Ravinia and the CSO's Fellowship of the Ring | Review
As dusk fell yesterday evening over the wooded canopy of Ravinia Park, the suburban Chicago venue suddenly felt eerily like the Shire, homeland of Bilbo and Frodo Baggins. The deep, bellowing voice of Gandalf the Grey combined with the Midwest’s finest orchestra to make an unforgettable evening, reminiscent of the world imagined by J.R.R. Tolkien in his Lord of the Rings trilogy.
The Chicago Symphony Orchestra concludes its annual summer residency at Ravinia tonight with the second of two performances of Howard Shore’s music for The Fellowship of the Ring. We attended last night, when more than 100 CSO musicians (plus a mixed adult and children’s choir) performed the Oscar-winning score while Peter Jackson’s astounding cinematic version flickered on three screens, one inside the pavilion and two on the lawn. When the violins bowed the opening keynotes, the picnicking crowd erupted in a wild cheer and then grew silently engrossed.
The most anticipated part of the event was to hear how the movie would blend with a live orchestra. The answer? Seamlessly. In fact there, were moments when it was hard to tell we were listening to live musicians and not the soundtrack itself, at least on the lawn. At other points, especially during the scenes of Saruman’s stronghold of Isengard, booming drums and ringing chimes echoed throughout every corner of the picturesque park. In the pavilion seating, however, the juxtaposition of both events at once could be slightly distracting. It was sometimes hard to give the orchestra and movie the attention that both rightly deserve.
We saw many families at the event, mostly with children in the 8–12 range. Everybody seemed to be in great spirits, from the young amateur musicians in the audience to the fan decked out in an Elvish costume complete with a (fake) sword for orc-slaying. One reminder: Fellowship is a long movie, clocking in with a three-hour running time, so committing to the whole event means a late bedtime—probably why a noticeable contingent left at intermission.
Ravinia’s last screening of the PG-13-rated The Fellowship of the Ring, featuring the CSO, beings tonight at 7:30pm. At 6:45pm, Chicago author Doug Adams will be signing his book, The Music of Lord of the Rings, in front of the gift shop at 6:45pm. Tickets ($50 pavilion, $25 lawn) are available at ravinia.org or at the gate.