The mark of a great film score is often its paradoxical “inaudibility;” music is in service of the story, and the visual tends to dominate. In The Lord of the Rings in Concert: The Fellowship of the Ring, however, Howard Shore’s Academy Award-winning score is deservingly foregrounded. On October 15, the majestic first film of the Lord of the Rings trilogy was projected in high definition onto a 60-foot screen at the Honda Center, but my eyes and ears were more attuned to the stirring live performance of 200-plus musicians on stage.
With only subtle differences in vocal timbre and the balance of instruments, this concert performance of Shore’s score is nearly indistinguishable from Fellowship’s original soundtrack; the sonic simulacrum is stunning. This concert draws attention to the talent and loving labor behind the epic score, which follows the Fellowship as they begin the arduous journey to destroy the One Ring. The live concert performance newly attunes the audience’s ears to the careful composition of both brief musical cues and sweeping sequences, unified through leitmotifs that sonically illustrate the diverse peoples and landscapes of J.R.R. Tolkien’s Middle Earth.
Ludwig Wicki masterfully conducts the Munich Symphony Orchestra, Pacific Chorale, and Phoenix Boys Choir in impressive sync with the projected visuals. With a full orchestra in frenzied motion and a commanding choir agape, the Fellowship’s passage through the Mines of Moria have never been so riveting. As Wicki pumps his arms through the powerful, jagged rhythms of this extended sequence, the musicians’ impassioned performance becomes even more engrossing than the film.
The intensities of Moria culminate in a piercing lament; Kaitlyn Lusk’s pristine soprano cuts through the shimmering wash of the orchestra and chorus in a flawless, awe-inspiring performance. Lusk’s stylistic range is remarkable; during the end credits, her rich and grounded rendition of “May It Be” (originated by the breathy, ethereal Enya) is newly ornamented with elaborate, yet seemingly effortless, turns.
Unfortunately, the soloist from the Phoenix Boys Choir struggles to reach these same soaring heights; with awkwardly-placed breaths, his unbroken voice sounds strained in two key solo moments. This is particularly a pity on the end credit’s song “In Dreams,” which should effortlessly ascend to a hopeful conclusion.
Despite this slight misstep, though, The Fellowship of the Ring in Concert invokes the power of Howard Shore’s music to sweep the fellowship through the first leg of their journey. On October 15, the thousands of fans gathered at the Honda Center were enraptured. The Fellowship of the Ring in Concert is an undeniably epic experience for Tolkien aficionados – and this critic/fan will undoubtedly be returning for concert versions of The Two Towers in 2012 and The Return of the King in 2013.
stellis @ stageandcinema.com
The Lord of the Rings in Concert: The Fellowship of the Ring
scheduled to end in Sacramento on October 23
for tickets, visit http://www.lordoftheringsinconcert.com/category/tickets/