MAGICAL MUSIC OF HARRY POTTER COMES TO DENVER
Sounds of witchcraft and wizardry were fully dialed-up at the Magical Music of Harry Potter.
On April 10, Boettcher Concert Hall hosted its annual symphonic celebration of one of the Potter franchise’s crowning jewels: the films’ illustrious scores. Approximately 2,700 people robed in varying degrees of Hogwarts-inspired finery attended the sold-out event.
As the artist who launched the films and decided their musical direction long after his eventual departure from the franchise, the legendary John Williams was the primary honoree of the concert. Not many composers have so deeply entrenched themselves in the cultural narrative as he has: In addition to scoring the first three Potter films, he’s the man responsible for the iconic strains of music heard in Star Wars, Jurassic Park, Jaws, E.T., and the 1978 version of Superman. The fact that Williams has been nominated for 50 Academy Awards communicates how inexhaustive the list is.
Even those who have managed to never see the likes of Star Wars or Jaws know what their scores sound like. Like Harry Potter, these films are cinematic marvels of their own right, but the power of music is such that five or six notes alone can accurately convey the magic of a multigenerational franchise. The Potter score is just one puzzle piece that adds up to a billion-dollar phenomena.
The concert came on the heels of the April 5 grand opening of the Wizarding World of Harry Potter in Hollywood, California. John Williams was present to reprise his 2010 performance at the Orlando Wizarding World. Though the opening ceremony was accompanied by state-of-the-art visual storytelling projected onto the facade of Hogwarts castle, it was Williams’ monumental score that left audiences around the world enchanted by Universal Studios’ livestream.
This passionate fan response does some of the work of explaining why, a decade after the publication of the series’ last book and four years after the final film, the Magical Music of Harry Potter sold out weeks in advance.
The show was preambled with an assortment of family-friendly tasks. Activities for children—and super-fan adults—included music lessons, trivia questions, and workstations to make Hogwarts house ties.
Troupes of actors dressed as primary Potter characters were present to personalize acceptance letters to magical academies and enroll young students in the Triwizard Tournament by way of the Goblet of Fire.
Inside the concert hall, each seat was adorned with a house flag so that ticket-holders were sorted along the delineations of Ravenclaw, Hufflepuff , Gryffindor, and Slytherin. No one was excluded from this treatment. On stage, house crests hung from the front of each music stand, and the ring seats hugging the ceiling were referred to as the Owlery throughout the show.
Once the lights dimmed, a disembodied voice with an affected elderly accent warned the audience about misbehaving. “Remember, young witches and wizards, use of cell phones, flash photography, or horcruxes is strictly forbidden,” the voice said. “Rule breakers will be escorted by dementors directly to Azkaban.”
The conductor, revealing his role as the voice, took the stage and introduced himself as Albus Dumbledore, master of ceremonies—his floor-length purple robes perfectly complemented the persona.
The symphony progressed according to film chronology, which meant it opened with a tribute to Harry Potter And The Sorcerer’s Stone. Williams’ “Hedwig’s Theme” was electrifying— its intricacies were on full display as audience members could see how much the role of individual musicians changed from moment to moment. Just as this track defined the sound of the movie series, this rendition set the tone of the concert. Attendees could easily expect the rest of the show to be as masterfully precise and controlled as its opening act was.
The fantastical “Harry’s Wondrous World” rounded out this first set establishing the series’ most frequently appearing themes. The move to later films began the work of celebrating lesser-performed, but equally captivating, compositions.
The easy fluidity of the Colorado Symphony became more apparent when the music’s tone ceased pivoting around exuberant anthems. “The Chamber of Secrets” was a quieter offering that showcased the Symphony’s ability to captivate with minimalism.
The Prisoner Of Azkaban set was especially striking; “Aunt Marge’s Waltz” and “The Knight Bus” were each layered with the kind of complexity that these scores could be show-stoppers even when removed from their source material.
There was no shortage of magic in the air.
The percussion, woodwinds, strings, and brass sections delicately wound in and out throughout the Azkaban tracks, and seeing these families of instruments work singularly before moving back to a unified performance displayed how much work and precision goes into the illusion of effortlessness.
In order to maintain a jovial atmosphere even as the final films took on a decidedly gloomier timbre, Order Of The Phoenix, Half-Blood Prince, and Deathly Hallows were all turned into concert suites, or auditory collages of the respective score’s best (re: most child-friendly) pieces. This challenged the Symphony to perform more range within shorter periods of time—darker sound bites couldn’t be avoided, but they quickly, and successfully, returned to more whimsical excerpts.
The standing ovation the orchestra received upon completing the concert was as deserved as it was customary. Kids and costumed Millennials alike began asking employees if the show would make another appearance next year. Considering how many people waited, completely enchanted, for an encore, there was no shortage of magic in the air. Finally, people begrudgingly collected their concert programs, pointed hats, and wands and returned to a more mundane world.