Lord of the Rings Concert — Program Notes

Program Notes

Introduction of Characters and Plot:

Symphony Number 1: The Lord of the Rings is based on the series of books of the same name that were penned by J. R. R. Tolkien. Johan de Meij’s composition elegantly captures the epic plot that begins with the one evil ring that controls everything. The ring has been in the possession of the creature Gollum for a very long time, and it has consumed his mind and body.  Gollum now yearns to reclaim the ring, which has fallen into the possession of Frodo, the Hobbit. Frodo and the Fellowship of the Ring, a group of Elves, Dwarfs, Men, and a wizard named Gandalf, resolve to destroy the Ring in order to save the world of Middle Earth. Gandalf the Wizard is the hope for the Fellowship, leading them through mystical and treacherous lands. Along their journey they travel through the great Mines of Moria, the once sacred home of the Dwarfs that is now overrun with Orks and the fiery Balrog, a demon from ancient times.  As the Fellowship nears the end of the Mines, they arrive at the Bridge of Khazad-Dûm, where Gandalf battles the fierce Balrog and saves the Fellowship from certain doom. Their journey continues on through Lothlórien, the Elvenwood, where Frodo has frightening visions of his immediate future. After leaving this place of beauty, the Fellowship’s expedition continues on through formidable environments and many encounters with terrifying creatures. Frodo and his Fellowship of the Ring preserve and save Middle Earth, freeing the race of men from the evil Eye of Sauron. Upon completing their duty to destroy the Ring, the Hobbits finally return to their happy home in The Shire.

Movement 1: Gandalf

This movement musically portrays the wise and gracious wizard Gandalf, one of the principal characters of the trilogy.  This magical wizard is the hope for the Fellowship of the Ring.  The movement starts out with a marvelous fanfare, which recurs throughout Symphony No 1’s five movements as a tribute to Gandalf’s leadership, wisdom, and bravery.  As the movement continues, another motif is introduced, this time depicting Gandalf riding on his magnificent horse, Shadowfax. The theme is passed between the sections of the ensemble, and the changing timbres represent the different places that Gandalf travels through on the glorious ride to save the lives of men.

Movement 2: Lothlórien

Lothlórien, the Elvenwood, is one of the homes to the elves, immortal, beautiful creatures with supernatural powers. Meaning “Dreamflower” in the Elvish language, Lothlórien is also known in common speak as “the Golden Wood” because of its golden mallorn-trees. A haven of peace isolated from the outside world, few have ever looked upon its beauty. The tranquil melodies of this movement reflect the peaceful beauty of Lothlórien. Sounds of exotic birds and plants and the running of a river can be heard throughout the movement, capturing the natural environment of the wooded Elven land. The meeting of the Hobbit Frodo with the Elven Queen Lady Galadriel is embodied in a charming Allegretto; in the Mirror of Galadriel, a silver basin in the wood, Frodo glimpses three visions, the last of which, a large ominous eye torments him.

Movement 3: Gollum

Gollum is a strange, mysterious creature. Having possessed for many years the One Ring, which extends immortality to its bearer, Gollum has lived far longer than nature intended.  This has caused him great pain and misery. However, he still lusts for the Ring and cannot bear to see it in Frodo’s hands. He is a creature not to be trusted.  Johan de Meij portrays Gollum through the solo clarinet. The disconnected, spontaneous movement of the melody shows Gollum to be not only quick, but also cunning. Through strange-sounding accompaniments and unpredictable silences that disfigure the music, it is easy to picture Gollum lurking in dark places, cursing and mumbling about his “precious” Ring, hissing and lisping, whining and snickering.  As the movement progresses, the transformation that Gollum has undergone through his years with the Ring is revealed, leaving the listener with an image of an alternately pitiful and malicious creature.

Movement 4: Journey in the Dark

The beginning of this movement is haunted by the regular pulse of the timpani, which alludes to the rhythm of the footsteps of the Fellowship as they follow Gandalf the Wizard deeper and deeper into the dark tunnels of the Mines of Moria. The low brass, percussion and the piano further emulate the sense of dread and fear that is shared by the entire group on their laborious journey.  After fleeing from hostile Orks, theFellowship encounters the fiery Balrog on the Bridge of Khazad-Dûm. Gandalf battles the monstrous demon, urging his companions to flee, and crashes from the bridge into a fathomless abyss. A musical battle erupts as the conflict progresses, and a funeral march at the end of the movement conveys the heartbreaking outcome of the blazing combat, as the survivors grieve for Gandalf and search for the only way out of the Mines.

Movement 5: Hobbits

The carefree life of the happy little Hobbits serves as inspiration for the musical theme of the fifth and final movement. This movement begins with Gandalf’s recurring fanfare, originally featured in the first movement. The music continues in celebration of the happy ending in the battle for Middle Earth. A high-spirited folk-dance melody creates a colorful portrait of Hobbits and their happy lives, followed by a hymn portraying their determination and noblesse. At the end of the fifth movement, the music refocuses to reflect the very peaceful and resigned mood as Frodo and Gandalf sail away on the final ship leaving Middle Earth to live eternally with the Elves in “The Grey Havens.”