Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring Concert

A Night of Great Music to Accompany A Great Movie

I am signed up to various email lists for a ton of the concert venues here in the metro area. So I get weekly/bi-weekly updates about upcoming or ‘just announced’ shows. In late January I received one such email about a performance that I just could not miss. It was a live performance of the Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring’s score. To sweeten the deal, this performance will be timed perfectly to a showing of the actual movie on a screen above the orchestra. To further seal this already sold deal, the venue was Radio City Music Hall. One of my favorite venues. The stars seemed to be perfectly aligned for me, as it just so happened that the dates for these performances coincided with my yearly winter vacation. It was meant to be! My work schedule sucks, so I regularly miss shows that I really want to see. But not this time!

I selected seats in the middle portion of the massive orchestra seating area of Radio City Music Hall. I didn’t want us to sit too close to the stage, because I wanted a good view of the whole orchestra and the movie screen. With the purchase complete, I then began to warm up for the event by listening to the LotR scores on my stereo. I am a pretty big fan of the Hobbit/LotR book series’, but even more of a fan of the movies. I was in middle school when I first read The Hobbit, and early high school for the LotR. So a lot of the story was still relatively fresh when Fellowship first arrived in theaters in 2001. It was great to see the faces of the characters that I grew up reading on paper. And I will say this now; no, I didn’t mind the liberties taken in the movie. I am not a militant Tolkien super fan. I am just a fan.

A fan that keeps a professionally framed map of Middle Earth on his wall above his television.

And a shelf unit of LotR statues, books, movies, memorabilia, etc.

I even 3D printed the One Ring in the form of a clock face and bought a DIY watch kit from Amazon. So… Yeah… Moving on.

I am very open about how music has shaped me and my life. Particularly with movie scores. John Williams(Star Wars, Superman, Indiana Jones, etc), Graeme Revell(The Crow), Hans Zimmer(Gladiator), all had a big influence on me from my youth on. Then following graduation, came Howard Shore with the Fellowship of the Ring’s score. I was blown away by the impact it had combined with the visuals on the screen. One scene/piece in particular leaves me a wreck almost every single time, even to this day. But more on that later.

So this concert was going to be something special for me, to say the least.

I decided to make this event a date night with my wife and made a reservation at one of our favorite Japanese BBQ spots. The food was delicious, but we had to be sure not to overeat and set ourselves up for a lovely little food coma. But of course, I did overeat, because the food is too damn delicious not to. But the winter walk to Radio City from the restaurant proved helpful in refreshing myself. So no problems there. We ended up being some of the first customers in the doors at the venue. This was by sheer luck really, as we found a side entrance that not many people were queued up at. From there I made my way to the souvenir booth. I ended up picking up a program book and a CD of the Fellowship score, that was signed by Howard Shore! Neat! I already own this CD. But not a signed one. So this one was going straight to my LotR shelves.

If you have never been to Radio City Music Hall, one word I would use to describe it is ‘lush’, with it’s warm tones. A lot of statues too. The bathrooms are titled lounges, as there are large sitting areas outside of the actual ‘facilities’. The inside of the concert hall itself is massive with its arcing ceilings, and huge stage. All of the seats are soft and plush. Very comfortable. I have been to this theater a handful of times since my first time almost 15 years ago, and I have never had a bad experience. The staff are also very friendly.

Radio City is gorgeous

The theater filled up nicely, but in a very New York fashion, many people were still trickling in after the show started. It’s fine at sporting events or arena concerts. But for a show like this, not so much. It’s quite annoying. The stage filled up with musicians, solo singers, and chorus/choir members. Then the concertmaster began tuning the orchestra. Once completed, the conductor made his entrance and took his position at the head of the stage. Once he raised his arms, the movie screen went black. And with the first notes of the score, the movie started with the New Line Cinema logo. Just as it would if you were watching it in a movie theater, or at home. And I was left an emotional mess within the first 30 seconds of the concert/movie. It was wonderful. It is always powerful witnessing world class musicians like this.

While I have been to a similar show before, I had never really been to a show like this. With a full movie being shown. So I was curious as to how the conductor maintained his timing with the movie. I got my answer early on. There is a monitor at the conductors podium showing the movie. As the movie plays there are various large symbols and bars that appear. These are his cues. It was very interesting to watch. When I was younger, one of my dreams was to be in a orchestra like the ones John Williams conducted. So as I watched this performance, I kind of imagined that this could have been me on that stage, with a massive screen above me. In another life…

Warming up.

As the movie/performance continued on the main characters made their entrances to applause and cheers by the audience. The action and comedy on the screen drew applause and laughs. This was certainly not your usual orchestral performance. During intermission, my wife and I both admitted that we had forgotten there was an orchestra playing live in front of our faces. It’s almost laughable, really. But the timing was so perfect, that you actually found yourself watching the movie as you would any other movie. Completely ignoring the live world class musicians on the stage.

This is not a bad thing. If anything it was a testament to the musicians and conductors skill.

The Part of the Movie That I Absolutely Had To See With A Live Orchestra

There are many scenes in the Fellowship movie that are just so perfectly paired with the music composed by Howard Shore. That is not to say that I do not enjoy the whole score. Because I do, very much. This score set the table for the entire series. But some pieces just hit harder with the help of Peter Jackson’s vision. Scenes like: the fleeing from the Nazgûl, the scenes of Rivendell, the battles of/escape from Khazad-dum(Moria) to name a few.

And then there are the scenes that follow the arrival at Parth Galen, in the latter stages of the movie. Amon Hen specifically, where the Fellowship was broken. These scenes, with their stunning visuals and powerful music are just so damn perfect to me. And it was the one portion of the movie that I wanted to experience in front of a live orchestra the most. I have owned the CD for this movie since it came out. And I have played this portion on repeat almost every time I listen to it for about two decades.

As the movie was leading up to these scenes, I was gearing up for a ride. From the beginning when the Fellowship pass between the Argonath, then arrive at Parth Galen. To when Frodo goes off on his own and discovers the Seat of Seeing, Boromir’s attempted betrayal, to the Uruk attack, to the redemption and passing of Boromir. It is all pure gold to me. And it pulls on my emotions every, damn, time.

Almost 15 minutes of gold.

When the Uruk’s arrive, and the music takes that turn into their theme, is when you feel that this is going to be a decisive scene. Boromir goes out like a fucking champ in his futile effort to defend Merry and Pippin. All while sounding the alarm with the Horn of Gondor. And the music does his struggle absolute justice. Switching to a solemn chorus. I was more or less weeping in the theater as this played out with a live orchestra filling my ears with this music. It was exactly what I expected, and wanted.

As the credits rolled, the music continued. The song that was originally sung by Enya, ‘May It Be’, was performed by a very talented singer. From there the music called back to all the themes that were established throughout the movie. These are all themes that would be prominent in coming sequels. Once the music came to an end, the crowd erupted in applause. It was a masterful performance. One that I would like to see for the sequels.

The Tale of Dude-bro

The whole concert/viewing was incredible. But it was almost completely ruined for me. As my patience was being tested by a single man and his lady-friend. The hall was filled with LOTR mega fans who were cheering and clapping for their favorite characters as they made their entrance. And this is fine, to an extent. I think that you have to be of a certain level in terms of being a fan to attend an event like this. But even with this kind of stuff going on people still being respectful.

For the most part.

What was not fine, was the mega Dude-bro asshat, that just so happens to apparently be an uber-LOTR fan, that was sitting immediately behind us. He was literally speaking all the lines while reading all of the subtitles out loud as they appeared on the screen. Seriously, just about all of them. As pivotal things would happen, he would scream stuff like “LETS GO” and whatnot out loud. Like he was at a football game. This happened for just about the whole, fucking, movie. And this is happening mere feet from the back of my skull. He was actually drowning out the live orchestra when he spoke. Because when they got loud, apparently he couldn’t hear himself speaking.

It got to the point, during the Mines of Moria scene, when Gandalf was standing up to the Balrog, that I lost my cool. He was reciting Gandalf’s words verbatim(reading them off of the screen) and as the scene crescendos, so did his voice. I half turned my head and said “DUDE!” louder than him. Which caused a few people in the rows around us to turn their heads. He cut off his speech midway and shut up. Only for a while, mind you, but he was much more subdued for the remainder of the movie. Which is not saying much really.

Meanwhile, his significant other, whom did not want to be there, and had finished her concessions that she was loudly chomping on and rummaging through since intermission, was complaining. She had never seen this movie before, and didn’t care to. She was mostly quiet for the first half of the movie, but was growing more and more restless towards the middle stages of this epic. Occasionally asking “how much longer?” Until, that is, Gandalf was hanging on for dear life, when she asked, suddenly caring, “Is he going to die?” Dude-bro then went on to explain to her how he would return in the next movie. It was in a much lower volume than his recital was, but still annoying nonetheless.

Dude-bro and his lady-friend left before us following the show. So I didn’t get the chance to thank him for a great time.


A Night On The Town Well Spent

In the end, the night was not spoiled, thankfully. I was able to reign in my frustration with the aforementioned Dude-bro asshat and enjoy myself. My wife, who is not a fan of LotR did too. Which I was happy about. We had a great dinner, saw the talented Lviv National Philharmonic Orchestra of Ukraine, and supporting local chorus and choir, and saw a great movie. It was a win, all around.

The show ended well after 11pm, and unfortunately we missed our train home, so we had to wait for the next one for quite a while. Even though it was raining a bit, we decided to walk downtown from the venue to Penn Station. I’ve actually always loved walking late at night in NYC, especially on a misty night. It is almost cast in a different light. When the clouds are particularly low, or the fog/mist is thick, the buildings seemingly disappear into the sky. That wasn’t the case on this night, but it was still a nice walk.

These types of performances happen a lot, and it is not just for movies. I have also attended one for the Legend of Zelda, a long time ago. There was a full orchestra and they were showing game scenes above them. So if you are a fan of something and have the chance to see a show like this, even if you are not into orchestral music, do it. It’s an enriching experience.

Just watch out for asshats and Dude-bro’s. LETS GOOO!!!

[This post was originally published at Otherverse Games & Hobbies]


All of these are true except for one:

Robert is: a Hobbyist, a Music Lover, an RPG Gamer, a Mustard Lover, Chaotic Neutral, a Japanese Speaker, a Veteran, an Otaku, a Table Tennis Player, an Anime Fan, an Aviation Professional, a New York Rangers Fan, a Chaos Lover With Loyalist Tendencies.

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