PippinSparrow writes: I don’t know whether or not you would be interested in reporting about the upcoming Lord of the Rings musical production, but just in case you were, here is a little tidbit about it.

Two members of the Finnish world music / etno music group Värttinä were interviewed on Finnish tv earlier this week, and the interview centered around the upcoming musical project. As you might (or might not) remember, Värttinä is the group that is responsible for composing the music for the production, together with the Bollywood composer A.R. Rahman. I transcribed the interview and translated it into English, and the translated interview can be found below.

Whatever comments I myself have made I’ve put in square brackets [], the words in normal brackets () are just descriptions about the interview situation. I have also included HTML coding to the Värttinä website, and one other HTML formatting for emphasis.

Värttinä Interview on a Finnish tv channel (MTV3)

In the spring of 2005, London’s West End will see the premiere of the most expensive musical production ever set up there — The Lord of the Rings musical. We have just discovered the reason why the production is so expensive: it’s because part of the music is composed by the Finnish group Värttinä. [She’s joking, of course.] Mari Kaasinen and Janne Lappalainen from Värttinä, welcome to the show.

Mari: Thanks.

host: How come you guys are so expensive? (laughter)

Mari: Well, I guess we thought that since we’ve been doing this for 21 years already, it’s got to cost something. (laughter)

Janne: To tell you the truth, though, usually there are only 1 or 2 people composing the music for a musical, but for this musical they have our band, 9 people, and then the Indian composer A.R. Rahman too.

host: That sounds like a very interesting combination, an Indian composer and the Finnish Värttinä together. What exactly is Värttinä‘s share as far as the amount of music is concerned?

Janne: Well, I suppose you can say that it’s an important part of the production. The basic idea is that we have a certain amount of music we need to compose and Rahman has his own share, and then we’re also going to compose some music together.

host: Are there any specific parts of the story that will contain your music?

Mari: There will be Värttinä‘s music throughout the production. We’re making Hobbit music, we’re making Elf music. So it will be all over the place.

host: What is particularly interesting about this project is that — and this is not to say in any way that Värttinä wouldn’t be a fantastic group, we know you are — how would a West End producer know that Värttinä is such a great band that your music is worthy of being included in a huge project like this?

Janne: It was more or less sheer luck. There were these two musical producers who basically split the world in two and went to see what kind of music there really is out there. They went through an enormous amount of albums, and by chance one of our albums, Ilmatar, happened to catch their attention… And then they just called each other and went, ‘this is it, listen to this’.

host: What exactly was it in that album that stood out and caught their attention?

Mari: It was actually one song, a track called Äijö, which is a kind of a spell, an incantation for the snake. Apparently they thought there was something really scary about it, something that made them think ‘hey, this is exactly what we’re looking for’.

host: A creepy Finnish dimension to the story?

Mari: Yes! (laughter)

Janne: It was just one…

host: It’s just one part of it. In musicals, it’s interesting how they look for frightening and even threatening elements, yet they don’t want it to be too clear, too evident. They don’t want to go for the easiest possible solution, the horror flick soundtrack style.

Janne: Yes, that’s the point. And about the music in general, these producers are aiming at creating the kind of a musical and composing the kind of music that has never been heard in West End before. Musical theatre has very strong traditions there, and all of us probably have an idea of what kind of music West End musicals traditionally contain. This particular musical aims at breaking those traditions.

host: Värttinä will also have a say in how the songs are going to be performed, which means that you will be training the performers as well. What kind of a task do you think that will be? It will probably start in the autumn, won’t it…?

Mari: It will kick off in the autumn, yes. I’m sure it will take a lot of hard work, because we would like to include some of our own sound in them, and that’s not necessarily the easiest thing in the world to achieve… (laughter)

host: It’s certainly not your average musical sound…

Mari: Exactly. So yes, we will get to or have to train those people to sing. I’m sure it will be very interesting.

host: This whole thing is quite unbelievable, an enormous musical production in London and you people composing the music and training the singers. Do you…how do you manage to keep calm and keep your head clear? It’s such a big thing…

Mari: It is a big thing yeah. I was just thinking actually that we’ll probably realise it on the opening night just how big it really is.

Janne: At the moment, the way we work is quite close to what we would be doing if we were writing music for an ordinary Värttinä album. All the different aspects of the musical, like staging, costumes and choreography, they are not part of the process yet, we’re just writing music now. But once those other aspects will be included in the process, it will probably gradually dawn on us just how big this thing really is.

host: How much of your time is this Lord of the Rings musical now taking?

Mari: It’s taking quite a bit of time. We started working on it in October last year, so by now we’ve been working on it for about six months. And we will be working on it until the opening night, there’s still a lot to be done.

Janne: Actually, we’ll still have to do some work with the musical even after the opening night. Once the shows start running, some of us will have to keep going back there to check that the quality of the performances will stay the same, with the changing crews and all…

host: I have to say that this is, well, absolutely fantastic. But as a Värttinä fan, I’m also getting a bit worried about whether or not you will have the time to do anything else. Will you be performing live anywhere now, and will there be any new Värttinä music now when the LotR musical is taking up all your time?

Mari: Well, yes, it is taking most of our time now, but we will be playing a couple of shows in Finland in the summer and we’ll also be at a few festivals around Europe. And as soon as we have time, I’m sure we will start working on a new album as well. Many of us probably have some ideas already about what the next album should sound like.

Janne: We have written so much material for the musical, some of which will probably never be used, that we certainly don’t have a shortage of ideas right now.

host: Can you reveal anything at this point about the music you’ve written for the musical? What kind of Hobbit music have you composed, what kind of Elf music?

Mari: I wonder whether we can say anything about it…

Janne: Well, the Hobbit music is going to be kinda down-to-earth and simple, as that’s how the Hobbits themselves were portrayed in the book.

host: They were a simple folk, simple but upstanding.

Mari: Yes…upstanding, straightforward…

Janne: Cheerful.

Mari: Exactly, cheerful music.

Janne: The Karelians of Middle Earth… (laughter)

host: Well yeah, that’s actually quite appropriate…

Janne: Yes.

host: After all, Hobbits love to party and hold feasts…

Mari: Yes, beer and sausages, indeed…

host: The simplest and best joys of life. But how about the Elf music then, one would think that the Elf music has to be anything but simple and down-to-earth?

Janne: Well, the Elf music has many different levels. Because the Elves are like kinda close to Men but then they also have these magical powers, so the music must have many different levels too.

host: Yes, the Elves are sort of wonderful and a wee bit scary at the same time, like Sam Gamgee says about them in the book.

Janne: Exactly.

host: Thank you Mari and Janne for coming here, this musical is such an amazing challenge for you guys. So, you think people should go to London next year then, to watch and listen to the musical?

Mari: Yes, definitely. (laughter) You’re more than welcome to see the show next year.

Janne: Hopefully the musical will be carried to other places too later on, but for now we should start off from London.