The Tolkien Ensemble

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The Tolkien Ensemble
The Tolkien Ensemble.jpg
The Tolkien Ensemble, 2015
Background information
GenresSymphonic music, folk music
Years active1995–present
Associated actsChristopher Lee, Howard Shore
MembersCaspar Reiff, Peter Hall, Morten Ryelund Sørensen, Signe Asmussen, Øyvind Ougaard, Katja Nielsen

The Tolkien Ensemble (founded in 1995) is a Danish ensemble which aims to create "the world's first complete musical interpretation of the poems and songs from The Lord of the Rings". They published four CDs from 1997 to 2005, in which all the poems and songs of The Lord of the Rings are set to music. The project was approved by both the Tolkien family and HarperCollins Publishers. Queen Margrethe II of Denmark gave permission to use her illustrations in the CD layout.

Permanent members are Caspar Reiff and Peter Hall (composition, singing and guitar), Signe Asmussen (singing), Øyvind Ougaard (accordion), Katja Nielsen (double-bass), and Morten Ryelund Sørensen (conductor and violin).

The Ensemble has toured Europe in 2007, combining their own works with soundtrack pieces from Howard Shore's soundtrack to the film trilogy as well as live narration by Christopher Lee.


Composer Caspar Reiff founded the Tolkien Ensemble in Copenhagen in autumn 1995. At that time, Caspar Reiff (1971) was studying guitar at the Royal Danish Academy of Music in Copenhagen. He formed an ensemble consisting of fellow students from the Academy and his former guitar teacher, composer and multi-musician Peter Hall (1946), LLCM (TD) London College of Music.

The goal set by the two composers, Caspar Reiff and Peter Hall, was to create the world's first complete musical interpretation of the poems from J.R.R. Tolkien's masterpiece 'the Lord of the Rings', And the ensemble, which was to form the base of this vision, was named 'The Tolkien Ensemble' - an ensemble entirely devoted to the works of Tolkien.

The Tolkien Ensemble's first concert took place at Gjorslev Castle on 21 January 1996 and was followed by a number of successful concerts in Denmark. Towards the end of 1996 Caspar Reiff and Peter Hall were granted permission by the Tolkien Estate to record the first 12 songs from 'Lord of the Rings'.

The two composers chose the young Danish conductor Morten Ryelund as producer and this was to have a major influence on the interpretation of the music and the project as a whole. Morten Ryelund later became a full member of the Tolkien Ensemble and the ensemble was granted permission by HM Queen Margrethe II of Denmark to use her illustrations on the CD cover. These unique illustrations, created when she was Crown Princess of Denmark, were to become a recurrent feature on all the ensemble's later CD's.

The first album, An Evening in Rivendell, was released in autumn 1997 and was given outstanding reviews by the press. A number of concerts followed. Notably, in a 1998 concert in Oxford, the audience included members of the Tolkien family, to the ensemble's delight.

An Evening in Rivendell was followed by the 2000 release A Night in Rivendell. The album contained more sombre songs from the Lord of The Rings; the ensemble worked with, among others, the singers Povl Dissing, who sang the part of Gollum, Kurt Ravn (Legolas) and Ulrik Cold (Gandalf).

In the summer of 2000 The Tolkien Ensemble had reached 'cult status' among Tolkien enthusiasts the world over, though the ensemble still awaited wider recognition.

This came alongside the growing interest for The Lord of the Rings, when director Peter Jackson made a film version of Tolkien's books. At the end of 2001 the interest for Tolkien's works grew significantly throughout the world and fate willed that the Tolkien Ensemble was invited to take part in the Danish premiere of the first film in the Trilogy: The Fellowship of the Ring.

Among the celebrities representing the film in Copenhagen was the legendary actor Christopher Lee, who played Saruman in the film. The Tolkien Ensemble contacted him and he agreed to take part in the ensemble's third Album At Dawn in Rivendell, partly as narrator, partly as singer of Treebeard's songs.

The cooperation with Christopher Lee combined with the growing interest for the work of Tolkien, resulted in a huge success for the ensemble's Third album. The album was released in 22 countries throughout the world, played on the radio in a great number of countries, and was given excellent reviews. The International Herald Tribune called the ensemble's music: 'Total Lord of the Rings magic!' At Dawn in Rivendell subsequently achieved great sales worldwide.

The cooperation with Christopher Lee developed to include concerts. In the autumn of 2002 Christopher Lee took part in a release concert at Tivoli Concert Hall. Then followed a major tour of, among other countries, England and Sweden, culminating in the summer of 2003 when the ensemble gave a concert in Danmark for an audience including HM Queen Margrethe II of Denmark and HRH Prince Henrik.

Since then the Tolkien Ensemble has continued to give concerts. In 2004 the two composers, Caspar Reiff and Peter Hall, together with Christopher Lee, took part in a major sell-out concert in Concertgebouw, Amsterdam, and in 2005 The Tolkien Ensemble played at two major 'Lord of the Rings' concerts at Ledreborg Castle, Denmark where more than 22,000 people attended the concerts. Among the performers was the ensemble's new member, Nick Keir of the Scottish folk-trio The McCalmans. These concerts, performed together with the Danish National Chamber Orchestra/DR and the Danish National Chamber Choir/DR and a number of soloists, also marked the release of the fourth and last album of the series, Leaving Rivendell. Besides Christopher Lee, Nick Keir, the Danish National Chamber Orchestra/DR and the Danish National Chamber Choir/DR performed with The Tolkien Ensemble on Leaving Rivendell.

The release of the four-CD-box marks the end of more than ten years work and, with the participation of more than 150 professional musicians, The Tolkien Ensemble finally reached their goal: the release of the Complete Songs & Poems from The Lord of the Rings with The Tolkien Ensemble & Christopher Lee.

The four-CD-box is dedicated to the memory of J.R.R. Tolkien, to The Tolkien Society in Oxford and to the millions of people for whom The Lord of the Rings has a special place in their hearts...


  • Complete Songs & Poems (2006)
    Since this is a compilation of all their previous work the soloists are all of the above-mentioned.

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