Harry Potter’s birthday is three days from Saturday, July 28, and that means Hogwarts will soon be back in session — but this time, it’s the Chautauqua Symphony Orchestra that will guide Chautauquans through the magical school year.
At 8:15 p.m. Saturday, July 28, in the Amphitheater, the CSO will present “Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets in Concert,” a screening of the film with the orchestra performing the musical score live.
There is no explicit mention of a music class at Hogwarts in any of the books or movies, but music is an integral part of the film series. This weekend, Chautauquans will hear the second film’s score in its full orchestral glory.
In modern times, watching a film with live music is considered a novelty, but it’s actually a return to the way movies were originally experienced. In the early days of film, live music was the only means available to provide audio at a theater.
Conductor John Beal, who will lead the CSO in Saturday’s performance, developed his original passion for music at the feet of renowned silent movie organist and family friend Gaylord Carter. Decades later, Beal is carrying on the tradition of live movie music as a regular conductor for films with live orchestra.
If the music is recorded, it can easily be taken for granted or tuned out, but a performance emphasizes the role of the score, according to Beal.
“By playing the score live, you’re breathing new life into it,” he said. “The audience really gets a sense of how the music is integrated into the film.”
The score on Saturday, July 28, isn’t just simple accompaniment music.
According to Beal, it packs some serious challenges for the orchestra. The flying car scene is a dizzying flurry at high speed, and “The Spiders” requires lots of focus and power.
The legendary John Williams composed the score that will be heard Saturday. Few film score composers rival his level of fame and the name recognition — he wrote the music for blockbusters like “Jaws,” “Jurassic Park,” “Schindler’s List” and “Star Wars.”
Williams’ music is so good, Beal said, because it functions well on multiple levels. On a surface level, Williams is a master of writing fitting and memorable themes. But upon closer inspection, Beal said, Williams’ scores are as complex and well-crafted as any other.
It’s been somewhat of a battle to get the classical music community to recognize that, however. According to Beal, classical music critics treated film scores as second-rate music as recently as 20 years ago.
Now, Beal said that stigma is mostly gone. Film scores from composers like Williams, Hans Zimmer and others are played in concert halls across the country, with and without their accompanying films.
The CSO is no exception — this concert is the second in an eight-part series that will cover all of the Harry Potter movies over the coming seasons.