Forget Celestina Warbeck and the Banshees — get the real music of the Harry Potter universe next weekend, when the Houston Symphony unleashes Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone in Concert.
“I’ve always had a very clear passion for film music, which really sits in the upper chambers of the greatest music written in our craft,” admits Justin Freer, the event’s producer. “Whether or not it’s opera or chamber music, or the classic symphonic setting, or film. We’ve been gifted so many amazing scores in the last 90-ish years, and certainly John Williams is among the very best. Of all the scores he’s composed, I think [this film] is one of his most cherished. What a beautiful theme he wrote for Hedwig, which has become known the world over.”
Since founding the music organization CineConcerts “about four to five years ago,” Freer says, his interest in cinematic orchestrations has only expanded, and his passion has deepened. “I really do love the art form, and the intent of the company is to preserve and present as many of these types of films and scores in this format as possible.” Uniquely, Potterheads will actually get a chance to watch the original 2001 classic film on the big screen, as Williams's score fills Jones Hall in a live presentation.
While iconic film themes and feature-length scores used to be a large aspect of the silver-screen experience, the nature of modern editing tools and an overhaul in how film scores are developed have hit the industry hard. “Temp-tracking has changed the business considerably, and people are having to deal with and solve, in some case,” Freer explains. “Before, temp tracking wasn’t so easy to do, but now you press a button and you can pull from any catalog you want, throw music up on a film to see if it works.
"Sometimes you’re cutting a film to pre-composed music, and oftentimes the film is done and you’re just throwing up anything to see how it feels," he adds. "This all really does change the creativity and energy that’s coming from the composer, whereas before, the vast number of composers working worldwide would sit in a quiet darkroom with a director and a producer to decide where the music goes, without predisposition from other musical sources. Whereas it used to be, maybe a director suggesting something in the style of Prokofiev’s first piano concerto, but never music tied to film. Now composers are often asked to replicate as close as possible a temp track, which makes for [a] creatively stifling process.”
Thankfully, as Freer is quick to point out, that's not an issue with either of John Williams’s Harry Potter scores. “John’s music, you can tell, came from this very first kernel of original creativity, and, interestingly enough, 'Hedwig’s Theme,' this beautiful cellist solo, was written before the film was even shot," he says. "He’d seen none of the original footage when he was asked to write the song for an original trailer. So something that was written sight unseen has become one of the great melodies from this franchise.”
The event really serves as an homage to the brilliance of Williams, now 85, who has been nominated for an Academy Award an astounding 50 times while contributing the themes to many iconic Hollywood productions: Star Wars, Indiana Jones, Jaws, Superman and Jurassic Park, to name a few.
“I think John has a great command of all things, whether it’s melody or rhythm or harmony, or just as important, an understanding of what emotion does musically for a film," says Freer. "A great composer of film music understands the absence of music can be just as important as the presence of music. He’s a consummate professional and a true genius.”
Performances are scheduled for 7:30 p.m. Friday July 21, and 2 and 7:30 p.m. Saturday, July 22, at Jones Hall, 615 Louisiana. For information, call 713-227-4772 or visit houstonsymphony.org. $23 to $139.
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Vic covers the comedy scene, in Houston and beyond. When not writing articles, he's working on his scripts, editing a podcast, doing some funny make-em-ups or preaching the good word of supporting education in the arts.