As the audience trickles into the Adelaide Entertainment Centre Arena, they are greeted by the voices and faces of Harry Potter composers Nicholas Hooper and Alexandre Desplat speaking as part of a documentary about the music of Harry Potter. The pre-show film sets the tone for a music-first experience of the wizarding world.
The musicians begin tuning up to signal the start of a magical evening, and composer, conductor and musician Nicholas Buc – who is no stranger to live-in-concert films – introduces the Adelaide Symphony Orchestra with an encouragement for those watching to get involved throughout the screening.
While John Williams’ legendary “Hedwig’s Theme” naturally features throughout, British composer and guitarist Hooper is responsible for tonight’s soundtrack.
The orchestra, lit in blue and pink underneath the film screen, has a big job ahead of them. It all begins with the low rumbles of ominous thunder from the timpani and bass drum.
The balance between the film’s sound, dialogue and the orchestra is excellent. So excellent that it is easy to forget there is an actual live orchestra upfront as you become immersed in the story. In some ways, it is a bit of a shame that the appreciation of their playing almost comes second to the film in this experience.
That said, the musicians bring the action to life. They create a depth and fullness that it is hard to replicate with even a high-quality home sound set-up. A tingling of excitement is felt when one steps out of the film for a moment and realises they are listening to a live orchestra.
Captions are a welcome addition to this screening, with no dialogue lost to the woos and boos of the audience.
It is so charming to hear the playful elements of this score live. The cheekiness of the oboe and bassoon and the sweetness of the strings are enchanting.
One does wonder about the precision needed to ensure each beat is played at exactly the right moment, but it is technology to the rescue in this case. Buc looks at a digital screen with his own stream of the film, accompanied by a clock and song title for each piece. A yellow line sweeps across the screen to indicate the next piece is about to begin, along with a pulsing white dot to indicate the tempo.
Given that there is no local cinema with space for the ASO, a good attempt has been made to create an easy viewing experience at Adelaide Entertainment Centre Arena – although the flat floor seating can create some issues if you are seated behind an enthusiastic fan and their tall witch’s hat.
Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix in Concert is something for the fans. The cheers for favourite characters such as Neville Longbottom, Luna Lovegood and Hagrid, and the boos for cruel and callous Professor Umbridge, are reminiscent of the famously involved audiences at screenings of The Rocky Horror Picture Show.
The excitement in the foyer, the yells of “I love you, Draco!”, and the effort on display from the fans in their Hogwarts robes, costumes and an appropriately frightful Voldemort head mask are testament to the ongoing love for Harry Potter and the success of this series of concerts.
The ASO presented Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix in Concert for one night only on Saturday as part of its Showcase Series. Its next Showcase Series concert will be Birdsongs, to be performed with Australian band Birds of Tokyo at the Festival Theatre on November 30 and December 1.
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