FARGO — There’s no doubt that fantasy novels, television shows and movies dominate the pop-culture landscape today. Epic battle scenes, mythical creatures, forbidden love, the fight between good and evil, "The Lord of the Rings" and "Game of Thrones" — it all gives us an escape from the mundane and quenches our thirst for adventure.
However, a vital component of these fantastic movies and shows is the evocative music that heightens what’s happening on the screen. For those who are seeking a musical adventure, the Fargo-Moorhead Symphony Orchestra's winter concert will put the focus on mythical heroes and women warriors at 7:30 p.m. Saturday, Jan. 26, and 2 p.m. Sunday, Jan. 27, on the North Dakota State University campus.
The concert repertoire includes music from “The Lord of the Rings” by Howard Shore, “Game of Thrones” by Ramin Djawadi, “Sarka" by Bedrich Smetana and “Lemminkainen Suite” by Jean Sibelius. F-M Symphony Executive Director Linda Boyd says this concert has the most cohesive theme the symphony has performed in a long time and is “perfect for the first time symphony-goer.”
“People already know the music is exciting because they’ve heard it,” Boyd says. “When people go to a symphony concert for the first time, I think they realize they’ve been surrounded by this music their whole lives and that it’s fun to see it created right in front of them by human beings.”
Boyd and Music Director Christopher Zimmerman curated the program based on the “Lemminkainen Suite,” in which composer Jean Sibelius put a musical score to stories from a Finnish book of epic poetry and folklore called “The Kalevala.” Published in 1835 by Elias Lönnrot, “The Kalevala” is regarded as one of Finland’s most significant pieces of literature. In the suite, Sibelius tells the story of Lemminkainen, a bumbling hero from “The Kalevala” who gets himself in precarious situations and is eventually saved by his mother.
Boyd says the piece is not like a film score where the music is accompanying the action. Rather, “the music is the action,” she says. In her research on “The Kalevala,” Boyd found another famous writer who was also inspired by the book: “The Lord of the Rings” author J.R.R. Tolkien. Tolkien discovered the book when he was young, Boyd says, and specifically learned Finnish to translate it.
“There are a lot of parallels in the stories and concepts of the piece with Tolkien’s own world that he created (in ‘The Lord of the Rings’), so there would likely be no (series) without ‘The Kalevala,’” she says.
This cemented the symphony’s decision to include music from “The Lord of the Rings” at the concert and later added music from “Game of Thrones.” Because there is no published symphony orchestra music from the HBO show, the F-M Symphony invited musician Russell Peterson to arrange music for the performance.
Peterson, who plays bassoon in the symphony, says composer Ramin Djawadi created the “Game of Thrones” music primarily with a computer. The only real instrumental parts included were for violin and cello, so Peterson composed parts for the rest of the symphony.
“We will have these solo instruments performed by Sonja Harasim and Greg Hamilton (and) put a microphone on them with added effects to give the feel and sound of the original music,” Peterson says.
To round out the mythical heroes and warrior women theme, the remaining piece the symphony plays is “Sarka" by Bedrich Smetana, which tells the tale of a female warrior who craftily leads an uprising with other women warriors against men. At the concert, images will be projected above the musicians to provide context of what is happening in all four pieces, Boyd says.
Before each performance, conductor Christopher Zimmerman will host a free pre-concert talk in the recital hall just off the lobby. Beverage service will also be provided before the concert and during intermission.
If you go
What: Fargo-Moorhead Symphony Orchestra's “Mythical Heroes and Women Warriors” concert
When: 7:30 p.m. Saturday, Jan. 26, and 2 p.m. Sunday, Jan. 27
Where: NDSU Festival Concert Hall, 1511 12th Ave. N., Fargo
Info: Tickets are $30 to $38 for adults and $14 to $18 for students, with $5 student rush tickets available an hour before each performance; fmsymphony.org or 701-478-3676
This article is part of a content partnership with The Arts Partnership, a nonprofit organization cultivating the arts in Fargo, Moorhead and West Fargo. For more information, visit http://theartspartnership.net.