Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone In Concert
J.K. Rowling’s Wizarding World & CineConcerts
Brisbane Convention and Exhibition Centre
Saturday April 1 2017
Reviewed by Xanthe Coward
We’re at Brisbane’s Convention and Exhibition Centre with a crowd that is not your ordinary theatre crowd, although perhaps it’s a new theatre-ish crowd, and we get some interesting looks ourselves, as if we’re the odd ones out. We’ve swept into the venue at the last second, having parked at QPAC because we always park at QPAC (it’s automatic now; the car can magically get itself there), which means that when the show is not there, a graceful-as-a-giraffe little run down Grey Street and across the road is required to get to the right box office. This mixed crowd, in the Convention Centre foyer, is not expecting an evening of live theatre.
They’re here for a movie concert, the first of a new genius series from CineConcerts, featuring your local symphony orchestra playing every note of a Harry Potter film shown on a 40-foot screen.
It may be a movie night but it’s an entirely theatrical event! The vibe is electric and a great number of hard-core fans are proudly wearing Gryffindor shirts, and ties and sweaters and robes. Everybody is so excited to be here.
We take our seats moments before the house lights go down and when Conductor, QSO’s Sarah Hicks, appears, she is welcomed by appreciative applause. She smiles and asks if there’s anyone who’s never been to a live orchestral performance. Many hands go up, and she smiles encouragingly, inviting everyone to get involved. In true pantomime fashion, we should feel free to cheer for our hero and boo the villains. There’s no question about whether or not we’ve seen the film or read the book… No matter what our individual stories are, we’re in for a treat!
I wonder how the orchestra will precisely match the action, but only for half a second before Hicks raises her baton and the Warner Bros logo appears on screen as we hear the first sounds from the string section. A collective shiver runs through the Great Hall. It’s perfect. It’s actually intense. Every moment of the movie becomes sharper and more vital. The entire underscore, which we might forget is there sometimes, when we see the film at home or originally, in the surround sound cinema, comes alive. Every moment of discovery, joy, anticipation, trepidation, celebration and dread is able to be fully experienced, savoured.
And unless we glance at the musicians on stage from time to time, or become mesmerised watching them at their craft, as I do while the harp plays to keep three-headed Fluffy asleep (it’s so beautiful, the sound of faerie slumber), or while the percussionists keep up with thousands of magical additions, intellectually, we almost take for granted that the music is live. But at the same time, soulfully, we’re experiencing something very special. Like a festival event, there’s a true communal feeling, a momentary connection with people we’ve never met, because we all just want Harry to defeat Voldemort! We know this is only the very beginning of an epic battle, which represents something for everyone. And it’s delightful to see this film again, so beautifully realised, and it’s so funny, I’d forgotten.
Poppy has been terrified for years by the more frightening moments in the film, and has never actually watched in its entirety, The Philosopher’s Stone or any of the subsequent films. I’d made this event a surprise so she couldn’t back out and offer her seat to someone else, and she was hesitant about it, telling me she might need to hide under my wrap when we know Voldemort is about to appear. Well, she did hide towards the end, but after settling into the first few magical bars of the music I saw a grin spread from ear to ear as Harry celebrated his 11th birthday and took off to Hogwarts with Hagrid. Guess what’s on in the background as I write this? Poppy has taken out the DVD box collection and put on The Philosopher’s Stone, and as we hear the familiar strains of John Williams’ evocative opening bars, she laments, “The music’s not as good!”
Our Queensland Symphony Orchestra gives The Philosopher’s Stone a new, unique, incredibly magical quality, the full, rich sounds of the live music letting us dive in deeper, remember our original experience of the film and enjoy J.K. Rowling’s Wizarding World all over again.
Don’t miss the next exciting event in the QSO / Cineconcert series on October 7 Harry Potter and The Chamber of Secrets