Exclusive Interview & Giveaway: Sarah Hicks on Conducting the Magical Music of “Harry Potter” in Concert
The opening bars of “Hedwig’s Theme” are instantly recognizable to Harry Potter fans – and to the credit of the four composers employed throughout the film series, so are many of the other cues that accompany our favorite scenes. But film music isn’t all iconic melodies and sweeping strings. Sometimes the most impactful moments in a score are those that more subtly add a layer of emotion to the story, barely consciously noticed by a movie audience and difficult to recognize out of context.
The nuances of those musical moments aren’t lost on Sarah Hicks, conductor and film music specialist, who has led orchestras around the world in performances of the Harry Potter film scores. Hicks will be conducting a CineConcerts performance of the Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix score at the Hollywood Bowl on June 29. MuggleNet spoke with her in anticipation of the event to get her take on what makes this concert experience so special.
…When there’s a visual element, especially for film, I think the concert experience is completely different because all of your senses are being engaged. Well, except maybe smell, but who knows? So it’s a more immersive experience to see a film and then to really feel the power of the music in the film, which is also a character in itself in movies. It drives the narrative. It creates emotional punch. So it’s incredibly important. So just to bring all those elements together… I think audiences really feel like they’re part of something. And I love feeling the energy of everyone watching and listening together.
The feeling of community based around a fantastic storytelling experience has long been a hallmark of the Harry Potter fandom. Hicks emphasized that the upcoming performance presents the opportunity to think of Order of the Phoenix in a different way, even for die-hard fans who have seen the movie or listened to the soundtrack countless times:
I have this little philosophy that music is just as important as what you see in creating a sense of narrative and a sense of emotional impact, and the thought that music is a character and not just stuff in the background. It’s actually playing an active part, and to think of it as not just something pretty that’s accompanying the film, but it’s a part of the film… and to think of it as all one big thing, rather than ‘here’s music’ and ‘here’s film’… But it’s an artistic part of the whole experience.
Hicks, a self-professed Gryffindor, has a deep appreciation for the thematic elements of the Order of the Phoenix score. When asked for her thoughts on Nicholas Hooper’s music, she said,
I like that he has a lot of character-based music. For instance, in ‘Order of the Phoenix’, he has a theme for Dolores Umbridge that really captures her character. It’s pink on the outside but really dark on the inside. And he creates music that captures both that saccharine-ness but also that underlying… I hesitate to call it evil, but you know what I mean. That darkness. And so it’s very sophisticated music but it also sounds beautiful, so it works on different levels. And I think he really captures that really well.
But Hicks’s favorite moment – which she notes as a typical audience favorite at these performances as well – comes much later after the introduction of our least favorite Hogwarts professor.
I think it’s toward the end in the Veil room when Sirius Black emerges. And I think he says something like, ‘Get your hands off my godson,’ or something along that line. And then this battle music starts in the lower strings. It’s such really well-written music and it’s such a dramatic pause. To me, that’s always really fun. It’s a perfect coordination of film and music, and it makes it so impactful and amazing. And the music rocks right there.
Hicks takes that perfect coordination of film and music she speaks about to another level in these live performances. Unlike a classical symphony performance, there is only one short intermission and barely any pauses for the orchestra during the film. Hicks describes the process as “very, very focused work,” owing to the need to time the performance perfectly with the film and the pressure of having an entire ensemble relying on her not to get lost for even a moment.
But it’s work that has an enormously satisfying payoff. She wields the power to make people think differently about their engagement with popular culture, and she uses her expertise and passion to create an unforgettable experience for concertgoers.
When people come to these shows where it’s film and live orchestra, they realize how much symphonic music they actually listen to and how powerful and engaging and incredibly exciting it is. So I hope that people take away that the orchestra is an amazing instrument. It’s really, really cool to listen to so many people creating sound together onstage and how thrilling that is. And I hope they feel that their experience of the film is changed by hearing a live orchestra.
You can see Hicks work her magic at the Order of the Phoenix CineConcerts performance at the Hollywood Bowl in Los Angeles, California, on June 29 by purchasing tickets here – or you can swallow a vial of Felix Felicis and take a shot at winning our giveaway!
That’s right, you read that correctly. Thanks to our friends at CineConcerts, we have a pair of tickets for one lucky reader to experience the magic at the Hollywood Bowl! Our contest is open from today through June 25 at 11:59 p.m. Eastern to anyone who will be in the Los Angeles area and can Apparate to the concert on June 29.
The winner of this giveaway will be contacted by email and must respond within 24 hours or another winner will be chosen, so make sure to check your spam and junk folders just in case Errol is in charge of the post delivery! All travel and accommodations are the responsibility of the winner.
What are you waiting for? Enter now for your chance to win a pair of tickets to this magical Hollywood Bowl experience from CineConcerts!
To learn more about the Harry Potter Film Concert Series, visit the website here.