“We’ve got a very special guest tonight. Benedict Clarke, the actor who played young Sirius Black!”
Yes, it was that kind of concert.
The Magical Music of Harry Potter is a unique and enchanting evening where original actors, star soloists, a choir and an orchestra bring the boy wizard’s world to life!
The program includes soundtracks by four-time Oscar-winner John Williams, Nicholas Hooper, Patrick Doyle and Golden Globe winner Alexander Desplat.
The evening becomes truly spellbinding with illusions from Rob Lake, one of the world’s leading magicians, featured on “America’s Got Talent” and Disney’s Cruise Line.
Booked back in 2021, but delayed from 2022 for a year due to the COVID pandemic, this was to be our first family concert together in years. Except the delay meant we all attended The Deathly Hallows Part 1 together first. That was with the Sydney Symphony Orchestra.
It was also a reminder of what a world class symphony orchestra sounds like.
Despite the fact that they have toured internationally, I don’t think I would call the Magical Symphonic and Philharmonic Film Orchestra a world class symphony orchestra.
The orchestra themselves appear to be European, possibly Ukrainian from what little I can find out. The conductor was Alexander Steinitz, or some variation on that spelling. There was no program accompanying this concert with the relevant details, the corporate website doesn’t have much either.
The first hints of what is to come like on the screen above the stage. The concert title slide conveys all the quality of a home made DVD movie from the 90’s.
About fifteen minutes after the concert should have started the orchestra appear, followed by the bubbly blonde bob haired English lady who hosts it. She sings later.
Benedict Clarke, young Snape, joined her on stage partly into the concert to share stories of his time on the set. No droll Alan Rickman in his young and excited voice.
The very first notes played reveal the difference between a big orchestra and this one. In the original score, a celeste introduces John Williams’ Hedwig’s Theme, the signature of the series. The Magical Symphonic etc etc Orchestra begins with an electronic keyboard.
The score to the Harry Potter series came from four composers, John Williams, Patrick Doyle, Nicholas Hooper and Alexandre Desplat. All four are featured tonight, their music sometimes melded together. Pieces are played in thematic order rather than a chronological sequence. So there might be music for characters, for creatures or travelling to Hogwarts.
Meanwhile, the big screen is showing animations inspired by Harry Potter without any actual footage from the movies, blended with live video of the performers captured by a demented remote control video camera positioned in the middle of the orchestra.
At various times a group of five singers, “The Magical Choir” step up to accompany the orchestra. They also sound European, which is a bit jarring with some of the English pieces.
The orchestra is obviously trying hard and with enthusiasm. Some of the individual performers do hit the mark, most especially the flautist, who plays with passion and precision. She is young and attractive (some performers look past retirement age) and the video camera frequently lingers on her. But this is a small orchestra and it’s missing bits.
Double Trouble is a recorder piece, not for the flute. The harp, like the celeste, is replaced by an electronic keyboard and you can hear the difference. And Buckbeak’s Flight just does not sound right with a rock’n’roll drum kit, especially when it’s played with a rock beat.
The insane jazz of the Knight Bus is an utter disaster. They should have just left it out.
Other pieces are arbitrarily truncated or rearranged.
Possibly the weirdest point of the night was when the orchestra start playing the famous O Fortuna from Carl Orff’s Carmina Burana, a piece with no relationship with the books or movies. This is a massive choral piece and simply turning the volume up on the five singers doesn’t do the trick.
Speaking of volumes, most of the sound from the orchestra came via the speakers mounted above the stage. What’s the point of attending a live orchestra when you are just listening to them through speakers. I can do that at home.
The audience, many who dressed up in Harry Potter gear for the occasion, was possibly the most subdued I have ever heard. Applause was perfunctory. The only exception was a young kid or two in the balcony rows who had strong opinions on something or other and frequently voiced them.
At one point the audience are asked to identify the characters associated with different passages of music and given points for their chosen house.
Towards the end of the show, the host sang Magic Works and Do the Hippogriff, both originally sung by Jarvis Cocker in The Goblet of Fire. For the latter piece, she invites audience members up on stage to dance with her and Benedict. Some of the younger kids get right into it, one older kid is clearly mouthing “Why in Hell, did you push me up here to do this?”
More than a few audience members head out early and we were glad when it was finally over.
Oh, and there was no Rob Lake magic show.
The Magical Music of Harry Potter Live in Concert was the live equivalent of one of the knock-off CD’s you used to buy for $5 in some variety store. From the dodgy video to the reduced orchestral sound, it really had that vibe.
I wouldn’t have minded if this was an amateur orchestra playing in the local community hall, but this was billed as the music of Harry Potter and a Big Event. It cost the same or more than a performance by a real symphony orchestra. I know, I’ve been to quite a few and heard far better.
I don’t blame the musicians. They were obviously doing their best. But I’d stay well clear of Star Entertainment in future.
Unfortunately, I booked tickets for The Music of Lord of the Rings, The Hobbit and The Rings of Power in Concert for today. I’m not going to get my money’s worth.
But at least I didn’t go to The Music of Hans Zimmer and Others.