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Hartford Symphony LOTR Concert Review

September 20, 2004 at 12:05 pm by xoanon  - 

Greyseasunder writes: I just got back from spending the weekend with my in-laws, just so that I could see the Hartford Symphony’s rendition of the Lord of the Rings Symphony. I live in New Hampshire, while my in-laws live in southern Connecticut. I drove over 3 hours to get to their home, and then another hour and half to get to Hartford. While I had to suffer through Friday and Saturday with my in-laws, waiting until that magical time of 3pm on Sunday, I did it and made the trek to the Bushnell Theatre for the afternoon concert.

Well, let me tell you, I’ve been waiting since late spring to experience the LOTR Symphony, after I first heard of it taking place (off the onering.net) and ordered my tickets. I’ve been sitting at my computer at work listening to the soundtrack over and over again for nigh on 5 months in anticipation of Sundays event. While Howard Shore canceled on the concert due to workload, it was still well worth the long wait. My friend nick who returned his tickets upon hearing that Mr. Shore was no longer conducting, does not know what he missed. It was truly a once in a lifetime event and I will remember it forever. I’ve just come into work this morning and have fired up the soundtrack again and I’m getting goosebumps remembering what I heard/saw/felt experienced.

My wife and I arrived in Hartford at about 2:30pm- a beautiful and crisp autumn day. Was a bit chilly so my wife had to put on a sweater. The sky was cloudless and sunny as the crowds gathered at the Bushnell. We walked into the hall and what a beautiful theatre! Cream colored walls with gold accents. We quickly surrendered our tickets and were seated. The theatre was spectacular! Overhead the ceiling was decorated with scenes of the zodiac and complex geometric patterns that reminded me of the inner workings of a clock or old watch. Gorgeous.

Our seats were right up front, E section of the Orchestra stage left a little off center. We could’ve reached up and touched the performers. Though I’d have liked to been a bit more to center and further back, as we could not see the entire orchestra, it was still wonderful. Several kids went up to talk to the performers throughout breaks in the concert. The artists seemed to be very enthusiastic to talk to with them.

Up on stage there must have been close to 200 performers. I’m not sure of the exact numbers, but it was incredible. Besides the musicians, three solo vocalists there were a male, female and children’s choruses. In back of them all was a large screen. I’d heard there was to be a multimedia show along with the music. I’d assumed it was going to be stills from the films- however I was wrong and pleasantly surprised. Alongside the music, images of Alan Lee & John Howe’s sketchwork were displayed. Though rough, it was beautiful- full of feeling and raw power- and the images chosen were just cryptic enough to not giveaway some plot elements. My wife has not read the books and has only gotten through the first dvd of the second film as yet, so that was good.

Now, I have to tell you, I’m a bit of a sap where LOTR is concerned. I first read the hobbit in 2nd grade- I think I was maybe 7 years old. And I read the LOTR trilogy immediately after. I’m 35 now, and I’ve read those 4 books once a year since then. When I think of the LOTR, it brings back a lot of happy memories of childhood and fantasy. When I first heard that the films were going to be made, I cringed. I seriously doubted that anyone could ever come close to the magic of the books and I was truly frightened that someone would mess them up. I still have nightmares about when someone with the initials R.B. created an animated version of the first two books back in the late 70’s. Anyways, so when I finally did see the new films, well, I have to tell you- I cried. Several times throughout each film to tell you the truth. I’m a 35 year old male and I’m not afraid to admit that I openly wept at points throughout all three films. Mr. Jackson hit the mark spot on with each. Yeah, he did a little tinkering, but it was for dramatic purposes and I’m not so big a fanatic that I cannot admit that he made some improvements. Anyways…back to the symphony.

Alastair Willis was conducting, standing in for Mr. Shore who is currently working on another project. The theatre darkened, and Mr. Willis stepped up on stage.

The next two hours were pure magic and fantasy. I’ve listened to the soundtracks over and over again probably several hundred times by now. The performance was absolutely flawless!

The concert was divided into 6 sections (sorry, I’m no musician, so the specific wording sometimes escapes me)- the first 4 were devoted to the Fellowship alone. Along with the music, the lights adjusted to go with whatever the theme of music was at the moment- red for war/battle, green for elves. The performance started with “The Prophecy”. Up on the screen we were shown images of the map of middle earth, alternating in english and runic script. The Prophecy quickly moved into “Concerning Hobbits”.

When listening to the soundtrack before going to the concert, I’ve always loved the darker & triumphant pieces- such as “The Bridge of Khazad Dum” or “The White Tree” or “The Ride of the Rohirrim” –more than the nostalgic pieces- such as “Concerning Hobbits”. No more. When the Hartford Symphony started in with “Concerning Hobbits” and I saw images of Hobbiton up on the screen, well- bring on waterworks number one. I wept. I’m such a wuss. Absolutely beautiful- nostalgia, love for home, childhood all things hobbitish. A truly beautiful piece of music, played flawlessly. I marvel more and more at Mr. Shore’s craftwork. My wife thinks I’m such a dork…

The concert progressed through the first film- high points (well the whole thing was one wonderful, continuous highpoint) for me being “The Bridge of Khazad Dum” – wonderful male vocals and images of the balrog up on the screen. Simply astounding. Lovely dark red lighting bathed the performers along with gobos (covers over the lights) that simulated fire.

The last highlight before the end of the first film and intermission was a spectacular rendition of “The Breaking of the Fellowship”. A small boy sang part of this in english, unfortunately I do not remember the words, but it was beautiful and as with the entire performance, flawless. Waterworks #2.

A short intermission followed. Several adults and children went to the stage to talk with the performers who seemed very enthusiastic to talk with them. I stayed right in my seat and tried to soak in what I’d just heard/experienced. On to the 2nd and 3rd films music.

I understand the need to emphasize the first film/book/part of the symphony- its background and the backbone to the entire story. Unfortunately, in my opinion, a lot of the best, most dramatic music, is in the 2nd and 3rd films. Half the performance was devoted to the first film, was a shame- lots of good music in the other films that never made an appearance. What can you do though? Only two hours to cram it all into…

After the intermission, two lovely ladies walked onto the stage alongside the conductor and sat down. Their voices were to be heard later on with INCREDIBLE renditions of “Gollum’s Song” and “Into the West” as well as “Evenstar”. Once again, yep, tears on all three songs. I was pretty wrung out by the end.

‘The Riders of Rohan’ left me a wreck- so dramatic, so tragic and beautifully performed. All I could picture in my head was the golden hall and the lands of the horsemen depicted in the film. The violin soloist delivered a PERFECT performance during this part. Amazing.

‘Forth Eorlingas’- my god, stirred the blood! I’m getting goosepimples just thinking about it 24 hours later. My wife, who is a reluctant LOTR novice at best, nudged me during this part and mouthed “WOW!”. I couldn’t say it better myself.

We moved forward to the end of the second film ending with “Gollum’s Song” – I love Emiliana Torrini’s rendition on the soundtrack, and didn’t know what to expect from someone else performing it. I love Emiliana’s voice- so liquid and sinister yet tragic at the same time. The woman who performed it yesterday (unfortunately I do not have my program with me to look up her name) was astounding. Though much lighter in feel, and less smoothly sinister like Ms. Torrini’s, it still retained the tragedy and lurking evil appropriate for the song that gives voice to my most favorite villain.

On to the final two parts of the score- divided into before the destruction of the ring, and after.

‘Hope and Memory’ well, yep, yet again, tears on my part. Beautiful and epic. “Minas Tirith”- instead of a boy soprano vocal, one of the women sang the part (you know- where faramir and his troop are chased from Osgiliath by the Nazgul and Gandalf comes to their rescue). Astounding!

Moving into “The White Tree” (one of my utter favorites from the soundtrack) and “The Steward of Gondor”. So glorious and epic in feel! Can’t say enough how PERFECT their performance was!

The set was then bathed in blood-red light, for the final two parts before the fall of the ring- “Minas Morgul” & “The Ride of the Rohirrim”. War, bloodshed fire and ultimate triumph! Goosepimples again as I type. Segueing directly into the final movement of the afternoon’s performance.

‘The End of All Things’- THE pinnacle to our adventure. And the Hartford Symphony let you feel it. Heart thumping bass, drums and the full choir unleashed. With the one female singer giving voice to the final moments of the one ring before its destruction. Haunting, beautiful and it set me to tearing up again. Honestly I’m really not THAT big a wimp, but somethings in life you feel passionately about, and all things LOTR-related and this music, this perfect music to accompany this epic tale, well, that’s one of them.

The afternoons performance settled in with the finale- “The Return of the King”, “The Gray Havens” and “Into the West”. All wonderfully done and giving you that final feeling, like the feeling you get when you finish reading The Trilogy- like you just lost your best friend in the entire world. Its over, the end of the adventure. I sat their stunned listening to “Into the West”, performed with as much grace and beauty as Annie Lennox did. Wonderful, epic piece of work and music. Up on the screen we were greeted with images of the Gray Havens and a lone ship sailing off into the sunset.

As the final strains of music stopped, and the house lights came up, the Hartford Symphony received a well-deserved 10-minute standing ovation. I do not know how long those folks have practiced for those two performances (there was one Saturday as well) but its probably been as long as I’ve had tickets waiting to use to see them.

I’m spent folks, still basking in the memory of the music from yesterday. I feel today like I feel everytime I read the books and come to the conclusion of them- words cannot express how I feel. If you get the chance to experience one of these performances where you are, DO IT! It only comes around once, and its not to be missed. Its like stepping into the books for 2 hours of your life. Once there, you are never the same again…

Posted in Old Special Reports on September 20, 2004 by

Thranduil Statue

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