With a baton serving as his magic wand, seasoned conductor Justin Freer will recreate the enchanting tale of Harry Potter as we’ve never heard it before
Taking on literature’s most popular boy wizard is no walk in the park.
Just ask Justin Freer, the American composer-conductor who will lead the charge for the live orchestral screening in Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone in Concert. Taking over du Forum from 21st to 23rd September, the first film in the series will be shown on a 40-foot screen as the Barcelona Symphony Orchestra performs the memorable score that many of us still find ourselves humming along to.
“With Harry Potter, there’s this unique, special expectation and with that expectation you have lots of responsibility to do it right, to honour this universe created by JK Rowling and the artistic vision of the film’s director Chris Columbus and musical scorer John Williams – and of course, the passionate Harry Potter fans,” Freer tells us.
As the co-founder and producer of CineConcerts, Freer and his team have done a remarkable job of redefining the concept of live entertainment by merging components of orchestral music with a cinema viewing experience.
Their rousing performances of classic movies such as Gladiator, The Godfather, The Lord of the Rings and Titanic, are all perfect examples.
For Justin, venturing into Harry Potter territory was a natural direction to take, given the film’s broad appeal and striking visuals driven by elements of magic.
Simply put, there’s nothing like seeing the film on a giant screen brought to life by live music.
“Harry Potter fans have seen the movie 30, 40 times already. But when they see it for the first time with a live orchestra, their experience changes,” beams Justin.
“This concert brings the movie to life in a very visceral way. So, instantly you’re transported into the story of Harry, Hermione, Voldemort and all these amazing characters; you’re transported into their minds and emotions in a different way. Music is really a powerful mechanism to tell a story.
“It’s funny because I’ve conducted a good number of concerts for the first three Harry Potter movies and I’ve always noticed something new. It might be the same scenes, same dialogues, but the music somehow makes you see the sequences in a different way.”
That being said, there’s a lot of pressure on the musicians to bring the magic to life and effectively convey the right emotions at the right time – and that’s taken months of hard work to perfect.
“It’s always challenging to keep everything together, to make sure that we’re on point under the synchronisation of the film’s scenes and sequences,” confides Justin.
“Doing this kind of show means having to reconstruct the music score and reconstruct its timing to the movie so that it works for an orchestra, and that takes months to do.
“While there’s room to still improvise even a bit, it’s very important that we recreate what John Williams had intended for the film so we’re very careful to be as accurate as we can, note for note, every night.”
But more than just entertaining fans, Justin hopes that the performance will leave a lasting impression on the audience, particularly the younger ones.
“I remember growing up watching films and loving the music of Jerry Goldsmith, Max Steiner and John Williams, and hoping to one day perform their entire music score of a film on stage. Fast forward to the present and we’re very lucky to be bringing the music of Harry Potter to the world,” he proudly says.
“If we do a great job, I hope that maybe one or two, or three or ten, people in the audience will be inspired by the music.
“Perhaps they’ll be inspired to be a musician, filmmaker or an actor and they’ll appreciate art in a new way – that will be truly magical.”
Need to know
What: Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone in Concert
Where: du Forum, Yas Island
When: 21st-23rd September, times vary
Tickets: From AED 150 at ticketmaster.ae