LOTR Symphony Report

October 13, 2006


Wrap Up

Some of the things I had planned to relegate to this section have gotten mentioned.

It seemed that the parts I liked the best - that I thought were effectively played - were ones that were carried primarily by one section of the orchestra. The strings playing the Shire Theme, for example. But as soon as another section of the orchestra would join in - often as the music was making a transition - the transition would be clunky.

I think, knowing the music really well, I noticed either the lack of certain instruments or the substitution of others. One that comes to mind is the pan flute music that's played as Faramir rides out of the city in that slo-mo throwing flowers at their feet scene. The music was probably played by a flute but it was non-memorable. It was like my subconscious was listening for it and I couldn't hear it... even though it was there. I just couldn't hear it as the music I was used to. This sort of issue was probably not an issue for someone who hasn't listened to the soundtracks umpteen million times. At other times, I didn't think the soloist (talking instruments here) was very emotive in their expression.

I was confused by the decision to let the boy do the female soprano part after Gandalf's fall and then the female to do the boy's part during the March of the Ents. I'm supposing it has something to do with how people are paid. If the soloist is sitting out front waiting to perform, they must be paid. To do it like they did, perhaps they paid each soloist for 1/2 an evening rather than a whole evening for each. But the boy could not do the part. I've heard feedback from other symphonies that those situations were similar. It must be painful for a conductor to hear that, and the conductor for this weekend has done the LOTR-S before. How many times has he listened to the boy soprano flub that part? And how difficult for the boy. My heart went out to him.

I am one of the few, apparently, who really liked Gollum's Song in the movie. I love Enya but May It Be didn't make a lot of sense to me. And I thought it got dark in subject matter before the movie did. Although I don't cringe to hear Into the West, I think the lyrics were self-indulgent on the writers part and didn't represent the movie well. And, although Annie Lennox did a fair job on the recording, I saw her perform it on tv many times and not one of those times were good or enjoyable. She had real vocal problems.

The symphony didn't do May It Be - perhaps because they did In Dreams. I didn't like the female soloist's rendition of Gollum's Song. It was hers and I am agreeable with her putting her own spin on it and not copying Emiliana Torrini. And perhaps her rendition - which was smoother and less edgy - is better for a evening symphony performance. But the heart of that song is the subtle emotive edges Torrini inserts in her voice. I enjoyed the soloist's version of Into the West better than Annie's, though. Unfortunately, there was a lot happening in the orchestra that was distracting. The instrument playing the 'guitar' type strumming - probably a mandolin - sounded like a ukulele to me. Moderately to highly unpleasant. And my overwhelming impression was there were a lot of orchestra sections coming in and out and many were off on their timing. Another issue I had with the performance was that it wasn't mixed as well as the recording. How much of that is just the way it is, I don't know. But my belief is that no one would listen to a live orchestra if they did to Mozart what they did to Shore. I think decisions were made based on time and money and resources and they were decisions. They could have done it differently and didn't.

I didn't have many expectations for the pictures being shown. I understood that they were mostly Alan Lee drawings and I expected something along the lines of the ROTK credits which took AL's sketches and did them up all lovely with the parchment background. But that's all I expected. So my supreme disappointment was not due to expectations. The sketches were just the sketches. Nothing had been done to clean them up. Sometimes the edge of paper could be seen and it was just the page plopped onto the default background of the screen. Sometimes the camera would zoom way into a pencil sketch such that you could only see the dots of the lead markings on the textured paper. It would then pan out so slowly that it could be 10 or 15 seconds before you could say, "Oh, that's Minas Tirith." From a design standpoint - both in how one uses imagery to convey a message and how one makes things aesthetically pleasing - it was poorly done - embarrassingly so. There is so much associated with these movies that have exquisite design. To have something I think I could do a better job at just stands out like a sore thumb. But this wasn't really a distraction because I would have been hard pressed to take my eyes off the orchestra and choirs.

Having said all that. I was aware that the concert could never have lived up to my expectations and, even if I didn't enjoy some parts, I was forgiving of them (for the most part... the images were harder to forgive.) and enjoyed myself. The reaction from the boys were mostly positive. R. is astute about some of these issues (and opinionated) so he agreed with me on some of my critiques. But he wasn't unhappy with the experience. The most I could get from J. was 'It was okay." And my husband was not only positive in his reaction but he defended the orchestra against some of my critiques. How much of this was motivated by my love of the music and their love for me, I don't know. But I was a little worried that they would be petulant once we got there. This has been their pattern in the past so - if they loved the music - great. If they enjoyed the evening for my sake - wonderful.

So, that's about all I can think of at the moment. Wish I could put a lovely concluding paragraph on this but tasks await and I will allow myself to clunk it to an end. I'm glad that my report has proved interesting. I enjoyed being given the charge. It made me pay attention in a more conscious way.