A symphony orchestra plays Howard Shore's score in front of a screening… (The Lord of the Rings In Concert:…)
Fittingly, "The Lord of the Rings in Concert: The Fellowship of the Ring" is an epic undertaking.
"It's such a huge score," said composer Howard Shore, who won an Oscar for his work on Peter Jackson's 2001 first installment in his ambitious "Lord of the Rings" trilogy based on the J.R.R. Tolkien beloved fantasy novel.
"It's nearly three hours. It is really difficult to do. It requires 225 people on stage to play the music, a symphony orchestra and chorus."
For the performance, which comes to the Honda Center in Anaheim on Saturday, Ludwig Wicki conducts the Munich Symphony Orchestra, Pacific Chorale, Phoenix Boys Choir and soloist soprano Kaitlyn Lusk. The Anaheim stop is part of a nine-city West Coast tour.
Wicki said by email that his involvement in "The Lord of the Rings in Concert" came by a "lucky" accident. In 2007, Wicki and his 21st Century Orchestra and Chorus had organized a concert in his hometown of Lucerne, Switzerland, of Shore's more vintage scores, including those for "The Fly," "Dead Ringers," "Naked Lunch" and "The Silence of the Lambs."
"We invited him to the concert and he came," said Wicki.
"It was a fantastic concert," recalled Shore. "He re-created a lot of my older scores so beautifully."
"Some months later he asked if I would be interested to conduct 'Lord of the Rings' live to projection," said Wicki. "What a question. This was more than a dream come true."
The world premiere was performed in Lucerne with Wicki and his orchestra and chorus in March 2008. The U.S. premiere was performed at a sold-out Radio City Music Hall in 2009.
Shore and Wicki have collaborated on the live scores for the trilogy's other installments, 2002's "The Two Towers" and 2003's "The Return of the King," which are scheduled to tour during the 10th anniversary of the films' releases. Wicki and his orchestra have also released a CD of Shore's two-hour-plus "Lord of the Rings Symphony," a six-movement piece that Shore created in 2003 that features highlights of the three film scores.
Wicki said conducting the full score of "The Fellowship of the Ring" is an adventure.
"It's a very long time to have to be focused on stage," he said. "There were many wild passages. That means a lot of work for the conductor — it's also very intense to lead so many people — a big orchestra, choir, children and soloists.
"The complexity of this score — there are different composing styles that he uses, colorful orchestrations, many different instrumentation, extreme dynamic levels and wild bar meters and tempo changes. This is also the reason why it works so well. It's fascinating what happens on stage in this three hours, for the musicians, for me and especially for the audience."
The evening requires a special print of the film.
"They do it with high-def projection on a 60-foot screen," said Shore. "It's an amazing image, actually. The orchestra is all spread out in front of the screen. It's as if you were in a theater and the orchestra is in the pit."
The print has only dialogue and sound effects tracks.
"The film is subtitled because occasionally the music rises above the sound of the dialogue," said Shore. "I didn't try to create the film mix. This is a symphonic concert. The orchestra is allowed to be bold when it wants to be and intimate and quiet. You want to take the audience to Middle-earth and 'The Lord of the Rings' and place them there and envelop them into the sound in a live concert experience."
Though Shore earned two Academy Awards for the 2003 "The Return of the King" (for score and song), Shore said that "Fellowship of the Ring" is very dear to him.
"It was the first film [in the trilogy]," he said. "It was your first immersion into the world of Tolkien. A lot of things were created in that film — the leitmotifs and the themes — that set the stage for the other two films."