Hello. I realize you may have several reports of Howard Shore and the U.S. Premiere of The Lord of the Rings Symphony in Columbus, Ohio. I am not sure if I have any new information, but here is a summary of the evening (3/27/04), along with my own perspective:
Overall it was well worth the 2.5 hr one way trip to see this performance. Mr. Shore really is a wonderful ambassador for the music of Middle Earth. Prior to the performance, he did a short Q&A with the audience. The questions were submitted in advance. Here are notable tidbits:
The music used in the film was never cut to fit a particular scene. Rather, if a scene was reshot or redone, Mr. Shore recomposed the music to fit exactly to final cut. This is a departure from the way scores are conventionally written.
Howard Shore emphasized that he wrote the music like an opera, with each gesture being associated to the film score. He gave the example of the moment when Frodo says he will take the ring to Mordor, and the glance the is given by Gandalf. He said this reminded him of WWII, when a father would be proud of his son for the courage shown while knowing that their loved one may never return.
The music for the Mines of Moria was recorded in New Zealand with a Kiwi orchestra featuring several artists of Maori decent.
I was impressed by how familiar Howard Shore was with Middle Earth linguistics. He was able to have an impromptu discussion on the various forms of elvish in great detail
As each of the films became more successful, Howard Shore was able to have more control over picking the particular vocal artists. He had the most control with ROTK, culminating in a long letter he wrote to Annie Lennox about why he wanted her to sing. At the time, that song was not Into the West, but another which is featured as an extra on one of the special soundtracks for ROTK which Shore refers to as a “rarity.”
As the characters such as the hobbits evolved through the trilogy, the instruments used to portray their musical themes changed to reflect this transformation.
Howard Shore just completed recording an additional 50 min worth of music for the ROTK EE DVD.
Now for the concert:
Behind the orchestra and chorus was a large screen. Smaller screens were on both sides in the balconies. These were filled with artists sketches associated with the music as it played. Howard Shore had reduced the 9+ hours music to just over 2, distilling the essence of middle earth. The sketches for me did the same: reducing the depth of color and detail to the lines and figures of Alan Lee.
The music itself was beautiful. At times, it evoked images and emotions much like the film, and I found the projected imagery constraining my ablility to fully immerse myself in its effect. I closed my eyes to remedy this. The concert was organized in six movments, one for each book of the trilogy. The Norwegian soloist Sissel performed soaring high pitched vocals poignantly, and was able to be in the same league as Lennox for a more operatic interpretation of Into the West (though I still prefer Lennox).
I could go on, but suffice it to say that the several minute standing ovation requiring Howard Shore to come back on to stage three times was well deserved.
Report on the US premiere of Howard Shores LOTR Symphony
I have a wish for all Ringers that they could all get to experience The Lord of the Rings Symphony conducted by Howard Shore!
I was one of the lucky audience members at Fridays sold out performance in Columbus, Ohio, which represented the United States premiere of the symphony. (Thanks to TORN, I had heard about the concert months ago, and was able to get my tickets as soon as they went on sale!) TORN has already posted great reports about the previous performances of this program at several other international venues, so I wont belabor what has already been reported, but I would like to share my personal impressions.
I made the two-hour drive from Cincinnati with my sister Michelf in drizzly weather, to meet our Columbus-dwelling sister Xtina and her boyfriend. The venue for the event was the opulent Ohio Theatre, a lavish old movie palace that seems to mix the soaring grandeur of Minas Tirith with the golden trimmings of Theodens great hall Meduseld in Rohan. (Ive included a few scans, but my camera was sadly inadequate to the task from our peanut gallery location!) At $15 apiece, we had the least expensive seats in the house. We were in the highest balcony, so we were glad to have binoculars on hand, but the acoustics were fantastic. Sadly, we barely made it to our seats before the program began, and so missed out on Shores earlier address to the audience in which he answered questions.
Having listened to all three soundtracks innumerable times, it was enjoyable to hear a fresh rendering of such familiar material. The Columbus Symphony did a great job, and it was interesting to hear some pieces played in slightly different tempos or arrangements. For me, what really made everything come together was the fantastic vocal work of the Otterbein College Camerata Choir and Concert Choir (over 100 voices), who were joined by the Columbus Childrens Choir — New World Singers (36 young people). They did a wonderful job and contributed tremendously to an unforgettable evening. The choir was arranged behind the symphony musicians, with the childrens choir in the center, flanked on the left by the female chorus, and on the right by the male chorus. Several local soloists got to have a moment in the spotlight: a female mezzo soprano sang Gandalfs Lament in the Lothlorien section, and a baritone handled Aragorns Coronation Song, both doing Columbus proud. A young man in the Childrens Choir sang the soprano parts in the Fellowship portion of the show, including In Dreams, though somewhat shakily, it must be said. Oh, but havent we been spoiled by Ben del Maestro?
For the soprano parts and featured solos in the Two Towers and Return of the King movements, Howard Shore brought out the Norwegian songbird Sissel, probably best known to stateside audiences as the ethereal vocalist on the Titanic soundtrack. Wearing an elegant black gown, she was as lovely to look at as to listen to, and her voice completely blew us away! She handled the Elvish vocals as effortlessly as the two English songs, Gollums Song and Into the West. It gives me chills as I write this just thinking back on her enchanting performance!
It was fun to pick out the unusual things, such as the man beating chains on piano wires for the Isengard selection, the wood xylophone for the Ents, the pan pipes as Faramirs men prepare to return to Osgiliath, the cimbalon or hammered dulcimer for Gollums theme, and of course, the Norwegian fiddle for the Rohan selections. The music swept me away, and it was all I could do not to shout out Forth Eorlingas! as the horns sounded the charge! If one may be allowed a few nits in such a wonderful symphony, I dearly would have loved to hear Pippins Song (The Edge of Night) and the grand statement of the Minas Tirith theme that we get when Gandalf rides to the Citadel on Shadowfax. But we do get a wonderful rendition of that theme for the Lighting of the Beacons (The White Tree), and since Michelf and I agree that this is our favorite scene in the films, were glad we got that one, if we couldnt have both!
The projected montage of Alan Lees and John Howes illustrations worked well for the most part. A large screen was behind and above the musicians and chorus on stage, with two smaller projections screens in box seat area on the right and left of the stage. Xtina and her boyfriend arent nearly as obsessed with LOTR as Michelf and I are, and they felt that the sketches really helped them to remember what was happening in the films at certain points of the music. The maps and sketches were mostly black and white, but occasionally color added an appropriate touch, such as the pan of the mountain tops tinted with a deepening red wash during the beacon fires section.
People watching was fun, with many an Elven princess gracing the gilded Ohio Theatre. Evenstar pendants and Leaf broaches abounded, and even some of the ushers could be seen sporting gold Eye of Sauron lapel pins! I even ran into some gals that I had met among the TORN contingent at The Gathering of the Fellowship in Toronto this past December! They had driven in from Akron and Michigan, and at least one was cloaked in Elven grey! I would guess there were a lot more teenagers there than one typically finds at the Columbus Symphony, and it is my sincere hope that a lot of non-symphony-goers will have enjoyed the experience so much that they will consider another visit to the Ohio Theatre. As was reported earlier this week on TORN, the Columbus Symphony has faced some hard times, and took a real leap of faith two years ago when they committed to put on this event. Happily, the result was an instant sell-out, which led them to add a second show on Saturday, marking the first time in the Symphonys history that it had sold out two shows in a row!
When the glorious performance came to its conclusion, Howard Shore and his fellow artists were rewarded with a long and loud standing ovation. There were several curtain calls; each time, Mr. Shore graciously waved his arms toward the others on stage to indicate that the praise should go to the musicians and vocalists and not be focused on him. Oh Howard, dont you know that we recognize that we are in the presence of a musical genius whos legacy will live on for generations? We are not worthy!
As our little group exited the theatre, we happened to notice a gentleman who had sung in the male choir, carrying his music booklet. When I told him that I was very interested to see how the Elvish lyrics had been written out, he kindly allowed me view a few pages, and even to take a photo (attached)! He pointed out that the words were written phonetically, not as they would be spelled in Sindarin, Quenya, Rohirric, or Khuzdul. So I guess this tidbit qualifies as a TORN exclusive!
I wanted to pass along a bit more information on Howard Shore’s US debut of the Lord of the Rings Symphony in Columbus. I was really glad to be able to attend the Friday evening show, which was absolutely packed. A few tidbits from the Q&A: one question was about whether or not there would be a special music box set at some point and Howard said that yes, there would very likely be! As a huge LotR music geek, I was really excited to hear that. He anticipated including something like 12 hours of music (obviously much more than is on the currently released soundtracks), with a “rarities” disc that would contain music that did *not* get used on film…possibly showing the development of different thematic elements or maybe first recordings. He also mentioned a book in progress by a Chicago (?) columnist, about LotR music. I’m unclear if he was planning to make that book an inclusion in the music box set. As far as time frame goes, I believe he said a year or so from now, though that seemed a general comment.
Howard also seemed very positive about the desire to do The Hobbit if the rights issues can be hammered out.
The performance was wonderful and I would echo what Deborah said about what a lovely person Howard seems to be. I’ve always gotten the impression that he’s fairly shy and both surprised and touched by the attention he’s received as a result of being involved with the LotR movies — that impression was reinforced by seeing him on Friday! During all of the curtain calls, he seemed much more interested in recognizing all of the other performers on stage before himself. He seemed moved by the enthusiasm with which he was received. I feel *really* lucky because I’ll get to see him again when he comes to Pittsburgh at the end of July, and hopefully at that event I’ll have an opportunity to say hello to him in person and thank him for the incredible contribution he made to the movies.