Finding Middle-earth at WNY: A Tolkien-Inspired Symphony Comes to Buffalo | Lifestyles
BUFFALO – Middle-earth will come to Buffalo.
The setting of JRR Tolkien’s fantasy series ‘The Lord of the Rings’ will be explored in a symphony by Johan de Meij which will have its East Coast premiere May 20 at Kleinhans Music Hall. The performance of “Symphony No. 5 Return to Middle Earth” will feature the Buffalo Niagara Concert Band in conjunction with the Buffalo Philharmonic Chorus.
De Meij first entered “The Lord of the Rings” in 1982 when he started reading the books. De Meij was later inspired to write music there. At that time, the music for the series did not exist. His first symphony, “Symphony No. 1 The Lord of the Rings” was released in 1988 and became a huge hit.
” It’s always like that. It’s still played at least every week somewhere in the world,” de Meij said.
Although I’m obviously a casual fan of JRR Tolkien’s ‘Lord of the Rings’ – I only watched the movies and played ‘The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King’ for the Nintendo Gamecube obsessively with my brother growing up — I’ve always loved the music associated with it. We both played the piano, and I always stole my brother’s “Lord of the Ring” sheet music to play “In Dreams,” a melancholic piece from “The Fellowship of the Ring.” There was always something missing both in the music and in the lyrics for a long time and a desire to return to it.
Thirty years later, “Symphony No. 5 Return to Middle Earth” was commissioned by The Middle Earth Consortium Project, organized by Valparaiso University in Valparaiso, Ind.
“The difference is that it’s not based on ‘The Lord of the Rings’ but more on the world in general. JRR Tolkien’s magical world,” de Meij said. “I also used some ideas from ‘The Silmarillion’, which is the book he wrote before ‘The Lord of the Rings’.”
A friend of mine who is deep in Tolkien lore told me that “The Silmarillion” had a creation myth where the world was “sung” into existence. When I asked if that had inspired the composition, de Meij told me that it had.
Kristin Gornstein, the soprano soloist, sings in Ilkorin, one of the Elvish languages of Middle-earth.
“The Elvish language is beautiful. It sounds like Celtic or Basque,” de Meij said. “We know that Tolkien himself was a big fan of inventing languages. He invented his own Elvish language, but now there are 12.”
My friend – to whom I will be eternally grateful for his extensive knowledge – said that Ilkorin appears in early drafts of the Legendary of the Elvish Tongue and serves as a precursor to Ñoldorin which eventually evolves into Sindarin. Personally, I am more familiar with the Elvish Quenya language as it is used in my Saturday Dungeons & Dragons game.
I can thank Tolkien in general for laying the groundwork that Dungeons & Dragons would build on. Also for my obsession with elves thanks to Legolas.
“I don’t speak (Ilkorin) and I don’t know anything about it, but one of my friends is a linguist. She speaks the language and she is also a singer,” said de Meij when asked why he uses Ilkorin as opposed to any of the other Elvish dialects. “She helped me find poems about Middle-earth in English, which she then translated into Elvish. She also helped me place the syllables.
The soloist sings in the first, second, fourth and sixth movements. The chorus sings in all movements except the third.
The orcs (who are twisted elves and the main foot soldiers of Morgoth’s and later Sauron’s army) also take the stage, but they only use raw shouts in their own language, also known as ” black speech”.
“Orcs, they’re not very subtle. They are monsters and don’t speak full sentences, and they have very short words,” de Meij said.
In the fifth movement, the male members of the chorus are the orcs. They scream, howl and whisper in the orc language. De Meij also uses four large oil drums as percussion instruments for the orcs. The choir also has two rocks which they hold in their hands and beat against each other.
The first performance of Symphony No. 5 Return to Middle-earth was given by the Valparaiso (Ind.) University Chamber Concert Band & Windiana Concert Band in November 2018, followed by the Shepherd University Symphonic Band, Shepherdstown, West Virginia, directed by Scott Hippensteel on April 27. , 2019 This is the third time the symphony will be performed in the United States.
De Meij said he previously worked with the Buffalo Niagara Concert Band for “Symphony No. 1 The Lord of the Rings”.
“They’re all amateur players of course, it’s a community group,” de Meij said, “but they play at a very high level.”
- WHAT: East Coast premiere of “Symphony No. 5 Return to Middle Earth,” a concert featuring the Buffalo Niagara Concert Band and the Buffalo Philharmonic Chorus. Composer Johan de Meij will conduct with soprano Kristin Gornstein.
- WHERE: Kleinhans Music Hall, 3 Symphony Circle, Buffalo.
- WHEN: 7 p.m. May 20.
- TICKETS: $25 for general admission, $40 for VIP seats. Available online at https://tinyurl.com/2p3ypmz4 or by calling (716) 885-5000.
- INFORMATION: To learn more about the Buffalo Niagara Concert Band, visit bncb.org.
Explanation of movements
A look at the five movements of Johan de Meij’s new composition, “Symphony No. 5 Return to Middle Earth”, a symphony inspired by JRR Tolkien’s “Lord of the Rings” books.
I) Miri na Fëanor (Jewels of Fëanor)
Before the creation of the Moon and the Sun, the world of Arda was illuminated by the light of the Two Trees: shining Telperion and golden Galadriel. They shone alternately, so there was never darkness in the Immortal Lands. Fëanor, the great Noldorin craftsman, captured the light of trees in crystal silima and crafted three fabulous jewels. The theft of these jewels by the renegade god Morgoth precipitated all the disastrous events of the First Age of Beleriand and, indeed, of all of Middle-earth in the ages to come.
II) Tinúviel (Nightingale)
Tinúviel, daughter of Melian the Maia and Thingol of Doriath, and her mortal lover, Beren, managed to snatch one of Fëanor’s jewels from Morgoth’s crown. Thingol had set this daring feat as the bride price for his daughter’s hand, not expecting Beren to succeed. He succeeded, however, with the help of Tinúviel – but Carcharoth, the great wolf of Angband, swallowed the jewel and Beren’s hand as the pair escaped. Later, Carcharoth killed Beren and was in turn killed – the jewel was recovered intact from its carcass. Tinúviel, died of grief, following his lover into the Halls of Mandos. There she sang her grief to the God of the Dead, who granted her the choice to return from the dead with Beren, in exchange for her own immortality.
III) Ancalagon i-môr (Ancalagon the Black)
The greatest of Morgoth’s winged dragons, Ancalagon the Black was defeated in the War of Wrath by Eärendil the Sailor (husband of Elwing, Tinúviel’s granddaughter). Eärendil managed to sail to the Immortal Lands using the light from the Jewel of Fëanor his wife had inherited. He fought Ancalagon in the sky above Morgoth’s fortress, and the dragon’s fall crushed the towers of Thangorodrim, punctuating Morgoth’s ultimate defeat.
IV) Arwen Undomiel (Evenstar)
Arwen Undómiel was a direct descendant of Tinúviel of Doriath. Arwen was said to resemble her great-great-grandmother. As Queen of Gondor, Arwen considered her mortality, chosen for love of the mortal Aragorn, much like her ancestor, Tinúviel – a life of love against an eternity without love.
V) Dagor Delothrin (War of Wrath)
The army of the Valar marched from the Undying Lands in the far west and summoned all Elves and Men to join in the confrontation with the forces of Morgoth. The battle lasted 50 years, but in the end Morgoth’s fire demons and legions of Orcs were destroyed. Eärendil appeared in the sky in his ship Gwingeloth, along with Thorondor, King of the Eagles, and a battle ensued between all the flying creatures. Morgoth was pursued through his mines and eventually captured, bound by an unbreakable chain made of tilkal, and cast into the Timeless Void beyond the World’s Walls, to remain there until the world’s rupture.
VI) Thuringwethil (Secret Shadow Woman)
No one knows how Thuringwethil, Morgoth’s vampire servant, died – but Tinúviel carried her on his quest with Beren to steal the Fëanor Jewels from Morgoth’s crown. Yet even as she rushed to join her beloved Beren at the gates of Angband, Tinúviel could feel the bat’s presence still present within her skin, savoring the freedom of this last flight.