Christmas brings to mind the timeless, poignant image of a mother cradling her newborn child.
At this rather apt time of year then, TORn’s music geeks are pleased to bring you an exclusive interview with Hilary Summers.
An alto hailing from Wales, UK, Hilary recorded “Gilraen’s Song” that plays over the scene where Aragorn kneels in reverence before his mother Gilraen’s memorial in Rivendell, and whose lyrics hark back to the words once spoken by Gilraen herself.
Little boy, little one, night is falling, come into my arms, let me hold you safe.
But still you run through the twilight, lost in your play, slaying demons in the shadows.
Little boy, little one, full of grace, full of joy, oh, my heart will break,
For I see it in your eyes… you are your father’s son, not your mother’s child.
Join us in this exclusive interview as we talk to Hilary about her experience recording the song for The Lord of the Rings.
Doug Adams tells us in his book “The Music of the Lord of the Rings Films” that when deciding whom to cast as the vocalist for “Gilraen’s Song”, Howard Shore thought “a low female voice would be a great sound”.
Could you tell us how you came to work on The Fellowship of the Ring?
At the time they were looking for vocalists I’d been working a lot with Michael Nyman and had done a few soundtracks with him, and the agent or ‘fixer’ who had been in the sessions happened to take my details. Luckily for me she was asked if she knew anyone with a low voice and she sent a demo cd over to Howard Shore and I was booked. A fax was sent with the music (only a solo line and the text) and I went to the recording session and did my stuff.
“Gilraen’s Song” is set to the melody of “The Diminishment of the Elves” theme, a motif that represents the Elvish concept of death and finality, and so it rather aptly plays over the scene where Aragorn kneels in reverence before Gilraen’s Memorial. Further, the words of the song are meant to be those of Gilraen to Aragorn when he was a little boy.
How did this backstory influence your approach towards the song?
To be honest the only thing I was told was that the music represented Aragorn visiting the memorial of his dead mother. I assumed that I was representing her spirit, but until now did not know these words were those she had actually spoken in the past.
The text of “Gilraen’s Song” was written by Philippa Boyens and translated into Sindarin by David Salo. Did you interact with Philippa or work with a language coach on the pronunciations?
I just read the words on the page and apologise for errors in pronunciation! Being Welsh, I felt a definite Celtic/Elvish bond…
You were joined with The London Voices on this song. How did this collaboration work?
I was sent only my line of music which I recorded solo in the recording studio. At that stage it was just me. Choir was added later.
These big budget films unfortunately apportion only a tiny percentage to the score so I was booked as a session singer to do a two hour session for a (minuscule) flat fee. It all has to be done in those two hours so there is no time to waste, and luxuries such as Elvish coaches are not an option.
Could you tell us a bit about the process of recording the song?
It was ages ago but as far as I can remember Howard was listening in and directing by link from USA. I’d sing it and he’d say how he’d like it improved – he basically wanted it to sound less like a trained classical singer; I had to use much less vibrato but at the same time sound maternal and loving. I think we got it in relatively few takes.
Then we moved onto other bits and pieces which involved me singing a few bars of oohs and ahhs over other bits of track.
I truly have no great memory of these or even if they ever appeared in the movies. I think something was used in the Two Towers as I’ve got a credit but I’ve never found it in the film!
What was your experience like working on The Lord of the Rings?
I feel that my contribution to the soundtrack was considerably less exciting than you imagine. Sorry to be disappointing but mine wasn’t a great tale of artistic creativity and passion – just a singer doing what’s written on the page!
I was thrilled though to be a teeny tiny part of TLOTR, and am delighted that anyone even noticed my contribution, let alone delighted in it!
TORn would like to thank Hilary for her generosity in agreeing to this interview. Thanks also to David Sigall (Director) and Nicki Wenham (Artist Manager) at Ingpen & Williams for their help with coordinating the interview.
For sound clips of “Gilraen’s Song” and other related soundtrack information, visit The Hilary Summers Interview.