CULTURE

Total ‘Lord of the Rings’ magic

As was expected, Peter Jackson’s mega-epic «The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers» brought Academy Award recognition on Oscar night, adding to the Grammy earlier this month for best musical score. And its metaphorical struggle between the forces of good and evil echoes strongly in today’s troubled world. Musical audiences worldwide are also discovering the poetry of J.R.R. Tolkien’s entrancing books, put to enchanting music by the Tolkien Ensemble, a classical/folk group originating in Denmark. They have produced so far three highly successful albums based on the beautiful songs and poems from «The Lord of the Rings.» Their latest, «At Dawn in Rivendell,» has legendary British actor Christopher Lee – «bad guy» Saruman in the movie trilogy – both reciting and singing. Lee has revealed to the press that he is a closet Wagner interpreter who practices opera arias every morning. Greek fans can now find this latest album in music stores around town. The Tolkien Ensemble was founded in Copenhagen in 1995 by Caspar Reiff, who is one of the composers, along with Englishman Peter Hall. What began as a student-teacher relationship evolved into a creative partnership combining classical and folk traditions. Caspar Reiff is already familiar to the Athens public, having performed at the Danish Institute as an outstanding solo guitarist. As he said after a terrific concert by the group in Copenhagen last fall, «I was in Greece the year before the Tolkien Ensemble took shape, and I look forward to coming back to offer the Greek audience the chance to get to know our work.» In fact, the group was scheduled to appear in Athens this spring, but had to cancel at the last minute. They will likely be appearing later in 2003. Their music re-creates in a most wonderful way the magical world of Elves and Hobbits, switching from soulful tunes to drinking songs and mesmerizing melodies. «Peter Hall is writing the Hobbits’ folkish-drinking songs,» Reiff added, «and I write the Elves’ songs, what our audiences call the ‘soulful’ pieces.» Reiff also lectures extensively on Tolkien’s linguistic and mythological world. Their albums have been enriched by exquisite illustrations by Denmark’s Queen Margrethe, herself a celebrated artist. Their first release, «An Evening in Rivendell,» came out in 1996, followed by «A Night in Rivendell,» in 1998. The third, with Lee, was released worldwide by Universal earlier this month. The Ensemble is composed of six regular members. All are classically trained musicians, and they regularly include outstanding guest artists like Tom McEwan, together with orchestras and choirs. Their concerts are often held in spectacular venues; «we have performed in castles and churches, including Kronborg, Hamlet’s castle in Denmark, and Professor Tolkien’s home base of Exeter College, Oxford,» Reiff said. The world press have been raving about their music, calling it «sublime» and «magical.» The composer says his quest, which is partly fulfilled with these three albums, is to create the world’s first complete musical interpretation of the poems and songs (70 in all) from Tolkien’s masterpiece, encompassing multi-genre performances with dance and theater. A fourth «Lord of the Rings» album is also set for release next year. (1) Rebecca Ross is a freelance writer. She contributed this piece to Kathimerini English Edition.