Friday, July 22, 2011

Culture Map Houston

Gollum gets his own orchestra:
Houston Symphony takes on the magic of Lord of the Rings
By Joel Luks
07.22.11 | 02:24 pm

The practice of coupling live music with film is as old as the history of film itself, dating back to 1895, when movies by the Lumière Brothers were screened publicly. For smaller venues, pianists improvised from the classical repertoire, adding what was viewed at the time as a necessary layer of emotional content. Larger theaters had an organist or resident ensemble.

It would be unconceivable to have movies without live music. In time, technology changed that with the "talkies" in 1927, when live music took a backseat to audible dialog. Oh, the good ole days.

As film scores and soundtracks evolved, certain films will always be remembered and identified by their music. Think of the memorable tunes by John Williams in Schindler's List and any of the Indiana Jones movies, John Corigliano's The Red Violin, Phillip Glass' Koyaanisqatsi and Powaqqatsi, Ennio Morricone's The Mission and Michael Kamen's Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves.

Do you have any favorites?

This weekend, Houston has Jones Hall and the Houston Symphony providing the premier cinematheque, bringing to life Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring with music by Canadian composer Howard Shore — he also wrote the music for The Silence of the Lambs, The Last of the Mohicans and Gangs of New York.

Wicki believes that Lord of the Rings without music, would lose much of its emotional content.

It was the trilogy's epic score that won the 64-year old his first Oscar — and his second and third. In all, Shore has four Grammys, three Golden Globes, those three Academy Awards and a British Academy of Film and Television Arts award. Could Lord of the Rings be this century's Star Wars?

Imagine a colossal silver screen showing the movie, hovering over a battery of 250 musicians — orchestra, chorus, soprano soloist and conductor — who fill the air of the theater with highly programmatic music, sweeping you away to the fantastical land of Tolkien. In the Second Age of Middle-earth, hobbit Frodo Baggins begins his Homeric odyssey from The Shire en route to Mordor to finally destroy the Ring.

The journey is emotionally, physically and psychologically intense, words that can also be used to describe the feat of the performers on stage.

To carry off such an endeavor, Houston Symphony is bringing 21st Century Symphony Orchestra conductor Ludwig Wicki. He led the projection debut of Fellowship the Ring in April of 2008 with the Winnipeg Symphony Orchestra and conducts many silent films.

"What fascinates me is to see pictures and give them mood, atmosphere, drama and a mixture of different feelings with music," Wicki says. "The fans know the music so well so my goal is to perform it just like it is in the film, supporting the same feelings and atmosphere. That's my job. The film is the leader."

Wicki believes that Lord of the Rings without music, would lose much of its emotional content.

"I know Howard," he says. "He is a composer that strongly supports the ideas of the film. He feels what it needs in music and adds to the scene, connecting with the dramatic content very well."

Joining him is 22-year-old soprano soloist Kaitlyn Lusk, who has been the featured soloist in live performances of the film's music since 2004 and has been singing with orchestras since she was 14.

"All of us in the production — myself, Ludwig and those of us that tour included — we are Lord of the Rings nerds whether we like it or not," Lusk says. "We can literally quote every single part of the movie."

Originally, there were over 16 different singers over the course of the three movies. The live productions required someone who could cover all the different kinds of voices and characters that Shore had incorporated.

"I get to ride the different story lines," Lusk says. "The movie has really deepened for me because I live in the music."

Houston Symphony's Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring has concerts Friday and Saturday at 7:30 p.m. at Jones Hall. Tickets start at $25 and can be purchased on the Houston Symphony's website. 

See the original HERE.
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