LOTR Symphony in Chicago


Just like any other LOTR event for me it is always best remembered and talked about after a few days. Since Friday, 10/08, the emotions have set in and I can write about the experience now.

We arrived at the Auditorium, my two TORN sibs and I, at around 7:40 for the 8:00 performance, having elected not to attend the Q&A because, well, we were behind getting ready. There was quite a few people milling about in the foyer and we met a young man who had already seen the performance, and of course he was raving about it. This made expectations, and excitement, even higher than it had been before and we headed into the theater.

Entering the auditorium we were bowled over to find that our seats were in fact – 11th row, dead center! The orchestra had already taken the stage and they were warming up, and we settled down to talks with some fellow fans from Minnesota and to observing the crowd. There was more than a fair amount of excitement in the air and I was happy to see that most of the seats had been filled. And we waited….. and everyone knows with LOTR waiting seems an eternity. At around 8:00 the lights dimmed and the conductor took the stage. We were ready to begin the journey.

From the very beginning it was breathtaking… the marriage of live music and beautifully displayed hand done sketches brought you back into Middle Earth and soon you forget where you were. The first and second movement, before the intermission, is dedicated to the “Fellowship” and the emotional roller coaster begins with “The Prophecy”, continuing through such personal favorites as “Concerning Hobbits”, “Many Meetings”, “The Bridge at Khazad-dum” and ending with “The Breaking of the Fellowship”. The 250 member Chicago Children’s Choir was amazing….. singing in Elvish. They took you through the range of smiling to crying, reliving each moment not only from the films but the books also, memories always present of the first time Peter Jackson and Howard Shore opened the door to Middle Earth and we were allowed in to eavesdrop.

After the intermission, the Third and Fourth Movement was dedicated to “The Two Towers” while the Fifth and Sixth were to “The Return of the King”- and the orchestra was joined on stage by Sissel. It was a thrill to be able to experience that voice first hand and you could have heard a pin drop during “Evenstar” and “Gollum’s Song”. But my favorite would had to have been – “Into the West”. Hearing that angelic voice singing those profoundly moving words will be an experience I will keep with me forever. And then it was done. The lights came up to a standing ovation and, finally, an appearance on stage by Howard Shore himself.

This was very exciting for the three of us, who have been so moved in a personal way by his music, because it meant that he would be able to attend the reception afterward, an event we had tickets for. We were given “Lord of the Rings Symphony” posters at the entrance,Erika and I were armed with our gifts, nervous over what to expect from such a busy man, and found him to be not only VERY gracious, but humble. I do believe that Howard Shore may be the most unassuming person in music today! He came into the reception room and, to the crowd’s credit, was not mobbed but mingled until he reached the greeting area at the back of the room. My friend Judi and I were very lucky to be one of the first people to thank him and shake his hand. He was gracious in the extreme and seemed genuinely touched by the reactions. I won’t go through the step-by-step of what happened but let me tell you that, no matter how much time they wanted to talk, he took special care to let all the people express themselves to him. It was electric. He signed everyone’s poster, personalizing it.

And it didn’t end there, Sissel also was gracious and friendly (in fact we had a talked about my beaded dress). Being the only one of the three with a digital camera I kinda screwed up on one of the pictures – I have a great shot of Erika walking away. We asked to have another and she said, of course! Another signature, and a very direct compliment on mine and Judi’s dress.

After this, we thought the evening had ended when, on the way out, we ran into Markus Hubor – the conductor. We told him how moving the experience had been for us and he shared the fact of how difficult a piece it was to conduct. Compliments went all around – to the Choir and the orchestra – expressing especial appreciation to the former for all their hard work learning Elvish. He seemed really relieved and happy that the work was received so well – and we added another signature to our posters. And then it really was over.

But is it? I will NEVER watch those films the same way, nor will I ever listen to that beautiful music without seeing these new images come into my head. They are a part of my soul now.

If any of you have a chance to see this amazing performance, even if you have to travel to get to it, I CAN’T RECOMMEND IT ENOUGH! Thank you Howard Shore…. and all involved for a profound evening.



Saturday evening Chicago was gifted with the most beautiful, energizing symphany it has ever had the privlage to host. I was at first disappointed because I thought that Mr. Shore was conducting, but the gifted German conductor, Makus Huber, did an outstanding job. As to the music, I was totally into it and so was my husband who isn’t quite the enthusiast about the music as I am. But he really enjoyed it as much as I. ( He came at the last minute as a replacement for my son who couldn”t make it. We did get to go to Alanta together and actually see Mr. Shore conduct there.)

The drawings really are quite helpful for ones who aren’t really familiar with the music, and the lighting ,for example on “The Bridge of Khazad-dum” was a brillant red lighting all around the stage with firey shadows on the side was outstanding. The Chicago Concert Choir and Children Choir did and excellent job, I had goose bumps when the young girl sang the part when Gandalf had fallen into the abyss and the others escaped out of Moria. Sissel, the Guest Vocalist once again did not disappoint me, (did I mention that I heard her in Alanta also) she has such a pure and clear voice that when she sang ” Gollum’s Song” her facial expressions along with her fabulous voice really told the sad story of this pitiful creature. We all started clapping after she finished and the symphany was still finishing the rest of the song.

What can I say, there was so many favorite and moving songs from the “Concerning Hobbits” to “the lighting of the beacons” and then my personal favorites “The Grey Havens” and “Into the West”. My tears were falling as Sissell sang so beautifully I had to controll myself because I didn’t want to ruin my make-up because after the concert we had the privilege to attend a Post-Show Dessert Reception with HOWARD SHORE! Yes, he didn’t conduct the symphany, but he did attend the reception. He was so kind and signed the great poster that they gave the 100 who had purchased tickets to this limited occasion and anything we handed him. He took pictures with us and had champagne and cheese cake with us. Sissel and Markus the conductor like wise gifted us with their presence. I felt like Cinderella because at mid-night we finally said good night to our fellow ringers and disappeared into the cool and dark Chicago night. What a fairytale I lived this past Saturday evening!



the “lord of the rings” symphony was amazing.

i adore the auditorium theater. it’s beautiful and warm and i’ve heard mixed things about the acoustics but i think they’re fine. i arrived at 6:30 for the question and answer with howard shore. doug adams, who is writing a book about the making and details of the score, was there as well. the book sounds droolworthy, for geeks of my sort. traces the different themes/motifs throughout the story, details influences and decisions and such. it’s going to come out next year with the complete box set of all the music used in the movies.

the questions themselves were on the inane side, as i’d expected. some of them were excellent and elicited great answers, but most of them were either things i’d heard before, things there was no reason to ask howard shore, and shameless self-plugs and mic hogging. but it was funny and at times enlightening. it was so great to just be in the room with howard shore and listen to him talk… after seeing all of the documentaries and such it really made me feel like i was a small part of something, brought me closer to all of it. i totally get the appeal of fan conventions for this reason.

the concert itself started shortly after. i had a fantastic seat in the first row of the first balcony. the crowd was very mixed in age, dress, level of geekitude. not as many costumes as i expected. most women who seemed drawn to that route opted for the vaguely elfin flowy gown thing. there were several young kids, two of whom were sitting behind me and behaving amazingly well for a long concert. there was one adorable little girl in line in front of me for the bathroom during intermission and she was bouncing up and down and singing the tune of the hobbit theme and it was the *cutest thing ever.*

the orchestra was huge and there was a choir and a children’s choir. soloists played on the hardanger fiddle (the rohan theme), the pan flute (faramir’s charge on osgilliath, before billy’s solo, etc), the … i can’t find the name of the instrument. it’s like a hammered dulcimer and it’s used for gollum’s theme in “the taming of smeagol” and other pieces. i always had a difficult time hearing it on the score but it was clear and haunting during the concert. a very cool sound. there were other great solo instruments, and soloists.

a screen was set up behind the musicians. it displayed drawings, paintings and storyboards by alan lee and john howe. i’d known about this beforehand but i didn’t know it was going to work as well as it did. the images shifted slowly and subtly let the audience know (if they hadn’t reached whatever geek level necessary to be able to perfectly connect the music with the movie) what was going on. but it was never overly blatant or distracting. it was utterly gorgeous and added so much to the experience. i had a hard time deciding what to watch – general orchestra, soloists, the conductor or the screen. but it was never a problem. the conductor was someone other than howard shore, but he did an amazing job.

they brought out a soloist, a scandinavian pop singer named sissel, for the second half. the music before intermission was soley from “the fellowship of the ring.” probably because fellowship introduces several of the main themes and has the largest number (i would guess) of fully fleshed side themes that move along the story more than the music in the other two films. “two towers” and “return of the king” came after intermission and i felt like the editing for “two towers” was too abrupt. it made sense but i would have liked to see more time spent on the rohan theme and rivendell. “return of the king” flowed much better, and some of the things from “two towers” recurred during it, so that was nice. but anyway, sissel sang renée fleming’s parts, and “gollum’s song” and “into the west.” she has a gorgeous voice and it fit very well.

highlights for me… well, i was utterly entranced throughout the entire thing. sometimes i have a difficult time keeping in the moment during concerts. but the images on the screen in particular helped me to stay focused. i think my absolute favorite piece was “the breaking of the fellowship.” it’s probably my favorite song on all of the scores. i love the minor fellowship theme and the bodhran (at least, i think it’s a bodhran) and the boy’s choir singing “in dreams.” it’s not using during the actual film but it plays after enya’s song in the credits. i adore it and it was used to close out the “fellowship” section, probably because enya owns the rights to “may it be.” but yeah, the music is what plays after boromir dies and frodo and sam go off to mordor alone. so good. i also loved the second half of “the bridge of khazad dum,” after gandalf has fallen and the fellowship comes out of the mountain. i can’t remember if they had a boy soprano or a woman singing the solo there but it was awesome. the entire moria sequence was incredibly powerful. loud and dark and booming. i was disappointed in my favorite theme, the one from the last march of the ents and the charge/preparation of the rohirrim, with ben del maestro’s solo in the films. the pacing was rushed during the ent charge moment in “two towers” and it didn’t recur strongly enough in “return of the king.” but whatever. the rohirrim charge was still pretty awesome. i also liked the first movement of “return of the king,” the different permutations of the gondor theme, sissel’s solos during “the end of all things” and the complexity of “the return of the king” leading into “the grey havens.” i wasn’t too fond of the soloist they had doing aragorn’s coronation song. it was a bit too low. but now i’m nitpicking.

in all, it was a marvelous night, one of the best nights of music i’ve been lucky enough to experience. i wouldn’t have missed it for the world, it was such a special thing. my breath caught so many times, and of course i cried like a small child (but very quietly) at parts. there was a standing ovation when it was over, one of the longest standing ovations i’ve seen outside of a rock concert. all of the soloists and sections were recognized and then howard shore came out and the place thundered. it was beyond cool and i wish i could see it again some day.