“The Harry Potter Film Concert Series” is a full-length film screening with live musical accompaniment presented by CineConcerts, featuring the beloved franchise about The Boy Who Lived.
If you’ve never been, allow me to set the stage: a live symphony orchestra scores the music perfectly alongside the film, which retains its original dialogue and sound effects, and is digitally projected onto a 40-foot screen. Savanah and I were both fortunate enough to have attended stops on the North American tour.
CineConcerts recently celebrated a massive achievement: Denver’s own Colorado Symphony hosted the 1000th screening of the Harry Potter Film Concert Series with a performance of “Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince” only days ago. I caught their stop here in Maryland, at the Joseph Meyerhoff Symphony Hall with the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra. Baltimore city doesn’t lack for any number of capable musical artists and performers.
Happily seated as close to the stage as possible, the screen was not my main center of focus, but rather the right half of the orchestra. The fourth installment of the movies and the books is one I have enjoyed over and over again, as it is my favorite. I felt I knew the film enough by heart that I could comfortably focus on watching the musicians instead of keeping my eyes permanently fixed on the screen. This, above all else, made the experience worthwhile for me.
Conductor Jeffrey Schindler enlivened the audience with a Hogwarts house “roll call”, and delighted us when he exited the stage only to return clad in a Slytherin scarf. As I turn back to an auditorium of thousands who showed up to a live concert performance of a film that hasn’t been “new” in over 12 years, I know I am in good company.
“Goblet of Fire” is special in this franchise, musically. Wizard Wrock is introduced to the cinematic universe with this movie. Real-life musicians from popular bands Pulp and Radiohead lent their talents to form The Weird Sisters, the “band that needs no introduction”. Previously, all three films had been scored by the legendary John Williams, who established iconic tracks in “Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone” and built off of his themes in the susbsequent two installments.
It is an unfair criticism that the “Goblet of Fire” score is often considered to be the weakest of the eight films. Patrick Doyle, who is the only composer to score just a singular Harry Potter film, introduced new thematic identities for both Voldemort and the titular character. His “Harry In Winter” concert suite and “Hogwarts’ March” remain fan favorites. Contextually, it makes perfect sense to introduce a new composer in the fourth film. As the story of “Goblet of Fire” is a game changer, a marked turning point in the events of series, it's fitting that the musical tone mirrors that transition.
Some highlights of the performance stand out in my mind because of the spectator element. Awkward giggles and snorts crept out at Harry and Myrtle in the prefects’ bathroom. Each time Neville Longbottom danced, people hooted and hollered in encouragement. But the scene in which Hermione Granger demands, “Next time there's a ball, pluck up the courage and ask me before someone else does— and not as a last resort!” had the crowd erupting in cheers, claps, loud whistles, and the stamping of feet. Experiencing this movie outside of a cinema or a living room, surrounded by the vibrant people that make up the Harry Potter community, made a lasting impression.
This was my first time attending a theatre performance where the orchestra was the “main event”, so to speak. I have been to Broadway shows and ballets, where it is customary that when the performance has ended, the dancers and musicians take a bow and promptly split. When the film concluded, I never expected them to continue playing the score through the credits. I was so pleasantly surprised! What did leave me embarrassed was how a noticeable amount of people stood to leave when the credits rolled. It signifies the end of the film, but not the end of the performance. It is a reminder not everyone understands the kind of hard work and practice that these musicians devote, nor are they familiar with theatre etiquette. It has occurred to me since what Cineconcerts is doing is still new to most of us. This tour made its debut in 2016 and has maintained our excitement for the next time it comes to town ever since. It’s a kind of live entertainment that inspires and adds to the cultural phenomena that is Harry Potter and they’re doing it well.
For more information on the Harry Potter Film Concert Series and to find a tour stop near you, please visit www.harrypotterinconcert.com