A Night of ‘The Lord of the Rings’ in Concert

Last night my husband Dodge (you may know him as Merric) and I headed east to the city of Grand Rapids, Michigan to attend a performance of The Lord of the Rings in Concert. The Grand Rapids Symphony Orchestra was performing live Howard Shore’s score for Return of the King. A sold out event!

My expectations going into the theater were that I knew I was going to enjoy the show. A full symphony orchestra playing while I watch one of my all time favorite movies! I was certain that I was really going to enjoy the performance. What I didn’t realize was just how much I was going to enjoy the show.


The music accompaniment live made such a dramatic difference to the story telling. It’s really difficult to describe. It really enhanced the mood and feeling of the film. There were several times during the performance (especially when the Ringwraiths were on screen) that the live music paired with the on screen voices caused goose bumps on my skin. The live musicians caused much more impact than I had imagined and amplified my excitement and enjoyment to a level I didn’t anticipate. As I told my husband at intermission, “I am loving this so much more than I thought I would!”.


The range of the musicians were surprising as well. There was a full chorus and a youth chorus behind the big screen, and spread out in front were the violins, french horns, flutes, cellos etc you would expect for a symphony performance. Off to the side near where we were sitting was a stand for the soprano soloist. Behind her bigger strings like the pianist and harpist. Some instruments we didn’t expect to see were found as well like a guitar and an accordion player. All so very interesting the different sounds needed to tell the story of Return of the King.

I was discussing with my husband if it is difficult for the orchestra to match the movie. Certainly live orchestration are given for plays and such but if there’s an oops, there are live actors to help ease into the next scene. The movie is static and the orchestra is totally at it’s mercy for pacing of the performance. I would assume it would be primarily the conductor’s, Ludwig Wicki, job to ensure the entire performance kept it’s pace. The Grand Rapids Symphony did a phenomenal job to be sure but was a thought that crossed my mind while seeing all those musicians playing their cues.


There were a few times that the music did overwhelm the voice acting on screen so you could barely hear what was being said but that same swelling of sound from the musicians is also what had me sitting on the edge of my seat. I suppose this could have been a bother for someone not at all familiar with the movies but this was far from my first time seeing the epic Peter Jackson creation.

I had a phenomenal time at the theater and would do it again in a heartbeat if given the chance. I highly recommend you check this performance out if it comes to your area. It shares the story in a new way that can’t be imagined. It has to be experienced.

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  1. Wow. Makes me want to see it all over again. I saw just the performance sans the movie back 2003 in Chicago I think it was. Got to see Howard Shore and Doug Adams speak, but to watch this along with the movie would have been phonemenal. Great article and really relayed the experience. Thanks.

    • We were there as well, it was October but it seems to me that it was later than 2003 – maybe even 2005? I’d already been to the concert in Atlanta where Howard Shore was the conductor (not just a guest speaker as in Chicago).

      Been to see the movies with the live orchestra/choir in northern Virginia at Wolf Trap. It is just astounding.

  2. Awesome article! I loved the pictures.

  3. The whole thing sounds spine-tinglingly good the way you describe it – and wow, what a fantastic job of getting great photos in tricky conditions!

  4. I travelled to Chicago for the live performance of The Fellowship of the Ring last year! I agree with all that you said. It was absolutely AMAZING!
    I’m not too far from Michigan and really wanted to attend this one, too, but couldn’t make it. Glad someone got a story on it! 🙂

  5. I’ve seen all three films with a live performance of orchestra and choirs here in Munich over the last years (Ludwig Wicki was the conductor there too). I loved the shows just as much as you did (although it was strange to see the theatrical film versions after watching Extended Editions on DVD multiple times).

    Ludwig Wicki is very much up to the job, he’s been doing it for years now. And to help him with the pacing – he’s got a little monitor on his desk wich siglans changes in pacing etc a few seconds before they happen. I had a clear view of that at one of the shows.

  6. I know it wouldn’t be as good as seeing it live, but dvds of these shows would be great.