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Meeting Maestro Shore & The LOTR Symphony

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Ok, so this will be entry one of goodness knows how many documenting my rather fun filled weekend of Lord of the Rings happenings.


Today I attended a small Q&A session with composer Howard Shore at the Royal College of Music in London, which is just opposite the Albert Hall. Gorgeous school, it really is.


He'd arrived straight from a complete run through rehearsal for tomorrows Symphony performance being held at the Royal Festival Hall, and was clearly tired, yet despite all this he was insistent on hanging around for as long as it took. Shore really is one of the most humble and charming people I've ever had the pleasure of being in the presence of. Despite pressure from his entourage, he would not budge until as many questions from the small audience had been answered, and afterward he saw time to spend with all in attendance (in the region of 120 people I'd wager) for a small private chat and signing.


The main points of discussion that should interest some here are regarding the music and the extras for the Extended Edition DVD of Return of the King, and the forthcoming mega CD set of the complete scores.


In regard to the Extended ROTK release, he mentioned that the entire Montreal performance of the Symphony had been shot (in HD) and has been cut down slightly, interspersed into what currently stands as a 52 minute documentary about the genesis of writing and touring the live Symphony itself. Whether this will make the ROTK DVD in its full length or not is yet to be known. He recorded roughly 45 minutes of music for the extended edition back here in Blightly over in Watford at the end of March so he's literally nothing left to do as far as Lord of the Rings is concerned, which is a reality he said that's only now just sinking in for him.


He discussed his desire to do an 'original cast recording' of the Live Symphony, and said there will be no better time to do it than the second London concert he is doing this September at the Albert Hall. Like the performance here tomorrow, it is the only other performance of the entire Global tour to use the very same orchestra (London Philharmonic) and chorus (London Voices) who performed the three actual scores for the trilogy. If this could extend in Sept to allow the likes of Renee Flemming, Ben De Maestro, perhaps even Emeliana Torrini and Annie Lennox to be there I swear I'll probably faint on the night when it's all over.



So to the big CD set. Again he was quick to dismiss the recent report he was misquoted on that stated the CD set would consist of the entire theatrical edition scores. He'd go on to say later how as films and as scores, he and Jackson see the extended editions as the definitive and that they believe in future, whenever the films are shown they will be those versions. So, the CD set will indeed be the three extended edition scores. The proposal has been submitted to Warner Music, and things are looking good. None of the scores were recorded within music unions, which is a blessing as if they were, such a release would never been possible due to the cost and logistics involved.


Currently the plan is 8 CDs. Discs 1 & 2 holding the entire Fellowship of the Ring Extended Edition score, discs 3, 4 & 5 holding the entire Two Towers Extended Edition score, and discs 6, 7 & 8 holding the entire Return of the King Extended Edition score. Disc 9, he said, will be a DVD holding demos, alternate takes on various cues, unused cues & songs and other rare unheard material. I quite like the idea of this being accessible on a DVD instead of a 9th CD. The storage should allow for as much unused material to be selectable on the menus as possible (in multi channel perhaps?). He also said this disc would carry documentary footage as well. It?s enough music to fuel my twelve hour drives to the highlands of Scotland with ease in future (literally I could play all eight CDs back to back on such a journey once they?re out).


I chatted to him briefly about his score for Big which has a lot of sentimental value for me, and discussed the forthcoming book about the LOTR scores that Doug Adams from Film Score Monthly has been working on, which Shore did say to me may turn out to be turned into the liner notes for the mega CD set. Having asked Doug recently myself about it though, I still think his book may well be a separate entity this autumn, as well as his providing for the liner notes for the big set. We'll see how it all pans out.


Shore graciously signed my scores for Big and Silence of the Lambs before my friend took a couple of quick photos of my chat with the Maestro. And so ended the day.


Tomorrow, it's the Symphony itself so expect another post.


PS: My camera was with me today as noted, I only had a few shots taken of the signing/personal one to one session part of the evening as during the open Q&A far too many heads were in my way. I'm hoping to get some nice snaps tomorrow at the concert. I'm still a 35mm man, so providing the pics turn out nicely, I'll have those developed, put to a CD and ready for uploading into this thread.

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That sound very cool, Dan! Thanks for sharing your experiences here. I can't wait to see some of your photos.


I think I speak for all Lord of the Rings fans when I say that a collection of the complete scores of all three films would be most wonderful. I have in fact held off buying the current soundtracks with the hopes that one day we would see such an offering. Let's hope it comes to pass.

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The Lord of the Rings Symphony: Six Movements for Orchestra and Chorus


The Fellowship of the Ring

Movement One

The Prophecy - Concerning Hobbits - Shadow of the Past - A Shortcut to Mushrooms - The Old Forest - A Knife in the Dark


Movement Two

Many Meetings - The Ring Goes South - A Journey in the Dark - Bridge of Khazad-dum - Lothlorien - Gandalf's Lament - Farewell to Lorien - The Great River - Amon Hen/The Breaking of the Fellowship/In Dreams




The Two Towers

Movement Three

Foundations of Stone - The Taming of Smeagol - The Riders of Rohan - The Black Gate is Closed - Evenstar - The White Rider [*contains that glorious ?first appearance of Shadowfax? cue] - Treebeard - The Forbidden Pool


Movement Four

The Hornburg - Forth Eorlingas - Isengard Unleashed - Gollum's Song



The Return of the King

Movement Five

Hope and Memory/Minas Tirith - The White Tree - Steward of Gondor - Cirith Ungol - Anduril


Movement Six

The Fields of the Pelennor/The End of All Things - The Return of the King - The Grey Havens - Into the West




This afternoon's performance was nothing short of magnificent, though I'd be lying if I said the Symphony itself is not without its shortcomings. I'd seen the first two movements conducted by Shore and performed by the London Philharmonic just over a year ago, I thought they were a sublime achievement in whittling down the extended edition score of Fellowship of the Ring into a single forty-five minute suite, and my opinion of the first two movements has not changed upon hearing them again today.


The final four movements that follow on from the interval, covering the last two films, have trouble living up to the structure he cut the first film's music down to. A result of time constraints perhaps? It's possible given that the last four movements together are only a little over an hour. I'm getting ahead of myself here however.


There is much in the Fellowship movements that are different to the cues as heard on the CD. Many of the cues, as part of the suite, are formed into either being somewhat of a half way point between their album renditions and film versions, and some, like Amon Hen, bear more in common with their Extended Edition film renditions. Sticking with Amon Hen (which incidentally is not officially noted in the printed program, but is in Movement Two), you get the male choir motif which was not added until he rescored the scene for the extended version for instance. Of those with more in common with their film incarnations, Khazad-dum is a prime example, especially at the end where it continues on as it does in the film (but not the CD) when the soprano dies out, carrying the tune in strings that the boy had sung.


All the longer cues throughout the entire symphony as we know them are, nevertheless, shortened down with edits to aid the transition from one cue to the next.


Movement Two sees Shore actually call upon a lot of his motifs from the extended edition of Fellowship. Some may recall that lovely new cue he wrote to score Elrond's farewell to the Fellowship, and it's here written into 'The Ring Goes South'. Farewell to Lorien too, a cue in itself which was written for the extended edition, appears in a shorter form shortly after.


The Fellowship movements being as skilfully put together as they are then rather outdo what follows after the interval as I touched upon above. This becomes strikingly apparent when the second half begins with Foundations of Stone, only just when you think the orchestra is going to leap into that bombastic bout of percussion that scored Gandalf?s battle with the Balrog, Shore cuts and moves on.


The Towers movements seem to fly by. The Hornburg too, is edited down to a rather drastic extent. In the symphony rendition, gone is that beautiful and haunting choir build up that scored Theoden?s 'Horse and the Rider' speech. Instead movement four strikes up halfway into that cue with the blast of the Eleven theme in its march form.


This is not totally put down the symphony?s middle section by any means. ?The White Rider? in movement three progresses into that outstanding (and currently unreleased) cue that scored Shadowfax?s first appearance after Gandalf?s exit from Fangorn. What?s more is that both Forth Eorlingas and Isengard Unleashed serve to be two of the symphony?s most remarkable moments.



It is actually the final two movements (Return of the King) that end up being, in some small way, the most disappointing. Much here is very much reminiscent of the CD renditions of the many cues, and some (in fact the majority) are shortened down including, perhaps saddest of all, The Grey Havens. The opening of movement six, despite not being noted in the program, comes in the form of The Fields of the Pelennor. I sat there no longer hoping for too much, though part of me remained breathless to see if the live version -like the film version- would pick up where the CD leaves off, and progress into that bombastic rendition of what?s been deemed Shore?s ?nature motif? by many, which underscored Theoden?s speech to the Rohirrim amidst the screams of ?Death!!!!? before the charge. Alas, it was not to be.


In many ways, one would love the symphony to have consisted of three 45 minute segments, with two intervals. So diverse in terms of orchestration is the music across the three films however, that even with two breaks do I feel it would have been an impossible strain upon the players and their conductor.


Assisting Shore for the second half was Scandinavian vocalist Sissel, who has been performing at a number of the performances of the Rings Symphony. Here, she tackles the lyrical moments undertaken by the likes of Renee Flemming, Elizabeth Fraser and Ben DelMaestro in the films themselves, with impressive results. She also provides the vocals for Gollum?s Song and Into the West.

Young Ben Delmaestro WAS there however, though he was left to sing In Dreams at the end of movement two (Ironically he didn't sing it for the film). Either he no longer has the voice to do quite what he did for the scores, or it was felt the hall acoustics would have overpowered him.


A video display accompanies the performance, something noted to be of Shore?s request. In it, are a number of sketches from Alan Lee, each related to the specific piece the orchestra may be playing on stage at the time. It?s a device I personally find needless and distracting, almost something that you?d think is there for those who can?t settle in just watching an orchestra and a conductor. For me, as someone who?s followed classical and film music for as long as I can remember, I find nothing more satisfying and overwhelming than simply watching the players as I listen to their music. As nice as Lee?s sketches are, it is a device not needed.


Shore himself remains one of the most dazzling people I have ever had the pleasure of watching conduct an orchestra. He dispenses use for a baton, and commands the players by hand. As a man so humble and shy, he almost transforms when he conducts his music. Whilst the orchestras and choirs will differ from performance to performance in his tour worldwide, his passion will remain the same, and everyone who attends the show in whatever country will get to see it, and everyone will applaud it too.


This afternoon, the standing ovation for his achievement in writing the music, as well as that of the London Philharmonic orchestra, London Voices and The London Oratory School Schola Cantorum (who are themselves are those actually responsible for performing the music we all love in the films), lasted for what felt like well over ten minutes. It was an audience response that was of course, richly deserved.


I?ve seen the LPO perform on a number of occasions, both classical and film pieces. This afternoon was perhaps the best I had ever seen them, most certainly in the case of the strings sections who did not falter once. The London Voices rarely missed a beat, and the kids from the London Oratory School did their best within the confines of the now rather dated acoustics of The Royal Festival Hall where today?s performance took place. The Festival Hall is home to the LPO itself, though thankfully it is soon to undergo major updating. When the news came that the 2nd London performance would be at the Albert Hall, to say I was thrilled could be judged a bit of an understatement.


The second London concert in September, this time at the Albert Hall, suddenly seems so very far away. That I know will be an extra special night. The venue, it being an evening performance, the fact it?s being recorded for CD will result in an atmosphere from the players and the audience that I just can not wait to experience, as if there was any small way today?s atmosphere could be topped.




PS: I didn't take my camera in the end. I was not equipped with an ISO speed I felt would have been suitable under the conditions, and I refuse to be one of those bloody people who take pictures at orchestral concerts with the flash on.

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This listing of future concert dates may prove handy for those interested in attending one of the performances over the coming months. All are conducted by Howard Shore himself unless otherwise noted. All orchestras noted are playing at their native venues.




? 26th of May - Phoenix Symphony (Alexander Mikelthwate conducting)

? 3rd, 4th & 5th of June - Atlanta Symphony



? 17th, 18th 19th of June - Sydney Symphony



? 1st & 2nd of July - Houston Symphony (Alexander Mikelthwate conducting)

? 13th of Juy - Philadelphia Orchestra

? 15th, 16th & 17th of July - Seattle Symphony

? 22nd & 23rd of July - National Arts Center Orchestra (John Mauceri conducting)

? 29th, 30th & 31st of July - Pittsburgh Symphony

? 18th & 19th of September - Hartford Symphony

? 21st of September - Hollywood Bowl Orchestra (John Mauceri conducting)



? 22nd of September - London Philharmonic Orchestra

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I've updated my concert review with a note about Ben Delmaestro who was in attendance, though only left to sing In Dreams whilst Sissel handled his turns on Isengard Unleashed, Forth Eorlingas & Minas Tirith.



Dammit, doesn't Canada exist anymore?


They already did Montreal..... and filmed it for part of a documentary for the extended ROTK DVD this winter. Whether the Symphony will return to Canada anytime soon I am unsure. Shore is Canadian let's not forget. :)


Wish they would do it in NY


There will be more dates to come I am sure of it. I'd be shocked if an NY show did not come to pass within the next year. Some of the performances as you see above, Shore is not even conducting due to time. He's juggling his tour whilst writing and scoring The Aviator, and I am sure Peter Jackson is sending some inspiring pre production materials for King Kong already.



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In a moment of pure irony, we were watching the extras on the new Panic Room set on Friday night, and its only increased my admiration for Shore. Caroline is now a fan, too, so we're both seriously kicking ourselves for missing this yesterday. Of course, at the time when the tickets could have been booked she wasn't that interested. D'oh!


And I knew I should have popped in on Saturday morning to ask if you could try getting my deluxe King score signed, but didn't want to push your luck. Bum.

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  • 3 weeks later...
  • 3 months later...

The Albert Hall concert last night was just wonderful. My feelings toward the Symphony itself remain, with the second half comprising of the Towers and King cues really being a let down to certain degrees... Shore doing his manic conducting really got a great performance from the orchestra and choir, there were some slip ups, but generally all was good, and the night's atmosphere was to die for. Everyone in a sold out Albert Hall on their feet for ten minutes applauding.


I'm going again tonight. :)



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Just catching up on this thread (lurker, sorry :) ). Fantastic write-up, impressions, and infoirmation.


Thanks for sharing your experiences. Since you are the wiser in all such things, any idea regarding the potential release date for the big CD set?


Inquiring minds and all that!


Hope you are well,


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Since you are the wiser in all such things, any idea regarding the potential release date for the big CD set?


Well shore is finished with the Aviator now, so he has a bit more time to put toward finishing the set. I'd still be shocked if it made it out for Christmas, so I think we should expect close to Spring of 2005, that way if it does come earlier, we can be all super excited for it. The big hold up is working out how to edit everything for the set, selecting what unused material to stick on the ninth disc and so on.



The second Albert Hall concert was magnificent by the way; they upped themselves for the second night, really putting out a brilliant performance. The sad thing was with both nights is, we seem to have now lost Ben DelMaestro to the inevitable stages of puberty as he was not performing with the children?s choir this week. It was nice to have seen him back in May, and I?m glad they managed to use him in time for Return of the King. :)


I've still no idea if it was being recorded for CD as planned. The mixing desks were there, but I've rarely seen anything at the Albert Hall where the mixing units are not present.



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  • 9 months later...

Right, some nine months later more is starting to be revealed about the big score release from the only source worth trusting, Doug Adams (author of the forthcoming book about the scoring of the trilogy). Here's what he had to say this week over at Film score Monthly:


Ok, so let me try to address a couple of questions:


Q: Is the box set still coming out?


A: Yes, yes and yes.


Q: Will it begin coming out soon?


A: Yes.


Q: When?


A: I can’t say. Sorry. It’ll start later this year. The first release date is tentatively set, don’t fret.


Q: Will it include all the music?


A: Yes, essentially. It will contain every piece of music heard in the DVD cut of the film.


Q: Wait, “essentially”? What’s that supposed to mean?


A: Not much, relax. It’s possible that if composition X contains a phrase of 5/4 Isengard percussion music seven times in a row, they may trim it to three to create a more sensible musical experience. But, even these decisions are not absolutely finalized, so it’s possibly a moot point. The bottom line is this: If a piece of music appears in the DVD cut of Lord of the Rings, it will be on CD. If a piece of music was written for the Lord of the Rings and not used, it will be on CD. If a piece of music was written and used in Lord of the Rings but slightly edited in the film, the piece of music as originally composed, performed and recorded, will be on CD.


Q: But rumors have been floating around for so long about this being left out of that left out, are you sure?


A: Yes. There is a reason for the cageyness exhibited elsewhere in this thread, but it really deals with HOW the music is being released, not WHAT is being released. And I’m sure that sounds portentous as well, but I promise, there’s not call for concern. I heard the rough assembly for Fellowship when I was in NY a couple of weeks back. It was all there and it was an absolutely jaw-droppingly amazing listening experience – completely different than listening to the single disc release. There’s a breadth to the writing score that I think can only be absorbed in this format. It completely envelops the listener in the narrative while highlighting the development and heart that’s made this such a unique endeavor from the start. Despite the fact that I’ve spent a healthy portion of the last few years surrounded by Lord of the Rings music, I was knocked over. It was so engrossing, in fact, that I was even able to ignore the pages of Shore’s Kong sketches sitting on the stand next to me! Well, mostly…


Q: Why is this thing taking so long?


A: Well, let’s pretend for a minute that Shore and his staff have no other projects right now. So we’ll ignore History of Violence, Sun, Kong a Julliard choral commission and The Fly opera just for the sake of argument. We’ll also skip over the miles of red tape involved in putting a set of this magnitude out. Pretend that no one ever had to shop this project around to get the right producers in place, make sure there was proper time to edit, mix and prepare the physical product – packaging, artwork etc. There’s still the issue of finding the right time to release more Lord of the Rings music. I know some people are complaining that it looks like Warners is double dipping here with the standard releases only a few years in the past, and I’ll talk about that in a second. But the fact of the matter is that in the past four years, fans have sunk a lot of cash into Lord of the Rings – and a sizeable portion of that as gone to CDs. If you turn around and release a CD set just a few months after the one disc Return of the King, you have to deal with a general audience that’s either annoyed, slightly confused about the difference, or simply ready to focus on something else for a while. Bad timing is a sales killer, and believe it or not, putting out this music does not come without a certain investment that needs to be recouped.



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Q: Get back to that “double dipping” thing.


A: As for the double dipping, I know the complaint exists that the full scores should have been released in the first place instead of the single CD editions currently out. (Again, we’ll ignore the financial implications of the niche market who generally buys soundtrack CDs in the first place). But, you have to remember that the music for each Lord of the Rings film was recorded in the late summer / early fall before the respective film’s release, and then again in March / April for additional DVD material. Do you put out two discs in December, then another in May? Do you release everything in May and hope that the film’s release and awards momentum has lased 5 months past the original release? Do you just skip the DVD music and hope fans won’t notice that 40+ minutes are missing off a “complete” release?


And I’ll say again, all this is secondary to the fact that there’s no way a 3 disc set of music available at the time of a film’s release is going to sell to the general public the way a single CD will. It’s not that I’m insulting a general audience’s listening acumen or intelligence, it’s simply a case of what the market will bear. The makers were very up front right off the bat – right after it was clear that Fellowship was a smash. They let us know the rest of the music would be out someday. If consumers wanted to wait until that future point to get the music, they were able to do so.


Q: What about the Music of the Lord of the Rings Films book you’ve been mention for years?


A: It’s coming, too. It will be tied to the CDs somehow, and will begin coming out at the same time. That’s about all I can say for now. I’ve got a big deadline coming up soon, so I’m getting ready for crunch time! I’ll be giving a little preview of the text in Orlando, FL sometime in August (I forget the weekend), so if you’re really anxious…!


Q: So wait, if you’re doing something along with this release, and you’re talking about how good it is, why should we trust you? Aren’t you just a big shill at this point?


A: I don’t know. Maybe I am a shill now, but I hope not. I’m new to this stuff so I haven’t yet mastered the skill of talking up something that I’m genuinely proud of and excited to share with people without sounding like some back alley huckster. I made my first trip to Shore’s office less than a month after the release of Fellowship. In some form or another, this project has been gestating since then. This is a true labor of love for a lot of people. There will always be those who say why didn’t you do this or that, but I’m learning that’s the nature of the beast. It’s funny the distrust that you generate when you work behind closed curtains, but often that’s what’s necessary. If I’d decided to pop the cork this time last year and start making unofficial announcements (and we’ll ignore something one last time here, pretending that I wouldn’t have been sued into the Stone Age!), I’d have been announcing something completely different. In the effort to create an uncompromised product that meets the expectations of creators, listeners and suits, things take a while.


There's been some talk, even hints from Doug himself a couple of months back, that the scores could be staggered releases instead of one massive set. Whether this is indeed the case is still unknown as Doug still makes reference to the term 'boxed set' above, so if they are staggered I can only imagine they'd be individually packaged rather like the LOTR extended edition DVDs in nice boxes with a chunky mini book of liner notes.



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Thanks for the great news, Dan BLecher! As the originator of the question quite a few months ago, be assured I am still interested. I certainly read that text to indicate a staggered release ("begin to come out"), but whatever. I am thrilled to be getting such a comprehensive take on one of the best cinematic scores. Plus the book (which will mean to little to me, as a musical neophyte [at best]). He mentioned August as a book preview (from himself), so we are clearly looking at late fall as the earliest release timeframe (wouldn't you agree) for the first of the set (FOTR, I'd assume). Maybe try and tie in to Kong somehow.


Thanks so much, Dan. You made my day!


Take care,


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