It’s extremely important to start this review by saying – save the date of February 23, 2018. That’s the date when Harry Potter’s second year at Hogwarts, Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets, will be reimagined and brought to life with the North Carolina Symphony in concert. You will not want to miss this second performance in partnership with CineConcerts, because the first one, “Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone in Concert,” was unforgettable. John Williams lovers, die-hard Potterheads, and regular Symphony-goers alike packed Memorial Auditorium in downtown Raleigh all weekend for three nearly sold-out performances of the movie that started it all.

Harry Potter fans no doubt appreciated the experience of watching their favorite film in an enthusiastic crowd of 2,000; guest conductor Jeffrey Schindler, who specializes in live orchestra film concerts and motion picture scores, did a fantastic job introducing the movie and making everyone feel welcome. He encouraged the audience (many of whom were dressed in cloaks, scarves, and other Hogwarts gear) to react along with the movie’s characters – cheers, boos, laughter, and hisses filled the theater, especially towards the beginning of the film when new characters were introduced. For musical buffs, Harry Potter opinions aside, this performance was a real treat. Schindler’s conducting was lively and almost theatrical at times, communicating the swirling phrases of Williams’ score. It’s also worth mentioning that Schindler is one of the most prominent conductors in not only the field of live film orchestra performances, but also in motion picture score recordings. Some people may not have noticed, but it was also fascinating to follow along on Schindler’s stand-sized screen, where green lines and white circles flicked on screen to show the passing of the beat. Keeping everything lined up is no easy feat, but there was not one moment where the score seemed even a hair out of place with what was on the big screen – it was marvelously seamless.

Williams’ scores, of course, need little introduction, but hearing his music played live with a film really showcases the sheer difficulty of his writing. This is how his music communicates fantasy and mystery, with wildly whirling string parts and intertwining woodwinds, for example. Perhaps atypical of some movie scores that rely heavily on one section of the orchestra, Willams’ score for The Sorcerer’s Stone incorporates everything (including a huge variety of percussion), especially through the use of themes for particular characters (the term leitmotif could be used here). The effect altogether was incredibly immersive.

Whether the subtle nuances of the music and conducting were apparent to each audience member or not, there’s no doubt that every single member of the audience was thankful for the rare chance to see one of the most classic and well-written movies brought to life with live music. Again, the next film will be a must-see, and right now there’s only one date on the calendar, so tickets will go extremely fast. See you in February!