Merry in Oz writes: I have just returned from the first LOTR Symphony in Sydney. It was fantastic!! The stage in the Opera House was full with the sydney symphony orchestra and the philharmonia choir and the children’s choir. The 6 movements took the whole journey through LOTR–and the Alan Lee/John Howe visuals made it feel like experiencing the whole trilogy in 2 hours.

I thought the soloists were great too–I was delighted to hear the children’s choir sing ‘In Dreams” which is my favourite song. David Bruce really hit those high notes–especially the one when they are crying for Gandalf on the Dimrill Dale! Katie Noonan did an excellent ‘Into the West’–it all sounded so true to the films!! well done Sydney!

My favourite bits were shadowfax’s song and the lighting of the beacons–so stirring!!

Anyway, go see this concert if you can! it was packed out tonight. And checking the program we found a Bracegirdle playing a horn!! will investigate this further!!



I took my 17 year old son to the last performance at the Sydney Opera House last night. It was his first symphony, and although he played in a school band, this was considerably higher up the scale in terms of achievement and quality.

He was blown away. Both of us are longtime LOTR fans, and both of us have loved each of the three scores, but seeing and hearing them performed live was a magical and utterly unforgettable experience. The concert hall was packed as it had been for the first three performances. Not your usual opera or classical crowd – I saw everyone from little kids to grandparents to 70s hippies with flowing beards and Harley jackets to chardonnay sippers – all dressed accordingly. A truly great sight and a measure of the wide appeal created both by Peter Jackson’s films and Howard’s music. Concerts like this are great bridge builders – people who love the films go to them and say, hey maybe I’ll just go listen to a symphony one day. I’ll wager many of the LOTR fans had not been to a classical concert before, but that most of the classical goers had seen the LOTR films, another great achievement of Peter Jackson’s.

Anyway as performances go, this was right up there with the very best. It was all I hoped for and more. The SSO is one of the world’s best symphony orchestras and last night they showed everyone why they are so respected. Their playing was intense, emotional and dramatic in all the right spots, and never wavered. It was a long and I imagine for some very draining performance – the horns especially could be forgiven for the odd fluff as they had a lot to do, but they were 99% spot on, as were all the other sections. The flautist who did the piccolo and pan as well as the flute solos, Rosamund Plummer, was absolutely lovely – her wavering, piercingly sweet sounds were perfect and she got a huge round of applause at the end.

The other soloists were just as inspired – the Norwegian hardanger was played by Jenny Thomas, vocal soloists were David Bruce (treble soprano) and Katie Noonan. Katie was a revelation – she sang all the female solo parts including Gollum’s Song and Into the West and I have to say I liked her better than Emiliani Torrini and Annie Lennox. Her voice is very pure and she doesn’t need to yell to penetrate the corners of the hall – it was a truly haunting and emotional performance. David Bruce was also very capable although his voice tended to be lost at times, but this is I think because he was at the far back of the stage. In fact the only criticism I have of the acoustics was that sometimes the choir was a little lost among all the instruments but only sometimes. Most times they delivered, as did the orchestra. My favourite was the tuba – he was absolutely awesome, belting out those Rohan themes especially.

Howard seemed very pleased by the performance and the reaction of the audience who gave him a standing ovation –BUT NOT A SECOND CURTAIN CALL – which I thought was very rude considering how wonderful the concert had been, but then again, maybe that was Opera House rules or something. Anyway he seemed genuinely delighted by the orchestra and soloists, nodding and clapping them in his soft, self-deprecating way. He comes across as a very modest man, a perfectionist in what he demands but his love for the music and his joy in sharing it with the players is obvious.

I was sitting next to an American couple who had been in Australia 3 months and were going back on Monday. They had managed to get tickets at the last minute, and it was very touching to see how overjoyed they were by what they had experienced. They couldn’t imagine going home on a better note (no pun intended.)

I couldn’t have imagined a better evening either. The drawings and imagery projected above the stage took a little getting used to, at first I found it annoying but after a while I realized it was useful as you sometimes did need it to remind you what and who the music was referring to. I didn’t think it was too intrusive either, just there to show you where in the story you were at when a particular piece was playing. The lighting was spot on, though capturing the mood perfectly, from sea green and Lorien blue to hot red Balrog.

So all in all, a once-in-a-lifetime experience. And man, those Opera House acoustics. You think you’ve heard great concert halls, and then you go to the Sydney Opera House. Just awesome. A truly magical venue which showcased a truly magical musical experience.