One Performance to Rule Them All

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Why you should care

It’s a live freaking orchestra riffing on Gandalf and Frodo Baggins! Just sayin’.

If a great score can bring a movie to life, a live performance of that score might just make your head explode. In a good way, of course.

Adding that orchestral big bang to the beloved Lord of the Rings films is what Andrew Bales, Symphony Silicon Valley president, had in mind when he decided to have the symphony undertake the daunting task of performing the trilogy in San Jose. The sheer logistics are overwhelming: 100 instrumentalists, 100 adult vocalists, a 50-piece children’s choir and about 21 rehearsals totaling 135 hours of practice to learn almost 1,200 pages of score — nearly a season’s worth of music for this symphony. Conductor Shih-Hung Young came from New York for the project, where he’s conducted about 16 LOTR performances over the past seven years.

Howard Shore, composer of the Academy Award-winning LOTR soundtrack, envisioned all along that the films — and his music — could have a performance life after their theatrical runs. Shore packaged the films for these shows, stripping away the score and choir, leaving only the dialogue and sound effects with the projected film. The first live-projection performance of a LOTR film was The Fellowship of the Ring in Lucerne, Switzerland, in 2008. Since then many bigger orchestras have performed live with a LOTR film — at the speed of about one per year. Only one orchestra, the 21st Century Symphony Orchestra out of Switzerland, has performed the entire trilogy at one time. Last year, the Symphony Silicon Valley became the second, offering two cycles of the trilogy at San Jose’s Center for the Performing Arts.

The sweep and emotion of the music may just plunge you into Middle-earth like never before, my precious.

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