Svenja Meyhack writes: Here is an interview with Caspar Reiff about the 4CD set “Lord Of The Rings – The Complete Songs and Poems”. I hope it will be useful to you.
Caspar Reiff Interview
1. Your project was to realize the first complete music interpretation of the Tolkien poetry with more than 150 artists, involving the Queen with her drawings and Christopher Lee as a narrator. Quite challenging! Ten years of work and it took shape. Some might say that s quite a long time to invest in something if its not a matter thats near to ones heart. How did you get the idea? How do you feel now that the project is accomplished?
10 years is a long time and the project was very challenging and more challenging than I knew when I started the project. The idea for the project came when I read The Lord of the Rings in the original language the first time. I read the poems and thought that these poems ought to be set to music.
And of course its a very special feeling to be at the journeys end
2. Everything seems to have gone so naturally when listening to the CD Set. Can you tell us more about the foundation of the Tolkien Ensemble and what it practically means to realize such an imposing project?
There was some true Lord of the Rings magic about the foundation of The Tolkien Ensemble. I had for a couple of years had the idea to write music to the poems, but I needed more than that. A more specific project so to speak.
A very small newspaper in Denmark mentioned that I had this idea and this was read by a count in Denmark, Peter Henrik Tesdorph. So, when I performed on guitar in a town near his castle he approached me and asked about this music for the poems from The Lord of the Rings. He would like to hear the songs performed and we agreed that we would set up a concert at his Castle, Gjorslev Castle, Denmark. That was basicly all I needed at that time: a reason to ask people to get involved in the project.
I formed the first Tolkien Ensemble asking my friends to join it. Only a few of them had ever read The Lord of the Rings
From that point on I worked on the idea of making the complete musical version of the poems. One of the first mucisians I asked to be involved was Peter Hall who became co-composer on the project. And of course: It takes a lot of hard work to compose the music to about 70 poems. Then to coordinate the recording of the music, deciding who should be the soloists, persuading record companys etc. It takes a lot of hard work and dedication.
3. Was is it difficult to get Christopher Lee as a narrator? How was it working with him?
First of all it was wonderful to work with Christopher Lee. He is a living legend and when you meet him you fell very small. He reminds me of Tolkiens treepeople, the Ents, a race that have travelled the word and seen the world change. A wise and noble race. Christopher Lee is like that. He is an extraordinary man with an extraordinary life behind him.
I was very lucky that The Tolkien Ensemble was invited to perform at the Danish premiere of the first of Peter Jacksons movies. It was said The Christopher Lee would be there, so I wrote a letter to him, enclosed our 2 CDs, and the arrangers of the premiere was able to pass it to him. He liked our music and ideas and decided to take part in the project.
4. How did you get Queen Margrethe II to be part of this project? I can imagine its not easy to establish contact to her?
The Queen is a great admirer of Tolkiens works. She did a complete illustration series for The Lord of the Rings, one illustration for each chapter and when we had to decide which illustrations we would like to use it was obvious to ask permission to use the Queens. So I sent a letter to the Court Marshall with the enquiry and fortunately the Queen accepted the request.
5. The Tolkien masterpiece made millions of people reading and searching continuously to get a deeper knowledge of it and it made you founding the Tolkien Ensemble. What do you think is the power of Tolkiens masterpiece? Is it maybe a spell?
Tolkien is first of all one of the greatest writers ever. His spell is his deep knowledge of legends, Myths and different religions. This knowledge he uses as basis for his own invented world Middle-earth. The deep roots in what is already there for us through our myths, legends and religions is what makes his invented world seem so real to us, as if it really could have existed.
6. What is the best and what is the worst memory you have of the production?
There have been many wonderful experiences and fortunately few bad ones Obviously the moment when we got the Tolkien Estates permission to work with the poems was unique, but also the first time we met Christopher Lee, meeting Tolkiens daughter, Priscilla, performing in Oxford at Tolkiens own college Exeter College, performing for the Danish Queen and Prince – I could go on and on.
With regard to bad memories Ill just quote Christopher Lee who once said to me: You have to be careful with Managers They are in it for the money, you know…
7. If you were an actor casted for LOTR, which character would you like to play most? Would you find it more interesting to play a role of the force of light or of the force of the darkness?
If I were casted for LOTR I would probably be asked to be swordsman number 4.567 in the left of the screen in the final big battle But of course its always an interesting question Who would you like to be if you had to pick a character from LOTR? In My project with The Tolkien Ensemble my part has been a mixture of Frodos and Gandalfs, so probably one of those two and certainly a character of the force of light!
8. What about the relation with the Tolkiens heirs. How was their reaction when you first presented your project? And how was it when they held the final CD set in their hands?
From the beginning The Tolkien Estate found our work and ideas interesting. They gave us their permission to go on with the project and could easily have stopped us during the past 10 years if they did not like our work And of course: It was something very special for me to be able to send the final 4CDbox to them
9. Music is a language and a world apart, like Tolkiens work. Is there a poem that you particularly like? Is there a music piece that reminds you of a particular moment of the project evolution?
I love The Old Walking Song
The Road goes ever on and on
Down from the door where it began
Now far ahead the road has gone
And I must follow if I can
Pursuing it with eager feet
Until it joins a larger way
Where many paths and errands meet
And wither then, I cannot say.
The poem is the first poem in The Lord of the Rings, it was one of the first poems I set to music and it is the first song on our 4CD Box.
10. What does the future hold for the Tolkien Ensemble? Did you already plan a promotion tour or are you going to take a well-deserved break?
We will go on performing the songs, weve got a new ensemble member in Nick Keir from The McCalmans and we have some major concerts ahead of us in Denmark so the future looks great.