The Road Goes Ever On is a song cycle that has been published as sheet music and as an audio recording. The music was written by Donald Swann, and the words are taken from J. R. R. Tolkien's Middle-earth literature.
The title of this opus is taken from "The Road Goes Ever On", the first song in the collection. The songs form a song cycle, designed to fit together well when played in sequence.
With Tolkien's approval, Donald Swann wrote the music for this song cycle, and much of the music resembles English traditional music or folk music. The sole exception is the Elvish (Quenya) song "Namárië," which was based on a tune by Tolkien himself and which has some affinities to Gregorian chant.
This book has been valued even by those uninterested in the music, since it helps Tolkien's readers to better understand the cultures of the various mythological beings presented in Middle-earth, and helps linguists analyse Tolkien's poetry. For example, it contains one of the longest samples of the language Quenya (in the song "Namárië"), as well as the Sindarin prayer "A Elbereth Gilthoniel."
Also, in addition to the sheet music, the book includes an introduction that contains additional information about Middle-earth. Prior to the publication of The Silmarillion, such information was rare and was greatly valued by Tolkien aficionados.
The first edition of The Road Goes Ever On was published in 1967.
An LP record of this song cycle was recorded on 12 June 1967, with Donald Swann on piano and William Elvin singing. Side one of this record consisted of Tolkien himself reading five poems from The Adventures of Tom Bombadil. The first track on side two was Tolkien reading the Elvish prayer "A Elbereth Gilthoniel". The remainder of side two contained the song cycle performed by Swann and Elvin. This LP record, entitled Poems & Songs of Middle Earth, is long out of print and very difficult to find.
The third edition, published in 1993, added music for "Lúthien Tinúviel" from The Silmarillion, which had earlier appeared in The Songs of Donald Swann: Volume I. The third edition of The Road Goes Ever On was packaged with a CD that duplicated the song cycle (but not Tolkien's readings) from the 1967 LP record. The CD also included two new recordings. The third edition was reprinted in hardcover in 2002 by Harper Collins (ISBN 0-00-713655-2); this had the same text and CD as the 1993 edition.
On June 10, 1995, the song cycle was performed in Rotterdam under the auspices of the Dutch Tolkien Society, by the baritone Jan Krediet together with the chamber choir EnSuite and Alexandra Swemer on the piano. A CD of this concert was published in a limited edition.
The complete list of songs in this song-cycle is as follows:
The following additional songs were added after the first edition, but do not form part of the song cycle itself:
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