18.11.2021 Lord of the Rings & The Hobbit: In Concert @ Helsingin Jäähalli, Helsinki

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Christmas time is around the corner and that means I will be re-watching the most famous trilogy on (Middle) Earth: Lord of the Rings! Truthfully, I can’t even count on two hands anymore how many times I’ve seen these movies. It’s so bad that I can cite the words to the movie and re-enact scenes by myself (bad… or cool?). Naturally, when RH Entertainment announced that there would be an orchestra playing Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit songs, I just knew I had to be there. Unfortunately, the show got postponed several times, but November 18th, 2021, was our lucky day! Check out our photo gallery here…

The fantastic world of hobbits and elves from J.R.R. Tolkien’s book series was a two-hour evening performance with a symphonic orchestra (The State Academic Symphony Orchestra of the Republic of Belarus) and choir, along with some special guests: Jed Brophy (who apparently played different characters in all six installments, but is perhaps most famous for playing Nori, the dwarf, in The Hobbit series) and Tolkien‘s great-grandson Royd Tolkien (who also had some cameo appearances in the movie series). Originally, fan-favorite actor Billy Boyd (Pippin, aka Peregrin “It comes in pints?” Took) was scheduled to also perform with the orchestra, however, due to the show being moved around a lot, he couldn’t make it to this date anymore.

The show started with a song that wasn’t by the hands of the man and legend who composes the original soundtrack (Howard Shore): “The Mordor National Anthem” by the Neon Philharmonic. It was clear by this that from the start, they wanted to showcase that this evening was going to be not only nostalgic but also had plenty of time for humor. During the actual first song, “The Prophecy,” Tolkien quoted his great-grandfather’s most famous line in writing: “One ring to rule them all, One Ring to find them, One Ring to bring them all, and in the darkness bind them.” I wasn’t completely sure at first what precisely Brophy‘s and Tolkien‘s role would be during the concert, but it became instantly clear as the gentlemen both relayed the chronological story of The Hobbit and Lord of the Rings in between the songs, while also once in a while revealing some fun facts to the audience.

Rather than being chronological, I felt as if the songs were chosen to display a certain type of mood. As a movie nut, at times, this somehow bothered me. For instance, when during the bind texts, the story of the forming of the Fellowship was explained, instead of the “The Council of Elrond” or “The Ring Goes South,” “I See Fire” by Ed Sheeran was sung by Jed Brophy and a woman – the title song of The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug.

Then, the hosts moved on to different passages from the books, until they arrived at the iconic scene with Gandalf the Grey, where Brophy mentions that Gandalf actually never said “You shall not pass.” In the books, it’s “You cannot pass,” but Tolkien admitted that he likes the Ian McKellen version better. The orchestra of course started playing “The Breaking of the Fellowship (ft. In Dreams),” during which another lady came on stage to sing the second part of the song, “In Dreams.” This song is extra magical in the movies because it’s sung by the boy soprano Edward Ross of the London Oratory School Schola. There is just something incredibly moving about boy sopranos and having a grownup sing this song lacked just a little bit of that spark that the song originally has.

The next main character to pass in the movies, of course, is Boromir. The hosts joked about how Sean Bean always has to die in every movie he plays in. Of course, this was followed by another sad song, because I think we all wanted to have Sean Bean a little bit longer in the movies. Anyhow, there were plenty of other funny passages during the event, for instance, when Brophy did a re-enactment of the story from the point-of-view of the Ring before it gets tossed in Mount Doom. From there, on the order of songs got a bit weird again, as “May It Be” started playing. Before the ending of the first part came, the hosts joked about Legolas’ getting drunk easily and then there was a very weird moment where a couple of bagpipers came on stage playing some folk songs, including some women doing Irish dancing; later on Brophy even joined the Irish dancers. I can’t remember this passage being from any of the movies and have been wondering if they couldn’t have replaced it with the “Green Dragon” song, since it was a very odd choice.

In the second part of the event, we start off with the disbanding of the Fellowship and they zoomed in closer to what Merry and Pippin are doing. The two hobbits joined the Ents and Tolkien explained where the characters came from. Royd Tolkien‘s grandfather, Michael, and J.R.R. Tolkien once saw some trees getting cut down. Michael was sad about it and Tolkien decided to create trees as characters. From there onward, things took a little bit of a rush and plenty of sections were skipped. For instance, the iconic music from Rohan wasn’t played at all. Gollum’s path with Sam and Frodo was discussed, but surprisingly, the orchestra didn’t play “Gollum’s Song” by Emiliana Torrini. Royd Tolkien did explain how Tolkien invented Shelob: apparently Tolkien had been bitten by a tarantula in South Africa and his son was very scared of them ever after, so he added them to the books to frighten him. The orchestra started playing music and Gollum was shown falling into Mount Doom with the Ring. The world was saved, both hosts agreed. The orchestra started playing another song that wasn’t part of the OST, however, it did trace back to the original lore, as “Sing now, ye people of the Tower of Anor” is a proclamation uttered by a Great Eagle to the people of Minas Tirith, telling of the defeat of Sauron. I had hoped the last song would be “Into the West,” because that’s basically how the story ends, as Frodo makes the fateful decision to leave his ancestral home for the legendary realm known as the Undying Lands. Naturally, they opted for “Last Goodbye,” originally sung by Billy Boyd.

All-in-all, it was an enjoyable evening and it seemed also as if the audience had a relatively good time. The orchestra did an incredible job in interpreting the songs originally written by Howard Shore. Presumably, they also added a few of their own that I didn’t know. It would have been nice to know where the couple of additional songs came from. The minor setback of this event for me was that the story was being told chronologically, but the songs were played at random. I also missed a fair few of iconic moments. One reason for a few songs being left out may also have been because Billy Boyd wasn’t able to be present, which could explain why they left out “The Edge of the Night.” One additional thing that sort of bothered me about the event was that, even though COVID cases are rising in Finland (Helsinki, specifically) and ICU units are barely coping with the number of patients (on the same day, the government announced restrictions for the next week concerning these large-scale events), there were no obligations to wear any kind of face masks and no corona pass was used for the event, as the venue was following the government’s restrictions. However, considering the lack of face masks in the audience, for me, the event didn’t feel safe. Despite those things, the event was a nostalgic evening, making me longing for the holiday period so that I can once again binge all the movies in one go!

Written by Laureline Tilkin