The Constellations - A Guide to the Orchestra


“I have conducted and narrated THE CONSTELLATIONS by Jonathan Peters with professional orchestras on more than one occasion. In each case, it was well received by both the orchestra and the audience. I believe that this piece is a very good option for educational concerts when a narrated work that introduces the various instruments of the orchestra is desired.”

— Lawrence Golan, Music Director of the Denver Philharmonic


(5 stars) This spectacular production provides some information about Greek mythology, the constellations, and the orchestra. Performed expertly by the Vienna Symphonic Orchestra, the CD is divided into 14 movements, each one about a mythological character, several of whom were turned into constellations by the gods. Short introductions to each piece are expressively narrated by Michael Thomas Grumbine in a deep, mellow voice. He also provides some information about each mythological character and why he or she was turned into a constellation. The movements include "Perseus" (trumpets), "Pegasus" (violins), "Andromeda and Cetus" (flutes and double bass), "Hercules" (trombones and timpani), "Leo" (percussion), "Hydra" (viola, cello), "Lyra" (harp), "Lepus" (piccolo), "Orion and Scorpius" (French horn and oboe), "Delphinus" (clarinet), "Gemini" (glockenspiel and xylophone), "Ursa Major and Minor" (tuba, bassoon and contrabassoon), "Eridanus" (celesta), and "The Night Sky" (entire orchestra). Then all the movements are repeated without narration. The teacher's guide, which was not seen, can be accessed at{*}. This is an excellent and unique introduction to Greek mythology and orchestral instruments.

- Beverly Bixler, San Antonio Public Library, TX for School Library Journal

* The teacher’s guide is now available here: Download the Teacher's Guide


"The Constellations - A Guide to the Orchestra", is a wonderful piece of music for either a concert for young people or a standard orchestra concert.  This enthralling piece demonstrates a complete scope of orchestral timbres through musical characterizations of the mythology behind the star constellations.  We programmed the piece as a multi-media presentation with slides of the constellations shown during narration and music.  The concert ended up being standing-room-only.  The music is playable by a good youth orchestra and was a favorite of our musicians.  I believe that The Constellations will eventually find its way into the hands of professional orchestras, where it will enter the repertoire for young persons concerts.  I strongly recommend this piece to all Music Directors looking for a dynamic piece of music with a multitude of educational connections.   

- Andy Radford, Music Director Santa Barbara Youth Symphony




Symphony No. 1 - Journey of the Ring

When I received the 11-movement, 131 page score of Jonathan Peters' Symphony "Journey of the Ring", I mentally compared the dozens of symphonies I know, quite mindful of the traditional 4-movement structure with the usual formal features which have become earmarks of a normal symphony.  I knew then that I would have to once again expand my definition of the symphony, as this form has been stretching itself into countless shapes and sizes from the times of Haydn and Beethoven, through Berlioz, and into the present day. Let us be content now to say that a symphony represents a composer's deepest thoughts and broadest ideas, uttering philosophical and artistic statements which would not be adequately addressed in works that are smaller in scope (of instrumentation as well as duration) than a symphony.  Within the 57 minute duration of "Journey of the Ring", Peters touches upon the simple nature of Hobbits, expressed in the folk-like opening tunes.  But there are already hints of greater rhythmic complexities hidden within the 4/4 meter.  These unfold largely in the darker music, the first of which appears in the third movement.  Along with the evil, which this music depicts, nobler statements of heroism and love are carried here, each by characteristic musical and orchestrational gestures.  During the course of the symphony, it becomes clear that the composer's assured technique and imagination evident in his orchestration (one movement features a thundersheet bowed with a violin bow!) and compositional craftsmanship are equally at home in tonal/modal languages as in atonal writing.  Importantly, each approach is chosen for its own artistic and dramatic reasons, making for a listening experience that is at once both accessible (even the atonal parts) and emotionally satisfying. A final note to conductors--if you can't solve the problems of hiring two harpists and an off-stage ensemble, both of which are needed to mount a full production, do consider excerpting one or more of these movements in your concerts.  There are some great fanfares among the eleven movements here.

- Ron Anderson, Music Teachers' Association of California, Composers Today State Contest Chair


I received my copy of your CD of Symphony No 1 in this morning’s post. I am thrilled with your music and its links with the Tolkien characters and events. Thank you so much for bringing so many JRRT fans so much pleasure in your beautiful an descriptive major work.

- Roger (a member of the Tolkien Society in the UK)


Probably the best Tolkien-inspired music I have heard recently is “The Journey of the Ring” Symphony by Jonathan Peters.  I was pleasantly surprised.  It made me wonder what Howard Shore could have done if he was unconstrained by the requirements of a movie score.

- Mike Williams,


Peters has a film composer's sensibility; even his scene-painting movements are episodic story-telling pieces…I think I'd enjoy the film that would go with Peters' score more than I did the films that went with Shore's score. It's much less pretentious for one thing. Peters has a prodigal thematic imagination, orchestrates thinly and cleanly, and above all he is succinct. He doesn't repeat himself, jack up tension through cheap sequencing, or continue after he has failed of invention. There is no exhaustion here as is found in the latter parts of Shore's work. The action scenes are sometimes challenging: Peters' Moria and Pelennor Fields churn a bit, but his Helm's Deep and Mount Doom are well balanced between contemplation and activity. Peters' Rivendell is a placid pastoral over a gently rocking rhythm akin to Philip Glass. Otherwise for the Elves and other ethereal beauty, Peters is partial to harps and other plucked strings that avoid the steaminess that many composers associate with Lothlòrien. Peters' versatility is shown by his ability to make the same pizzicato strings in Shelob's Lair sound appropriately creepy. In general I enjoyed my visit to Jonathan Peters' sound-world of the Lord of the Rings, and I encourage you to share the experience.

- David Bratman, Mythprint bulletin, Mythopoeic Society.


This is not the first symphony to have been based on  The Lord of the Rings; nor, I’m sure, will it be the last. Journey of the Ring’s distinction lies rather in its being the first orchestral score to emerge in the shadow of Howard Shore. The ubiquity of Shore’s film score makes it inevitable that a listener of Tolkien-inspired music in its wake – irrespective of a composer’s intent – will draw comparisons between the two works. In the case of Jonathan Peters, a perceptive listener may also ask to what degree his new symphony is engaged in a dialogue with (or counterpoint to) Shore’s opus. There are moments in Journey that sound unmistakably “Shorean.” I’m not alleging imitation here; but the structure of Peters’ symphony seems to betray some influence of the films. For example, his tripartite division of the movements follows Peter Jackson’s sequence rather than Tolkien’s. A more apt comparison is Bill Brown and Jamie Christopherson’s orchestral score for the EA video game, The Battle for Middle-earth, which takes a few recognizable Shorean motifs and then weaves them into its own, independent composition. As orchestral Tolkienian works go, Journey is much closer in spirit to Craig Russell’s Middle Earth suite than to de Meij, in that it presents a series of sound portraits rather than a traditional, four-part, symphonic progression. However, unlike Russell, who is almost exclusively character-centered, Peters opts for an event or scene-based narrative, following the well-trodden cursus of the books from the Shire to the Grey Havens. Peters recorded his symphony without the luxury of live musicians, making judicious use instead of orchestral samples from the Vienna Symphonic Library. The result is generally quite pleasant. Sampling tends to sound more artificial the louder its source. Peters manages to overcome this handicap by and large, especially in his avoidance of bombastic overkill (a temptation Shore does not always resist). The result is a full, warm sound with depth and texture. You still have to suspend disbelief at times, but hey, that’s what fantasy is all about folks! It is difficult to gage whether a Lord of the Rings virgin would be able to fully appreciate the development of each scene, since making sense of some of the tempo changes and shifts requires some knowledge of the books (or the movies). I myself preferred Peters’ more thematic pieces like Lothlórien which allow the listener more time to enjoy the moment than some of the action sequences. During the latter, I often found myself trying to keep up with the plot. Much more work for the listener, but a tribute to Peters’ musical storytelling. The Battle of the Pelennor Fields is articularly intricate in structure, capturing each moment of that prolonged combat, the fair and the foul. Overall, Journey is worth a listen; or more likely several listens. says check it out.

- Chris Seeman,


One can imagine the whole Lord of the Rings story in the music of Jonathan Peters even if you hadn’t read the books of J.R.R.Tolkien, nor seen the screen version of it by P.Jackson. This symphony is worth buying and is not at all inferior to the film music of Howard Shore.

- Hedwig Valkiers, Editor Lothelanor


I have been listening to the CD nearly every evening…e-mailing with friends, etc.  We even had a Peters v. Shore showdown, with "Journey of the Ring" pitted against the movie soundtrack. Result:  Peters by a landslide. The symphony as a whole is better even than I had expected, and rewards repeated hearing.  It is a very, very impressive accomplishment!  

- Jeremy Holmes (CDbaby customer)


Best Lord of the Rings CD ever! The Music reflects nicely on the book.

- John Bolin (CDbaby customer)


Wonderful sound story book!The music is wonderfully arranged and takes you through the story as though you were reading, almost pinpointing various stages of the story.

- Carlos Jimenez (CDbaby customer)


Excellent composition! This CD really captured the whimsey and drama of the books, but you don't have to be a Tokien fan to love this music.

- Rachel Shunk (CDbaby customer)


A beautiful remembrance of the magic J.R. Tolken shares within his books, and why I enjoyed them in the first place. The composition of the music spoke truth about the emotions one feels during these pinnacle parts of the story. I am very pleased with this CD and would gladly recommend it to anyone that is a lover of this story.

- Dale Foster (CDbaby customer)


Journey of the Ring is not just another soundtrack for The Lord of the Rings. It's more like a musical telling of the story. After the hobbits lose Gandalf and travel into Lothlorien, you hear it. The grief they are feeling, the awe they must feel at this mystical forest, it's all in there. Having recently read the books I was delighted to experience it again through Jonathan Peters Journey of the Ring. It's a must for any Lord of the Rings fan or any lover of Fantasy.

- William Wilson (CDbaby customer)


This CD is a beautiful, well-paced musical journey through Middle Earth, encompassing all the major events of the books. The themes are original and moving, drawing the mind and imagination to the settings, characters and events which inspired them. My favorite tracks are the peaceful harp duet of Lothlorien and the exciting, hoof-pounding tones of the Riders of Rohan.

- Jessica (CDbaby customer)


The "Journey of the Ring" is a life-packed symphony, filled with exciting themes which portray the lives and characteristics of those living in Tolkien's mystical land of Middle Earth. This symphony is masterfully written, portraying emotions found in the writings of Tolkien—suspense, joy, grandeur, happiness, and exhilaration! This CD is a must-have! Whether you are a “Lord of the Rings” fan or not, this CD is certainly worth listening to, for it is of itself an extraordinary masterpiece.

- Nathan Page (CDbaby customer)


An excellent rendering of the feelings evoked by the Tolkien work. The music is very good and the orchestration very well done. Could very well be used as a soundtrack for parts of the movie.

- Larry (CDbaby customer)


As a keen admirer of the LOTR series, I was very pleased with the faithfulness with which the music in this cd reflected the feelings, the aura of this popular and intricate book. The music flows freely, moving you along the tale with ease, packed with beautiful melodies and complex arrangements. Even on its own, apart from its inspiration, this cd is simply wonderful music. I highly recommend it to ANYONE; devotees of LOTR, or simply classical music lovers.

- Allison (CDbaby customer)


With emotions and colors as wildly varying as the realms of Tolkien's Middle Earth, this symphony captures the essence of the epic fantasy which inspired it.

- Jacob (CDbaby customer)


The most professional and enjoyable piece of fan music I'v ever heard. Most of the time when you buy a CD there's usually only a few good tracks out of the whole bunch. But with 'Journey of the Ring' practically every track is memorable and moving and it does an outstanding job of taking the listener through the many locations and events of J.R.R. Tolkien's books. It really doesn't even sound like 'fan' music. It's more like the 'unofficial soundtrack to the books'.

- Aronagorn (CDbaby customer)


This was great! All the emotions are so accessible, but so deep and true to the story also. Even my ten year old brother could tell what part of the story we were at by listening to a little bit.

- Madeleine Lessard (CDbaby customer)


Very good version of the story, great classical music, sounds like an movie soundtrack. Best of the music I've heard out there inspired by this masterpiece of a story.

- Anne Marie - FrodoandSam-aholic (CDbaby customer)



Beauty Beckons

"Gorgeous celebration of life and all its beautiful moments."

- Rachel Shunk (CDbaby customer)


"I have been acquainted with Jonathan Peters' music for quite some time now, and he has never failed to impress me with his artistry and creative ability. This CD, however, is really is his best effort thus far! The music has a kind of "polish" to it, a completeness that strikes the listener immediately. It is also amazing how he seems to move from one genre of music to another with such ease. One moment you are enchanted by this very "classic" sounding duet for piano and flute, and the next this contemporary, powerful theme music carries you off to "Don Quixote in America". If you feel that modern composers have lost that sense of proportion and "The Beautiful" which ought to drive all artists to create, then take a listen to this CD and be disappointed no longer!"

- Merrill Roberts (CDbaby customer)


"A great collection of songs that show what beauty is really about. From the sharing of stories with old friends to the romance of two lovers, this CD tells all. This is a great CD to enlighten you in finding the beauty that is everywhere and in everything. A must buy for any serious music lover."

- Aaron (CDbaby customer)