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  • Writer's pictureDee Crute

Music of the Movies review – wizardly, sorcery and powerful magic of classical music.

Swansea Arena | Arena Abertawe

by Dee Crute

Shore, Zimmer, and Williams collectively garnered ten Academy Awards for best score—can droll composer Toby Purser emulate those giants of musical storytelling?




Music of the Movies: The Lord of the Rings and Beyond had been touring between The City, through Oxford, and Swansea, featuring soundtracks of the most celebrated fantasy films performed by the the London Concert Orchestra alongside London Coro Spezzato and C.O.R Choir from Swansea, directed by Toby Purser, Head of conducting at London's Royal College of Music and Musical Director of New Sussex Opera.


Purser stands out from the contemporary conductors with his talent, gumptious energy in the music world and witty charisma of a showman. He founded and directs Vienna Opera Festival & Academy, and Orion Orchestra. If that did not impress you, I have more – he is the Artistic Director for Peace and Prosperity Trust, building friendship and collaboration between the UK and the Middle East. On the home turf, he engaged inmates to perform for Pimlico Opera in several prisons. 


Bannau Brycheiniog © Dee Crute

But today, Purser is taking us on a different kind of journey—the veil of magic and fantasy gently flutters and opens the view of Middle Earth, Westeros, and more. 


Are you ready?


I certainly was not prepared for this!

And listening to the Lord of the Rings Score will never be the same!



Purser began with intense and heart-wrenching The Lighting of The Beacons from the Return of The King.


The climactic ascending motif penetrates you through your skin to your bones until the whole string section unites in a dramatic vacillating rolled chords of arpeggio, progressively rising, making the anticipation barely containable.


Cadair Fawr © Dee Crute

Meanwhile, the slower brass and bassoon chords are growing louder and louder, intensifying the expectancy.


And there they are! The blare of trumpets! Gandalf's tantara motif - first heard in The Fellowship of the Ring upon his leap from the Orthanc onto the Great Eagle escaping Saruman - returns with magnificent power!


I could see beacons being lighted one by one just as hope rose in Gandalf's heart.


Horns and sonorous trombones join, and just as the stone fall, begin the avalanche of instrumental ascension. Unstoppable. Woodwinds break out in trembling effects, emphasising frenzied trepidations – will the beacons light all the way through to the Rohan?


Will Rohan respond?


Cerrig Edmwnt © Dee Crute

The tam-tam and cymbals roll the inevitable – the beacons ARE lighting! And with them, hope and Gondor's motif! The glory of the declining realm returns for the last time!


The frenetic quivering strings continue reminding us of the urgent threat in the background, slowing and quieting until they stop.


But they return—with rapid and louder arpeggios and a reverberating brass section. I closed my eyes and could see Aragorn running to relay, "The Gondor calls for aid!"


The brass and woodwinds arrive with Aragorn into the Meduseld, the Golden Hall of Rohan – the music holds back...


"And Rohan Will Answer"

The Rohan fanfares begin with powerful brass chords when the Gondor theme iterates and mingles, creating a formidable tune and ally.


The tempo slows down, and we can hear the Fellowship motif, but drums pick up the pace and join with the Norwegian-inspired Rohan fanfare—the epic mustering of Rochirrim cavalry…


My Hobbiton © Dee Crute

But Purser toys with us and slows down again… with so familiar, playful yet foreboding cello followed by wistful, yet evoking happiness whistle and fiddle of Concerning Hobbits.


Shore used Celtic instruments such as Bodhrán and harp – but the London Concert Orchestra beautifully performed this bucolic leitmotif with traditional instruments.


The fiddle solo evokes the feeling of late spring or summer in the Hobbiton and tranquillity. Strings take over harmoniously, creating a sense of contentment and safety. 

I was so grateful for this moment.


Pant Gilfach-wen © Dee Crute

This was not to last long—the conductor signalled, and the film soundtrack medley ensued with Zimmer's shanty of Pirates of the Caribbean Suite, The Chronicles of Narnia, Dragonheart, Avatar, and a medley from Game of Thrones!


Dazzled, engrossed, and mesmerised, I lost touch with where I was until Purser sheared through the air in a circling pattern, cutting off the sound. 


Pont Blaen-y-glyn © Dee Crute

I was still transfixed on the performers when fellow spectators wanted to use the intermission for something other than staring blankly ahead...



ACT II



The second act began with a semi-Celtic score to How to Train Your Dragon, followed by The Hobbit, and The Witcher, led by the choir.


I hazard to say that I wasn't alone who attended today for the Lord of the Rings score, but when the conductor announced it was time for Star Wars, the whole Swansea Arena got enthused with ardent shouts of "yeah", which I have not previously encountered during a classical concerto!





The Main Theme was magnificently performed, and I must admit its musical power hit even harder than the Lord of the Rings.


I say this feeling ashamed, as Tolkien is my life!


I do not know how Purser and the orchestra, under his direction, created the Galaxy-like sounds, but they were imposing and brilliant. Lei's Theme was arresting but I am still unable to forget the sinister cello creating dread and the inevitability of the catastrophe during the Duel of the Fates.




I was awed and somewhat bewildered when the conductor signalled the orchestra to stop.


I needed some time to transition from John Williams's Intense masterpiece to the serene choir-led Bilbo's Song.


Are we being prepared before the grand finale? I needed time for recovery before The Fellowship of the Ring Suite, for which I was impatiently waiting.


But I was struck by what was in between—Gollum's song. I always felt sadness and pity for this hunted creature whose agony and longing for the ring changed him from the hobbit ancestor Stoor called Sméagol to the eerie creature Gollum.


The melody is heart-piercing and exudes sadness. Soloist Tara Cann performed sympathetic and gloating lyrics of this sorrowful song.


"When you face the end alone You are lost! You can never go home."

Fields of Sussex © Dee Crute

Fortunately, Purser took us out of this place of despair with the epic and long-awaited Fellowship theme!


Strings, harp, and horns are heralding the epic motif led by grand brass!


Sweeping and heroic, nothing could stop us, and there is no adventure too daunting with Howard Shore's instrumental storytelling. 



What an ending to a concerto!


But wait! Purser is not ready to end this! His upward motion cue and Hedwig's Theme from Harry Potter permeate the arena! Staccato chords are only prelude to the grand crescendo! 


Magic and magnificent!


Truly, I hope you enjoyed it as much as I did!


Adieu!




 

Author's Notes on LOTR Score



Music has always been a fantastic medium to immerse yourself in stories.


Having carefully studied works of Tolkien, Howard Shore's soundtrack not only meticulously evokes feelings, but also illustrates Middle Earth landscapes and cultures.


Despite knowing the score by heart, I did not realise how much there was still to explore until I listened to BBC Radio 3 Sound of the Cinema episode: "The Return of The Lord of the Rings", hosting the musicologist Doug Adams, selected by the composer himself to document his work.


Adams's analysis breaks down the score's complexities, revealing their important roles in the music narrative. 


Most importantly, it made me explore the soundtrack anew, and I now perceive each element independently. I will never "see" this opus the same way again.


You can listen to the podcast here:



I would urge you to plunge into the music analysis by Doug Adams:


The Music of the Lord of the Rings Films is an almost thousand-page tome featuring John Howe's sketches and illustrations of Alan Lee.


BUT! YouTuber Monoverantus created a playlist of Adam's soundtrack analysis here:


As an author myself, I do not support piracy or any kind of infringement on ownership rights, but being neurodivergent, I find visuals combined with music and text a better way to absorb information...










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jpplonker
02 may

Sounds like a great evening. Must get to Swansea Arena sometime. By the way, love your photography!



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Dee Crute
Dee Crute
03 may
Contestando a

Thank youuuuuu! It was truly wonderful! You must 😍! And thank you! Great shot!

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