Lord of the Rings in Concert

Blockbuster movies are breathing new life into the Toronto Symphony

It was nearly impossible to get tickets to the Toronto Symphony Orchestra's Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of The Rings in Concert this past December.

I thought I'd surprise my LOTR-obsessed partner with tickets for his birthday, but the show had long sold out when I finally inquired about getting seats.

After repeatedly calling the box office and checking the TSO website daily, I somehow managed to snag two tickets to the Saturday night performance; who knew the symphony was so popular all of a sudden?

As Joshua Kosman recently reported in San Francisco Chronicle, movie nights are becoming part of the repertoire at concert halls across North America. Long-standing orchestras are looking for innovative ways to bring in a new audience, and film might be doing the trick.

“We’re seeing that across north America that film concerts are becoming an important part of the season’s program," says Kendal Egli, director of market and sales at the TSO.

"Other symphonies, like the Toronto Symphony, are finding that this does make the orchestra more approachable and more relevant to the life of a city and the next generation of great audiences," he continues.

Egli notes the TSO first introduced its movie series in 2012-2013 season and it's only grown in popularity; this year, there are only a few tickets left for Disney's Ratatouille on Family Day weekend.

“The audience feedback we’ve had is overwhelmingly positive and I do see the same patrons returning to non-film concerts at the TSO," says Egli.

"It’s really the experience of getting into a seat and experiencing a film that you know and love on a new level where the orchestra really brings the score to life."

For him, it's also about introducing audiences to some of the best contemporary composers of our our time and illustrating how music can act as a character in a movie.

Kosman writes that it's also exciting to see these multi-layered production come together. TSO production manager Alaina Viau says there's plenty of technical wizardry that goes on behind the scenes to get these movie concerts ready. “It’s a way bigger process to get the film on stage,” she says.

But sometimes not everything goes as planned. Viau explains that there are always two versions of the movie playing at a time: a main and a backup.

During the first performance of LOTR, however, both lines went down. After about two minutes, it was up and running (perfectly in sync with the orchestra, of course), but for the remaining two shows, the production team had one main and three backups on, just in case.

Glitches like that are all part of the magic of a live performance, a type of performance other Toronto theatres are getting in on too. The Sony Centre also runs movies in concert, including Harry Potter and the Philsopher's Stone in June.

“At the end of the day," says Egli, "It’s a great way to break the ice for people coming to the symphony."

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