When I found out Howard Shore was coming to Pittsburgh for the LOTR Symphony at the end of July, I managed to get permission to sing with the Mendelssohn Choir for these performances. (DO NOT TRY THIS AT HOME! I have the qualifications!)
We had our first rehearsal this past Tuesday. Thats right. We have 2 ½ weeks to get this learned and polished before the first concert! Dr. Page worked with only the women on Tuesday.
I was so excited to be there, but I had to keep reminding myself that I was surrounded by muggles, as my friend, Sally put it. Many know at least something about the movies or the books, but Dr. Page knows nothing about them. You could see that he respects the piece, though, and that means the singers will also, because they respect his opinion.
I must say this is not for the faint-hearted. We covered four of the six movements that evening.
I know a little about the Elven languages, and this actually hindered me at first, as I kept trying to force Elvish pronunciations onto the text. The words in the piece are written phonetically, not at all the way they appear in the books. Howard Shores note was that we should pronounce the words as if they were English. Even Dr. Page said that this would be difficult, as some of the pronunciations dont exist in English.
For example, Osgiliath is written awss-ghee-lee-ahth. Fifty-four pages of this! There is a separate book, which translates some, but not all of the text, so people know what theyre singing about. It also includes a pronunciation guide, which translates the phonetics to Elvish (doesnt specify which Elvish) and Old English. Needless to say, it is very confusing.
My sight-reading skills are good, but not so good that I can just look at a piece and know immediately what it is. So it was an evening of discoveries, as I realized, Oh, this is the wizard fight. Oh, now were in Rivendell.
You may not be aware of this, but when the choir is a part of a symphony, the music you get is not complete – just like the violinists, horn players, etc., the music contains only the parts you need to see, so there is much more for me to discover, as I have not yet seen or heard the whole thing.
There were several moments where I got chills singing through this, and I kept thinking how lucky I am to be doing it. Im looking forward to singing with the full choir and hearing the men sing The Bridge of Khazad-Dum.
Dimholt Road adds this:
I noticed your earlier post concerning another perspective on the upcoming performance of the LOTR Symphony with the Pittsburgh Symphony. I am a baritone in the Mendelssohn choir of Pittsburgh and we had our first rehearsal with just the men this past Monday. Dr. Robert Page our director mentioned the complexity of Tolkien’s text even though he himself is not well versed in the overall story.
I must admit how exciting it is to sing the “Bridge of Kazad dum”. The dwarvish text is so gutteral and pounding as the voices will act in concert with the instruments of the symphony. Needless to say, the notes sung in this passage are quite low, it is almost as if Howard Shore is paralleling the deepness of Moria with the deepness of the male voice.
I had chills when rehearsing the choral section that is heard when the Fellowship exits Moria, weeping for the fallen Gandalf, quite haunting. I look forward to the coming weeks as I get more and more intimate with scores that I have listened to constantly over these last three years.