Everything You Need To Know About Harry Potter In Concert
The story of the Boy Who Lived is one that, 19 years after the first book was published, is still alive and well in many people’s hearts. With the release of the script, “Harry Potter and the Cursed Child,” and the upcoming release of the movie “Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them,” it’s a great time to be a Harry Potter fan.
On Sept. 9-11, local fans can rejoice as STL Symphony, in partnership with CineConcerts, will perform John Williams’ spectacular musical score alongside “Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone.” We chatted with Justin Freer, the conductor and mastermind behind Harry Potter in Concert, about what to expect with the orchestra performance.
How did you come up with the idea to have a live orchestra playing alongside the movie?
Well for me, personally, I’ve always adored this art form. The art of film music is really very special and unique in music history. So, I’ve always enjoyed it ever since I was a young kid. And I’ve always hoped that we’d get to a place in music performance where we could more easily do these and technology now allows us to. A few years ago, I founded Cineconcerts—that is the company that’s responsible for the Harry Potter film concert series and a few other things—and the idea was, and still is, to preserve and present this craft. Being able to present and perform these music scores live with the film is very exciting.
What’s the response been like so far?
It’s been very positive everywhere we’ve gone. We’ve really only just got started with “Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone” in June. We world-premiered it in Philadelphia and here we are a couple months later and we’ve had an amazing response. The audience response has been amazing. I mean, they love experiencing this in a new way.
All these Harry Potter fans are so loyal and they enjoy being able to live through their favorite character or characters’ eyes. Audiences have this opportunity to once again follow the adventures of these children, beginning with the first film at Hogwarts, and go through their adventure in this very, very unique way—with a live orchestra helping to tell the story on stage, which you can’t see anywhere else.
And what a perfect time to start presenting this with the release of “Harry Potter and the Cursed Child.”
Yeah, there are a lot of exciting things that J.K. Rowling is working on. She’s just a treasure trove of ideas. What a wonderful gift she is to all of us. It’s so special to have her giving what she continues to create.
Why do you think the music of John Williams has had such a lasting impression?
John Williams is a world-class composer. He is a true genius in the classic sense of the word and his ability to create iconic themes and sounds for pictures is something he’s been incredible at since he started writing music. He allows us to live through the eyes of these characters and follow their adventures, their tragedies, their excitement, their fear. John has an unbelievable ability to come up with these very simple melodies that just seem like they were always there, but he was the one who found them.
But, of course, it’s not that simple. It’s so much more than that and he has a real gift, so the music works incredibly well with the picture. Chris Columbus directed a magnificent film, so with “Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone,” we are able to begin this Harry Potter concert series in a very exciting way.I hope that people continue to live this adventure with us and see these concerts throughout these cities.
What’s the challenge of rehearsing only twice with the orchestra before performing?
Well, I think one of the biggest challenges is the sheer amount of music. There is well over two hours of music and it’s all incredibly well composed and challenging in some ways. I mean, rhythmically challenging. It might be challenging in the range or the register of the instrument, and the temp beat—the tempo—might be challenging.
There is always the challenge of keeping things synchronized to the picture and I have a tendency to do it without the click track. I do everything free with the baton, streamers, punches. I hope it has the tendency to allow it to be a bit more musical on stage. So, there are a lot of challenges certainly, and it requires a great deal of focus of everyone on stage to get from the beginning to the end all together.
How do you keep it fresh and not just go through the motions?
Well, the first thing is, of course, the music. The music is at such a high-quality level that every time I have a chance to perform it, study the score, or listen to it as an admirer and a fan of John Williams, it never gets old for me. It might be one thing if you were performing the same score day in and day out with the same orchestra all year long—that might be a little bit different. We’re very lucky and humbled to be able to bring this to so many local orchestras all over the world and every time we take this journey with a new orchestra the energy kind of resets itself and we share a new collaboration with new musicians and new patrons and new fans of Harry Potter. The energy never dies. It’s wonderful.
Do you think you’re going to be more or less of a fan after this first series finishes?
Oh my gosh! I’m already way more of a fan than I’ve ever been. I didn’t quite realize how much literature there is out there and how much loyalty there is with the real fans of Harry Potter. It’s amazing to see how much there is to sink your teeth into and learn from it and have fun with it. It’s been a really fun experience and I know that it will only get more involved as we go along, so I’m very excited to be part of this world.