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Lord Of The Rings Symphony US premiere in Columbus, OH


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#1 of 17 OFFLINE   Haggai

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Posted March 27 2004 - 05:25 AM

Three and a half hour drive both ways for me last night. Worth it? Absolutely!

The symphony has six movements, two per movie score. Most of the parts are titled just like they are on the soundtrack CDs, with a couple of exceptions. A few of the pieces are a little shorter than they are on the CDs, but for the most part I think they're the same. Here's what was in the program:

The Fellowship of the Ring
Movement One
The Prophecy - Concerning Hobbits - The Shadow of the Past - A Short Cut to Mushrooms - The Old Forest - A Knife in the Dark

Movement Two
Many Meetings - The Ring Goes South - A Journey in the Dark - The Bridge of Khazad-Dum - Lothlorien - Gandalf's Lament - Farewell to Lorien - The Great River - Amon Hen* - The Breaking of the Fellowship**

INTERMISSION

The Two Towers
Movement Three
Foundations of Stone - The Taming of Smeagol - The Riders of Rohan - The Black Gate is Closed - Evenstar - The White Rider - Treebeard - The Forbidden Pool

Movement Four
The Hornburg - Forth Eorlingas - Isengard Unleashed - Gollum's Song

The Return of the King
Movement Five
Hope and Memory - Minas Tirith* - The White Tree - The Steward of Gondor*** - Cirith Ungol - Anduril

Movement Six
The Fields of the Pelennor* - Hope Fails* - The End of All Things - The Return of the King - The Grey Havens - Into the West

*Not listed in the program, but surely by mistake, they were definitely part of the performance.
** Includes "In Dreams"
*** Does not include "The Edge of Night"

Howard Shore was conducting the Columbus Symphony Orchestra, with the Otterbein College Concert Camerata Choir and Concert Choir, along with the Columbus Children's Choir New World Singers. The vocal soloist for all of TTT and ROTK was the Norwegian singer Sissel.


OK, those are the basic details, onto more detailed impressions. First off, the concert hall, the 75-year-old Ohio Theatre in Columbus. The bad--a theater that old wasn't designed with people as tall as I am (6 feet) in mind. The lack of leg room in my mid-balcony seat was dreadful. The show was sold out, so I was worried that I'd be packed in there like a sardine for the whole time, but the two rows behind me ended up being almost totally empty through the whole concert, so I moved back a row where there was somewhat more leg room, and that was tolerable. The good--everything else! That theater is spectacular, what a beautiful place to see a concert.

A couple of slight disappointments regarding the music. Some of my favorite parts of the LOTR scores involve pounding percussion and quick tempos. Specifically, the march of the elves in The Hornburg from TTT (which is a military march arrangment of the Lothlorien/Lament for Gandalf theme from FOTR), and the sweeping rendition of the Gondor theme in The White Tree from ROTK (corresponding to the lighting of the beacons in the movie). In the concert, the cymbals weren't too strong in The Hornburg, which adds such an ominous feel to that great march on the CD, and the tempo for both of these tracks felt slower as well. Still very good, but not quite what I'd hoped.

OK, enough negative vibes, everything else about this concert was TOP notch. All of the singers, in particular, were unbelievably good. The young boy who sang the fellowship's cry for Gandalf at the end of Bridge Of Khazad-Dum flat out nailed it; I felt like I was watching that scene in the movie all over again. The woman from the Otterbein College choir who sang the Lament for Gandalf was also wonderful.

Now, this might be just my own idiosyncratic way of thinking about this piece, but in the movie and on the CD, Elizabeth Fraser's rendition of the lament feels very distant to me, not quite what I normally associate with a funeral dirge. What I love about it is that, for me, it emphasizes the difference between elves and humans--whenever I listen to the CD or watch the movie, I feel that I'm hearing a different sort of grieving, something from a type of being who doesn't experience grief in the same way that humans do. But in the concert last night, it absolutely sounded like what a person would sing in remembrance of someone who's just passed away, and it was also wonderful. My guess is that the sort of detached feel of the movie/CD version might not come across quite as well live in concert, so I liked the way they went with that.

The main solo singer for TTT and ROTK, Sissel, was remarkably good. Her range is amazing--if I hadn't known that the person singing Gollum's Song and Into The West was the same one singing on Evenstar and Isengard Unleashed, I never would have guessed it. Her voice is very sweet, so on Gollum's Song in particular, that was a contrast with the sharper sound of Emiliana Torrini on the original. This is not at all a complaint regarding either version, I love the original and also really liked this other rendition. On Into the West, she had a subtle approach that was very nice, not quite as "big" a sound in the chorus as in the original. I like both versions of that as well, just an observation about the differences.

The choirs were really rocking the house all the way through. The deep chanting in Khazad-dum, the swelling sounds of The End of all Things, all of it was awesome. The lead violinist was great, as the beautiful solo rendition of the Rohan theme in the movie and CD was excellently realized. Finally, I have to give major props to the lead flute, particularly for The Grey Havens. I do like that track, but it's not really one of my favorites from the ROTK score. However, the version last night was astonishingly good, absolutely on a higher level than the original. I definitely missed The Black Gate Opens, one of my two or three favorite tracks from ROTK, which they didn't play. The brilliant flute work and the great chorus would surely have made it a highlight.

Overall, a great success, and unquestionably worth a major effort for any fan of the LOTR music to see this show wherever possible.

#2 of 17 OFFLINE   Dan Brecher

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Posted March 27 2004 - 07:05 AM

That was nicely written.

Having so far only witnessed the two movements from Fellowship that Shore conducted here a year ago, it's nice to know a little more detail about the other four movements as I await the London performance of the full suite in May. I'm curious about alterations and additions made to the movements however (forgive the forthcoming barrage of questions).

Amon Hen is part of the full suite performance in the second movement is it not? When I saw the Fellowship movements performed last year it was there, in its extended edition form no less, and included the cue that underscored Boromir's last words to Aragorn before his eventual passing (a cue, until next year, unreleased on CD). 'In Dreams' was also part of Breaking of the Fellowship last year too. Is it still the case?

Originally, and I'd hope this is still the case too, the concert rendition of Khazad-Dum was more in tune with the film version (going into a specific reprise of a choir piece heard in the film on the stairway), and after the soprano lament that underscored Gandalf's fall, the concert rendition also retained that charming theme that came shortly after the Fellowship exit Moria (a theme that returned at the Grey Havens in Return of the King). The Ring Goes South also began with that motif from the extended edition where Elrond bids farewell to the Fellowship. Has all this remained in the full six movement presentation or am I in for a disappointing shock?


It is actually very interesting you note 'Fields of Pelennor' amongst the cues representing The Return of the King. This has indeed never been noted in program listings of the performances of the full suite that have been performed across the world so far since December. This, in its film form, is actually one of my favourite unreleased cues from the third film.

Can you say whether the Pelennor cue was in fact the film version? Does it launch into the rather stirring rendition of the nature motif as it does in the film as Theoden gives his speech to the Rohirrim? I never knew why Shore used the nature motif twice during moments with the Rohirrim in the third film, but its use worked remarkably well nevertheless, and the CD is a bit of a shambles without them. You know the motif I mean; it’s heard when the moth appears in Fellowship, when it appears again in King, as well as during the Ents march upon Isengard in The Two Towers.


Quote:
I have to give major props to the lead flute, particularly for The Grey Havens. I do like that track, but it's not really one of my favorites from the ROTK score. However, the version last night was astonishingly good, absolutely on a higher level than the original.


As part of the live suite, is this too the film version? The notable difference is that the film version sees a reprise of a specific theme (which itself is a reprise of the theme that underscores the Fellowship's exit from Moria as I noted above), and the end of the cue held a few beats longer than the CD presentation before the orchestral nod to Into the West underscoring Frodo's departure.

Once again, the write up is much appreciated.

Dan (UK)

#3 of 17 OFFLINE   Haggai

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Posted March 27 2004 - 08:29 AM

Some edits to my first post: updated to note that Amon Hen in FOTR and Hope Fails in ROTK were also performed but unlisted in the program. Also, "In Dreams" was performed in Breaking of the Fellowship, and "The Edge of Night" was not included when they did The Steward of Gondor.

It's weird that some tracks are missing from the program. With Fields of the Pelennor, the projected images behind the orchestra and on two side displays (mostly Alan Lee drawings, familiar from the EE DVDs) panned across a map of that area of Middle Earth, and it even included arrows indicating where some of the different armies were approaching the battle from! Hope Fails played in front of some drawings of what seemed to be the leader of the army of the dead, appropriately.

As for the various differences between the film versions and the CD versions, I don't know the differences well enough to remember which versions they performed. I just flipped around the FOTR EE DVD to catch the music with Boromir's last words, and the music that plays as the fellowship departs Rivendell, but I don't recall if they were in the concert or not. Can't help you on the specific versions of Pelennor or Grey Havens either, I'd just be guessing if I tried to remember exactly what they played.

#4 of 17 OFFLINE   ThomasC

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Posted March 27 2004 - 05:27 PM

I don't know the Lord of the Rings soundtracks nearly as well as Haggai, so I'll just give my basic thoughts on Saturday's performance. All in all, very good and well worth the $17.50 that I paid. It was worth at least double that.

Haggai thought that the vocal solos were outstanding for Friday's performance, and so I wish I was at that one, as I thought most, if not all of the solos were weak. The children's chorus was great, and the Otterbein choruses were as well, but I would've preferred a more mature, professional sound from Otterbein, but that can't be attained in most, if not all college choruses. I'm left wondering why the CSO Chorus wasn't used instead. The CSO did a wonderful job and couldn't have been much better.

One of the few problems with the performance I had were in the changes in tempo, but that would've been more of a problem with Shore's editing of the score than with the CSO. Another complaint is that "May It Be" isn't in the symphony.

There were three standing ovations at the end, compared to two on Friday! If you're on the fence about seeing Howard Shore conduct the Lord of the Rings Symphony, be on the fence no longer. GET YOUR TICKETS NOW! Posted Image

#5 of 17 OFFLINE   Lee-M

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Posted March 28 2004 - 12:30 AM

My biggest question, and which I did not derive from the couple of excellent reviews:

Was any part of what the soundtrack lists as "The Black Gate Opens" performed? This is one of my favorite pieces in the final film, cutting between the build-up to the final battle, and the heart-breaking flute music as Sam and Frodo are struggling up Mt. Doom.

Gets me every time...
Posted Image

#6 of 17 OFFLINE   Haggai

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Posted March 28 2004 - 01:34 AM

Lee-M, they didn't do anything from The Black Gate Opens, that was a disappointment for me. Would've been awesome, too, since the flutes were so good whenever they were featured in the rest of the performance.

ThomasC, did you not like the Norwegian singer all that much, or were you just hoping for more from the choruses?

#7 of 17 OFFLINE   ThomasC

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Posted March 28 2004 - 04:21 AM

The Norwegian singer was decent, but she didn't seem confident a lot of the time. The boy struggled a lot, and the baritone that did the coronation song was too strong and needed to back off, Viggo's version was a lot calmer. The choruses as they were were very good, but a more mature sound would've topped it off.

#8 of 17 OFFLINE   Haggai

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Posted March 28 2004 - 07:18 AM

I just realized, after looking it up online, that Sissel, the lead vocalist, is the one who sang the theme in Titanic that eventually became associated with Celine Dion via "My Heart Will Go On." I can't stand the Dion song, but I do like the subtle version of that theme in the movie. The program for the LOTR concert alluded to her participation on Titanic, but I didn't make the specific connection until I looked it up.

#9 of 17 OFFLINE   Benny G

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Posted March 28 2004 - 02:40 PM

I don't have much to add. I was at the Saturday performance. My group had tickets for the first five seats off the center aisle, first row in the loge. Posted Image

I agree that the boy was very weak. Sissel was absolutely amazing! I didn't see her lacking confidence at all...but I was too busy enjoying the moment to really think about it.

All I can really add of value are some pictures. During the performance, I, of course, did not use any flash and turned off my camera's display.

Ohio Theatre exterior

interior view

Howard Shore during Q & A session

orchestra members warming up

during the performace

during the lllllooooonnnnnnnggggggg standing ovation

I unfortunately didn't get any good pictures of Sissel. I have a terribly hard time getting non-blurry pictures. Posted Image Anyone have advice for next time? I try to hold the camera as steady as possible til the picture's taken...but...I still struggle.

#10 of 17 OFFLINE   Haggai

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Posted March 28 2004 - 03:19 PM

I'm surprised y'all are hatin' on the boy. I thought he was fine, not flawless, but did a nice job hitting the tough notes. I'd be surprised if there was all that much variation between the Fri. and Sat. performances, so it's probably just a matter of individual perspective.

Did anything interesting come up in the Q&A before the Saturday show? Not much of note in the Friday Q&A.

#11 of 17 OFFLINE   Benny G

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Posted March 28 2004 - 03:28 PM

I honestly can't remember too much of what was said in the Q&A session. I got bored rather quickly, as Mr. Shore's responses were kind of long. :b

I know one question asked about the potential of The Hobbit & Shore composing that music.

Another question went something like: "You read the books as a child. While you were reading them then did you have a 'soundtrack' in your mind?" It was a longer question with more parts, but I thought that was a rather dumb question and was surprised the theater chose to ask it. Shore quickly said no and elaborated a bit.

Another question/answer talked about combining the movies and the various themes. It wasn't too interesting.

Basically, like you say the Friday Q&A was, there wasn't much to note.

#12 of 17 OFFLINE   Benny G

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Posted March 28 2004 - 03:44 PM

oops

#13 of 17 OFFLINE   ThomasC

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Posted March 28 2004 - 04:37 PM

Quote:
I'm surprised y'all are hatin' on the boy. I thought he was fine, not flawless, but did a nice job hitting the tough notes. I'd be surprised if there was all that much variation between the Fri. and Sat. performances, so it's probably just a matter of individual perspective.
After multiple rehearsals and performances, the untrained start to let their guard down and become overconfident.

Quote:
Anyone have advice for next time? I try to hold the camera as steady as possible til the picture's taken...but...I still struggle.
Make the ISO speed faster.

#14 of 17 OFFLINE   Benny G

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Posted March 29 2004 - 04:15 AM

Not to change the subject, but 3.5 hours from Ann Arbor?!? That's about what it took me from East Lansing. Posted Image

#15 of 17 OFFLINE   Haggai

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Posted March 29 2004 - 04:40 AM

Damn, you were going pretty fast! I probably would have gone faster if not for the rain that I was hitting both ways, but maybe you had that too. And as I normally time these things, it was more like 3 hours, I was counting 3 1/2 from the moment I left my place to the moment I pulled into the parking garage in Columbus.

#16 of 17 OFFLINE   Wayne Bundrick

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Posted June 05 2004 - 04:19 PM

Don't know whether to start a new thread or just tack on to this one. I just got back from a performance of LOTR Symphony by Howard Shore conducting the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra.

Amazing.

Sissel was incredible. Such a pure voice. I'm not qualified to criticize her renditions of Gollum's Song and Into The West. As far as I'm concerned, she nailed them.

I was slightly disappointed by the choice and/or proportion of the material. The first two movements (Fellowship) are an hour long, the remaining four total 75-80 minutes. That says it all.

But the performance was incredible. LOTR has a lot of choral parts in it, right from the start of the first movement, and nothing compares to hearing a 200-piece mixed chorus plus about 60 youths performing it.
Wayne Bundrick

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#17 of 17 OFFLINE   Brent Bridgeman

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Posted June 08 2004 - 11:44 PM

Wayne, I was there too, and I agree that Sissel just sounded amazing. I ended up liking her rendition of "Into the West" better than Annie Lennox, which surprised me. One great thing was that I got to meet Alan Lee outside the symphony hall. I saw him when we first arrived, walking right by him in the hallway and thinking he looked familiar, but not being able to place him (and not know he was going to be there in the first place). Before the performance began, I told my wife that I was going to go back out and get one of the posters from the gift shop, and when I went out of the hall, he was there signing a poster for someone and then I made the connection (since I had seen him in the documentaries on the DVD's). Rushed over and bought a poster and brought it back and he was very gracious and seemed quite shy. Luckily he had a silver paint pen and personalized each autograph. Very cool.





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