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[Article - Hollywood Bowl - Lord of the Rings and MGM/UA]

Shortly after Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring came out, Howard Shore, at the behest of John Mauceri, adapted his score into a 40-minute concert suite, which premiered at the Hollywood Bowl back in 2002. It was no surprise, then, that Shore with Mauceri's assistance, adapted the next two film scores in the series into suites as well, to ultimately create a Lord of the Rings Symphony. Broken into six- movements (two per film), the last four pieces were slightly rushed, as Shore intended to premiere them at the World Premiere of The Return of the King in New Zealand in 2003. This unfortunately results in one of the flaws in the symphony's structure, but nonetheless, the symphony has been receiving rave reviews, and has been performed around the world.

SoundtrackNet's David Koran attended the Pittsburgh concert, with Howard Shore himself conducting. A few weeks later, our very own Mike Brennan attended the Hartford concert, where Shore had to cancel his appearance, and was replaced by Alastair Willis. Last week, I was fortunate to attend the concert at the Hollywood Bowl, conducted by John Mauceri.


Howard Shore conducts the Pittsburgh Symphony

Not quite a reworked full symphony, the movements were comprised of different music cues from the film, strung together. While it worked, it felt as though it might have been assembled with a bit of cut-and- paste instead of a true adaptation. Also, the rushed work on the last two film suites meant that they had a shortened running length (approximately 25 minutes each), and were missing plenty of great moments from the films. I had been hoping to hear the "Foundations of Stone" sequence where Gandalf fights the Balrog, but instead, after the first half of that opening track, it segued into "The Taming of Smeagol", skipping over the big choral fight.

Each of the three films ended with the songs: Fellowship ended with " In Dreams", Two Towers ended with "Gollum's Song", and Return of the King ended with "Into the West". Mike Brennan felt that these songs didn't work well integrated into a symphony, and their removal would have made room for more score that was missing from the suite. I respectfully disagree, and feel that their inclusion lends a welcome "capper" to the segment, since that is how the films ended.


Howard Shore and the Pittsburgh Symphony

The Bushnell Theater in Hartford (or any theater for that matter) seems to have had better sound acoustics than the Hollywood Bowl. This is no surprise, since the Bowl is an outdoor venue. As such, our experiences varied greatly: Brennan was able to hear the layering of Shore's music much better than on the albums. However, at the Bowl, much of the low-end was lost in the open-air, and many of the exciting battle sequences weren't able to have the power behind them that they were supposed to have. (As the musicians were indeed playing their hearts out, this is equally disappointing since their efforts were lost in the sound!)

There were, as expected, some soloists. While the Pittsburgh concert had Sissel (of Titanic fame), the Hartford and Los Angeles concerts featured Broadway actress Susan Egan (Beauty and the Beast: The Musical) and opera soprano Carolyn Betty. They did quite a nice job, although Egan's voice doesn't quite match Emiliana Torrini or Annie Lennox's vocal timber. It wasn't as ethereal as it should have been! As for visuals, while the symphony was being played, Alan Lee and John Howe's conceptual illustrations and storyboard artwork was shown on screens, loosely following the narrative of the music, and helping remind people what pieces went where.

Howard Shore has clearly written a masterpiece with his scores to these three films. Over eleven hours of music needed to be condensed to about 2-hours, and that unto itself is a remarkable feat. While it's a little disappointing that there wasn't as much of a balance between material from the first film and the last two, it's still quite a concert to behold. I would love to see Shore re-approach this symphony now that he's done with the extended editions of all the films, and flesh the last parts out. It's not often that a film score translates easily into a concert work, so if you have the opportunity to see this concert performed, by all means, make the effort. It will be quite worth it!


Earlier this month, John Mauceri conducted the Hollywood Bowl orchestra in his annual " Movie Night at the Bowl". This year, they were celebrating the music of MGM/UA. Performed before MGM was bought by Sony, the concert featured music from some of MGM's best hits, as well as a few special surprises. The big screen was set up above the orchestra, allowing the audience to watch the images as the music played immediately below.

The concert began with an excellent montage showcasing a staggering amount of MGM/UA's films, while the orchestra played the " Main Title" from Elmer Bernstein's Hawaii. After an introduction, Mauceri played music from Charlie Chaplin's City Lights, and even allowed for a small break in the middle so we could hear the difference between the live orchestra, and the original soundtrack recording. Miklos Rozsa's stirring and tense Spellbound was played, followed by a more contemporary look at comedy, with Rolfe Kent's Legally Blonde.


John Mauceri conducts Spellbound

Puccini was adapted into the highly successful Moonstruck, and the first half of the film ended with music from Billy Wilder's cross- dressing comedy, Some Like It Hot. This finale served as a good reminder why the American Film Institute labeled this the #1 film of the Top 100 comedies of all time.

After the intermission, Bill Conti's theme from Rocky was played, to the delight of the audience. But the audience really had a blast when the montage from The Pink Panther showed up on screen, played to Henry Mancini's classic theme. The montage showed off the best gags from the film series, and ended with a brief glimpse at the new film, coming out next year, with Steve Martin in the Inspector Clouseau role.

John Barry's Oscar- winning score to Dances with Wolves was performed, followed by the longest sequence of the night, the "Gym Sequence" and "Maria" from West Side Story. Leonard Bernstein's contemporary musical score was played, with great timing, and it was certainly a highlight of the night - even though they had played this very same piece last year at another concert. More musicals followed, with the recent Cole Porter drama De- Lovely, and Kander & Ebb's "New York, New York" from the film of the same title.


Conductor John Mauceri

It had taken a while, but the night finally came to a climax with MGM's biggest property: James Bond. Starting with the entire opening sequence of 1997's Tomorrow Never Dies (composed by David Arnold), the sequence played all the way through until the opening title sequence, which instead because an expertly edited montage from all of the James Bond films, set to the classic Monty Norman theme. It was an excellent way to end the concert.

But as always, it's never quite over, and there were a few encores. First, to everyone's delight, Sheena Easton came out on stage to sing her classic Bond song, "For Your Eyes Only". Unfortunately, the past 20 years have not been too kind to Easton's voice, and while her heart was clearly in the right place, her voice wasn't able to hit all of the high notes, and her performance came across as strained and a little forced. Honoring Elmer Bernstein (who had passed away recently), the second encore was the theme from The Magnificent Seven. A third and final encore gave us "Over the Rainbow" from The Wizard of Oz, much to the audience's glee.


John Mauceri conducts "Over the Rainbow"

With literally thousands of films in their library, it's hard to pick and choose only a few from the MGM catalog, and they did a rather good job with it at this concert. I would have personally liked to hear music from Gone with the Wind, or Ben-Hur (among many others), but this was certainly a great idea, and they pulled it off, mainly due to support from MGM. I would love to see a concert next year in the same vein, such as "Music from Paramount" or "Music from 20th Century Fox". Mining the studio archives can result in a lot of musical gems that a new audience can re-discover, and I commend Mauceri and the Hollywood Bowl for repeatedly exposing the masses to film music.


Written with additional material provided by David Koran and Mike Brennan. Photos by David Koran and Dan Goldwasser.
Special thanks to Rachelle Roe, Elizabeth Hinkly, and Matt Velasco at the Hollywood Bowl Press Office.


The Fellowship of the Ring
Movement One
 The Prophecy – Concerning Hobbits – The Shadow of the Past – A Short Cut to Mushrooms –The Old Forest – A Knife in the Dark

Movement Two
 Many Meetings – The Ring Goes South – A Journey in the Dark – The Bridge of Khazad- dűm – Lothlúrien – Gandalf's Lament – Farewell to Lórien – The Great River – The Breaking of the Fellowship

The Two Towers
Movement Three
 Foundations of Stone – The Taming of Smeagol – The Riders of Rohan –The Black Gate is Closed – Evenstar – The White Rider – Treebeard –The Forbidden Pool

Movement Four
 The Hornberg – Forth Eolingas – Isengard Unleashed – Gollum's Song

The Return of the King
Movement Five
 Hope and Memory – The White Tree – The Steward of Gondor – Cirith Ungol – Anduril

Movement Six
 The End of All Things – The Return of the King – The Grey Havens – Into the West