Music of Middle Earth comes to San Diego Symphony

In a summer otherwise filled with super men, pirates of the high seas and Leonardo da Vinci paintings, the San Diego Symphony reminded us on July 20 of why Middle Earth fascinated us just a few years ago. The San Diego Symphony gave a special performance of the “Lord of the Rings: A Symphony in Six Movements” by director Peter Jackson’s “Lord of the Rings” trilogy composer Howard Shore.

Shore’s symphony is a compilation of his scores from all three “LOTR” films. When put together it makes 11 hours of music distilled into two hours. When played together, the symphony is a great musical remembrance of hobbits, powerful rings, wizards, orcs and scenic Middle Earth.

The San Diego Symphony combined with San Diego Master Chorale’s performance of this massive work was very impressive. The musical fluidity of the orchestra throughout the entire performance was remarkably consistent, with no overzealous playing or musically short-sided blase phrasing apparent at all. This orchestra’s sound was, simply put, captivating and refreshing.

Also refreshing was the venue itself. The concert was not performed in a magnificent though sometimes stuffy concert hall but outside on the grass at the Embarcadero Marina Park South. This park, located next the San Diego Padres’ Petco Park and the San Diego Convention Center, sits right on the waterfront of the bay with views of Coronado and the Naval Base to the west and the skyscrapers of downtown San Diego to the east.

In addition to the orchestra’s playing, video screens set up on either side of the stage showed graphics and conceptual artwork from the “LOTR” films. The pictures coincided with the music, so if the music depicted the Shire and hobbits, they were consequently seen on both screens.

While enjoying the ocean breezes swaying over the park throughout the concert, it was easy to also enjoy the amazing talent of female solo vocalist Kaitlyn Lusk. At only 16 years old, this young talent has already performed with several orchestras throughout North America in the “Lord of the Rings” symphony and other works.

Throughout her vocal interludes, her skills were mind-numbingly flawless. She never wavered in pitch and never dropped notes unexpectedly. Her interpretation of Shore’s music was one equally good to the original soundtrack recordings, if not completely better altogether.

Lusk’s was a performance which, by the end of the concert, earned her a well-deserved standing ovation. The classical world has much to look forward to in the future with this aspiring vocal talent.

The San Diego Symphony should be applauded for helping bring different types to orchestral concerts, and for this particular concert, notably the “LOTR” fans attending the annual Comic Con International across the street. As composer Shore told the San Diego Union-Tribune, symphonies like his have “…brought new audiences to the concert hall.”

Hopefully, this concert has whetted appetites enough to come back to hear the orchestras of America again soon.

The San Diego Symphony in “America’s Finest City” is an excellent orchestra to see when taking a short vacation down south. Its upcoming summer concerts will include a “Classics from the Movies” program, Frank Sinatra Jr. and the music of Led Zeppelin.

For more information, visit www.sandiegosymphony.org.

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