As we wrap up our “World Hobbit Day” festivities, we at TORn are pleased to bring you one final piece of our celebratory specials via an exclusive interview with Aivale Cole (nee Mabel Faletolu).
For fans of Howard Shore and the music of The Lord of the Rings films, Aivale (credited as Mabel Faletolu on the soundtrack of The Fellowship of the Ring) perhaps needs no introduction. For the rest, you probably recall that most heartrending of voices that engulfs the broken Fellowship as they emerge from the darkness of Moria and grieve over Gandalf’s fall into Khazad-dûm.
That piece was sung by none other than Aivale, a vocalist hailing from Wellington, New Zealand. Back in 2001, she recorded the solo piece with the New Zealand Symphony Orchestra.
Join us in this exclusive interview as we catch up with Aivale who, after more than a decade, takes us back to that “crazy but exciting” time when she worked with Howard Shore and Peter Jackson, and also shares a rather amusing anecdote involving Ian McKellen.
It’s been said that when Peter Jackson set out to work with Howard Shore on the music for The Lord of the Rings, he desired to have a cast of vocalists for the songs that would be sung during significant events in the films.
How did you come about to be a featured vocalist on The Fellowship of the Ring?
I was studying at the National Academy of Singing and Dramatic Art in Christchurch, New Zealand. I got a call from a friend, Igelese Ete, who was the choir director for the male choir featured on the same album. He said that they were looking for a soprano with the right amount of richness in the voice for this particular part.
When all was approved then they arranged my flights and it was all go. No audition. Just got the job. Howard Shore had a lot of faith in Igelese so I had better get it RIGHT!! ARrrGH!!
Howard Shore’s score mirrors the themes at the heart of The Lord of the Rings, and in the silent moments following Gandalf’s fall into Khazad-dûm, your vocals lend voice to the themes of grief and loss that weigh upon the Fellowship.
What was your process of immersing yourself into the character who emotes these poignant themes?
Sir Peter explained the scene to me and what sort of feel he wanted with the singing. He wanted the singing to sound like a grieving spirit.
That is all he gave me and that is all I used. I hope I pulled it off ok.
Fran Walsh and Philippa Boyens worked closely with Howard Shore on the lyrics for the songs that are sung throughout the films.
Although there are no words to the piece that you sang on The Fellowship of the Ring, did you interact with Fran or Philippa in any capacity?
No, I didn’t interact with Fran or Phillippa. I interacted with Howard Shore and Sir Peter Jackson.
I had NO IDEA what the Lord of the Rings was. (I know! I know! Some people would have me stoned for not knowing the Lord of the Rings (including you Earl!) and I apologise to all you LOTR addicts out there).
Sir Ian McKellan was also there to see everything come together. I didn’t interact with him but he did come to say hello to the choir. They went crazy around him and I stood there going “I sort of recognise him!” and I thought to myself “This guy is obviously famous that the guys are rushing to him.”
And now? I WISH I was pushing my way through the male crowd to say hello and take a photo with my disposable camera! (I was a student and couldn’t afford a cool phone camera back then!! HA!)
Could you tell us a bit about the process of rehearsing, and ultimately recording, the piece for Gandalf’s fall?
Well I remember arriving and walking into the venue, and the orchestra and choir were sitting in preparation to begin recording.
My friend Igelese gave me this piece of manuscript with the 12 bars of music to learn. I went away for 10 minutes and plonked my part on the piano.
I walked back into venue and I recorded it over a few times interacting with Sir Peter, Howard shore and Igelese. There was a big screen running in the auditorium and there was a big screen in the green room where the real work was happening – playing the “Gandalf’s Fall” scene so that the song I am going to sing is in sync with the movie.
You work primarily in opera, which is an entirely different medium than film.
What was your experience like working with Howard Shore and the New Zealand Symphony Orchestra on a film like The Lord of the Rings?
It was a bit nerve racking. Walking into the venue and seeing the NZSO all set up below, and me in the gallery with the choir just looking at all the set up.
It was crazy but so exciting!
We are thankful to Aivale for her graciousness with her time, especially given her busy tour schedule during the period this interview was conducted.
For sound clips of Aivale’s solo piece and other related soundtrack information, visit The Aivale Cole Interview.