Friday, May 30, 2008

LOTR Symphony in St. Louis: Ticketing Update

As previously announced here, the St. Louis Symphony will be performing Shore's LOTR Symphony on Friday and Saturday, September 19 and 20. I've just been informed that tickets will go on sale June 16, so be sure to keep your eyes on the Symphony's official website.

Interestingly, Shore's opera The Fly will be playing in Los Angeles at the same time, so aficionados should certainly hand their hands full. (Speaking of which, has anyone yet checked out the mini preview available here?)

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Reminder: Fellowship Live Hits Poland This Weekend!

This is a big weekend for European Shore fans. Not only can they catch one of Sharon Isbin's two Italian performances of "Billy's Theme" from The Departed, but this Saturday also marks first Polish performance of Fellowship Live. Anyone near Krakow's Blonia Common will want to be sure to take in this amazing performance. But don't just take my word for it... the Wolf Trap reviews continue to pour in, and word is nothing less than glowing.

Anyone out there planning on catching these Polish performances? I'll be particularly impressed if any rabid fan is able to attend both the Italian and Polish concerts this weekend!

Monday, May 26, 2008

Kathryn Tidyman, The City Choir of Washington: From a Singer's Perspective

Soprano Kathryn Tidyman gives us another behind the scenes look at what it took to bring Wolf Trap's premiere performance of The Fellowship of the Ring to life. Thank you, Kathryn for this great report!


The City Choir of Washington received the invitation to perform The Fellowship of the Ring in March. We couldn’t begin rehearsals until April 21, though, because we were wholly engrossed in preparing for our performance of the Monteverdi Vespers at Strathmore in North Bethesda, Md., on April 17. That gave us one month—four Monday night rehearsals—to learn the notes. Some of us may have thought, “Oh, yeah, film score, lots of ‘oohing’and ‘ahhing’ and a few lines in Elfish—this should be pretty easy.” Not so. Our artistic director, Robert Shafer, who was working from the orchestral score, knew that the piece would be a challenge, not so much in vocally producing the sound (although there was one extended high B that was pretty tough on the soprano section), but in singing the right notes at the right time with all the expressive nuances it called for. Shafer was right: It was extremely challenging to us as musicians, and this became very clear at our first “piano rehearsal” with Ludwig Wicki.

Before I get to that, let me add to your comments on the professionalism, dedication, and superb technical skills of Wicki, his assistant conductor, Erik Ochsner, Sondra Harnes (director of the World Children’s Choir), Laura Lee Everett (the production manager), two of the artistic administrators at Wolf Trap—Ann McKee and Lee Anne Myslewski—and many others whom I did not personally meet.

To begin with, Wicki: He reined in and rode his massive musical forces on stage as skillfully as Arwen did her white steed carrying Frodo to Rivendell. I believe he said this was the fourth time he has conducted this work with the film. After the Wolf Trap gig, he was immediately heading back to his native Lucerne, Switzerland, for one day before heading off to Krakow, Poland, to conduct the work all over again.

The man clearly adores this music—every hairpin crescendo/decrescendo, every fading-off note of sadness or anguish, every thundering, percussive Orc battle blow. He was a joy to work with: he was so demanding—he has an ear for pitch that could make tuning forks obsolete—and he didn’t let a single chord cluster go by in rehearsals until it was perfect. Then he would say quite cheerfully, in his excellent English with its clipped Swiss accent, “Yes, yes! That is good. Now we do it three more times to be sure you have it!”

From Sunday afternoon, May 18, when we had our first piano rehearsal with him (just the adult choir) at the Barns of Wolf Trap, until he raised his baton at 8:30 p.m., Wednesday night, at the Filene Center, he spent more than 20 hours rehearsing soloists, small sections of the orchestra, the children’s choir alone, the children’s choir with adult choir and orchestra, etc. Our dress rehearsal Wednesday afternoon was the first time all the forces assembled on the Filene Center stage and we performed the work with the film. This first—and final—on-stage rehearsal—when everything from both a technical and artistic standpoint was tested—ended a mere 2.5 hours before we came back for the performance. Through it all, Wicki was (pun intended) upbeat, cheerful, energetic, and thorough—he wasn’t going to let a single detail get away until the big hand on the musicians’ union clock clicked up to the last minute of rehearsal time.

Two other reasons it all came off so smoothly were the assistant conductor, Erik Ochsner, and the production manager Laura Lee Everett. First, Ochsner: fabulous musician himself. He accompanied us on piano at our rehearsals Sunday, Monday, and Tuesday. It wouldn’t surprise me if he had the entire piano score memorized. He also mixed the miked sound during the actual performances. He can be thanked for keeping it all balanced and making it sound acoustical (despite the mike boost) and for the overall clarity, balance, and nuances of the sound the audience heard both nights. And, Laura Lee Everett, the production manager, was amazing as well. You might think of her job as putting together a 1,000-piece jigsaw puzzle using an egg timer. Okay, she had Sunday through Thursday to put the pieces together and keep them together, but she did it all in what seemed to me relative warp speed. I don’t know what was going on in her brain, but she always appeared calm, pleasant, and totally on top of all the details. If you asked her for something, she simply got it, arranged it, produced it. She teaches stage production at the University of Maryland and has been staging opera gigs at Wolf Trap on her summer breaks for the last five years. What a pro.

Here’s why we needed the mikes: yes, without them, the sound would have been quite different for both indoor and outdoor audiences. You wouldn’t have heard the choruses at all. I’m a soprano and was standing right next to the children, so I could hear them and I could hear the altos. But even when the tenors and basses, way on the other side of the stage, were singing by themselves, the women often couldn’t hear them. The brass percussion instruments, along with the primitive sounding drums, were in the last row of the orchestra, right in front of us. I can assure you there was no way the human voice was going to pass through those decibels to make it to the audience.

Wicki was hearing only the live sound—i.e., the miked sound was not plugged into his ear—so of course, he could hear the orchestra, but oftentimes he couldn’t hear us! He came up to us after the first onstage rehearsal and asked, “It was good? I couldn’t hear you many times but I think you are all okay, yes?” (Conductors out there, can you imagine directing your choirs and only having moving mouths to indicate that your singers were singing what and when they were supposed to? Didn’t seem to faze Wicki; he trusted us to come in when we were supposed to and sing it the way he fine-tuned it with us.)

Here’s what made it so challenging for the singers—and also very exciting. The score is timed, literally, to the second, because it has to synchronize perfectly with the film. Wicki was working from a two-volume score, probably 17 by 24 inches, that was more than 500 pages long. He also had a small monitor near the podium showing the movie and the minutes and seconds of the film. These timing cues were marked throughout his score, the orchestra’s scores, and our scores.

Our score was 63 pages long and was also cued with abbreviated excerpts from the dialog, such as, "Warning: ‘...the kind of friends you deserve.’," meaning when Bilbo Baggins utters these words in his birthday speech, we should begin counting measures and preparing to come in. But because the screen was in front of the orchestra and singers (hanging just above and behind Wicki), we could only see the backside of the screen, which meant we were watching a mirror image of the film. Because all of the sound was being projected away from us, we couldn’t always hear the dialogue. The film used English subtitles throughout, but we were reading them all backwards. This became both physically (for the eyeballs and surrounding muscles, at least) and mentally tiring.

Why did we need these cues? Because in our abbreviated scores, we had to stand or sit for many measures, and then come in, often quite abruptly. You may remember in the big Orc battle toward the end of the film, there is a relentless clanging sound in a 5/4 tempo (5 beats to a measure, quarter note gets one count). In our scores, this was indicated by a single measure with a black line running through it and the number 45 over it. This meant that we had to count 45 bars of 1-2-3-4-5, then start following our scores, so that within a few measures we could jump in.

The other tricky aspect of this performance was that we frequently had to “find our own pitch.” Not only was the pitch we were about to come in on (and it could be a cluster of several pitches) not played in the orchestra, sometimes we had to come in after a 26- or 43-second pause. For these entrances we had to use electronic pitch-givers—there was one in each section. One singer would tune in for the pitch a few measures before we were to come in, and start humming it. Then the next singer would pick up the pitch and hum it. We passed the pitch along throughout the section in this way, counted as best we could, watched for the physical cue from Wicki (raising his left hand high one measure before we were to come in and looking at us expectantly), and jumped on our notes. There were a couple of places, though, where he couldn’t cue us at all—“I would like, yes, but I cannot. I am doing too many other things. So you just do it. Just come in.”—and that was scary.

I had never seen any of The Lord of the Ring movies, and while I did watch The Fellowship of the Ring the week before the performance, I really fell in love with the music during these final four days of dress rehearsals. It’s Sunday night now and the music is still running through my head.

Everyone on the production and the arts administration staff at Wolf Trap should be commended for the superb behind-the-scenes efforts that allowed the performance to "come off brilliantly" as Stephen Brookes said in his review, “Ring Score Gets an Epic Viewing at Wolf Trap,” in the Washington Post. On both nights of the performances, the audience—unfortunately small—was very enthusiastic, hooting, whistling, and applauding at many points. One hopes if Wolf Trap offers a performance of The Two Towers next summer that the production gets the huge audience it so deserves (and we get to sing it!).

Sunday, May 25, 2008

Lynne Price, The City Choir of Washington: Performance Follow-up

When we last heard from Lynne Price, The City Choir of Washington was gearing up for the Wolf Trap Fellowship performances. With the concerts now in the past, Lynne returns to relate her lasting impressions. Thanks so much, Lynne!


Well, it's all over, after almost a solid month of intense rehearsals of learning music, Elvish, and lots of unique intervals! The Washington Post gave the concerts great reviews, and above all, I think everyone enjoyed themselves thoroughly. I must admit that this May has been very different, in that we were able to see our breath on the massive Wolf Trap stage last Wednesday night! Most of the women opted to keep their trousers on under their concert dresses, and most were wearing sweaters, jackets, etc. Thursday night was a little warmer, but we singers were having a fun time showing off our long underwear, gloves, etc. Even the instrumentalists had to resort to coats!

Last Sunday the 18th marked the beginning of work with Maestro Ludwig Wicki, a real veteran of the Fellowship of the Ring live film performances. He has a marvelous background in both instrumental and choral music, and he knows exactly what he wants! He did make some changes in our pronunciation and dynamics but by and large, what Bob Shafer had us do was exactly what he asked, so there was no need to relearn sections at the last minute. 

We then had three days of orchestral rehearsals, the last one on the afternoon of the concert. We were so exhausted with singing by the time the first showing of the film arrived Wednesday night that I thought I was going to drop over. I almost fell asleep twice driving home, and it's a good thing one of my carpool members was travelling with me, as I might have ended up in a ditch. Thursday wasn't quite as bad since we had a call an hour before the concert. I did myself a favor and took Friday off from my teaching.

Of the two audiences, Thursday night's was the more vociferous of the two (I think Wednesday's crowd wa much too cold!). applauding and calling out for the familiar scenes and music. I know they enjoyed the music as much as we did!

Although we had a massive job to undertake, and it was made more difficult because we SO wanted to watch the film, Maestro Wicki's job was unbelievably hard! He had to watch the film on a monitor at his podium, watch the cue lights, and bring in the orchestra and TWO choruses, plus two soloists! But he did everything with great precision, never missing a beat.

Now we hear that The Two Towers will be ready by next summer! I hope that it had its American premiere at Wolf Trap again and that we are asked to perform the music. It was such a treat for this Lord of the Rings fan, and this was an experience I shall not long forget!

Lynne Price

Saturday, May 24, 2008

No More Mincing Words

Here's what Howard Shore had to say in March:

Here's what Guillermo Del Toro had to say this afternoon:

"Shore is the VOICE of these films and he will absolutely be invited back [for The Hobbit]. Peter and Fran have talked to him a couple of times already and Ive exchanged emails about the subject. He will return."

Here's what I have to say tonight:

"Oh good!"

Hear the rest of the Lucerne conversation with Howard here. Read the rest of Del Toro and Peter Jackson's Q&A sessions here. Assemble your dreams accordingly. The road goes ever on...


Friday, May 23, 2008

ROTK: CR Available Again... but for how long!?

I don't know how long this one will last, but Warner Brothers' own online store is now listing the ROTK: CR set as "in stock." No telling when it'll sell out again, so if you've been waiting, this could be your chance. Click quick!


Wolf Trap Reviews

Hi everyone,

By all accounts, Wolf Trap was an immense success. (And if you're joining us for the first time after this week's performances, welcome!) Please enjoy this collection of reviews, both from this site's readers and elsewhere on the web. I hope to add to this regularly throughout the next few days.

...and yes, Wolf Trap is already gearing up for
The Two Towers next year!

The Washington Post:
"...the music is rich and complex, drawing on a vast range of styles and exotic instruments to evoke J.R.R. Tolkien's world of elves, hobbits and warlocks. But it's more than just background music: Shore uses an elaborate leitmotif technique (where musical themes are associated with specific characters or ideas, and are developed across the entire series) to hold the sprawling tale together. Lush, beautiful and full of intriguing surprises, it's no wonder that it's become one of the most popular film scores ever written."



My wife and I had a chance to make it to the Wednesday Wolf Trap performance. Other than a minor hiccup with the sound system and a tiny burr in one of the later solos, it was outstanding. We had a great time and listing to a live orchestra with the film was a great way to get a whole new perspective on the beauty of both the film and the music. 

Timothy Fisher:

It will rank as one of the most outstanding experiences I have ever been priviledged to enjoy! I cannot express with enough gratitude, wonder and enthusiasm for Maestro Shore, Maestro Ludwig Wicki, and the forces of the "Filene Center Orchestra", the City Choir of Washington, and the World Children's Choir and the techies of the Filene Center itself how I felt after it concluded and we stepped out in the brisk starry, moonlight, forested night. To have pulled this off as movingly and flawlessly as they did was truly heroic! The massive technical equipment in evidence made one marvel at how easily a minor techinical gitch might have brought this complex event to grief. Yet technically with the superb HD visuals and superb sound equipment this presentation of the theatrical version of the film with adjusted score went off almost without flaw. 

So let me begin by setting the stage: I and a few other Tolkienites arrived at Wolf Trap about 6 pm, got our picnic fixings together and despite light rain and drizzle under greyed skies that gathered late that afternoon and temperature about 65, we sat under the trees at a picnic table and had a grand meal of stuffed mushrooms (what else!), ratatouille, salad, fish, shrimp, wine, eggs and what not... By 7:15 we were done and adjourned for the lecture by Deb Lamberton describing (a la Doug Adams) and playing sound bites of the most important leitmotivs of "Fellowship" which concluded with some important precoursers of Shore's score: Rachmaninoff's 1st Symphony, Berlioz' Symphony Fantastique, and several others, showing his work as fully within the mainstream of Western classical music. 

We settled then into our seats up in the "box" section (front balcony) of the huge Filene Center. The "shed" is magnificent and very impressive. All wood and open on three sides to the grassy lawns and woods beyond and rising high above us, while seating 3800, it outranks the Met here in NYC in seats and the front of the proscenium surely dwarfs that of even the Met! As the evening wore on, the clouds cleared and the temperature dropped (one can imagine the efforts of the instrumentalists had to keep their instruments in tune!), so it was a bracing evening, but we were bundled up in preparation for just that. By the time the concert was over, the stars were out and a full moon in a clear night sky greeted us as we left the auditorium. What a perfect venue for a work (book and film) that is so immersed in the wonders of created nature! 

From our vantage point we could see most of the orchestra seated below on the stage, but half of it was hidden by the movie screen hung in the front of the stage which had to be low so those back under the balcony could see it. There was another large screen hung outside the back for the many hundreds gathered on the fresh green lawn. The chorus was placed behind the orchestra and also mostly hidden from us. Come the intermission, we quietly moved down to the vacant middle orchestra seats to be able to watch the full forces rise to their triumph and I found the orchestral sound so much richer and fuller. The only reason we had settled for the balcony was the inflexible Internet system of offering seat locations, which would have had us in row B for the film!

The first ten minutes were a bit problematic as the sound level of the film dialogue was inadvertantly set too low (I think we might have been hearing only what the lawn folks outside were hearing...) But a sound engineer appeared with a portable computer gizmo and that was soon rectified. The entire orchestra and chorus were extensively miked. The result was an excellent balance of live sound to dialogue... It might seem this vitiated the point of a live acoustical orchestral performance, but obviously the folks on the lawn would have otherwise heard nothing, and I am not sure if much of the miked sound was piped into the auditorium actually. I certainly noticed no time delays between instrumentalists's motions and actual sound. It certainly sounded like a direct instrument to ear sound! 

But as to the heart of the matter: We marvelled as the evening wore on at the precision, professionalism, inspiration, and genuine musicianship of the complex forces massed before us. I can assure you that not a cue was missed (as we could see the monitor in front of Maestro Wicki), not an expressive moment or dynamic crescendo lost. This despite the lights on the score desks of the lead string section intermittently going out early in the second half ! This was eventually fixed thanks to a discreet engineer crawling about to check for the faulty connection. But nary a beat was lost by this fellowship... and the balance, intonation and timing of the orchestra was superb; M. Wicki proved to be an inspired and thoroughly expert master of the score and his forces, so the playing was spot on technically and emotionally. One often simply felt one was hearing the score as one had heard it as recorded in theaters and at home... The volume levels were just right, the climaxes fully met and the quiet moments sublime, the text in Tolkien's various languages clearly, movingly and precisely sung. The soloists, soprano Kaitlyn Lusk, "May It Be", and boy soprano Nelson Reed, "When the Cold of Winter Blows" (who by some unfortunate oversight was not listed in the program!) were more than up to the task and gave us inspired performances to equal those in the original film, but with the refreshing newness of another artist's rendition.

And all this was accomplished in a matter of only 2 or 3 weeks of rehearsal! Obviously, as this was the very first event of the Wolf Trap season, announced only 4 or 5 weeks earlier, the performance had been hastily inserted in the season to be able to happen at all. I am sure this inevitable lack of publicity accounts (plus the cool evening with rain threatening all day) for the fact that I estimate only 60% of the seats and lawn were filled. One can only hope that this will not dampen the guts and enthusiasm of the impresarios and promoters of these film/concerts to schedule more. And one can only surmize that this performance, accomplished so flawlessly and enthusiastically (with only one other scheduled the next day), will be the first of many and that there must be plans to do this more often in the future (perhaps with these very forces going on tour...?). One certainly hopes so! And what a magnificent way to acquaint classical music audiences with the book and the film, and not-so-classical music audiences with a stunning full orchestral original score, and thus introduce them to one most recent example of the glories of classical music. One can imagine just such a Tolkien/PJ/ Shore "Ring" in our Central Park for example! 

This is adds a whole new dimension to classical music multi-media... In line with recent HD live broadcasts of operas from around the country in theaters, this combination of the precision and inspiration of live orchestral sound and superb visuals is perhaps a major step forward in presenting great works of music and attracting new and bigger audiences of all ages and backgrounds. This kind of venue and across the board multi-media (= "gesamtkunstwerk") approach promises to be as significant an innovation as was Wagner's astounding 19th century festival theater at Bayreuth Bavaria (where "that other Ring Cycle" is presented), which often came to mind as I listened and watched. This performance surely was a worthy and superb herald of events to come! Let us hope so, as venue, artists and technicians combined to make this, in Bilbo's words from the film, indeed: "...this will be a night to remember..." 

As our little band left for home, we only regretted we could not stay on for the second performance the next day!

This one was found on Yelp.com, a reviews-by-the-people site:

Thursday evening, I went to see the premiere of "The Lord of the Rings - The Fellowship of the Ring" at Wolf Trap. When I say premiere - I mean this is the first time the movie has been shown in Digital High Definition - with a live orchestral score - from the Wolf Trap web site:

"...a multimedia spectacular featuring the sweeping cinematography and stirring dialog of Peter Jackson's epic movie combined with a live performance of Howard Shore's award-winning orchestral score.

Filene Center Orchestra, under the direction of Ludwig Wicki, with the City Choir of Washington and the World Children's Choir will present the American Premiere of Shore's entire 3-hour score to The Fellowship of the Ring live to the projected film in high definition."

We had seats in the Orchestra section - row M - almost dead center - about 12-13 rows back from the stage. There was a massive HD screen lowered above the stage - the Orchestra could be seen beneath the screen. There was a second, smaller screen for the folks on the lawn.

When the movie ended and the credits started to roll - the Orchestra continued to play - no one got up to leave. Then the Soloist - this devastatingly beautiful young lady in a long flowing, floor length dress - with an equally beautiful voice to match - sang "May it Be" by Enya - from the soundtrack, then a young boy sang a song after that from the soundtrack. I love the song "May it Be." It gives me goosebumps whenever I hear it. She knocked the song out of the Filene Center - I was under her Elvish spell - I had tears streaming down my cheeks.

The audience stood up and gave the Orchestra a standing ovation - for at least 10 minutes - everyone just kept clapping and smiling - I think everyone was blown away by what they had just experienced.

I've never experienced sound like that in my life - it totally blew away even the most high-end, advanced surround sound system. The Orchestra, the Chorus, the Soloists - well, it was just amazing - and worth every penny we paid! My friend Jamie and I agreed - this was the most amazing movie experience of our lives!

This was the extended version of the movie - so about 3 hours and some odd minutes, with one brief intermission.

I sure hope they repeat this experience with "The Two Towers" and "The Return of the King!"


On Thursday May 22nd my family, a friend, and I headed to Vienna, Virginia for the FOTR live performance. We got there quite early and very much enjoyed the park there. I'd recommend going to other concerts there...it was a really pleasant atmosphere. We took a picnic supper and ate at a picnic table with a view of a grassy valley in front of us. That was great. But the real fun hadn't started yet. We made our way to a spot on the lawn a little left of the screen. Next came the pre-concert talk with Deb Lamberton (from WETA radio station...we thought that was funny!). Although most of the information given I already knew, it was still great. She actually did some trivia on LOTR, which was fun. The weather for the concert was fine. Cold, but not rainy, so that was a plus. It was really neat to see Ludwig Wicki conduct, since I've been hearing about him doing it in Lucerne and Winnipeg. He did a phenomenal job, doing very well with the tak es. To tell the truth, it was really hard to believe I was really seeing the score performed live. It sounded so close to the original, and I think because we were far enough away from the orchestra and choir it kind of didn't capture me as much as I thought it would. That is not to say that it wasn't absolutely awesome. The soloist parts were probably some of my favorites. Kaitlyn Lusk was amazing. It was cool to hear her "change voices" from Rivendell to Lothlorien, etc. When she sang at the spot where Gandalf falls, she was wonderful. I was a little worried that she might have trouble with the one really high note that gets held forever, but she nailed it. I'd love to hear her do it again...it was breathtaking. It was especially enjoyable to watch and listen to her because of the blog entry she did on the site. The choirs were great as well, with the Moria sequence especially strong. Although, the other pa rts were extremely well done (Black Riders, Rivendell, Lothlorien, etc). The fiddle part in Hobbiton was very great, while the penny whistle didn't really live up to my expectations (It could have been because of the instrument though). The dialogue was at a perfect volume and the HD was superb! It was so cool to see the film so big and in such good quality. The people there were very friendly. One highlight of the performance was, really, just being with thousands of other LOTR fans and cheering along with them. The lady next to us shared her blanket with us for our cold legs and feet :-). It would have been great to see other bloggers there, but there's always The Two Towers. I would definitely encourage anyone to go next year, it was awesome! ***** (Five stars :-D) 

Here are a couple of reviews from a Viggo Mortensen fansite. First from Caria:

I haven't had a chance to post anything on this thread for a looong time. But I'm excited to say that this past Wednesday - May 21 - I had the amazing opportunity to attend (with my whole family) the US premeiere of Howard Shore's complete score of the Fellowship of the Ring performed live in perfect sync with the movie in HD. The performance took place at Wolf Trap National Park for the Performing Arts in Vienna, Virginia. It was conducted by Ludwig Wicki - the same conductor who led the 21st Century Orchestra for the World Premiere of FOTR at the Lucerne Concert Hall earlier this year. 

At the Wolf Trap performance of Wednesday, he conducted the Filene Center Orchestra; the performance also included the City Choir of Washington and the World Children's Choir, with a stand-out performance by vocal soloist Kaitlyn Lusk (who also has been the featured vocal soloist in Howard Shore's LOTR Symphony).

The weather was chilly, but the hundreds in attendance didn't mind one bit. We were all transported by the majesty of the music performed live, accompanying the huge screens that were showing the movie in high def. There was a huge screen for those of us on the lawn as well as a huge screen for those seated inside the open air pavilion. The majesty of the music, the glorious themes, the perfect solos - all were an excellent compliment to the wide sweep of the epic tale that was being played out on the screens. Heaven come down to earth!!!!

Even though I've watched FOTR countless times (both threatrical and extended versions) it felt for me like I was seeing the movie for the first time all over again.....The choirs and Lusk performed the various languages of Tolkien's world flawlessly and in a way that sent shivers up my spine!! The audience was very appreciative and responded with loud and extended applause at the intermission (just after the forming of the Fellowship in Rivendell) and at the movie's end. During the movie, however, there was an almost reverential silence in the audience as we were all being transported to another time and place. ( The reverential silence during the movie was broken only by occasional chuckling at the antics of Merry and Pippin, and by an enthusiastic "YES!!!" from someone in the crowd followed by cheers and applause when Aragorn lopped the head off Lurtz toward the movie's end.)

The review in the Washington Post was glowing as well. The live score was performed for two evenings at Wolf Trap. I have no idea where the performance may be going next, but I highly recommend attending it if it comes anywhere near any of you!!!!!

Still walking on air......Caria

...and Lindariel:

My wonderful husband set up a surprise "date" for us last night. He made all of the arrangements in advance, including child care. I was only given an idea about appropriate dress for the outing and when we needed to leave. You can imagine how completely floored and delighted I was when it turned out he had acquired prime viewing seats for the showing of FOTR at Wolf Trap, with the score performed live by the Wolf Trap Symphony conducted by Ludwig Wicki, The City Choir of Washington, The World Children's Choir, and soloists Kaitlyn Lusk and a wonderful boy soprano (probably from The World Children's Choir) who was unfortunately not identified in the program.

It was an absolutely incredible experience. The film was projected with subtitles so the conductor did not have to worry about whether the orchestra was overwhelming the dialogue. The point of the evening was to experience the film primarily through the music. WOW! The live music was so much more intense and vibrant than the typically overamped sound we hear in the movie theatre. It was possible to appreciate even more the extraordinary musical subtleties and the incredible timing and symphonic development of the piece.

I have sent scans of the Program Notes to Riv Res so she can upload them for your review. Included are descriptions of all of the various themes Howard Shore developed and associated with various places, people, races, items, etc. The Ring in particular has three musical themes all to itself!

From the audience reaction, you would almost believe these folks had never seen FOTR before, although the vast majority obviously were huge fans. It was quite clear that they were experiencing the film in an entirely new way, and there were many gasps of surprise and shock as they reacted to the immediacy of the music combined with the intensity of the visuals on screen. Mr. L liked the films well enough, but was not a die-hard enthusiast like me. Nonetheless, he thoroughly enjoyed the evening and commented on a number of things that he hadn’t noticed from previous viewings, both musically and dramatically. Both of us really wished that the performance had not been on a school night, because 11-year-old Miss L would have absolutely adored it.

This was the U.S. premiere for this kind of film/concert experience, and I heartily encourage all of you to keep your eyes and ears peeled for announcements about performances in your area. You will not be disappointed! Mr. L and I are already hoping that they will repeat this exercise with The Two Towers and Return of the King. We will certainly be there!

Read Lynne Price's thoughts here.

Read Kathryn Tidyman's thoughts here.

Any additional reviews? Send them 

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Wolf Trap Tomorrow

Remember, Wolf Trap's presentation of The Fellowship of the Ring begins tomorrow night. I'm not able to finesse my schedule such that I'll be there this time, but we still need reports. Get your tickets here, bask in the music there, and email me your impressions here!

Enjoy! You're in for a real treat!

Thursday, May 15, 2008

Kaitlyn Lusk

If you've seen The Lord of the Rings Symphony anytime in the past four years, there's a very strong chance you've seen soprano, Kaitlyn Lusk. Kaitlyn has spent the last four-plus years of her life touring with the Symphony, performing the work's prominent vocal solos--everything from the razing of Isengard to Gollum's momentary rapture upon reclaiming the One Ring.

A few weeks back, Kaitlyn stepped into a new role when she started singing the solos in Winnipeg's full Fellowship of the Ring performances. Next week she'll appear in Fellowship at Wolf Trap, and it's off to Poland shortly after that. In between this and numerous other projects, Kaitlyn was kind enough to jot down a few words for the blog. She's also offered to stop the comments section to answer a few questions, should they materialize.

Thanks, Kaitlyn!


I could call myself a fan, or maybe even obsessed; but in reality I have the privilege of saying I am a part of the continuing story that is The Lord of the Rings. The Lord of the Rings Symphony has benchmarked my life since I was fifteen. As the vocal soloist, I’ve traveled across the globe and always had the best seat in the house: front and center on stage. Sitting next to the conductor and directly in front of the orchestra, I’m the only person who takes in both the audience’s perspective as well as that of the musicians. Whether through the vibrations of my seat, or looking out into the enraptured crowd, I’ve uniquely witnessed hundreds of nights filled with the human and artistic emotions that are inspired by Tolkien’s story and Howard Shore’s beloved music. Through the books, through the movies, and through the LOTR Symphony there is a journey we all take, only I get to see it lit up on your faces. After five years of singing this music, in preparation for the U.S. premiere of The Fellowship of the Ring at Wolf Trap, I can whole-heartedly say I am as thrilled today as I was the first time I got the call to sing. Funny story: after jumping and screaming on the phone they asked if I needed the music and I replied, “Are you kidding? I already know it!” I’ll see you from the stage soon!

Kaitlyn Lusk

Saturday, May 10, 2008

Guest Blogger #2: Lynne Price, The City Choir of Washington

Wolf Trap's Fellowship rehearsals have now official begun. Lynne Price of The City Choir of Washington has checked in to keep us all up to speed on the preparations. Enjoy this first installment from Lynne, and keep your eyes open for the next!


As a member of The City Choir of Washington, I was thrilled to find out that we would be a part of the American premiere of The Fellowship of the Ring's performance with live music! Having sung at Wolf Trap several times, I know how wonderful the music sounds "in the house," and even on the lawn. And what a thrill it will be for the audience to see the film in high definition on such large screens; makes me almost wish that I could see it instead of being behind the scenes.

So far, we've had three rehearsals with our music director Bob Shafer. Bob is the quintessential classical musician and I knew that this would pose quite a challenge for him, but he was very happy to take on this challenge, knowing that it would provide us with good exposure in the musical community. We have just completed our first season to excellent reviews, and Bob knew that Wolf Trap would no doubt sell out both performances on May 21 and 22.

Thankfully, the Elvish words in the musical score are spelled out phonetically, but we are blessed to have in The City Choir a retired linguist from the Library of Congress who has done extensive research into the pronuniciation of Tolkien's language. However, some of the music is very fast and we are spitting out lots of strange sounding words at break-neck speed! Many of the chorus parts are for 10 parts so all of us are learning music at home, listening to the film soundtracks on CD, and even watching the movie time and again with our scores. Bob has gotten the orchestral score from Wolf Trap so he can learn the music backwards and forwards and I am amazed at the size of both volumes.

I confess that I am a Lord of the Rings fanatic so this opportunity is such a pleasure for me. I think the entire chorus should be supplied with elves' ears!

More later as the concerts approach.....

Lynne Price

Guest Blogger #1: Jill Smith, Berklee College of Music

As you all know, Howard Shore received an honorary doctorate from the Berklee College of Music this past week and guest conducted the orchestra at the school's commencement ceremony. Jill Smith played French horn in the orchestra, and has kindly sent in her impressions of working with Shore. Enjoy!


Myself and 60-70 other Berklee students, faculty and Boston Conservatory students were privileged to have the honor of working with Howard Shore for the past two days. Mr. Shore came in to work on Naked Lunch with us on Thursday and as soon as he walked on stage he was ready to get down to business. We started from the beginning of the Main Title and worked our way through until Mr. Shore stopped us to correct the errors that were made. He never yelled or made bitter comments and when he had something to say about the performance, he was always very encouraging towards the players, saying for example, “not quite strings, but it’s getting there, it’s getting there” with a smile. He always complimented each section when they showed their strengths and he made sure that the audience recognized the players before and after the performance of Naked Lunch on Friday evening. Mr. Shore was a wonderful conductor to work with; better than any conductor I’ve ever worked with to this day. He was very encouraging, his conducting was very easy to follow, he always stopped to polish the music as much as he could, and he really cared about every note. That’s something to be highly appreciated in a day where much film music is the result of sequenced notes simply entered into a program.

Book Update: May, 2008

Hi everyone,

Boy I'm glad you're keeping up with the posting here, because I've done a terrible job of updating the blog lately! The work on The Rarities Archives has kept me incredibly busy, but I'm absolutely thrilled with the way everything is coming together. TRA: FOTR and TRA: TTT have been cleaned and tightened now. FOTR is currently clocking at about 2.8 hours (no we haven't lost any music, just trimmed unnecessary talkback from the sessions, standardized the fade ins and outs, etc.) while TTT is coming in just under 2 hours. (FOTR has a lengthier "Making Of" suite attached to it, which is why it's still a bit longer than TTT.) Neither is finished yet... there are still a few materials needed... but both are already at HS' office awaiting comments, requested edits, etc.

TRA: ROTK is slightly over 2 hours right now, though again there are a few bits awaiting inclusion. (If you count the video doc, we'll be well over 3 hours.) Just last night I finished a rough assembly of ROTK's "Making Of" suite, and I think it's truly exciting... more than anything else we've got, it exposes the collaborative creative process that was so integral to these films/scores. There was such a positive energy in the air, and revisiting it is genuinely rewarding... I hope you'll agree!

I'm still actively trying to find a way to get out to Wolf Trap week after next. I have a responsibility in Chicago the morning of May 21, so I'm just trying to assemble some sort of travel plan that allows everything to fit together. Not always the simplest endeavor. I'll keep you updated. One way or the other, I'm sure we'll have thorough coverage from the event. It is the US premiere after all! Remember to keep your eyes of the Wolf Trap Insider as well.


Thursday, May 1, 2008

Ongoing Discussion Thread [May, 2008]

ROTK: CR is back in stock, FOTR Live is still tromping around the globe, The Rarities Archives continue to fill up with amazing material... plenty to talk about!

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