Sunday, February 09, 2003
Howard Shore Concert Report - Xoanon @ 21:33 PST

Eledhwen writes: A group of mainly British TORNadoes met up today for the concert at the Royal Festival Hall featuring Howard Shore and the London Philharmonic Orchestra in the UK premiere of the Fellowship of the Ring concert suite. It was a truly memorable afternoon.

Following pizza and laughs for lunch, we made our way to the Festival Hall and took our seats (dispersed around the auditorium) for the first part of the concert, ‘The Lost Music of the Gaels’. This was a selection of pieces for string quartet, piano, and traditional Celtic instruments such as concertina, bodhran drum, and uileann pipes. The music was accompanied by a silent video film showing images of wild mountains and moorlands – very atmospheric! We all enjoyed this part of the concert, although the many children around us took some time to settle down.

The second part was Stravinsky’s ‘A Soldier’s Tale’. Here a small chamber group performed Stravinsky’s music to an animated version of the text which goes with it. The piece tells the story of a soldier who makes a bargain with the Devil, to get rich in exchange for his violin. Of course everything goes horribly wrong. The animation was well done, and the idea interesting, but none of us were particularly entranced. Perhaps we just wanted to get to Tolkien.

Following the Stravinsky came the Tannoura Troupe, musicians and dancers originating from Egypt. This was simply astounding. The musicians entered first and launched into loud, entrancing Arabic music, and were followed by three dancers carrying drums. These men began to dance around whilst playing their drums. Thirdly the first of the two Whirling Dervishes appeared, and that was when things got really interesting. Wearing layered, brightly coloured skirts over bright undergarments, and carrying four bright discs, the Dervish spun round and round and round, and round and round, without seeming to get dizzy. His skirts made beautiful patterns and round about, the original three dancers weaved with their drums. And he kept going! Towards the end he detached the topmost skirt and used it almost as a spinning top, or maybe one of those hoops children play with; passed it deftly to one of the others and proceeded to do the same with his second skirt. It was amazing. After a brief interlude with the three dancers with drums, a second Dervish came on and performed another dance, with three skirts this time. The audience loved the whole show and gave the troupe a much deserved round of applause.

After the third and final interval, the hall filled up again and on the concert floor the orchestra set up – many percussion instruments, two harps, as well as the usual variety of symphonic instruments. The atmosphere built. The choruses came on – the London Voices and the boys from the London Oratory School. And finally the man himself, Howard Shore, given a rousing welcome. Then we were taken to Middle-earth.

Listening to the score on CD, or as the soundtrack to the film, does not really give a true impression of the layers and depth to the piece. Shore has rewritten bits of the film soundtrack and linked the separate parts together to create one seamless whole, and it works beautifully. In our minds we saw again Hobbiton, Rivendell, Moria, Lórien, and Amon Hen. Everyone found it interesting to see the odd percussion instruments used – one in particular, at the start of ‘A Journey in the Dark’, sent shivers down spines with its high-pitched squeak. The choirs add depth even in places you do not realise they are singing. There was true grief in the stunning voice of the female soloist who sang ‘Gandalf’s Lament’. Throughout, Shore managed to conduct his enormous orchestra and the three separate parts of the chorus with panache and passion. At the end, following the moving rendition of ‘In Dreams’, and the final swell of the Fellowship Theme, the audience rose to its feet. I was really proud to be a part of it, and to be there to see Shore and the musicians get the adulation and acclaim from their home crowd, and to clap as hard as I could.

The performance was without mishap – however some of us couldn’t help laughing a little at one point. They were showing some stills from the film as a backdrop to the orchestra, and the last one was one of Frodo holding out his hand to catch the Ring. With the relative silence at the beginning of ‘The Breaking of the Fellowship’, a little voice near us piped up, “That’s Frodo!” Lovely!

Afterwards some of our group went to get Howard Shore’s autograph, and came back later reporting that he signed something for every person, shook hands, and was generally a very nice man. We also had unconfirmed reports of a certain Christopher Lee hiding near the women’s chorus during the concert, but nobody saw him afterwards, so we cannot be sure!

It was a lovely afternoon, and a fantastic concert. We are all hoping there will be a repeat performance with the Two Towers music next year! Many thanks to my fellow TORNadoes for making it such fun, and of course to Howard Shore, the London Philharmonic, the London Voices, the London Oratory School, and the rest of the performers for entertaining us so well.

Steve S just got back from a truly fantastic day at the Royal Festival Hall in London, the day climaxing with Howard Shore conducting the London Philharmonic Orchestra with full chorus.

I arrived at the Festival Hall a bit early, so decided to have a ride on the London Eye, a huge 150 meter high big wheel with panaramic views over the Thames and city.

Entering the Festival hall 40 minutes later, the place was buzzing, the crowd made up of a cross section and of all ages from 5 years old through to couples in their 70's.

The day was made up of four performances on stage, starting at 3 pm. First up was a celtic style septet, and very good they were, playing old gaelic music for about 40 mins. After another 15 minute interval, we returned to our seats to watch an 8 piece play music over the top of a 1984 animated cartoon called A Soldiers Tale, which was narrated by Max Von Sydow. Timing was important and they got it spot on.

Another short break and on our return this time the stage had been completely cleared. On came some Egyptian Muslims in long white robes with their unusual signing and followed by male dancers with cymbells on their fingers. I had to force myself not to laugh, as it looked very funny with these men in their 50's prancing and spinning around the stage. But, after 5 minutes they were joined by another dancer who took center stage, then decided to spin around on the spot for 25 minutes!!!!!!. I tried it afterwards and felt sick in seconds. How the guy didn't puke up from giddiness is beyond me. While he was spinning he had this "petticoat" on that span out, and he untied it and span it above his head. Very strange but clever also. At the end of the act they got enthusiastically applauded.

We were now running 15 minutes behind schedule. The stage was quicky set up and the audience filed back in to pack the place out. The orchestra came on stage to applause, and began warming up their instruments. The choir then came through, 50 women on one side above the orchestra, and 50 men the other side. In front of the men sat the boy choir.

Five minutes later Howard Shore walked on stage to rapturous applause. This is what we had come to see! The lady next me (a regular on T.O.R.N from Liverpool, and with her daughter, were very excited. Howard didn't speak to the audience at all, but just waved.

Everything was ready. You could have heard a pin drop. Here we go!

First off came The Prophecy, which is my favourite track on the CD. No, it's not in the film, but it has all the feeling of Tolkien's world and I love it. This time it played slightly different, as halfway though the ring theme was brought in, and the musice from the intro of the film was used.

There was no clapping or cheering between tracks. Just absolute silence as the music from the Fellowship Of The Ring segued from one track to the next.

It was just perfect. I closed my eyes and listened for a minute and it sounded exactly like the cd I play in my car. But this was no suprise, as it was the same orchestra, same singers, same conductor and same boy signing all the high notes. His voice is yet to break!

Of course there was no Enya, and those tracks were missing, but really it didn't matter.

Sixty minutes later and it was all over. We knew it was coming as the last track came to a shattering climax. the crowd all stood together in a roar of appreciation, and by the look on Shores face he was completely taken aback. The standing ovation lasted 10 minutes and he had to come back three times. ( But again no microphone to speak to us with anyway)

Obviously there was not going to be an encore and at last the orchetra left the stage, to leave us all heading out into the cold dark London night and our long trips home.

There were a few empty seats about, but the place was sold out. These seats were booked last July and people either forgot or couldn't make it. Shame the tickets were not returned beacuse some fans might have missed out. So I say to you, if the opportunity ever comes about to see Howard Shore perform LOTR in your country, don't walk, but run to the box office and get those tickets as soon as they go onsale.