I’m constantly blown away by what the Tolkien community is able to create, and that includes Adele McAllister’s music. I came across her Tolkien-inspired songs from her Tumblr a while back and instantly fell in love with them. Adele creates music to go along with Tolkien’s poetry (from works including, but not limited to, The Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit) and has also written some of her own original lyrics. I’m very happy that I had the chance to talk with Adele and learn more about her and her music; she’s truly captured Tolkien’s world through her singing and melodies!
To begin with, Adele is 20 years old, from Maryland, and is a junior studying drama at Tufts University. She’s been singing since she was little, read The Lord of the Rings for the first time when she was 9, has played the guitar for seven years, and first started writing music when she was a freshman in college. The first song she created was back in October of 2011, and it was ‘I Sit Beside the Fire and Think,’ which is the song Bilbo sings in Rivendell in The Fellowship of the Ring. Since then, she has written 23 songs from Tolkien’s poetry, 21 of which have been posted online. “I think my favorite song that I’ve written has been ‘To the Sea‘ or ‘Where Now the Horse and the Rider,’ though I imagine it’s a bit like picking a favorite child! On YouTube and SoundCloud, my most popular tracks are ‘The Lay of Nimrodel‘ and ‘The World Was Young.’ On Tumblr, I think it might be ‘Namarie.’”
When I asked which poem was her personal favorite she added, “It’s very hard to choose a favorite.” (I think we can all agree with her there.) “But I might say ‘In Western Lands Beneath the Sun.’ It has such a simplicity to it, but it still evokes such grace and courage, and the way it comes over Sam in the books and gives him the bravery he needs is a beautiful moment.”
After rereading the books two summers ago, Adele got the inspiration to set Tolkien’s poetry to her own music. “I’d only been writing music for just under a year, and each song would take me a long time–primarily because of writing the lyrics, so to combat that, I decided to try to set poetry just to keep creating. I wanted to try to create a few short songs that might actually work within the world Tolkien had created, even though they certainly had my own more modern aesthetic. When sitting down to write the song, it’s a very vague and organic process, but it always starts with the text.”
I think it’s wonderful that when writing a song she makes sure to take into account the atmosphere and culture of the poem/song. “For instance, I tried to give the elvish songs a more mystical feel than something a hobbit would sing, and a lament that Galadriel sings is going to be very different from ‘The Oath of Feanor,’ and I hope it all comes through in the end result.”
From creating the music to recording, it takes her 20-40 minutes for most of the songs, though it depends on the length and complexity of the poem. “And if there are multiple harmonies involved, it can take perhaps another half hour, though this usually happens after the fact–whether after having let it sit for a few days or maybe a month or so later when I’ve been polishing up recordings of older songs.”
She has so many songs to listen to and they never get old. I can sit back, relax and listen to ‘In Western Lands Beneath the Sun‘ or ‘The World Was Young and Mountains Green‘ and be able to perfectly picture Middle-earth in my head. I love that her music makes me feel like I’m in Tolkien’s world.
Apart from setting Tolkien’s poems to her own music, she has also done a few covers such as ‘The Edge of Night,’ (music by Billy Boyd) from The Return of the King. “The original is an abridged setting of a poem from The Fellowship of the Ring, and I covered it using the full text, which meant I got to include an additional bit of melody to fully fit the verse.” She also did a cover of ‘Now and For Always’ with a friend (Tumblr user cafemusain), which is a beautiful song from The Lord of the Rings Musical. Her favorite song is a tie between ‘Into the West’ and ‘The Edge of Night’ and admits that ‘Now and For Always’ holds a special place in her heart. Adele also has written two original songs which has Tolkien-inspired lyrics, “The first is ‘Havens,’ which is about Frodo’s decision to travel to the Undying Lands and leave Middle Earth. The second, which is still a work in progress, is called ‘Shadow in the East‘ and is from Denethor’s point of view because it’s not one you often see.”
And she also creates her own original (non-Tolkien-related) music! (Which is just as lovely as her Tolkien music I must say.) “I write both original music that is fairly folky, but more contemporary/pop than my Lord of the Rings poetry, and I set poems by other authors such as Robert Burns, John Masefield, and Sarah Teasdale. You can find them on my SoundCloud.” I think my favorite song from her original music is ‘Many Moons,’ but then again… choosing favorites is always so difficult!
If you’re like me, then you are dying to be able to download her songs! She is currently working on creating better quality recordings with plans of putting out an unofficial album that people, who are interested, can easily download. “Basically, it will be a way for people to download them all at once and have them be of a good quality. I don’t own the poetry so I can’t charge for music that uses it, and like fanart or fanfiction, this is something I’m doing out of love and respect for the source material and making anything off it seems a bit wrong.” And for those of you who would like to have a physical CD, Adele is currently tossing around the idea of burning CDs, and people will be able to purchase it from her, covering the cost of the blank disk and shipping.
I think everyone can see (or hear I should say) for themselves the world Tolkien created and the passion Adele has, in her work. I’m definitely a big fan and look forward to the day when I can own a CD with all of her songs. So go and take a listen!