As if there weren't enough things to geek out on at this coming weekend's Comic-Con, a small army of musicans will be taking the stage to perform Howard Shore's score to The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers. Maybe "army" is a bit of an exaggeration—battalion is more like it. As the film unspools on a giant screen at Radio City Music Hall, the music of Middle-earth will be brought to life by 300 musicians forming super-group comprised of Switzerland’s 21st Century Symphony Orchestra, The Grammy Award-winning Brooklyn Youth Chorus, the Dessoff Symphonic Choir and renowned soprano Kaitlyn Lusk. Keeping all of them in time with the movie is the task of Maestro Ludwig Wicki, the Swiss music director at the Palace Chapel of Lucerne, where he specializes in Georgian chants and performances of Bach, Handel, and Monteverdi. He'll be conducting this epic spectacle on Friday and Saturday night, and there are still tickets available. Be advised that some audience members attend dressed as characters from the film, so now's your chance to break out the wizard robe and long white beard.

So what is your experience with the Lord of the Rings? Can you tell me how you got involved? I'm the conductor of the 21st Century Symphony Orchestra, and four years ago we asked Howard Shore to come to a concert for his 60th birthday. Half a year later his agent galled me to ask if i wanted to do the premiere of the Lord of the Rings, in Switzerland. The premiere was three years ago. We did the first movie two years ago, last year the second movie and this year we did the third movie.

We're behind here in America. We're only getting the second movie but you've already finished the trilogy? Yeah! [Laughter]

So has it been fun for you? Were you a fan of the film or the book before this?Not really. I was more a fan of the music.

What is it you like about the music to the Lord of the Rings? Howard's compositions are so inspired—he has a great variety of composing skills and phrases, and the variety of styles he uses in one movie is amazing. That makes the work so interesting.


How challenging is it for you to go from just conducting an orchestra to conducting this huge group of musicians and keeping them in time with a movie? That's always the real challenge. It is very high—it takes a very high concentration. You can never move away and you have to focus really on these three levels: the screen I have in front of me, the score which I happen to know very well, and the whole orchestra. And the choir as well. And the children.

When you're working in New York you'll be working with new children, the Brooklyn singers. Yes. Yeah.

Are you going to have much time to rehearse? They are prepared from their own choir-master and I have done two rehearsals with them. And I know them from last year. It's a very wonderful youth choir.

Are there any other movies that you'd like to do this kind of thing with? [Giggle] So many. Yeah. But I think the Lord of the Rings trilogy…It's unique. So many different things come together in these wonderful books. Amazing music and I think also epic, monumental movie. It's really special. I think that makes it very special in the concert hall.

When you hear the score to the Lord of the Rings, what other influences, or composers, do you hear in the music? I think for me Howard has a special color in all his movie writing. His ideas build on Wagner's ideas of having different themes for each of the different moods. These themes come back and you feel suddenly you are at home or suddenly you are in the right place from the feeling. That's what I feel when I hear that score. I don't hear other composers. It's really just a beautiful mix between modern/contemporary writing and songwriting.

Did you conduct the first film when it was at Radio City last year? Yes.

Was last year's screening of The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring your first time conducting at Radio City Music Hall? Yeah, yeah, that was the first time. It was unbelievably special. It's um, heh, I think I have no words to explain that! It's so breathtaking. It's amazing to walk on that stage and look in that hall and see that the audience is very special there.


I had heard that they were thinking of doing all three films in one marathon day. Is that something that's going to happen in New York? I heard it, too, yeah.

But you don't know? I think I know an idea they talked about. It's not set now. I think that could be a wonderful idea. I think that would be a very, very special event.

Do you worry about your stamina though? I mean, that's a lot to do. Three in a row. That must be exhausting for you. Yeah, yeah, yeah. It might feel hard but the better I know the movies the easier it gets. I've conducted the first movie 21 times now. And the second one: 16 and 17 performance of this one. The better I know them the better I can do all three together.