A group of mainly British TORNadoes met up today for the concert at the Royal Festival Hall featuring Howard Shore and the London Philharmonic Orchestra in the UK premiere of the Fellowship of the Ring concert suite. It was a truly memorable afternoon.

Following pizza and laughs for lunch, we made our way to the Festival Hall and took our seats (dispersed around the auditorium) for the first part of the concert, ‘The Lost Music of the Gaels’. This was a selection of pieces for string quartet, piano, and traditional Celtic instruments such as concertina, bodhran drum, and uileann pipes. The music was accompanied by a silent video film showing images of wild mountains and moorlands – very atmospheric! We all enjoyed this part of the concert, although the many children around us took some time to settle down.

The second part was Stravinsky’s ‘A Soldier’s Tale’. Here a small chamber group performed Stravinsky’s music to an animated version of the text which goes with it. The piece tells the story of a soldier who makes a bargain with the Devil, to get rich in exchange for his violin. Of course everything goes horribly wrong. The animation was well done, and the idea interesting, but none of us were particularly entranced. Perhaps we just wanted to get to Tolkien.

Following the Stravinsky came the Tannoura Troupe, musicians and dancers originating from Egypt. This was simply astounding. The musicians entered first and launched into loud, entrancing Arabic music, and were followed by three dancers carrying drums. These men began to dance around whilst playing their drums. Thirdly the first of the two Whirling Dervishes appeared, and that was when things got really interesting. Wearing layered, brightly coloured skirts over bright undergarments, and carrying four bright discs, the Dervish spun round and round and round, and round and round, without seeming to get dizzy. His skirts made beautiful patterns and round about, the original three dancers weaved with their drums. And he kept going! Towards the end he detached the topmost skirt and used it almost as a spinning top, or maybe one of those hoops children play with; passed it deftly to one of the others and proceeded to do the same with his second skirt. It was amazing. After a brief interlude with the three dancers with drums, a second Dervish came on and performed another dance, with three skirts this time. The audience loved the whole show and gave the troupe a much deserved round of applause.

After the third and final interval, the hall filled up again and on the concert floor the orchestra set up – many percussion instruments, two harps, as well as the usual variety of symphonic instruments. The atmosphere built. The choruses came on – the London Voices and the boys from the London Oratory School. And finally the man himself, Howard Shore, given a rousing welcome. Then we were taken to Middle-earth.

Listening to the score on CD, or as the soundtrack to the film, does not really give a true impression of the layers and depth to the piece. Shore has rewritten bits of the film soundtrack and linked the separate parts together to create one seamless whole, and it works beautifully. In our minds we saw again Hobbiton, Rivendell, Moria, Lórien, and Amon Hen. Everyone found it interesting to see the odd percussion instruments used – one in particular, at the start of ‘A Journey in the Dark’, sent shivers down spines with its high-pitched squeak. The choirs add depth even in places you do not realise they are singing. There was true grief in the stunning voice of the female soloist who sang ‘Gandalf’s Lament’. Throughout, Shore managed to conduct his enormous orchestra and the three separate parts of the chorus with panache and passion. At the end, following the moving rendition of ‘In Dreams’, and the final swell of the Fellowship Theme, the audience rose to its feet. I was really proud to be a part of it, and to be there to see Shore and the musicians get the adulation and acclaim from their home crowd, and to clap as hard as I could.

The performance was without mishap – however some of us couldn’t help laughing a little at one point. They were showing some stills from the film as a backdrop to the orchestra, and the last one was one of Frodo holding out his hand to catch the Ring. With the relative silence at the beginning of ‘The Breaking of the Fellowship’, a little voice near us piped up, “That’s Frodo!” Lovely!

Afterwards some of our group went to get Howard Shore’s autograph, and came back later reporting that he signed something for every person, shook hands, and was generally a very nice man. We also had unconfirmed reports of a certain Christopher Lee hiding near the women’s chorus during the concert, but nobody saw him afterwards, so we cannot be sure!

It was a lovely afternoon, and a fantastic concert. We are all hoping there will be a repeat performance with the Two Towers music next year! Many thanks to my fellow TORNadoes for making it such fun, and of course to Howard Shore, the London Philharmonic, the London Voices, the London Oratory School, and the rest of the performers for entertaining us so well.

By Eledhwen.