Review: Harry Potter Film Concert Series – “Chamber of Secrets”

In the 15 years that the Harry Potter films have been out, I have seen them in many different ways. I’ve watched them on large silver screens at midnight premieres. I’ve seen them in IMAX. I’ve watched them after exploring Warner Bros. Studio Tour London and getting to know the props, sets, and costumes up close. I’ve watched them after meeting members of the cast. I’ve watched them academically, in parodies, and as adaptations. I thought I had seen these films in every way possible.

I was wrong, in the very best way.

Thankfully, I’ve now experienced the films in one of the most sublime, unique, and enjoyable ways I ever have: attending the Harry Potter Film Concert Series rehearsal and performance of Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets by the Los Angeles Philharmonic with the CSU Fullerton University Singers at the Hollywood Bowl.

Before getting into the details, a word on what this experience is exactly. Attendees watch the films while a live symphony orchestra plays the score for the movie. Instead of having prerecorded tracks of music on the film, the orchestra plays instead. It’s a two-in-one experience: both classical concert and night at the movies.

 

 

As a musician, I’ve spent years listening to the Harry Potter scores; I have a special playlist that is dedicated to them. I thought I knew them like the back of my hand. I can usually tell which track is from which movie and at least name the scene if not the track title. Even with my knowledge of the score, I was blown away by the LA Philharmonic’s rehearsal and performance. Live music is a more engulfing physical experience, and that was clear as I watched the orchestra and choir rehearse. The music had so much more of an impact; it was a more physical experience than I’ve ever had with this music. In addition, hearing the music live meant that I heard more of the intricacies. The textures and counterpoints that I had never heard before gave me a greater insight into the film. For example, when Fawkes is battling the Basilisk, the horns play Fawkes’ thematic music (think the tune playing while Fawkes flies out of the Chamber), while the strings play the Chamber of Secrets theme (that ominous tune… you know the one). Another example would be that at the end, when Dumbledore is talking to Harry, there is a small segment of “Hedwig’s Theme,” transposed, that musically connects Harry and Dumbledore more.

The concert experience itself was a true coming together of Potter fans. Cosplay is welcome (and even encouraged!), and robes, wands, and other Potter-themed outfits and accessories were everywhere. Unlike a traditional classical concert, the audience was encouraged to react to the film and the score. There was cheering, clapping, and laughter as favorite moments from the film or in the music came up. Kids dressed in robes waved wands, pretending to conduct the orchestra. This would be a wonderful way to introduce anyone to the joys of a live symphony orchestra!

 

 

As the sun set and the film got into its darker moments, there really was something magical in the air. With the focus on the music, it was almost like seeing the film for the first time. Afterward, I couldn’t stop thinking about the way I felt more emotionally drawn to this film because of the music. I was more connected to the fear of the Basilisk, the humor of Lockhart, and the whimsy of Diagon Alley and Hogwarts. When “Reunion of Friends” was played at the end, my friend and I couldn’t help but sing along, both of us smiling.

This is, without a doubt, a “must-do” experience. Even if you’ve seen the films hundreds of times, you’ve never seen them like this!

There are plenty more opportunities to have this experience. The film concert series is holding performances all over the world, from Japan to Canada to South America and the Middle East. Currently, only the first three films are touring, but the final five films are currently in production and coming soon. You can find all tour dates, locations, and ticket information here on the film concert series website. You do not want to miss this experience!