untold story . . . by Andrew J. King
The use of the Hardanger
fiddle in parts of the LOTR score
sparked a lot of interest in this
Norwegian folk-version of the violin,
with its unplayed 'sympathetic' strings
under the fingerboard adding a ghostly
resonance to the sound, and its
characteristic patterned decoration.
If you were to encounter
two of the Hardangers involved in the
recordings however, you might be
surprised. Neither was made in Norway,
or by a Norwegian maker, nor are they
decorated in the traditional style. Both
were in fact made by my father, Mr J E
King, an English luthier. Now retired,
but still making, Mr King has produced a
wide variety of stringed instruments for
classical, folk and early music players,
all with his own distinctive sense of
design. An instrument-maker with an
engineering background, he has an
intuitive sense of the mechanics of
sound-production, ensuring that his
instruments have strong and distinctive
In the hectic schedule of
rehearsal and recording, memory of the
details of exactly what happened quickly
becomes hazy. What seems certain however
is that when the LOTR music-makers were
looking for a Hardanger for The Two
Towers, they approached English
folk-musician Heather Brown with a
request to borrow the instrument called
'Martha', (For some reason, my father's
Hardangers seem to acquire names!). When
the time came to record the soundtrack
for The Return of the King
however, 'Martha' was out of the
country, touring the USA with Heather.
Mr King recalls receiving a phone call
from an anxious Dermot Crehan: 'Do you
have another fiddle like 'Martha'
available to borrow?' He had to record
the next day. Train timetables were
consulted and it became evident there
was just time for both parties to meet
up at Derby for a handover.
While Mr King did have a
second Hardanger called 'Bellflower'
available, it had only recently been
finished. As he tells the tale:
completed, was not strung, and needed a
new bridge. Duly fitted up and tuned to
pitch, it was hurried to meet Dermot in
the station car-park, where he charmed
the homebound commuters into 'slow-step'
from 'hurry home'".
My father remembers his
playing as emotional, but controlled,
"Dermot is the kind of chap who can make
you cry with a fiddle -if he wants to".
A few weeks later, 'Bellflower' was
returned together with the hire fee. The
film makers had apparently admired the
looks of 'Bellflower', and considered
using it in shot, but in the event it
did not get a screen role.