LOTR Symphony Report

October 13, 2006


Fellowship of the Ring II

Many Meetings – The Ring Goes South – A Journey in the Dark – The Bridge of Khazad-dűm – Lothlórien – Gandalf's Lament – Farewell to Lórien – The Great River – The Breaking of the Fellowship

Between these sections.. (noted from the program by Roman numerals) the conductor (and the music) would pause. Between I and II, it was clearly the point for latecomers to be seated. The conductor waited patiently while they all made their way to their seats. It was a noticeable wait and I thought he was very patient. He never looked around and either got some unseen/unheard cue from someone... or just knew when things quieted that it was ready to start again.

The women stood up for the Rivendell Theme. The chimes and the harps were played for the Theme. The music heard as Frodo reunites with the other Hobbits and then finally Bilbo was very nicely done. Very lovely. We hear the Fellowship Theme... from the Council... and then that lovely leaving Rivendell music from the Extended Edition. Then that triumphant Fellowship music that is heard as the Fellowship, one by one in a line, get to the rise after leaving Rivendell.

Then the Men stand up for the Moria music. We heard Gollum's Theme from the 'pity' scene. Then the Dwarrowdelf music. I wrote 'nice' by this note. :-) Nice was my note for 'very nice'. Next... the Fellowship Theme that is heard as the 9 run from Balin's Tomb. I made note of 'Taiko' in this section. The Men are singing a repetitive 'Hu! Hu!' I think it was in this section that the orchestra is frantic with the music and I notice those bass fiddles earnestly sawing away. The cellos too. I loved those bass fiddles. We get to the Balrog and Gandalf falls.

I forgot to mention that a young boy - perhaps about 8 or 10 - had come to sit at the front of the stage next to the conductor. He stood up and began the Hymn for Gandalf. This is the music heard just after Gandalf falls. In the movie it is sung by a female soprano and is just vowels... no words. I had heard that other symphonies had used a boy soprano for this music as well and I think it's an unfortunate decision. He couldn't do it - and I've heard most can't. These are young boys that take their singing seriously, but they are young and not professional and... well, he couldn't hit the high note and just kind of stopped singing for a bar or two. Then, bless his soul, he jumped back in a finished it out. I would imagine it's hard to sing those high notes without a lot of warm up as well.

The entire mixed choir sang the Lothlórien Theme but the women sang alone as the Fellowship climbs the stairs in Caras Galadhon. The women do the Lament for Gandalf as well, with one woman from the choir doing the solo part of this song. The women sing the Leaving Lórien music from the Extended Edition and the adults sing the Great River song.

Next we hear the music as Aragorn faces the Uruks on Amon Hen. There's some singing in there done by the Men. The Isengard Theme is finally played and I can see a man in the back of the orchestra clanking something into a waist high 'thing'. This is probably the chains on piano wire although I had imagined chains being flung or slung at piano wire. It was obvious that whatever the musician held in his hand was rigid or balled up. The boys stand up for Boromir's wounding. The sad version of the Fellowship Theme heard as Boromir dies is very nice.

The music begins a Hobbit's Understanding. This is the soft music heard as Frodo contemplates what to do next. But this isn't the version heard in that scene, I don't think. I think the music is finishing up the FOTR and we're getting a mix of the last few scenes and the culminating music from the end of the credits. There's a triumphant Fellowship Theme (certainly not used during any scene at the end of the movie) then the Shire Theme - The boys are humming (and maybe the adults but I didn't write it down) during the Shire Theme. Sometimes I think the choir would hum without standing up and without the visual cue... I couldn't necessarily tell that they were humming.

The boy soprano did In Dreams. I was willing my energy into him not to flub it as he had flubbed the Hymn for Gandalf. Not that I wanted the music perfect but for his own self esteem. Can you tell I had performance issues as a kid? I could never do well in any type of personal performances. His voice was not without some quality issues but he managed the song without any serious issues. They did not do May It Be.

I had been so intrigued with the orchestra that I'd spent little time looking at the images on the screen. But I think this was in part because the images were really not very compelling. I'll speak more to this later but I specifically made note of something here. While we're hearing lovely Hobbit-Fellowship-Shire music... denoting hope and perseverance and faith... the screen is showing the Ring. I found this quite inappropriate.


a pause...

In my friend's reply to this first part, she wrote: 

"I get this cool feeling of teamwork between the various groups of musicians. The story without words (mostly), what a beautiful experience."

and I responded

Interesting that you mention teamwork between the musicians.

First, because this is one thing that can thrill me to goose bumps. Absolutely thrill me. The opportunity to mesh the energies of individuals into a collective is one of my great joys. It's one reason I like folkdance.

Second, because this is kind of one area I thought the Symphony faltered. It seemed to me that individual sections did very well. If the violins were carrying the weight of the music, they soared. It was wonderful. Same with the brass... or the low strings. But when the violins and the brass and the percussion needed to come together, it faltered. I don't know why. I don't know if it was the difficulty of the time signatures (and Shore writes very fluid music that must be a bear to read) or lack of whole orchestra practice or poor conducting or what. But as relaxed as I was trying to be, it still produced more than a few cringe moments when orchestra sections clunked together like a failing transmission.

Okay, continuing with part 2.



The Two Towers III