“Potter” on the Piano: Exclusive Interview with Eshan Denipitiya

Music is, as Dumbledore says in Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone, “a magic beyond all we do here!” Luckily, we don’t need to get entry to a well-hidden wizarding school to experience absolute witchcraft through music in the Muggle world. Sri Lankan-born piano virtuoso Eshan Denipitiya has recently proven this with his mind-blowing medley of John Williams’s film scores made for Potter. We were so impressed that we had to ask more about his amazing music, his interpretation of the themes in Harry Potter, and what it’s like to get iconic Queen guitarist Brian May’s recognition.

Denipitiya first started learning the piano at just six years old. He is currently a classical music student in Singapore who comes from a family of composers. With a grandfather who was a musical icon in Sri Lanka and a father who has composed the score for several movies, he continues an inspiring legacy. Over the past two years, he has posted medleys of popular TV series and film franchises such as Game of Thrones and Pirates of the Caribbean. His latest arrangement is composed of the original Harry Potter film score dreamed up by Academy Award winner John Williams. Have a listen below!

 

 

“The piano is such a versatile instrument, and being able to create different colours of sounds helped me translate the orchestral instrumentation on the piano very effectively,” Denipitiya said about his arrangement, which gives back the true range of Williams’s compositions written for a full orchestra so superbly you forget it’s played on just one instrument. In the medley, fans can detect “Hedwig’s Theme,” which is meant to evoke the themes of magic and mischief, followed by “Harry’s Wondrous World,” for friendship, joy, and excitement, and finally, “Leaving Hogwarts,” for love and family.

These 3 themes were the ones that I always loved and remembered from the very first time I watched Harry Potter back in 2001. So I really enjoyed putting it all together.

If you are musical yourself, the great news is that Denipitiya has also made the sheet music for all his medleys available. This includes his Queen medley posted in 2018, which has gone as far as earning the legendary Brian May’s attention and approval.

 

 

 
 
 
 
 
A bejegyzés megtekintése az Instagramon
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

 

Brian Harold May (@brianmayforreal) által megosztott bejegyzés

 

 

Denipitiya humbly remembered the momentous encouragement:

That moment was truly unreal; I remember looking at that post by Brian May and thinking of how crazy that was. [It w]as one of those moments where I realised how powerful the [I]nternet is and how well connected we are across the globe; the opportunities are endless and within reach (even if you’re a pianist from a small island).

From a small island, he may be, but with a big talent. Fortunately, we can look forward to more arrangements from this remarkable artist in the future, so do subscribe to his YouTube channel to be the first to hear them. Read the full interview below to learn more about Denipitiya’s process and what his Hogwarts House is.

Full Interview with Eshan Denipitiya, Wednesday, March 10, 2021

You have created something truly awe-inspiring with your arrangement of John Williams's Harry Potter film score. You have also released other medleys from compositions made for movies and TV series such as Pirates of the Caribbean and Game of Thrones. Which one has been your favorite, and are you planning on releasing more such arrangements in the future?

My favourite and the one I'm most proud of is the Harry Potter [m]edley. I really enjoyed the process. And yes! I'm definitely planning to release more in the coming few months.

Your grandfather was also an incredible musician, as is your father, Mahesh, who has composed for movies. Did you always want to follow in their footsteps? How have they inspired you and influenced your style?

I think I was quite lucky to grow up with music all around me. My grandfather and my father were definitely one of the main reasons why I too decided to pursue music. Much of who I am as a musician has been shaped by the music I grew up with at home.

You have also made your sheet music available. Is this something that is important to you, that other musicians can learn from your compositions and play them in concert halls and schools around the world (or for the time being, at home)?

Yes, of course. Quite recently, [an] 11[-]year[-]old girl from the Netherlands sent me a video clip of her performing my arrangement of Game of Thrones. I was really amazed to hear it being performed and also by the amount of effort and practice she had put in to learn this piece. I think that was one of the many moments that reminded me of the impact I could make (even if it's just a little) and how I could give back to people who support me. Hearing my arrangements being played in concert halls would definitely be one of my dreams!

Some of your arrangements are pure magic, and some bring a smile to the listener - I am speaking here of your rendition of "Twinkle Twinkle Little Star" in the style of Mozart, Liszt, and other superstars of classical music. The virtuosity and study you have put into your work is incredible. Can you tell us about your process? How do you make a piece your own? When you imitate a composer, do you still leave space for the unmistakable trademarks of Eshan Denipitiya?

I think what helps me create my arrangements is definitely my background in Classical music. Since the time I started learning the piano at the age of 6, I’ve been studying classical music (and I still do). Understanding how each composer wrote for the piano was one of my biggest takeaways. Beyond this, I also love to improvise on the piano and that skill enables me to explore these different sound worlds and come up with something of my own.

My process usually begins with selecting the piece I want to arrange, I usually gravitate towards songs/pieces that work well with the piano. After listening to the piece a few times I usually just sit down and improvise, trying to come up with various ideas and interpretations of it. The good ideas are what I develop further till I have the final arrangement. Some arrangements really don’t take too much time at all but some take a lot more time for me to complete. (The Harry Potter Medley took me around 3 weeks I believe). I think what I find unique to me is the creativity I bring in, whether it be combining melodies together, or translating an orchestral score to a piano. I hope to develop more on this so that one day I too would have my own unique sound as all the greats of classical music do.

As regards your Harry Potter medley, how did you conceptualize this arrangement? How did you translate the orchestral score to the piano? How did you manage to encompass such a range, from bringing back the gentlest tunes to evoking a full orchestra's power on just one instrument?

I believe that the piano is an orchestra on its own, studying classical music truly taught me everything the piano is capable of producing. For example, I would look towards pieces by Chopin, the beautiful nocturnes, for inspiration when I approach a more gentle tune, and pieces by Liszt or Rachmaninoff when I want to create virtuosity or to evoke a full orchestra’s power.

The piano is such a versatile instrument, and being able to create different colours of sounds helped me translate the orchestral instrumentation on the piano very effectively.

For example, in the first section of my arrangements, the magical runs that are played by the violins were all played by my right hand in the treble and the iconic theme that are played by the horns were played by my left hand with a strong low bass line.

Can you tell us a bit about the recurring themes you have detected in John Williams's film scores made for Harry Potter (Philosopher's Stone, Chamber of Secrets, and Prisoner of Azkaban, to be exact)? How did these shape your arrangement?

Why I love and admire these scores is by the way in which John Williams was able to create memorable and iconic themes that were used to depict not just a particular character or scene but also some of the core pillars that brought the stories to life. I chose 3 specific themes for the medley that I created, with each theme bringing out specific core characteristics of the storyline - Hedwig's theme (Magic and Mischief), Harry's Wondrous World (Friendship, Joy and Excitement), and Leaving Hogwarts (Love and Family). These 3 themes were the ones that I always loved and remembered from the very first time I watched Harry Potter back in 2001. So I really enjoyed putting it all together.

Aside from John Williams, the amazing Patrick Doyle, Nicholas Hooper, and Alexandre Desplat also evoked the magic of the wizarding world with their own compositions in the later Harry Potter movies. Could you say a few words about what you think of the different composers? Do you have a favorite? Are you planning on making your own arrangement of other Harry Potter scores? (Perhaps even a medley of Potter Puppet Pals' songs in the style of Beethoven?)

John Williams is definitely my favourite composer! But there were quite a lot of other compositions from the other composers that I loved, Harry in Winter & Potter Waltz by Patrick Doyle, Lily's theme by Alexandre Desplat to name a few. Each of these composers brought their own style and colour to their scores which I do admire a lot, because it definitely would not have been an easy task to write after John [W]illiams’ iconic scores.

I do hope to attempt a few of the other scores from Harry Potter in the near future. I’m planning to do a series where you’d hear tunes played “In the style of” various composers and genres, so do keep a lookout for that!

Joking aside, would you compose original music for a movie in the future? Is this something that is on your bucket list as a musician? If so, do you have a fictional universe or a book in mind that you would love to write the score for if it ever gets made (or remade) into a movie/TV series?

Composing for movies is definitely something that's [on] my bucket list. I've always looked forward to the next big addition to the wizarding universe, seeing how all these composers have approached adding their magic to these movies. I'd love to create my own someday.

We have to talk about Brian May too. He recognized your talent when you posted a Queen medley in 2018. How did that feel? What other bands are on the pop music playlist of a piano virtuoso such as yourself?

That moment was truly unreal; I remember looking at that post by Brian May and thinking of how crazy that was. [It w]as one of those moments where I realised how powerful the [I]nternet is and how well connected we are across the globe; the opportunities are endless and within reach (even if you’re a pianist from a small island).

I love listening to all genres of music, I think there’s something great in all genres, and I love looking out for those when I listen. Some of the artists that I love listening to apart from the classical music greats and Queen are Coldplay, Dirty Loops, Michael Jackson, Hanz Zimmer, Jacob Collier and Zedd!

If you could, which composer/musician, dead or alive, would you like to compose the background score for your life?

I definitely wouldn't mind John Williams bringing some of his magic into my life too!

To close off, MuggleNet.com's readership is curious: Are you a big fan of Harry Potter? When did you become a fan? And finally, what's your Hogwarts House?

I’ve been a fan of Harry Potter ever since I watched the Sorcerer's Stone with my family. (Unfortunately, I was never an avid reader, so that’s something I would maybe take up soon!) I loved growing along with the movies and all the characters and it was definitely a big part of my childhood. I marvel at how amazing the wizarding world is and how much it has grown over the years from the spin[-]offs to the theme parks, the games, [the] music and above all, the amazing community. My Hogwarts [H]ouse is Gryffindor.

 

Want more posts like this one? MuggleNet is 99% volunteer-run, and we need your help. With your monthly pledge of $1, you can interact with creators, suggest ideas for future posts, and enter exclusive swag giveaways!

Support us on Patreon

Dora Bodrogi

I am a writer, a critic, a researcher, a traveler, and a Ravenclaw through and through. My main fields of interest are representation, gender, and LGBTQ fiction, history, and censorship. Incorrigible doodler and theatre kid.

Welcome to MuggleNet!

 

Would you like to join our mailing list?