Friday, April 29, 2011

Luzern Lecture IV: Wheaton Overview

During the months of March and April, I provided a series of five lectures for the Luzern presentation of Howard Shore's LOTR Cycle. Over the coming days I will be presenting the content of those lectures.

If you've looked ahead to the embedded videos, you've no doubt noted that you're not looking at Luzern, Switzerland. Instead, you're looking at Wheaton College in Illinois. My "Overview" lectures in Luzern and Wheaton were very similar, but Wheaton had the added advantage of a PowerPoint presentation and, more importantly, a piano. You'll hear the volume of my voice slide up and down as I turn my head to operate the laptop -- and you'll notice I bobble the piano playing here and there because my head is craned backward to look at the screen! -- but overall the sound is pretty good on this one.

Luzern is one of the most beautiful places on the planet. I could write a dozen posts on nothing more than the landscape. Heck, I may even post some of my Mount Pilatus videos during a future content drought. Wheaton, however, has something very unique and special -- the incredible Marion E. Wade Center -- which houses books, papers and artifacts from seven British authors, including J.R.R. Tolkien. They also boast one of the most comprehensive Tolkien libraries imaginable ... including, now, two copies of The Music of the Lord of the Rings Films. It's pretty amazing to think that this book now resides on a shelf not too far from Tolkien's own writing desk. If you're ever in the Chicago area -- maybe next summer for Ravinia? -- and have the time to take a tour, I promise it will be a rewarding experience.

In the meantime, the full Wheaton lecture is below. This was an incredibly enthusiastic -- and, as you'll note, vocal -- audience. I thought it would consist of primarily college students, but there were some middle-school kids and older folks in attendance as well. I was still a bit jet-lagged at the time, but their enthusiasm helped fuel me, so I'm incredibly grateful. This was a truly fun lecture to give and, in many ways, maybe the best one yet.

Next up is the grand finale in the Luzern lecture series. This, too, was a bit of an overview lecture, but our special guest provided a rather unique perspective.

Preview below. See you next week when this runs.

The Great and Powerful Oz? Photo by Basil Böhni.

FOTR: LIVE Comes to Houston

Friday, July 22. Tickets and writeup HERE. Should I do my usual spiel and suggest that someone check with these fine folks re: a pre-concert lecture? Why yes, I think I will suggest that someone do that! Anyone with a Houston connection, feel free to drop me a line.

Join us for an exciting, brand-new journey into the realm of Middle-earth. Over 250 musicians and singers will perform the movie soundtrack live as you watch the full-length film of The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring.

See it from the beginning as Frodo and Sam, with the help of the Fellowship, undertake the perilous quest of taking the Ring of Power to the land of Mordor. Relive your journey into Middle-earth with this extraordinary pairing of film and live music.
Ludwig Wicki, conductor
Kaitlyn Lusk, soprano

Thursday, April 28, 2011

Luzern Lecture III: Choral Music ... and a special performance!

During the months of March and April, I provided a series of five lectures for the Luzern presentation of Howard Shore's LOTR Cycle. Over the coming days I will be presenting the content of those lectures.

Today's lecture covers the use of choral music and language in Shore's score -- basically a chance to explain how the chorus functions both as a musical element and as a dramatic element. The audience was very enthusiastic on this one, and quite excited to learn just what was being sung behind some of their favorite scenes.

That said, I'm quite sure that today's main attraction is lurking below the lecture audio. See you down there shortly ...


During the LOTR Cycle, I spent one of the post-performance after-parties with the 21st Century Chorus in their favorite back corner of KKL's Seebar. They informed me that a secret rehearsal was being held after the upcoming ROTK dress rehearsal, and asked if I would attend. Of course I agreed!

This secret rehearsal was being held in order to read through the Chorus' own LOTR Medley/Parody arrangement. The piece was to be performed at the final after-party -- the soirée that would be held at the end of the last ROTK performance -- an event that, due to my travel plans, I would miss. It would be a loving tribute to the the score and the story, the Chorus' ode to Maestro Ludwig Wicki and their experiences with the first-ever LOTR score cycle. And, from the glint in their eyes, I could tell it would also be pretty darn funny!

Thoughtfully, the chorus wanted to make sure I got to hear their work before I left.

Even more thoughtfully, they agreed to record the piece and send it in for you, the blog readers/listeners!

So, without further ado, here is The Lord of the Rings Medley. Please note that all lyrics are presented sic. The almost-perfect English is part of the incredible charm, in my opinion, and I wouldn't change a thing!

Bravo, Chorus, and thank you all!

The Lord of the Rings Medley 
Music by Howard Shore, Lyrics by Robin Burri, Arranged by Livio Schurmann


I can feel it in the water.
I smell it in the air.

The Nazgûl
Riding and flying
Sneaking around
Hide now, you fools
They want the Ring
The Ring must be destroyed

Frodo Baggins
Though I do not know the way,
I will take the Ring to Mordor
And destroy it in the heat
Of the big and dark Mount Doom

One Ring to rule them all
And to bind them in the dark
Master is our only friend
So bright as so beautiful

Oh Flame of Udûn
You can not pass
Gandalf, no!

Uruk-hai hungry, hungry
Uruk-hai appetite, appetite
Flesh, flesh
Raw, raw, raw, raw

Oh that is one of the Mearas
Unless my eyes are cheated by some spell

Rohan, Rohan

Shadowfax, oh ride now
Ride to ruin and the world’s ending!

Look they are the riders
The riders of Rohan
Don’t they look to you like many women
With fake beards in their face?

We are the Elves.
Pale and shiny

Lembas bread

Bling, bling, bling, bling!

Haldir, Haldir
We are going to war
Just a mouthful

I’m going to bleed you like a stuck pig
Not if I stuck you first
Feast on his flesh
Looks like the meat’s back on the menu

Hroom, humm
Oh come friends
The Ents they are going to war!

Room, room, room, room
Hum, hum, hum, hum

Raw, raw, raw, raw, raw!

Whom do you serve?

Come on, Frodo, do it
Throw the Ring into Mount Doom!

Mount Doom

Ring destroyed, problem solved
Middle-earth is now free, oh yeah!

Lord of the Rings
Where heroes fight until end
Lord of the Rings
In 2D!
Is a classic and will survive!

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Singing The Lord of the Rings - Part 5

Singing The Lord of the Rings - Part 5
By Guillaume Schneider
Part 1 is available HERE.
Part 2 is available HERE.
Part 3 is available HERE.
Part 4 is available HERE.

Watching FOTR Live to Projection was a pure delight for both eyes and ears! The sold out performance attracted some lost Hobbits and Elves who created a nice atmosphere in the lobby. I purchased the program to see what people learned about the performers and the music. Its content was surprisingly very extensive and included extracts from Doug Adams’ analysis of the most important themes such as "The One Ring," "Gollum," and "Mordor." I discovered that reading these as a spectator right before a Live to Projection concert makes you highly impatient!

It was the first time I entered the Philharmonie im Gasteig and my thoughts were entirely focused on the imposing silver screen behind the stage. I admit I only saw ROTK in the theater so it would be my very first time seeing FOTR on a big screen! My seat was perfectly well-placed in the front row of the first block of the first level, i.e. first-class entertainment. I noticed the hall was much more suited for this kind of concert than the Berliner Philharmonie which has many seats behind the orchestra. 

The choir entered the hall, followed by the orchestra and finally, Mr. Wicki. Music stepped in and the magic began taking its course. I let myself completely immerse in the movie, considering this representation as my reward for the time I invested in this huge project. From time to time I glanced at the choir, checking out its appearance. The rises and lowerings of the choir were well synchronised, as were the entries. The male voices were more audible than anticipated, which was a relief. I was impressed by the boy soloist whose outstanding performance of "The Road Goes Ever On" resembled the original version. The thundering applause at the end underlined my opinion of this show: it was a complete success. I truly felt proud to take part in the other concerts. This was just a foretaste and knowing I would come again six more times in the next week was thrilling!

Ludwig Wicki and Company in Rehearsal
Then came Wednesday, April 20, the day of the first TTT concert. A dress rehearsal was planned in the morning, which was a perfect opportunity to really delve into the music before the main event. This time I entered the Philharmonie through the stage door -- what a great sensation! I found my way through the maze of doors and floors and reached a filled choir room. Everyone was dressed casually (since we didn’t have to wear black yet), but I could tell that even the most discrete people were excited. We rehearsed the entrance on stage as well as the risings and lowerings, which most importantly had to be executed with elvish grace and lightness! After a few tries, the managers were satisfied and the orchestra came in, tuning their instruments. Mr. Wicki gave the signal and the movie started. Singing in a noble place was new to me, especially in front of empty seats. Fascinating experience, having your favorite movie projected and not being allowed to watch it! Being in the last row, I had perfect sight of the entire hall and I wasn’t annoying anyone when I looked back to the screen every now and then. In my defense, it was just a rehearsal and many others did the same. Who wouldn’t understand, right?

Once the screen faded, I was ready for applause. Of course, none came because relatives couldn’t attend dress rehearsal. Sitting and standing straight for nearly 3 hours is quite challenging, in particular if you have my height, but I guess I would have to cope with it. Mr. Wicki reminded the women to be more aggressive during some parts and announced that we were ready for the fight. That was all that mattered. 

7:29 pm. A waiting choir, all in black, music sheets covered. Then the entrance into Middle-earth.

[To be continued ... ]

Luzern Lecture II: Ethnic Instruments

Whistles, Neys, and Rhaitas
During the months of March and April, I provided a series of five lectures for the Luzern presentation of Howard Shore's LOTR Cycle. Over the coming days I will be presenting the content of those lectures.

The lecture on "Ethnic Instruments," which essentially covered the use of nontraditional instruments within the standard orchestra, took place in the lecture hall above KKL's main hall. Joining in the fun, as you'll hear, were the 21st Century Orchestra's Concertmaster, Ulrich Poschner, and woodwind specialist Sandro Friedrich.

Incidentally, you'll hear Sandro mention instruments he recently recorded with. He's referencing the February recording sessions for Shore's LOTR Symphony, on which he performs whistle, rhaita, etc. Sandro was also kind enough to send in an English translation of one of his answers, since my spotty command of Swiss-German proved woefully inadequate during the lecture itself. Many thanks, Sandro!

Lecture Part I

Sandro Friedrich on Rhaita

Lecture Part II


Thanks also to Sabsi Fronek for the pictures used in this post. Next time, choral music ... and a very special performance!

Monday, April 25, 2011

Luzern Lecture I: Rhythm and Percussion

During the months of March and April, I provided a series of five lectures for the Luzern presentation of Howard Shore's LOTR Cycle. Over the coming days I will be presenting the content of those lectures.

Today we will begin with the "Rhythm and Percussion" lecture, which was given onstage at the KKL with the participation of the fantastic 21st Century Orchestra percussion section. This was actually the second in the series of lectures, but for reasons which I'll explain later, I'll be presenting the series slightly out of order.

I've cleaned up the audio on this as much as possible. I'd like to think it provides an unpolished, fly-on-the-wall perspective, but frankly, some of it is a tad difficult to understand. Most is fine, of course, but please leave a note in the comments if I -- or others -- can help clarify.

Lecture Part I

Lecture Part II

Lecture Part III

Lecture Part IV

Special thanks to the tireless Basil Böhni for providing all content above. Coming next in the series is the lecture on "Ethnic Instruments" ... and yet more adventures with multimedia presentation. See you then! 

Saturday, April 23, 2011

Coming Soon

Multimedia Luzern lecture posts coming this week!

Friday, April 22, 2011

Singing The Lord of the Rings - Part 4

Singing The Lord of the Rings - Part 3
By Guillaume Schneider
Part 1 is available HERE.
Part 2 is available HERE.
Part 3 is available HERE.

From my point of view, the diversity in the two groups and the presence of almost all ages had a great impact on our cohesion. Mr. Gropper repeatedly told us how surprised he was by our team spirit and our progress, considering the choirs essentially consisted of total strangers. 

Shortly before our last rehearsal with Mr. Gropper, the organizer gave us some information about the concerts. We are to dress entirely in black and use a black cover for the sheets. Did I mention that the theatrical version of the movies will be shown ? When I think about it, a 4 hour long concert wouldn’t do anyone good… The tuning forks used by few of us have to be bound to a string, because believe it or not, we constantly heard falling forks during past rehearsals, creating a crashing noise. Of course, there will have to be complete silence during the breaks and no applauding. Now that’s what I call professionalism! These news got me both really excited and sad, because it meant we were approaching the end of the project.

Maestro Wicki Rehearses the Choir
Then came the person I had waited a long time to meet, Mr. Ludwig Wicki. Honestly, all the rehearsals I had in high school were crap compared to what we would undergo with him! Don’t get me wrong, I mean it in a good way. He is a fantastic conductor and he even enhanced my overall experience so much that I want to thank him deeply at this point for his unique enthusiasm and devotion to this project. He made us repeat the same phrase over and over again until he was absolutely sure to hear the right tone. I didn’t hear any difference between each attempt, but according to him, we often would be a quarter-tone too deep. And I thought I had a decent ear …

There comes a time in every activity where you reach a certain maturity and I’m quite sure I reached my musical turning point during this venture. It is not only due to Mr. Wicki’s methods and perception of the music, but also to the music itself. Everyone knows epic, powerful music abounds in ROTK. For instance, "The Siege of Gondor" at 4:12 embodies the ultimate clash of good versus evil and as such gives me a sensational feeling of almightiness as soon as Ludwig Wicki shows the beat and all 100 choristers start singing. I’m sincerely sorry, but there is just no word for describing the magic of this moment. It is (more or less) shortly followed by "Mount Doom" which describes Frodo’s struggle with the Ring. At 1:26, the apotheosis. You finally understand the true power of the Ring as well as the power of music, invading your mind and taking you right into Mount Doom. Let it be said that at this point of the movie, you feel an unbearable desire to continue singing no matter what the sheet says. 

Combined Orchestral and Choral Forces
On April 15, we rehearsed with the orchestra for the first time. It took place in a music studio near the Philharmonie, which added to the excitement. You may notice the choir doesn’t sing much when you listen to the whole soundtrack of each movie and I was first struck by it during this rehearsal. It’s certainly due to the fact that I rarely listen to the full soundtrack and rather pick out my favorite parts (which often include the choir). I was so amazed by the orchestra! They played the music exactly the way it was recorded and there wasn’t any of those alterations I was used to in high school. I know it may seem natural to some but I had never performed with a professional orchestra before. I was also happy to recognize some unconventional instruments like metal plates used for the Isengard theme that I had seen in footage in the EE. With less than a week left to the concerts, the general euphoria became largely perceptible. Prior to my participation in this project I had bought a ticket for the FOTR presentation on Sunday, April 17. Time to see what Live to Projection was worth!

[To be continued ... ]

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Wheaton Reminder

Open to the public. Come one, come all!

Singing The Lord of the Rings – Part 3

Singing The Lord of the Rings - Part 3
By Guillaume Schneider
Part 1 is available HERE.
Part 2 is available HERE.

The following sessions of TTT and ROTK were scattered, taking place at irregular intervals. It was perfect for me since February and March was my period of vacation. After the first rehearsal, Mr. Gropper had told us to practice at home, not necessarily by singing out loud but rather by reading the lyrics at a swift pace. It would not only result in a smoother rendition of the chorus, but also improve our mastery of the elvish language, so I noticed. No, just kidding. It would have been nice, though, having the translation beneath the stave. At least there was the phonemic transcription, showing you how to pronounce words like «hwaer», «kwom» or «haer».
Do you remember the moment in FOTR when the fellowship runs down the stairs near Khazad-dûm ? Do you also recall the deep, fast, guttural and omnipresent men part of the score during the whole sequence? Well, first I was disappointed for not being able to sing it because I would only take part in TTT and ROTK, but then remembered while listening to "Glamdring" that there is a very similar part in the beginning of TTT. And I can tell you that the first time we worked on this part, few of us bass singers actually made it through. Not only are the lyrics … well, elvish, but we have to sing (shout!) eighths, keeping up with an insane rhythm of 168 bpm which eventually rises to 193 bpm. Who said singing wasn’t a sport ?
Now, apart from the part mentioned above, there were some challenging passages indeed. Traits that distinguished them from the rest were for example the high pitches in the women part and the low ones in our part. Each voice was subdivided into 3 groups, ranging from high to low. My voice was more adapted for the middle group, but even singing the middle voice didn’t save our small group from «extreme» notes. I especially struggled with the low ones, so I sometimes switched over to high bass until Mr. Shore decided to stop the torture. I didn’t seem the only one troubled, so I didn’t complain much. The most demanding part was without any doubt the end of ROTK. The choir part of "Journey to the Grey Havens" (2:30 - end) consists of a hummed melody. Try humming high notes for more than 4 minutes and you’ll see how you feel about making a sound afterwards! At least you feel proud of yourself for not giving up. Also, there is a nice reward for everyone: we get to listen to an awesome live performance of "Into the West" by Kaitlyn Lusk!
Some of the nicest passages are those where the men don’t actually have a part (I know, what a traitor, right ?). Now, I hope that mentioning "The Eagles" rings some pretty heavy bells. After the Eagles arrive to pick up Frodo and Sam, there is a divine melody hummed by the women. I absolutely love it, so imagine being right in the choir, just listening to this divine (I had to say it again), gentle, soft and sweet music! It’s also my favorite moment in the movie, by the way …
I have to admit we sometimes showed a lack of concentration, making avoidable mistakes like not following the rhythm, singing a completely wrong note or even starting at a different point from the one Mr. Gropper had asked. He was a demanding leader and didn’t hesitate telling us how well or bad we performed, which in my opinion clearly made us progress. The ensemble occasionally got tips from veterans, that is people who sang at last year’s Live to Projection concerts. The advice mostly concerned spelling problems and missing crescendi, some of which were printing mistakes.
Rehearsals became more than rehearsals as we passed a certain stage. I grew accustomed to the two choirs and soon, there would be a time where it all ends and I didn’t know when I would sing again.
[To be continued ... ]

Jim Ware & FSM on Luzern

I'm planning to post my Luzern retrospectives next week, after tomorrow night's Wheaton College lecture is complete. (Open to the public -- come on by!) In the meantime, Jim Ware has penned an excellent piece for Film Score Monthly. The full article is available to subscribers, but I've posted a bit below in order to whet appetites. If you're a fan of film music, and not already subscribed to FSM, I highly recommend you take the leap!

Shored Up in Lucerne: The Trilogy, Live to Picture
Jim Ware gives us a front-row seat to the recent Howard Shore Festival in Switzerland.
By Jim Ware

Lucerne, Switzerland, is an inspiring location. Richard Wagner lived here for a time and penned his symphonic poem Siegfried Idyll here. The beautiful mountain scenery is appropriately analogous to the spectacular New Zealand locations used in Peter Jackson’s Lord of the Rings trilogy.

Enduringly popular, the music of The Lord of the Rings has been performed in concert all over the world, most regularly as the Symphony, a six-movement piece mostly based on the contents of the original single-disc soundtrack albums. While it works reasonably well as a two-hour whistle-stop tour of the music of Middle-Earth, Shore wrote over 11 hours of music for the trilogy; the only way to really experience the breadth and majesty of the scores is to listen to the complete work.

The first “live to projection” performance of The Fellowship of the Ring took place here in February 2008, and was something of an experiment. “We had 24 hours [to decide whether or not to host Fellowship],” recalls Pirmin Zangerle of Art Productions. It was an expensive technical and musical challenge with no guarantee of success or of completing the trilogy. Film scores had been performed live to picture before—Philip Glass’ Dracula and John Williams’ E.T. being notable examples—but nothing of this scale had ever been attempted. “This music means so much to so many people. We knew that we had to do it justice,” Zangerle continued. The gamble paid off, and after four sold-out performances in Lucerne, Fellowship started to tour the globe. Similarly, popular performances of The Two Towers followed in 2009, with The Return of the King completing the trilogy of “live” performances a year later.

The live-to-projection performances consist of the film being projected in high-definition above the orchestra, choir and soloists. The sound mix includes only dialogue and sound effects—the music is all performed live. Instead of being a fixed entity, the film becomes a unique, organic experience. The music takes center stage, never subservient to dialogue or effects as it would normally be. The addition of an intermission and entr’acte to each picture gives them an additional air of the operatic.

Turning these elaborate productions into a touring entity that could be performed all over the world was an ambitious proposition. Conductor Ludwig Wicki has conducted almost all live-to-projection performances thus far, and his schedule shows no signs of relenting. He is due to conduct another cycle of the trilogy in Munich before flying to Sydney for two performances of Fellowship. The next day off for him is rumored to be sometime in July, but that may change if other opportunities to conduct arise. His attention to detail and technical skill are second to none, and his enthusiasm for all things musical is infectious. Many of the ethnic and percussion instruments used in the concert performances come from his own collection.

The 21st Century Symphony Orchestra and Chorus, formed by Wicki a little over 10 years ago, specializes in film music. They have enjoyed a lengthy working relationship with Howard Shore, performing numerous concerts and most recently recording the Lord of the Rings Symphony for album release later this year. The orchestra and Wicki have traveled to New York performing Fellowship and Two Towers at Radio City Music Hall, and are due to complete the trilogy there in the near future.

A single Lord of the Rings—Live to Projection performance is a tremendous feat of endurance for orchestra, choir and conductor alike, but the next logical step was to perform all three together. This trilogy performance became the centerpiece of a week-long Howard Shore festival in Lucerne, the spiritual home of these productions and the home of Maestro Wicki and the 21st Century Symphony Orchestra. With three performances of each film and three other concerts, the musicians certainly had an intense festival planned. In total the festival encompassed over 12 hours of orchestral, choral and chamber music performed over the course of a week, a phenomenal amount to rehearse and perform. This kind of celebration is rare enough in the classical world, but totally unique within the world of film music. Film music festivals have taken place in Ubeda and Madrid, but this is the first of its kind dedicated to the work of a single composer.

The nine Rings concerts were undoubtedly the main attraction for the majority of festival-goers. Wicki’s intimate familiarity with the music becomes more and more apparent with each new performance. Rather than rigidly following the on-screen punches and streamers of the auricle (a device that provides visual cues to the conductor to aid synchronization), he has started to conduct a little more freely when possible, allowing the music to ebb and flow. “Ludwig is a force of nature,” says Shore authority Doug Adams. His boundless energy is most apparent on the day of the first performance of The Return of the King. This was one of the most demanding days for the musicians, with a full dress rehearsal and performance almost back to back—seven hours of performance in total. “Return of the King is difficult, especially twice in one day,” admits Wicki. Although the brass and some of the other instruments can hold back a little in the dress rehearsals, the conductor doesn’t have that option. All three films are scored wall-to-wall with lengthy cues and very little in the way of breathing space between them.

The orchestra and choir are no slouches either. Sharing Wicki’s familiarity with the music, having performed it more times than anyone else, they gave powerful and confident performances throughout. To avoid exhausting the 21st Century Chorus over the course of the festival, the Akademischer Chor Zürich stepped in to perform The Two Towers. Amusingly, quite a few members of the 21st Century Chorus could be spotted lurking in the audience listening to the performance of their competitors. But audience reaction to all of the Rings performances was consistent—massive applause and standing ovations. Despite a number of concerts taking place mid-week, the KKL concert hall was consistently full for every performance ...
[Read the full article HERE (subscription required)]

Friday, April 15, 2011

Singing The Lord of the Rings - Part 2

Singing The Lord of the Rings - Part 2
By Guillaume Schneider
Part 1 is available HERE.

During the one and a half months that I had to wait until the first rehearsal there was a lot going on, but I didn’t lose sight of the oncoming events. I told the good news to some of my friends, the ones I knew would understand how much it means to me. I even tried to convince the singers of them to join me in the project, but the rehearsal schedule being pretty intense, they wouldn’t make it.

Then came Day 1 on February 18. Armed with the music sheets of TTT and a sharpened pencil, I made my way to the University of Music and Performing Arts. Another thing I was excited about was the fact that I would sing with students and adults who would take this project seriously. I remember well how high school rehearsals weren’t always as fruitful as I wish they had been. Even though my vocal cords were out of practice, my passion was still intact and a burning fire. I just hoped I would be up to the task since it had been almost two years since I finished high school. 

As I was walking, reaching the entrance to the university, memories emerged from the past: images of the concerts of the three French-German High Schools appeared in my head and reminded me of how being a part of an ensemble shaped my youth and my willingness to become an active person. I guess that’s what you call growing up.

When I entered the Carl Orff auditorium, I became aware that this whole thing wasn’t a dream. The people I saw didn’t look like perfect singers, even less like hardcore fans who would participate without any singing background. This reassured me, I had just met my equals. We were first introduced to Mr. Gropper, a song and singing didactics professor who would lead the rehearsals. He looked like a funny guy who knew how to motivate his troops. After some formalities, we began the session with a series of stretches and extensive yawning, followed by a few exercises intended to warm up our tired vocal chords. I really felt how good this was for me and I started getting impatient. Ten minutes later, we were all ready to roll. Now the singing could begin!

We started with a scene at the beginning of the movie, at minute 3:06 of the track The Banishment of Éomer on the CR (Complete Recordings). I so love this moment, partially because of the ascending pitches of all four voices and mainly because of the 5/4 time which is really cool to sing. I think it was a good place to set in since it directly put us in the right mood. MEEEEL LAAAW VAAAHN… I was into it from the start and it’s safe to say we all were, especially after hearing the sound that emanated from our group. Whenever there would be an epic moment like that throughout the rehearsals (which was pretty much all the time), I dreamed of Middle-earth and wondered again and again how I actually ended up singing its music not only in my head, but for real.

At the end of the rehearsal it was dark outside and it had been a long day for everyone. Perhaps that’s why some of us seemed like they were craving for their bed. So had I been, maybe, hadn’t I been intoxicated by our own music. I had felt such a pleasure singing among this group, even though I didn’t know anyone. Such a shame the concerts would follow up closely, precisely two months later. Quickly, this thought was suppressed by a much more joyful one: we had merely airbrushed the music’s depth, rather reading the notes and the vocals without understanding their true meaning. So, what would it be a few weeks from now? I preferred not thinking about it, favoring a night’s sleep. All I can say is that I had high hopes. And an empty stomach.

[To be continued ... ]

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Off and Running

Hats off to whomever edited the music for this; the correct themes are actually in the correct places. It's a wonderful reminder of just how important Shore's music is to this story and its telling. Tell me you don't get choked up when the familiar strains sing out.

Please be sure to also pop over to Peter Jackson's official Facebook page to see the original video in hi-def.

Exciting times!

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Munich Tickets Still Available

Tickets to Munich's presentation of Howard Shore's Lord of the Rings Cycle are still available. Interested parties, click here!

Wheaton Update

For those interested and available, yes, next week's lecture in Wheaton will be open to the public.

Details a few posts down the page.

Singing The Lord of the Rings – Part 1

As Munich's LOTR Cycle draws nearer, choir member Guillaume Schneider checks in with the first installment of Singing The Lord of the Rings.

Please join me in welcoming Guillaume!


In the beginning, I had my first singing experience in my high school’s choir. The sudden urge to pledge my voice to this "not so cool" but pure and beautiful activity originates from the famous french movie Les choristes (The Chorus) from 2004, which deals with a teacher helping his students become better people by creating a choir and making them sing. So I sang. And I liked it a lot, even though I didn’t always feel very confident in the beginning. But you get used to it, you start singing a little bit louder, feeling a hint of joy, and you end up feeling the music. 

Meanwhile, the music industry didn’t stay at rest. After selling an unbelievable amount of soundtracks of Peter Jackson’s LOTR trilogy, they decided to meet the highest needs of the fans (like me!) by bringing out the most complete soundtrack sets created yet, the Complete Recordings. Needless to say, they quickly became the crown jewels of my music collection.

Then I learned about the LOTR Symphony, a two-hour long concert version of the entire soundtrack. At that moment, I was very disappointed by France’s leading choirs and orchestras for not organizing any of these concerts anywhere. Luckily for me, Germany (my second natal country) displayed (and still does!) a much more active fan community, a fact that eventually lead to a great number of LOTR concerts all over the country up until today. In April 2007, I went to Cologne with my dad in order to see the Symphony. As expected, the live music was a lot more impressive than I thought it would be (paradoxal, isn’t it ?), invigorating my bond with the music.

I moved to Munich for my sophomore year as an engineering undergrad in November 2010. A few months later, on January 10, 2011, the unexpected happened. While surfing on a German LOTR website, I read following news : choristers wanted for the April Live to Projection concerts in Munich. My hesitation before signing up was rather imaginary, although I was slightly concerned about the rehearsal schedule. I did have a two week trip to the US planned, which would make me skip more than one rehearsal. These news simply met my greatest expectations, and yet, this opportunity presented itself to me in such a casual manner that a question rose inside me : could I really ignore the call from Middle-earth ?

After much consideration, my decision was made. I knew I wouldn’t forgive myself if I didn’t even try fulfilling my dream. I ended up saying to myself: I’m a huge fan, I have much singing experience, I belong in this choir ! So I sent an e-mail to the organizing person and waited. I admit I wasn’t surprised by the positive answer, after all, I did almost send him an autobiography explaining why he should accept me.

A week later, the long awaited chorus notes found their way to my mailbox and were instantly taken out of the package. A quick glance at the number of pages of each movie’s sheet music astonished me and also filled me with much anticipation: 60 pages of pure elvish lyrics for TTT and even 30 more for ROTK

Remembering futile attempts at creating new melodies on my piano, I just thought  How could anyone possibly compose so much music for a single movie ?
Slowly, while holding the sheets, I couldn’t help but noticing a smile building up on my face, because at this precise moment, I realized that this marked the beginning of my first musical journey.

[To be continued ... ]

Saturday, April 9, 2011

Wheaton College

 I've previously mentioned this on the Discussion Board, but I'll be speaking about Howard Shore and The Music of the LOTR Films at Wheaton College on Wednesday, April 20 at 7:30 p.m.

I'm not sure if the event is open to the public, but if anyone is in the area and wants to say "hello," you can find the Music Dept.'s contact info here.

Disclaimer: Actual musicologist may not match model displayed.

Also on Wheaton's campus:

The Wade Center

The Marion E. Wade Center houses a major research collection of the books and papers of seven British authors: Owen Barfield, G.K. Chesterton, C.S. Lewis, George MacDonald, Dorothy L. Sayers, J.R.R. Tolkien, and Charles Williams. These writers are well known for their impact on contemporary literature and Christian thought. Combined, they produced over four hundred books including novels, drama, poetry, fantasy, children's books, and Christian treatises. Overall, the Wade Center has more than 15,000 volumes including first editions and critical works. Other holdings on the seven authors include letters, manuscripts, audio and video tapes, artwork, dissertations, periodicals, photographs, and related materials. Any of these resources may be studied in the quiet surroundings of the Kilby Reading Room.

In addition, the Wade Center has a museum where such pieces as C.S. Lewis' family wardrobe and writing desk, Charles Williams' bookcases, J.R.R. Tolkien's desk, Pauline Baynes' original map of Narnia, and a tapestry from Dorothy L. Sayers' home can be viewed. Photographs, rare books and manuscripts, and other small items of memorabilia complete the displays.

Wade Center Hours:
Monday - Friday, 9 am - 4 pm;
Saturday, 9 am - 12 pm (during the academic year)
(Reading Room closed noon-1 pm) Wade Center hours are subject to change. Please call to confirm times at (630) 752-5908.

Come make a day of it! Hope to see you there!

Thursday, April 7, 2011

St. Louis FOTR Review

Please read the original HERE.

Concert review: The St. Louis Symphony's "Lord of the Rings" rules at Powell Hall Friday through Sunday, April 1 through 3
Written by Chuck Lavazzi

Were it not for the huge movie screen suspended above the Powell Hall stage this weekend, you might be forgiven for thinking that the large orchestra, augmented percussion battery, and chorus were going perform the first work in the Ring cycle – and in a way, you’d be right.

The evening did, after all, present the first of a series of dramatic works revolving around a cursed ring of power that brings doom to those who try to use it. The story unfolds in a mythical world filled with dwarves, dragons, and monsters. It’s a tale of magic, betrayal, honor, and redemption through sacrifice that begins with the rise of dark powers and ends with the passing of the world of magic and the coming of the world of men.

Superficial similarities aside, however, this wasn’t the opera Der Ring des Nibelungen: Das Rheingold but rather the film The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring. And while Howard Shore’s ambitious and striking score may not be in the same class as Wagner’s, it does use the same narrative approach, with specific musical motifs identifying key characters and dramatic concepts. In some respects, in fact, Shore may have the advantage, since his musical toolbox has a number of items – including microtones, Middle Eastern and Celtic influences, and aleatoric/improvisational techniques – that were not available to the German master. And which he probably would have rejected as Teutonically Incorrect in any case.

I won’t bore you by repeating what everyone else has already said about Peter Jackson’s beautiful and compelling adaptation of Tolkien’s novel. By now you’ve already made up your mind about it, and in any case, the real story here is not so much the movie as the added depth and power it derives when accompanied by a live performance of the score. I don’t care how good your surround sound system is, there’s simply no substitute for real musicians in a real hall.

Yes, soprano soloist Ann De Renais uses a wireless microphone, as do boy sopranos Blaine Clark and Graham Markowitz, but otherwise this was Howard Shore unplugged. Under the baton of guest conductor Erik Ochsner – who seems to have carved out a nice niche for himself in that gray area between traditional concert music and film scores – the symphony sounded like the finely tuned instrument it has become over the years. Even the more rhythmically tricky and aggressively “modern” parts of the score – the whole Durin/Moria sequence, for example – sounded flawless.

Mr. Ochsner seemed very engaged with and friendly towards the musicians under his baton – not an easy task given the need to divide his attention between the printed score and the film (complete with the visual equivalent of a click track) playing out on a monitor mounted on the podium.

Like Mr. Ochsner, Ms. De Renais has made LOTR concerts a regular part of her career, but her resume also includes substantial operatic and concert appearances. Perhaps that’s why she was clearly emotionally engaged during her solo passages rather than simply acting as just another pretty voice. Given that everyone was riveted to the screen, she could probably have gotten away with the latter, but a real professional doesn’t just coast – and she didn’t.

A round of applause is due, as well, to Chorus director Amy Kaiser and Children’s Choir artistic director Barbara Berner. Shore asks his singers to do a number of things not ordinarily required on the concert stage (such as singing in Elvish and rhythmically grunting and chanting in Dwarfish), so it’s to their credit that it all sounded so polished. A tip of the topper is due, as well, to the encyclopedic program notes from author Doug Adams, whose Music of Lord of the Rings blog appears to be the final word on the subject.

It would, I think, be easy to dismiss mass market events like the Lord of the Rings concerts as the musical equivalent of the slightly stale popcorn sold at the Powell Hall bar, but that would require one to overlook the sheer magnitude of the task involved and the amount of dedication and talent it takes to pull it off. We are, after all, talking about roughly three and one-half hours of music here – most of it unfamiliar and some of it rather challenging. Everyone concerned deserves hearty congratulations.

And besides, how often do you see Powell Hall this packed? Yes, it meant that getting to the restroom at intermission was pretty much impossible and some folks who brought their drinks into the hall apparently didn’t understand that leaving empty cups on the floor is lousy etiquette, but if it awakens a few more people to the glory of live music in a classic concert hall then it’s worthwhile in my book.

Non-Update Updates

I've had the same two questions popping up in my inbox with some regularity over the past days, so even though this may be non-news to most of the blogs regulars, responses seem to be in order.

Q1: Are the FOTR and TTT Complete Recordings out of print?
A1: Nope. There is absolutely no plan in place to discontinue these items at any point in the foreseeable future. Sometimes stock is shifted around to meet demand -- for instance, the concerts in Europe this spring have required that a number of sets be on-hand for new audiences. This seems to confuse Amazon and certain distributors who claim that the sets have gone the way of the dodo. Long-time blog followers have seen this routine before. The sets will be back in stock shortly.

Q2: Will ROTK Live to Projection play New York as have FOTR and TTT?
A2: Yes, ROTK will play New York. The details are set, but unannounced. The announcement is not mine to make, so I won't be saying anything until after an official press release is issued. Those in the business of crafting and targeting press releases tend to be very good at their jobs, and it would be very impolite of me to start spouting off inside information and disrupting plans. Also, I've been asked not to, and I don't want to get in trouble! :)

So there you go, another classic MusicofLOTR.com post wherein I announce that I have nothing to announce. Enjoy!

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Lecture Preview/Language Barrier

Sandro Friedrich, the incredibly talented woodwind artist who performed the whistle, ney, and rhaita parts on the recent recording of The Lord of the Rings Symphony, joined me for one of the lectures last week in Luzern. He honored me with his presence ... and made me really, really wish I spoke Swiss German better.

More to come ...

Bird & Baby

I should have posted this a week ago, but wasn't able to embed the code while I was overseas. Below is my interview with Dunedain Radio's Bird & Baby Show. (It's an Eagle and Child reference, if you're like me and don't get the pun immediately.)

I thought the interview went very well, and my thanks to the entire crew for their excellent prep work and astute questions. It was a complete pleasure to speak with these fine folk, and I'd love to do so again at some point. Be sure to check out their website as well. There's a lot of passion going into their work, and it's wonderful to see.

Ongoing Discussion [April 2011]

I'm back, thrilled, exhausted, and enthused. Luzern was unlike anything we've ever seen before. Bayreuth was referenced more than once, and as the week wore on, I became more and more apt to join the chorus of voices.

I'll have plenty more to say when I regroup, unpack, and find my socks. I believe Jim and Sabsi will be registering reports and photos in the near future as well. I also have audio, images, and video from the entire lecture series, and will be dividing that up into multiple posts over the coming weeks. And of course, I'm still sitting on some wonderfully exciting announcements. We'll see if we can't work a few of these into April as well.

But, as I say, I'm still getting my head back into the correct timezone. So for now, I'll say only "thank you" to everyone who made last week so special -- the guests, the fans, the organizers, the incredibly patient staff at Seebar. I'll always remember that I was at the first LOTR score cycle, and I'll always remember that I was in amazing company.

Atop Mount Pilatus
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