Date: September 17th 2004
Venue: The Bushnell Center, Hartford CT
I’ve been looking forward to this for quite some time now, and I finally heard the Lord Of The Rings music live! Originally, the film’s composer Howard Shore was supposed to conduct the orchestra, but he was busy composing new music for the Martin Scorcese movie, The Aviator.
So a friend of Shore’s, Alastair Willis, conducted the orchestra and did a great job! It took 2 hours both way to get to Hartford but the drive was worth it. My brother and I arrived a little early and checked out some of the artwork that was hanging up outside the theatre. The Bushnell Center for the Performing Arts was really nice, and had beautiful ceiling sculptures. Or whatever you want to call it. Our seats were row E (fifth row to the stage) and on the left near the violin section. I was checking out some of the cute female violin players. Hey, I’m a dude ok! This was the biggest orchestra to play at the The Bushnell Center for the Performing Arts because there was easily 100 people on stage. There was a huge choir in the back of the stage that consisted of sections of woman, young people and the men. At the very back of the stage, there was a giant screen where it showed conceptual art from Alan Lee and John Howe. That was great to see because it was cool to look at, plus it showed you images from what part of the song the orchestra was playing. But of course I know the soundtrack inside and out and already know that. Conductor Willis took the stage and the orchestra started with “The Prophecy.” You get to hear early how powerful the Choir’s voices were, and the music sounded like excellent. I had GOOSEBUMPS through-out the concert. After the “The Prophecy/Prologue,” The orchestra went into “Concerning Hobbits.”
As soon as the flute started playing, My bottom lip started to quiver and I got choked up like I always do for that song. Just before my Grandfather passed away, he used to listen to that song all the time and I get upset when I hear it now. That song was one of the highlights for me. Conductor Willis seemed to be having a great time up on stage because he was bopping around and getting into the songs. The orchestra blended a lot of the songs nicely and made them into one song. After Concerning Hobbits, they went into “Black Rider” and then you heard one of my favorite choir parts of the scores, the theme to the Nazgul! Goosebumps again, of course. I wished they played that more because after that song they played stuff from Lothlorien like “Many Meetings/ the Council of Elrond.” After that, it was the “Bridge of Khazad-Dum” and Willis was getting into, conducting the men choir. “HOOT, HOOT” he was saying to them, swinging his arms about. He was funny to watch sometimes. That song was very powerful, but where I was sitting, I couldn’t get the full force that the men choir were giving. It sounded lower to me, but maybe on the CDs, there was more people in the choir. But hearing that score sung in Dwarvish, I just can’t imagine trying to sing that stuff in a language that’s made up. But I suppose it’s just like any other language you don’t know. During that song, the stage was being lit up with red lights and some of the lights gave off flame imagery, like the Balrog was right there with you. There was some cool artwork on the screen for that as well. Towards the end of the “The Bridge of Khazad Dum,” the part where Gandalf falls; a young boy came out and sang that high pitched part. He looked really nervous (I would be too since the theatre was sold out), but he did the job well.
Next was songs from Lothlorien, and that went on for a little bit. Not really a fan of those songs as muich as the other ones. The orchestra blended that with songs from “the Great River” & “Amon Hen.” I LOVED the part where they played the Urak-Hi theme. You can hear metal clashing in the background, and I just love the motif to that. Another theme they should have played more. The last song of the set was “Breaking of the Fellowship” and again, starting to get choked up when the first note of the song was being played. The little kid came out and sang again, and didn’t sound as nervous that time. Man, I just loved this whole soundtrack and is probably my favorite of the 3 scores. The first set was devoted solely to the music of Fellowship of the Ring. Then there was intermission. Everyone went off stage, and everyone went out of the hall. I just sat in my seat, wanting to hear more. 2 female singers approached the stage and sat down in chairs before the set began. The orchestra continued and started the second set with “Foundations of Stone” and quickly into shorter versions of “Taming of Smegol” and “The King of the Golden Hall.” The goosebumps started again when the lead violinists broke out the Norwegian Fiddle and played the theme to Rohan.
Wow, that sounded excellent in the theatre! I wish they played more of that fiddle though. Then one of the opera singers stood up, and starting singing “Evenstar,” and it sounded beautiful. I love that song. The opera singer, I don’t know her name, had a tremendous voice! She sang all of the opera stuff for Two Towers & Return of the King, Renee Fleming original sang on the songs in the movies. After that, the orchestra played “The White Rider” and quickly into “Treebeard.” I love the part of the “White Rider” song when Shadowfax came trotting along the plains of Rohan. The orchestra took a break and then went into the battle songs for Two Towers. “Helm’s Deep/The Hornburg” started off with drums and horns, the urak-hi motif. The Norwegian Fiddle made an appearance again throughout these songs, at least I think so. The best tracks from the TTT score “Forth Eorlingas” and “Isengard Unleashed” were merged together and it was one of the highlights for me. I gave my brother the old “nudge nudge” with my elbow when they started playing the “March of the Ents” with the opera singer, and the choir singing full force. Oh man, it sounded AWESOME! After those songs, the second singer took the front stage and sang “Gollum’s Song.” I believe she was an actress and Broadway singer. She had a lovely voice as well. I wish I got a program so I knew who these people were haha.
The last part of the show and one of the best! They quickly went right into Return of the King’s score with “Hope and Memory.” It seemed like they played that one faster than on the CD. Then it was onto “Minas Tirith/ The White Tree” and the orchestra was playing their hearts out. The Gondor theme sounds awesome on CD and in the movie, but it’s nothing in comparison to hearing it live! They merged those 2 tracks with “Steward of Gondor” but with no Billy Boyd singing, obviously. That would have been cool if all of a sudden he came out and sang his part! haha. Wishful thinking I guess. They did quick versions of ” The Ride Of The Rohirrim” and “Anduril,” sadly. Did I tell you I had goosebumps the entire freakin’ show! Throughout the sets, there was some new music thrown in there which was great to hear. The set went on and we heard short versions of “Cirith Ungol,” “Ash and Shadow.”
THEN it was “The End of All Things” and everyone was singing, playing the loudest they could and it sounded amazing. I love the choir parts of this song. The concert was finishing up and they finished with the full version “Return of the King,” and one of the male choir singers sang King Elessar’s (Aragorn) part. His voice seemed too deep for it. Maybe that’s just me though. The orchestra started to play the Shire theme part of the song and I got choked up again. “Return of the King” blended into “The Grey Havens.” The one singer from Broadway came out and sang’s Annie Lennox’s “Into the West” and did a good job with it. The concert was over and everyone gave the orchestra, choir and singers a standing ovation for 5 minutes straight. What a concert, it certainly was worth the price and the drive. If you have a chance to see this concert playing in a town near you, GO SEE IT! I believe in December, the LOTR Symphony is playing in NJ.