The Story of the Tolkien Ensemble
(Part 1) Part 2 (Part 3) (Part 4) (Part 5) (Part 6)
by Caspar Reiff
The Danish Queen Margrethe supported the Tolkien Ensemble by
giving permission to use her Lord of the Rings illustrations
The Queen of Denmark granted her permission for us to use her Lord of the Rings illustrations in the CD cover. This was a great honour and also it seemed to me the right thing to do was to combine these Danish illustrations of The Lord of the Rings with a Danish based ensemble's musical interpretations.
Now I anticipated that the project was strong enough to interest almost any record company: The poems from The Lord of the Rings, new music performed by professional musicians and The Danish Queen's unique illustrations...
But it actually proved to be quite hard to find a company that would have anything to do with a Tolkien based product back in 1997...
I contacted most major labels and also various Danish labels - but none were willing to take up the challenge. Fortunately Morten Ryelund recommended Classico Records. The manager of the company, Peter Olufsen, decided to support the project with these words: 'If Morten Ryelund is a part of it, it will be quality.'
Peter Olufsen was to have a major influence on the completion of not only this first CD but the project as a whole. In hard times for the project he was always the one who stood up for us and perceived that this project was not only about money, but an artistic challenge that needed to be supported.
The first edition of An Evening in Rivendell, published in only 2000 copies in 1997
Finally in the autumn of 1997 we could publish the Tolkien Ensemble's first CD. An Evening in Rivendell received outstanding reviews in Denmark. Also in other countries it was well received. Tolkien Online wrote: 'The Tolkien Ensemble's music has to be the most beautiful presentation of the poems of The Lord of the Rings' and Classic CD wrote: 'Highly persuasive and splendidly performed'.
Press photo of the Tolkien Ensemble autumn 1998, from the left: Mads Thiemann,
Caspar Reiff (on the floor), Signe Asmussen, Katja Nielsen, Peter Hall (standing) & Morten Ryelund
In 1998 I received a letter from Tolkien's daughter Priscilla Tolkien. She invited me to perform some of our songs in her house. I brought the Tolkien Ensemble's baritone Mads Thiemann to England and we performed a short programme of the songs twice in her house (both upstairs and downstairs). On the same journey we performed in Exeter College Hall in Oxford for The Tolkien Society. Also on this visit to England I had the opportunity to meet Rayner Unwin, the legendary publisher who had a major influence of the publication of both The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings.
Exeter College Hall where the Tolkien Ensemble performed in 1999.
n 1999 we returned to Oxford now bringing the entire Tolkien Ensemble to perform at Exeter College Hall for The Tolkien Society with Priscilla Tolkien among the audience. To our great delight she gave a short speech after the concert saying: 'It was like Galadriel was among us...'
Signe Asmussen, Caspar Reiff, Morten Ryelund, Katja Nielsen, Peter Hall & Mads Thiemann (Exeter College Hall, Oxford, 1999)
In 2000 the Tolkien Ensemble did among other concerts a major sold out concert in
one of Denmark's most prestigeful concert halls, Ny Carlsberg Glyptotek.
The Tolkien Ensemble: Press photo 2000, from the left: Peter Hall, Signe Asmussen, Katja Nielsen, Caspar Reiff, Mads Thiemann & Morten Ryelund.
In 2000 we started the recordings of our second album, A Night in Rivendell. New soloists were Povl Dissing (Gollum), Kurt Ravn (Legolas) and Ulrik Cold (Gandalf). Even though the songs were mostly dark and sad songs from The Lord of the Rings, the album was well received by the reviewers.
Povl Dissing (Gollum)
Ulrik Cold (Gandalf)
Kurt Ravn (Legolas)
Studio photo from 2000: From the left: Morten Ryelund, Mads Thiemann, Caspar Reiff, Ulrik Cold & Povl Dissing
Again The Danish Queen granted her permission for us to use her illustrations in the booklet. With regard to sales, A Night in Rivendell did not sell as well as An Evening in Rivendell.
First edition of A Night in Rivendell, published in the year 2000
Second edition of An Evening in Rivendell, published in the year 2000
At this point, around 2000, the 'Tolkien-world' was to go through a dramatic change. Rumours of Peter Jackson's movie trilogy based on The Lord of the Rings increased the interest of anything 'Tolkien-ish' massively. The Tolkien Ensemble was to be a part of this hype, a hype that may have saved the project, as I was not at all sure how to ever be able to finance my vision of the completion of the project.
Working on At Dawn in Rivendell: Morten Ryelund & Caspar Reiff
Morten Ryelund, Caspar Reiff & Peter Olufsen (manager of Classico Records) in Focus Recording Studio 1
So far our recordings had sold quite well for a classical CD, but not at all enough for me to be able to persuade the record companies to put a lot of money into the completion of the project. I had pushed the big songs in front of me: the songs requiring a symphony orchestra and a major choir. I did not want to make compromises with the music, so it is likely that the new Lord of the Rings hype was actually vital for the completion of the project.
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In 2001 Classico Records decided to publish a 2CD box containing our two albums A Evening in Rivendell and A Night in Rivendell under the title of '24 Songs from The Lord of the Rings'. This was sold internationally and big chains like Borders Books and Music launched the product. The Tolkien Ensemble all of a sudden found the way into the business pages of the newspapers...
In 2001 we decided to perform three concerts in Copenhagen at the Round Tower concert hall. All three concerts were sold out. At the same time we continued with the recording of the third album: At Dawn in Rivendell.