Paul Corfield Godfrey's "The Fall of Gondolin: Epic Scenes from the Silmarillion, Part Four" Demo Recording
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This musical work was composed before the publication of The Fall of Gondolin by J R R Tolkien, ed. C R Tolkien, in 2018 and is not associated with it. The literary work is © The Tolkien Estate Limited and C R Tolkien 2018. FALL OF GONDOLIN is a trade mark of The Tolkien Estate Limited

It is with great pleasure that we can announce that our Demo Recording of Paul Corfield Godfrey’s operatic work “The Fall of Gondolin” after the mythology of J. R. R. Tolkien will be released by ASC Records & Prima Facie Records in September 2018.

Artwork for the release provided by Ted Nasmith.

All artists appear by arrangement with Welsh National Opera.

Below is the press release from Prima Facie:

Prima Facie Records is pleased to announce the release of The Fall of Gondolin (complete demo recording) PFCD092/093

FALL OF GONDOLIN


During the period 1982-97 Welsh composer Paul Corfield Godfrey produced a series of ‘epic scenes’ drawn from J R R Tolkien’s posthumous writings for The Silmarillion, employing a large variety of posthumously published texts by the author with the permission of the Tolkien Estate. The cycle, extending in performance over four evenings, is the largest-scale work of classical music written in Wales in the twentieth century, demanding a full roster of solo singers, chorus and an orchestra of some eighty players, but has only ever been performed in excerpts until now.

Following on the success last year of the CD of the composer’s music including the piano rondo Akallabêth and other Tolkien works, Prima Facie Records in collaboration with Volante Opera Productions now presents the first instalment in a complete recording of the epic scenes, to be released in a series of double CD albums. In a review last year Chris Seeman of the Tolkien Music Website wrote: “In the annals of Tolkien-inspired music, Paul Corfield Godfrey is the proverbial oliphaunt in the closet” and expressed a hope that more of his work would be recorded in the near future. Accordingly this set of The Fall of Gondolin will be followed next year by a release of Beren and Lúthien, to be followed in due course by The Children of Húrin and Fëanor.

The singers are all professional artists from Welsh National Opera, and the sets will make available for the first time a fully representative recording of the music with the complete lyrics by Tolkien. Because of budgetary and other constraints, the orchestra is represented by sampled sets (using the sounds of real instruments) which have been carefully balanced and adjusted in collaboration with the composer to obtain as close a result to the sound of an actual orchestra as possible. The booklet with this set of The Fall of Gondolin explains the methods of production in greater detail, and also includes an essay by the composer on the manner in which the author’s text has been adapted for music.

In a review last year of the composer’s Akallabêth, Göran Forsling referred to his music as “accessible and captivating”. Brian Wilson in another review compared his Tolkien songs to the Housman settings of Vaughan Williams, and observed that he would not be surprised if “some of Godfrey’s music becomes as well-loved as the Vaughan Williams.” We would hope that audiences will enjoy the further exploration of this extensive work.

For reviews please click on the links below:

Our trailer for the recording.

Composer Paul Corfield Godfrey introduces "The Fall of Gondolin" with excerpts from the recording.

Composer Paul Corfield Godfrey briefly analyses "The Fall of Gondolin" with excerpts from the recording.

The Recording Process

This recording project has had a lengthy gestation period, the beginnings of which was in the spring of 2016.  We had been tasked to arrange a concert of music to commemorate the First World War in the summer, and came upon the idea of mounting concert of art songs that were either written by composers who served in the war, or settings of poetry that were written by poets who served.  The programme went together quickly, except that Simon, being a fan of Tolkien, felt that some settings of his work should be included.  Tolkien, after all, had served in the war and had begun to write the beginnings of his "Middle Earth" at that time.

 

Whilst aware of the Donald Swann settings, we were intrigued to see if anyone else had written anything for classical singers that we may include.  On a long journey between Milton Keynes and Plymouth, on tour with WNO, Simon was sat idly on Google searching for any hits that may be of interest. He came across a page of the music of Tolkien and in it a stub of a page mentioning the composer Paul Corfield Godfrey and his operatic works.

 

This was, of course, of great interest to us and we quickly found his website and contacted him for any more information he could provide.  To our great delight he responded to our request for information very quickly, and gave us two bits of information that were of miraculous coincidence; samples of his scores were held in the Ty Cerdd music library in the Wales Millennium Centre (directly below where we work) and that he lived a very short distance from where we are based.

Fate was not on our side for the aforementioned concert, as we had to submit a programme before we could see any of his music.  However Paul came to our little concert and since then we have stayed in contact, over the phone and through various meetings (usually over dinner after shows that he has come to see).

Paul gifted to us a large amount of his vocal music, the majority of which we are still exploring, but one large thing attracted us more than most, the vocal scores of his epic scenes based on the Silmarillion, of which the Fall of Gondolin had an immediate attraction due to it's large sections of tenor and baritone music.  The only way to hear this music was via the old synthesised recordings that Paul himself made years ago.  Using the software at our disposal, we started to input small sections of the piece into the computer to hear it played using modern sampled instrument sets.

 

The first section inputted was "The Horns of Ulmo", an aria for Tuor in the second triptych of the piece.  This was of great intrigue, so much so that Simon recorded a test vocal to the sampled instruments.  This quickly escalated as more of the piece was inputted into the computer to hear.  With it the germ of an idea; what if we could somehow involve our friends, all of them professional singers and create a demo recording of the piece?

With the, most appreciated, assistance of Paul in our limited spare time an orchestral track was created using two different versions of his score, the full orchestral score and the modified version he used to create his recording years ago.  From there we have been relying on the kindness and willingness of our friends to participate, especially as they are giving up their precious free time to come and record the required voice parts.  Without them this project would not be able to proceed, and for that we will be eternally grateful.

Audio Samples

The first sample is an orchestral one of the Wedding March from Scene Seven.  This shows how we used the sampled instruments to create the orchestra for the Demo Recording.

Wedding March Sample - Demo Recording
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The second sample is a choral one of the Hymn to Illuvatar from Scene Nine.  This is an example of the choral sound we created using the voices of eight singers for the Demo Recording.

Hymn to Illuvatar Sample - Demo Recording
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The third sample is of the Epilogue, Tuor is departing on his ship and bidding farewell to his wife.  We hear the distant elven voices passing over the sea from Valinor.

Epilogue Sample - Demo Recording
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The Piece

"The Silmarillion Part Four: The Fall of Gondolin" is composed for ten characters, semi-chorus, full chorus and orchestra.

The characters are as follows (in order of singing):

 

Ulmo, Lord of the Waters (Bass):  Martin Lloyd

Turgon, the King of Gondolin (Bass):  George Newton-Fitzgerald

Aredhel, his sister (Mezzo-Soprano):  Louise Ratcliffe

Eöl, a dark Elf (Baritone):  Julian Boyce

Maeglin, son of Eol and Aredhel (Bass-Baritone):  Stephen Wells

Ecthelion, Captain of the Guard of Gondolin (Baritone):  Philip Lloyd-Evans

Tuor son of Huor, a mortal man (Tenor):  Simon Crosby Buttle

Voronwë, a mariner of Gondolin (Baritone):  Julian Boyce

Idril Celebrindal, Daughter of Turgon (Soprano):  Anitra Blaxhall

Morgoth, the enemy (Bass):  Laurence Cole

Chorus of unseen voices and people of Gondolin: 

Anitra Blaxhall/Emma Mary Llewellyn/Louise Ratcliffe/Helen Greenaway/

Michael Clifton-Thompson/Simon Crosby Buttle/Julian Boyce/Laurence Cole

It is written in nine scenes plus a prologue and epilogue, a synopsis of which I add below. 

 

First Triptych

 

Prologue:

The Chorus sings of the deeds of Eärendil the seafarer, which have now receded into the mists of memory. Ulmo, the Lord of Waters, appears to the Elvenking Turgon and bids him to lay down his arms and found the Hidden City of Gondolin.

 

Scene One:

The fair city of Gondolin is built.  Turgon dwells there with his daughter Idril Celebrindal and his sister Aredhel. Turgon has decreed that no one who knows the city’s location may leave it.  Aredhel defies her brother’s will and leaves the city to wander abroad in Middle Earth.  Aredhel, wearying of the delights of Gondolin, informs her brother that she intends to leave the city.  

 

Scene Two:

She is captured by the Dark Elf Eöl, who takes her as his wife.  She bears him a son, Maeglin.  Eöl admonishes Maeglin, telling him that he is his son and not a child of Gondolin.  Upon his exit Maeglin asks his mother to lead him to Gondolin away from his father’s tutelage.  She consents and the two flee their bondage.    

 

Scene Three:

Aredhel and Maeglin travel to Gondolin, but, unbeknownst to them, are followed by Eöl.  Turgon welcomes the return of Aredhel and offers Maeglin a high place in the city.  Ecthelion, the Captain of the Guard, rushes in and informs Turgon that another has come unbidden into the city.  Aredhel admits to her brother that the newcomer is her husband and begs him to stay his hand.  Turgon welcomes Eöl into his city and his family. He informs him that now he has entered Gondolin he may no longer leave.  Eöl is determined to leave and to take his family away with him.  Turgon gives him and his son a choice: stay or die.  Eöl chooses the latter and attempts to kill his son with a spear.  Aredhel steps between her husband and son, intercepts the blow and is killed.  Eöl is condemned and thrown from the ramparts of the city.  Idril approaches Maeglin to console him but something in his gaze frightens her.  She leaves him alone.

 

Second Triptych

 

Scene Four:

We are introduced to Tuor, the son of the fallen Huor, who is journeying to the shores of the ocean.  A great wave arises and brings Ulmo with it.  Ulmo addresses Tuor and bequeaths to him the former arms of Turgon and a mission: to warn Turgon that the fall of Gondolin draws near.  Ulmo pulls a wrecked ship from the sea and upon it is Voronwë, an Elf of Gondolin, who was sent by Turgon on a failed mission to seek aid from the Blessed Realm. Voronwë and Tuor discuss the errand that Ulmo has set. Voronwë describes to Tuor his labours in the sea and finally agrees to take him to the Hidden City.

Scene Five:

Tuor tells Voronwë of his vision of Ulmo and his errand.  Voronwë leads Tuor to the dark and concealed Gates of the City of Gondolin.  They are challenged at the Gate by Ecthelion.

 

Scene Six:

Ecthelion refuses the pair entry into Gondolin until Tuor removes his cloak and reveals the arms of Turgon, bequeathed to him by Ulmo.  Turgon, Idril and Maeglin greet the visitors. When Tuor imparts the message of Ulmo to the King he refuses to abandon his city.  Tuor, now trapped within the city, is left behind with Idril who offers him aid.  This is much to the dismay of the on looking Maeglin, who is himself enamoured of Idril.

Third Triptych

Scene Seven:

Tuor and Idril are married and have a baby son Eärendil.  As their child grows so too does their love but they are being watched by the jealous Maeglin.  The couple sing of their longing to see the Blessed Realm.

 

Scene Eight:

Maeglin is brought before Morgoth, where he offers to betray the whereabouts of the Hidden City if he is rewarded.

 

Scene Nine:

The City of Gondolin is celebrating the first morning of summer and all sing an Elvish hymn to Ilúvatar.  It is at this point that Morgoth looses his whole force against Gondolin.  Turgon, realising his folly at not heeding the words of Ulmo, tells his people to flee and follow Tuor as their leader.  The King remains behind, refusing to strike any blow and sends a reluctant Ecthelion after them.  Maeglin attempts to seize Idril and Eärendil.  Tuor struggles with him and casts him from the walls to the same death as his father before him.   A sudden burst of flame from below rises and engulfs Turgon and from it rises a Balrog, which threatens Tuor and his family.  Ecthelion rushes forward and hurls himself at the Spirit of Flame. Both fall to their death in the abyss.  Tuor and Idril lead the survivors away from the fallen city and down towards the sea.

Epilogue:

A now aged Tuor bids his wife and adult son farewell as he boards a ship.  His aim is once more to sail the ocean and seek the Blessed Realm.   Idril sings of her husband and his journey, whilst seeing a bright light shining through the mists as he comes to the end of his journey.

For more information, libretto and analysis of the piece please see the composer's website (link below).

 

Demo Recording Information

The recording is being produced using Reaper software and is utilising the Eastwest Software/Quantum Leap Symphonic Orchestra sampled instruments.

The main parts: Turgon, Aredhel, Idril, Eol, Maeglin, Ecthelion, Voronwe, Tuor, Ulmo and Morgoth will all be recorded using different professional singers (the only double casting is that of Eol and Voronwe, both of whom never meet in the piece and have both been recorded by Julian).

The Chorus posed a problem,  our options were to either use synthetic voices, real voices synthetically multiplied, or record with a minimum of voices and present a "chamber chorus" version.  Synthetic voices would sound strange against the real voices of the principal roles.  Multiplied voices, whilst a valid option for some music, do not work very well with operatic voices, often not working at all.  This left us with the final option of two per voice part, which would accommodate the splits in the parts.  Each of these voices, due to the limited space and equipment, is recorded individually and post processed to fit with the others.  This is the method we use when creating learning tracks for choirs, as it gives us the opportunity to isolate parts and fix problems without having to have everyone back to re-record.

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