August 5, 2005



Portland, Ore. … The music from “The Lord of the Rings” film trilogy, which won three Oscars and four Grammies for composer Howard Shore, will be presented by the Oregon Symphony and Guest Conductor Alastair Willis on Sept. 17 and 18 in the Arlene Schnitzer Concert Hall, accompanied by projections of behind-the-scenes imagery that guided cinematographers in creating the films.

This two-hour concert presentation has been taking symphony audiences around the world by storm and has garnered rave reviews from critics. The Seattle Times notes, “[Howard] Shore’s musical opus is every bit as impressive as Tolkien’s literary one, standing on its own as a sweeping, operatic experience, even when liberated from the majesty of Jackson’s trilogy.” The Newark Star-Ledger writes, “[ Howard Shore’s] instinct for melody is superb, his integration of legitimate ancient music sources with contemporary-sounding tonal clusters and harmonic invention is terrific, and, most of all, he creates, as both Jackson and Tolkien did before him, an entire imagined universe that is both detailed and consistent

Since its debut performance in Wellington, New Zealand on November 29, 2003, Shore’s “ The Lord of the Rings Symphony” has been performed to full houses more than 50 times on four continents. Some of the world’s leading international orchestras, including the Philadelphia Orchestra and the London Philharmonic, have performed the Symphony as well as regional orchestras from Albuquerque and Salt Lake City to Dallas and Hartford.

Willis, former assistant conductor with the Seattle Symphony, leads a musical tour-de-force of more than 200 musicians, including the Portland Symphonic Choir under the direction of Steven Zopfi and the Pacific Youth Choir under the direction of Mia Hall Savage. They will be joined by boy soprano Daniel Carr, who will sing the ethereal solo passages of Shore’s Symphony. During the performance, detailed illustrations and pre-production storyboards will be displayed above the stage to enhance the musical storytelling experience. The artwork used in these performances includes many of the actual sketches and preliminary drawings developed by the creators of the film to create the unforgettable scenes and characters of J.R.R. Tolkien’s epic saga of Middle Earth. Doug Adams, author of the soon-to-be-published book “ The Music of the Lord of the Rings,” says of Shore’s music, “There’s a different style of music for each culture of characters: hobbit, elf, dwarf. If you go to the symphony performance it’s very much like an abstract version of Tolkien’s story.”

Working with conductor John Mauceri, who first suggested that the music of “ The Lord of the Rings” be preserved as an independent work for the concert hall, Shore created a two-hour symphony drawing from the nearly 12 hours of music he composed for Peter Jackson’s phenomenally successful film trilogy.

The six movements of the symphony correspond to the progression of the epic story across the six books that comprise the three-volume trilogy, capturing the enormous complexity and limitless imagination of J.R.R. Tolkien’s creation – from the simple, pastoral beauty of the hobbits’ Shire to the magic and mystery of the elves and the monumental battle scenes – in music by turns explosive, ethereal and ultimately transcendent.

Shore achieves this enormous feat by the ingenious use and juxtaposition of a plethora of recurring motifs – more than 50 in all – associated with the various characters and places in the books. Shore’s employment of some instruments foreign to the traditional Western symphony orchestra and of choral settings in Tolkien’s languages help conjure up the ancient beauty of Middle Earth, its diverse inhabitants and the harrowing struggle between the forces of good and evil.

Performances are scheduled for Saturday, Sept. 17 at 7:30 p.m. and Sunday, Sept. 18 at 7:30 p.m. in the Arlene Schnitzer Concert Hall. Tickets range from $15 to $100 and may be purchased at the Oregon Symphony Ticket Office (923 S.W. Washington), Monday through Saturday, 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. or charged by phone at (503) 228-1353 or (800) 228-7343. Tickets also may be purchased at all Ticketmaster outlets (503-790-ARTS) or through the Symphony’s Web site at Service fees may apply.

PLEASE NOTE: A three-minute video clip of Shore conducting “The Lord of the Rings Symphony” with the Montreal Orchestra is available for viewing on the Symphony’s Web site. The video features an interview with Shore, shots of the musicians playing some of the most recognizable music from the film and shows some of the film’s preliminary artwork displayed during the concert.

Alastair Willis

Alastair Willis most recently led the Seattle Symphony as assistant conductor, a position he held from September 2000 to July 2003. He previously held the position of assistant conductor with the Cincinnati Symphony and Pops orchestras and music director of the Cincinnati Symphony Youth Orchestra.

In 1999, Willis was honored as one of six up-and-coming conductors chosen to participate in the American Symphony Orchestra League’s national Conductor Preview in Salt Lake City. He was awarded a conducting fellowship to attend the Tanglewood Music Festival, where he studied and collaborated with Seiji Ozawa, Robert Spano and Sir André Previn, among others. Willis also has studied with David Zinman, David Robertson, Murry Sidlin and Ivan Fischer, and has collaborated with other eminent conductors including Michael Tilson Thomas, James Conlon and Jorma Panula.

Willis has appeared with the Chicago Symphony, the Civic Orchestra of Chicago, the St. Louis Symphony, the Detroit Symphony, the Houston Symphony, the Indianapolis Symphony, Oregon Symphony, San Diego Symphony, San Antonio Symphony and the orchestras of Hartford, Rhode Island, Knoxville and Harrisburg within the past seasons.

Alastair Willis made his guest-conducting debut with the Seattle Symphony in January 2000. His responsibilities as assistant conductor for the orchestra include conducting neighborhood, family and education concerts; conducting select Seattle Pops concerts; editing tapes for radio broadcast; and working with artistic and development staff to create tape excerpts that support grants. In September 2001, Willis made a triumphant last-minute substitution as conductor for the Seattle Symphony's opening 2001-02 season Gala concerts, which garnered much critical acclaim.

In May 2002, Yo Yo Ma personally asked Willis to be the conductor for several performances of his Silk Road Project residency presented by the Seattle Symphony and has re-invited Maestro Willis to work with him again at the Toledo Symphony Orchestra.

The Los Angeles Philharmonic selected Willis to be one of a small group of talented conductors to work with its Music Director Esa-Pekka Salonen for its premiere season of conducting workshops in September 2002.

Born in Acton, Mass., Willis lived with his family in Moscow for five years before settling in Surrey, England. He received his bachelor’s degree with honors from England’s Bristol University and continued his studies at Kingston University, where he earned a post-graduate certificate of education degree, teaching classroom music from grade school to high school levels. In 1994, he was awarded the Salveston Baton Prize for his work with several youth orchestras in and around London. He won a scholarship in 1996 to study with Maestro Larry Rachleff at the Shepherd School of Music at Rice University in Houston, graduating with a master of music degree in 1999. In addition to assisting Maestro Rachleff, he spent three years as principal conductor of the Campanile Orchestra, one of Houston’s finest community orchestras.

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