Beautiful Scores Come from Video Games Too

On September 6, the Utah Symphony is excited to present Video Games Live!  During this concert you’ll be able to listen to some of your favorite video game scores like Final Fantasy, Warcraft, Skyrim, Shadow of the Colossus, Journey, Tetris, Mass Effect, Mega Man, and the WORLD PREMIERE of Lord of the Rings Online!

We have come a long way since Super Mario or Donkey Kong.  Music in the world of video games has drastically changed thanks to the help people like Chance Thomas.  He is a local guy who has composed many different scores throughout his career; his most recent is the “Theme for Rohan” which is the main theme for the expansion pack of the Lord of the Rings Online called The Rider of Rohan.  We had the privilege of having a phone conversation with him about his career and his inspiration as he was composing for the Lord of the Rings game.

Chance Thomas

Chance Thomas, composer of “Theme for Rohan” from the Lord of the Rings online video game.

Music has been a big part of his life.  At the age of 10, he was in musicals and in different theatrical performances, then it progressed into his own rock band while he was in high school.  It was during that time with his band that he began composing his own music.  After serving a mission for his church in Italy, he attended Brigham Young University (BYU) where he was set to get his business degree. In the back of his mind, though, he kept wondering if he could make a career out of music.  It wasn’t until he realized that BYU had a recording studio that it was even a possibility.  The more he was in the studio, the more he loved it. By the next semester he switched to the School of Music.

While attending the school, he discovered a new program called Recording Engineer and Production, which he absolutely loved because his course work consisted of composing songs and then performing them.  It is through this program that he learned and acquired many new skills that have helped him throughout his career.

In the late ‘90s, he applied to work for Sierra Entertainment as the composer of music for their video games.  Since he was new he wanted to do things differently, so he pioneered the idea of having a live orchestra perform the music for the games. Many people thought he was crazy and didn’t think it was possible or worthwhile. Even the musicians in the orchestra were skeptical, but he persisted and it was a grand success.  The first video game he composed music for was Quest for Glory V, which is a landmark achievement still being talked about today. He told us that Utah has had a big impact in the video game community—not only was Quest for Glory V recorded in Salt Lake City at the L.A. East Chapel Studios, but many other well-known games like Dungeons and Dragons, Doda 2, Avatar, and the Oscar winning animated short The ChubbChubbs have also been recorded here. For a complete list of all the music he has written for video games, you can visit his website.

Fast forward to present day, Chance has composed many different scores for video games and has become world-renowned for his complex musical scores. “When given the task of composing for the Lord of the Rings Online, I was very aware of the loyal fan base, and I wanted to make sure I did it properly,” he says.

His main goal while composing was to create the music in the manner that Tolkien would have envisioned it to be. In order to achieve that, he read through all the books taking notes where Tolkien mentioned the different types of instruments used by the characters.

Chance Thomas' Copies of The Lord of the Rings

The copies of Chance’s books with each mention of music marked.

“These are the [copies] I researched for 5 years: locating, collating and interpreting every reference to music, sound, instruments, voices and effects of music on the world.” The difficult part was taking all that data and combining it into a musical score.

In the end, he composed a unique and beautiful score that he is proud of.  He wanted to let people know that his version of Lord of the Rings is slightly different from the theatrical score. “It is more rustic,” he says. “I wanted to capture the heart of the books and story lines. Instead of an over the top powerful epic Hollywood type score.” You can listen to the song here.

Don’t miss the chance to see Chance guest conducting his composition on Sept. 6 at Video Games Live! For more information, please visit our website.

~ Gabriel Cabal

Mother Nature and Music: A Mighty 5® Fan Account from Andrew Wilson

Two of my absolute favorite pastimes are: 1) spending time enjoying the great outdoors and 2) experiencing live music. These are also two of the main reasons why I love living in Utah, am proud to be a Utahn, and that I thoroughly enjoy my job. When there were rumblings at work that we were putting together the Mighty 5® Tour, my interest was piqued and I kept my fingers crossed that I would be able to assist with the tour and hopefully go along! Flash forward and now I’m in Moab staring out my hotel window at the redrock that I began a lifelong fascination as a kid. The icing on the cake? I get to share this experience with my mum at my side, as she decided to join in and volunteer for the tour!

rock formation

Don’t sneeze! An awesome example of the great rock formations in Southern Utah!

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VIP at the Mighty 5®

Natalie Cope is the Special Events Manager for the Utah Symphony | Utah Opera. It is her job to coordinate events and activities for our VIP guests. The Mighty 5® Tour has given our VIP patrons a wonderful opportunity to explore the natural beauty of these national parks. I spoke with her on Tuesday morning about the VIP events of the tour.

USUO: What are your duties for the tour?
Natalie: I have planned all VIP activities and excursions through the tour. That includes dinners receptions, the outdoor things we’re doing like hiking and horseback riding, and post-concert receptions.

USUO: What are some of the VIP events being held at Mighty 5® this year?
Natalie: Last night, we did a reception at the Historic Gifford Homestead at Capitol Reef. It’s an intimate setting and picturesque. It feels cozy because it isn’t as busy as the rest of the park. The people at the park went above and beyond with flowers and decorations. There were hummingbirds flying around the tables. It was beautiful. There were even deer just wandering around; they were not afraid of us at all. They like the fruit trees that grow there. The Superintendent of Capitol Reef came out and had some remarks. It was really great. All the VIPs walked over to the Chamber concert at Fruita Campground afterward.

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There is absolutely no way that the Mighty 5® Tour could happen without having volunteers to help run and organize the show. The Utah Symphony and Utah Opera have always been deeply indebted to our volunteers and this experience is no different.

I had the chance to talk to Melissa Robison our Volunteer Coordinator, and Publication and Front of House Manager. She has been working hard on working with and training volunteers to make the Mighty 5® Tour spectacular.

Also, if you want to volunteer (and get into these sold out shows), you can still sign up! Just contact Melissa (her number is at the bottom).

USUO: How do you get enough volunteers to make everything work?
Melissa: When we decided we were going to do this tour, we knew it would be impossible to take our awesome volunteer network with us. Fortunately for us, our Education Department already reaches down to Southern Utah, so we decided to look at local volunteers. We created a flier and sent it out to the Chamber of Commerce and arts and local schools and reached out that way to gather volunteers. We did a lot on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter, too. Contine reading

The Mighty 5® Tour has Begun

Dear Internet Reader,

Monday marked the first day of the Utah Symphony’s Mighty 5® Tour, and all I can say is “what a whirlwind!” For me, just seeing this massive event come to life is spectacular. All of the planning, people, departments, community support, artists and donors involved…this was a huge undertaking, and now we’re seeing the results of all of our efforts.

Yesterday, Pat Richards, board chair of the Utah Symphony, made a lovely speech thanking everyone who was involved to make this happen. And honestly, I can’t say it any better than she did.

Pat Richards

Utah Symphony Board Chair Pat Richards

Last night, the Aspen Winds Quintet kicked-off the Mighty 5® Tour with the first chamber concert. Their performances of Nielsen, Copland, and others was inspiring. I was happy to see so many had people turned-out to enjoy it. In fact, so many people showed up that there wasn’t enough seating. People brought their camping chairs from their cars and campsites and joined us behind the bench seating. Contine reading

Preview of the Mighty 5® Tour

Everyone here at the Utah Symphony | Utah Opera is gearing up for the Mighty 5® Tour that is happening this week from August 11th to the 16th. There is so much happening behind the scenes to make this tour successful. Besides the music, there are a lot of things going on for our entire team. Here is a glimpse of some of the things that we are doing and preparing for.

Our Operations team is working on making sure all the musicians are bussed from location to location with places to sleep and eat and play. They’re also in charge of making sure all the instruments follow, because what’s a musician without their instrument? They’re in charge of organizing behind the scenes including trash pick up and EMT services and hotel accomodations.

Melissa Robison is organizing all of the wonderful volunteers that will be working during the shows. If it wasn’t for the community volunteers at every show, we would not be able to perform. Our development team is holding special VIP and private performances with the musicians. The local company Spy Hop is sending a film crew and working with their students to document the entire process. And Chip Dance has the tough job of setting up and dismantling the stage and all the equipment for each performance. Keep a look out for our special time-lapse video from Spy Hop that will show the entire process! Contine reading

Singing is for the Birds

Nature is infused with music. Or perhaps it is more accurate to say that music mimics nature and nature inspires music. It’s no wonder to me that nature has been inspiring music for such a long time. Violins, violas, cellos, and bass often attempt to recreate the sounds of a storm, of rain and wind blowing through the trees, or the trickling of a stream, or the mighty roar of a river. Animal noises (including bullfrog and toad croaks) are pumped out from trumpets and trombones and tubas. And birdsongs are delicately played by flutes, piccolos, pianos and harps.

Next week, during the Mighty 5® Tour, the USUO Education Department will be showing the national park guests how to mimic nature by recreating some of the local birdsongs in a series of activities held at the Visitor Centers. These activities will include learning to sing or play the birdsongs on a large piano mat and learning to identify local bird species based on their looks and on their sound. The Education Team (including Paula Fowler, Beverly Hawkins, and Tracy Hansford) will also teach park guests how to make their own imitation of the birdsongs. Here are some samples of what birds the lessons will feature. Follow the links to the pages to learn more about the birds and hear their songs. Contine reading

The Music of the Mighty 5® Tour

Landscapes and nature have always been an inspiration for music. Next week is your chance to be inspired by nature as the Utah Symphony with Utah native, Soprano Celena Shafer embark on the Mighty 5® Tour, a five day trip around the Mighty 5® national parks in Southern Utah. “The Mighty 5® Tour is a great opportunity to combine two kinds of beauty: nature and sound,” Utah Symphony Music Director Thierry Fischer says. “Here in Utah we have the unique and wonderful fortune of being surrounded by five amazing national parks, and with this tour we plan to celebrate by mixing all the elements of nature with beautiful sounds.”

The performance is a collection of music inspired by nature. There is no better way to open the show than with the brass fanfare that opens the Festive Overture by Dimitri Shostakovich. The quick-paced woodwinds and strings that follow will beautifully complement the majesty and grandeur of the national parks. This is a piece that was written on the fly. Shostakovich wrote it in three days in 1954 for a concert held at the Bolshoi Theatre in Moscow to commemorate the 37th anniversary of the October Revolution. Contine reading