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Symphony No. 5 Return to Middle Earth

Johan de Meij
Ancalagon the Black - © Jordy Lakiere

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After 30 years, composer Johan de Meij revisits Middle-Earth, the enchanting mythological world of J.R.R. Tolkien, with his Symphony No. 5 Return to Middle Earth. Although there are some thematic reminiscences of his monumental first symphony The Lord of the Rings from 1988, De Meij is putting a completely different musical vibe into this new symphony. There is an important role for a solo soprano and a mixed choir: they sing in Ilkorin, one of the Elvish languages ​​of Middle-Earth. The Orcs and other thugs also take the stage, but they only use raw screams in their own language, also known as 'black speech'.

The 5th symphony consists of six movements:

I) Mîri na Fëanor (Fëanor’s Jewels)
II) Tinúviel (Nightingale)
III) Ancalagon i-môr (Ancalagon, The Black)
IV) Arwen Undómiel (Evenstar)
V) Dagor Delothrin (The War of Wrath)
VI) Thuringwethil (Woman of Secret Shadow)

The symphony was commissioned by The Middle Earth Consortium Project, organized by the Valparaiso University in Valparaiso, Indiana (USA). The World Premiere took place November 3rd, 2018 with the composer conducting.

In 2019 several other important premieres were presented, respectively the Asian Premiere with Osaka Shion Wind Orchestra, conductor Johan de Meij,the European Premiere with Harmonie St. Michael Thorn, conductor Ivan Meylemans, and the German Premiere with Landesblasorchester Baden-Württemberg, conductor Björn Bus.

Explanation of the movements:

I) Miri na Fëanor (Jewels of Fëanor)

Before the creation of the Moon and Sun, the world of Arda was illuminated by the light of the Two Trees: shining Telperion and golden Galadlóriel. They glowed alternately, so there was never darkness in the Undying Lands. Fëanor, the great Noldorin artisan, captured the light of the Trees in crystal silima and crafted three fabulous jewels. The theft of these jewels by the renegade god Morgoth, precipitated all of the disastrous events of the First Age of Beleriand and, indeed, of all Middle-earth in the ages to follow.

II) Tinúviel (Nightingale)

Tinúviel, daughter of Melian the Maia and Thingol of Doriath, and her mortal lover, Beren, succeeded in wresting one of the Jewels of Fëanor from Morgoth’s crown. Thingol had set that feat of daring as the bride price for his daughter’s hand, not expecting Beren to succeed. He did succeed, however, with Tinúviel’s help—but Carcharoth, the great wolf of Angband, swallowed the jewel and Beren’s hand as the couple escaped. Later on, Carcharoth killed Beren and was in turn slain - the jewel was retrieved intact from his carcass. Tinúviel died of grief, following her lover to the Halls of Mandos. There she sang of her grief to the God of the Dead, who granted her choice of returning from the dead with Beren, in exchange for her own immortality.

III) Ancalagon i-môr (Ancalagon the Black)

The greatest of Morgoth’s winged dragons, Ancalagon the Black was defeated in the War of Wrath by Eärendil the Mariner (husband of Elwing, Tinúviel’s granddaughter). Eärendil succeeded in sailing to the Undying Lands using the light of the Jewel of Fëanor, which his wife had inherited. He battled Ancalagon in the sky above Morgoth’s stronghold, and the fall of the dragon crushed the towers of Thangorodrim, punctuating Morgoth’s ultimate defeat.

IV) Arwen Undómiel (Evenstar)

Arwen Undómiel was a direct descendant of Tinúviel of Doriath. It was said that Arwen looked just like her great-great-grandmother. As Queen of Gondor, Arwen considered her mortality, chosen for love of the mortal Aragorn, as did her ancestress, Tinúviel—a lifetime of love versus an eternity bereft of love.

V) Dagor Delothrin (The War of Wrath)

The host of the Valar marched from the Undying Lands in the uttermost West and summoned all Elves and Men to join in confronting the forces of Morgoth. The battle lasted fifty years, but in the end, Morgoth’s fire demons and legions of Orcs were destroyed. Eärendil appeared in the sky in his vessel Gwingeloth, along with Thorondor, King of the Eagles, and battle ensued between all the flying creatures. Morgoth was pursued into his mines and finally captured, bound with an unbreakable chain made of tilkal, and cast into the Timeless Void beyond the Walls of the World, to remain there until the breaking of the world.

VI) Thuringwethil (Woman of Secret Shadow)

No one knows how Thuringwethil, the vampire servant of Morgoth, died—but Tinúviel wore her fell on her quest with Beren to steal the Jewels of Fëanor from Morgoth’s crown. Yet even as she sped off to join her beloved Beren at Angband’s gates, Tinúviel could sense that the presence of the bat-woman was still present in her skin, relishing the freedom of that final flight.

© 2019 Eileen Marie Moore

Performance Notes


* The SATB Choir should consist of at least 80 singers, to be in balance with the wind orchestra;

* The solo soprano stands left of the conductor, except for mvt. IV [see below]

* The cello part is not optional, although there are cues in other instruments for important passages. 4 cellos minimum, and 2 string basses are recommended.

* There is an additional contrabass-clarinet part available, pretty much the same as the double bassoon. The part does not appear in the score or the set of parts. Order free pdf’s through the Amstel Music website (www.johandemeij.com)

I) Miri na Fëanor (Jewels of Fëanor)

* This movement calls for multiple triangles, in various sizes. The percussion section may have to ask some of the players in the orchestra who have nothing or little to do for assistance (tubas, baritone sax, string bass)

* The Chinese cymbals are the small hand-held ones, like finger cymbals. The rhythms for both Chinese cymbals as well as the triangles are free [‘like twinkling jewels’]

II) Tinúviel (Nightingale)

* The spoken passages at m. 77-80 (solo soprano) and 82-85 (choir) can be spoken in free rhythm, it doesn’t have to be precisely the notated rhythm;

III) Ancalagon i-môr (Ancalagon, the Black)

* The effect in m. 42-43 a.o. in the saxes: try to imitate an ugly scream on just the mouthpiece (without the neck);

* At m. 229, the four Orc Drums are introduced – they play an important role in mvt. V. Use empty oil barrels with coarse wooden sticks or other mallets]. They should be placed in a half circle behind the orchestra, with the XL Bass Drum in the back-centre. For the soft passages, use a cloth or a towel, to dampen the sound.

IV) Arwen Undómiel (Evenstar)

* To add a theatrical element, the soprano can start singing m. 9-18 from a balcony or from the back of the hall, depending on the venue; at m. 26 she starts walking elegantly through the isle, arrive near the conductor at m. 34 and turn around towards the audience on the high C at m. 35. She stays there until the end of Mvt. IV. This is of course optional: she can also just stay at her normal position. Another option: the soprano leaves the stage at the beginning after mvt. 2 and comes back on stage from the right in Mvt. 4. Stand close to the cello soloist for the duet. Measure 20: walk back to solo position.

V) Dagor Delothrin (The War of Wrath)

* Each choir member should bring along two big natural rocks, the size of a mango. At m. 73, the choir starts to hit the rocks; you probably need to work in pairs here, whereas one person holds up the sheet music, while the neighbour hits the rocks.

* at m. 92, the rocks continue, and the females start to speak with fear: “Uruk” and “Urukhai”. The Orcs are coming…. From m. 98 on, they can use free rhythms in growing panic, and add other works like ‘Ologhai’ (warrior trolls) and ‘Burzum’ (darkness).

* At m. 105, the men start yelling with ugly low voices, Guruth (Death!), Degi (Kill!), Dagor (Fight!) and Snaga (Slave!). This should be rhythmical (as written), together, while the rocks continue.

Translations measures 114-124, 131-152, 179-208, and 264-270:

Gimbatul = to find them;

Krimpatul = to bind them;

Thrakatulûk = to bring them all;

Durbatulûk – to rule them all.


Dagor Hai = Battle Demon

VI) Thuringwethil (Woman of Secret Shadow)

Note for the conductor: for balance reasons, you may have to adjust the dynamics in the orchestra: f. becomes mf. etc.

Johan de Meij
May 1st, 2019