The sound of the London Philharmonic Orchestra playing Howard Shore’s music came from the radio. The piece was familiar, although seemed a memory from long ago, from a different place. The presenter identified it as The Breaking of the Fellowship from Howard Shore’s music for The Lord of the Rings.
I could remember without effort the moments the music accompanied: the attack on the group; the death of Boromir; the escape of Frodo Baggins and Samwise Gamgee; the decoy run by Merry and Pippin; the committal of Boromir’s body to the water; and the pursuit of the abductors of Merry and Pippin by Aragorn, Legolas and Gimli. There are few moments in human history that I can recall with the clarity of those scenes from Tolkien’s tales of Middle Earth.
I can remember with equal clarity the first time I saw the film and heard the moving music at its conclusion. A few days before Christmas of 2001 at the cinema in Bray, Co Wicklow. My son was eleven years old, my daughter was eight.
It was a magical moment. My son was an avid reader of Tolkien. His first encounter with Lord of the Rings was probably a puppet performance of the story at the Grand Opera House in Belfast when he was about six years old. He had watched with rapt attention the unfolding of the saga, which must have been considerably condensed for it to have fitted into a single evening.
The Lord of the Rings became three films, each lasting more than three hours, and even then the story was heavily edited. The films were released during successive Christmas seasons and so it became a seasonal observance to go to Bray and to watch each part of the trilogy.
The memories of those evenings are memories of unalloyed happiness, memories of sharing in the delight of the children at the extraordinary presentation of the story. I read the massive three part book myself in the summer of 2002 to make sure I could fully share in the enjoyment of the second and third instalments of the saga.
The Lord of the Rings is a tale tinged with sadness, the breaking of the fellowship at the end of the first film, and the departure of Frodo Baggins and Gandalf for the Grey Havens, at the conclusion of the story. Perhaps it is the break that is the saddest.
Were it possible to recapture the moment with my children in that cinema, to stand with them and listen to that music, I would be delighted to step back in time.