fellow didn’t even practice or listen to how Viggo did it, but maybe it is just his style (although I would argue this symphony is larger than anyone’s “style” and they should mold themselves to it, not it to them).

They showed sketches of the Grey Havens from many angles during the Grey Havens and Into The West songs. That was a great move. Back in NZ they only had some arch sketches and maybe 1-2 others, here they had many of the entire Havens area including the surrounding hills and peaks that you can’t even see in the movie.

I wanted to point out these small flaws as they really stood out to me, since I have seen the films an average of 20+ times each. But regardless of any nit-picking, this concert was excellent for anyone of any age. I was very glad to be able to see it again and share it with my girlfriend who absolutely adored it too.

Posted in Old Special Reports on July 20, 2004 by

Daggers of Tauriel

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