Man sí minna? Man ammen toltha i dann hen Amarth?
I anann darthant dam morn, si dannatha.
A little more than a decade ago, these very words drew us into the world of Middle-earth even as a woman in her deep voice began narrating the tale of its history with the unforgettable words “The world has changed. I feel it in the water, I feel it in the earth, I smell it in the air…”
Voiced by Miriam Stockley, a vocalist hailing from Johannesburg, South Africa, the text entitled “The Footsteps Of Doom” speaks to the theme of Galadriel facing her ultimate temptation and her choice that would determine the eventual fate of Lothlórien, and Middle-earth:
Who enters here? Who brings to us this token of Doom?
That which has stood so long against the darkness will now fall.
It’s been said that when Peter Jackson set out to work with Howard Shore on the music for The Lord of the Rings, he desired to have a cast of featured vocalists for the songs that would be sung during significant events in the films.
How did you get involved in The Fellowship of the Ring?
I was originally booked by the leader of The London Voices, Jenny O’Grady, to sing soprano’s / mezzo soprano’s as part of the chorus. I have known Jenny for many years and had worked with her on many films in the past. We were told that the Tolkien series Lord of the Rings was being filmed and that was all we knew. As I recall, there were multiple choral sessions booked at Air Lyndhurst Studios.
The lyrics of “The Footsteps of Doom” were adapted by Philippa Boyens and translated into Sindarin by David Salo. Did you have any interaction with Philippa or with any language coaches while working on the song?
It was all pretty mysterious. I was asked to come back to the studios to sing a solo part – I had no idea what they wanted me to do.
I was given some sheet music – probably written by Howard Shore, and I was told that I was going to sing in Elvish. I practiced the pronunciation a few times, I was corrected a couple of times by a voice in the control room, I recorded my bit, came into the control room to hear the playback, and then left the studio.
The melody used for “The Footsteps of Doom” is the “Lothlorien” theme, a motif that Howard Shore imbued with an Eastern flavour and backed with exotic African instruments.
Did your South African roots influence the way you approached this piece?
No, not really. I sang in more of a Celtic, ethereal style as opposed to my African chanting style (that is also synonymous with my Adiemus recordings). I believe that Howard was familiar with my solo work and he thought that my sound would suit the piece.
You were joined with The London Voices on this song. How did this collaboration work?
As I’d mentioned earlier, I had, as part of the London Voices choir, previously laid down all the choral tracks. I was asked to come back to the studio to sing a solo.
Could you tell us a bit about the process of rehearsing and recording the song?
As I had been a professional session singer for many years, I was used to coming into a studio, picking up a piece of music, singing it through once or twice, then going for a take. This was no real exception, except for the fact that it was a foreign language – and one with which I was not familiar.
I had sung in French, German, Spanish, Afrikaans, Zulu and even Mandarin, but this was a very flowing language, very easy to pronounce and to sing to music, so it did not take me very long to record.
Besides your solo piece for The Fellowship of the Ring, you also sang as part of The London Voices on the score for all three films.
What was your experience like working on The Lord of the Rings films?
I was fortunate enough during my long career as a British session singer, to sing on many film scores such as Braveheart, Evita, Moulin Rouge and the Star Wars Trilogy – to name but a few.
I used to be one of the contractors who booked choirs for these big films and I also worked for other contractors purely as a singer – ether in a solo capacity or as part of the choir.
I got to work with some pretty amazing producers and arrangers and Howard Shore was one of my favorite composers. His scores were a dream to sing and the choir sounded phenomenal during the Lord of the Rings sessions, which were recorded at Air Lyndhurst studios. Howard was lovely to work for and extremely appreciative and complimentary.
We all knew that the Fellowship of the Ring was going to smash all box office records and we were a part of this history in the making.
Thanks to Miriam for sharing her experience of working on these films even after the passing of so many years.
For sound clips of Miriam’s solo piece and other related soundtrack information, visit The Miriam Stockley Interview.