CPO does Tolkien with the Lord of the Rings Symphony

How many of us have taken the time to consider how myth and song intersect in the grand tales of British novelist J.R.R. Tolkien? The daunting task of translating the legendary author’s vision of a distant and imagined past (The Lord of the Rings trilogy — The Fellowship of the Ring The Two Towers and The Return of the King — and of course The Hobbit ) grew into a fully realized musical score was taken up by composer Howard Shore who won multiple Academy Awards for the orchestral soundtracks he created for Peter Jackson’s famous film trilogy. Capturing the magnitude of an epic journey in the genre of The Iliad and Beowulf Shore identified passages in the original text describing specific musical instruments used by the various peoples of Middle Earth including a hardinger fiddle a Norwegian violin with a sweet throatiness that like the horse-lords of Tolkien’s land can quickly turn abrasive. An accomplished linguist with a natural love of language Tolkien left future composers useful clues about vocal tone qualities and inferred vocal ranges for the races of dwarves hobbits elves men and even monsters. In all his books contain more than 60 different songs possessing a wide variety of forms and styles.

“Essentially it’s as if the movie trilogy’s full score had been boiled down to fit into the span of three hours” explains one of the project’s key creators Doug Adams. Adams worked closely with Shore and wrote the show notes for the recordings. He is currently compiling a book on the music of The Lord of the Rings.

“The idea was to create a well-rounded organic sense of things while still hitting all the dramatic highlights of the story” he continues. “People will absolutely recognize what they are hearing. There will be two movements from each of the films starting with the finding of the ring in the shire and continuing right through to Sauron’s theme and the destruction of the ring.”

Abridged for content and abbreviated for length Shore’s remarkable musical accomplishment has now been re-imagined and custom tailored to fit into a single orchestral performance. Assisting the Calgary Philharmonic Orchestra in their efforts to breathe life into Shore’s compositions is conductor Claudio Vandelli who has conducted and played in leading halls around the globe including the Berlin Philharmonic Hall Amsterdam Concertgebouw and the Palais de Festival in Cannes. He is also a regular guest of the Verbier Festival and Academy. The performances will also feature vocal work by the Cantaré Children’s Choir with the entire presentation being visually augmented by projections of illustrations and storyboards from the movie trilogy created by John Howe and Alan Lee.

“For example during ‘Gollum’s Theme’ you’ll see some of the sketches of the character” Adams elaborates. “It’s not a strictly linear representation of the events in the books. Rather it gives an impressionistic sense of where we are in the telling of the story. The tough part is that we only have so much time to cover such a gigantic work.”