Review: ‘Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone’ in Concert at The Baltimore Symphony Orchestra at Strathmore

Lights, music, and… magic!

Last night the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra brought Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone, the first film of the beloved franchise, to the Strathmore stage in this latest installment of their wildly popular “Movie and Music” series.

Conductor Justin Freer. Photo by Jeff Bandy.
Conductor Justin Freer. Photo by Jeff Bandy.

Under the talented baton of guest conductor Justin Freer, the BSO performs live every note of this beautiful John Williams score in conjunction with a screening of the film to a sold-out auditorium.

Harry Potter is and will remain a cultural phenomenon with fans of all generations, and this concert could not have been more perfectly timed to coincide with the resurgence in popularity of the enterprise following the release of the Harry Potter and the Cursed Child screenplay book just last week. Fans of all ages, from the very young to the bit more stately, came fully attired in resplendent wizards robes, Hogwarts outfits, and other fan favorite garb. Merchandise sold models of Harry Potter character wands, and refreshment booths had Harry Potter themed appetizers and drink offerings.

The evening was a wonderful and encompassing environment to satisfy any Potter lover. While all reveled in the fun and the excitement of the franchise and its fandom, it was truly the music behind it all that brought us together for this evening of entertainment.

The BSO breathes life into John William’s timeless score, in a way that no cinematic experience can ever hope to replicate merely onscreen. Williams, arguably the most famous film composer today, penned only the scores for the first two Harry Potter films of the franchise, but his memorable themes and motifs remained at the forefront of the scores of the remaining six films for the next decade to come. In fact, snippets of his score are so recognizable that they are intricately intertwined with the cultural sensation of Harry Potter and, in a way, define it.

The musicians of the BSO bring this music to life in their splendid accompaniment of the film shown on the overhead display; though truly it is the visual film that accompanies the musicianship and musicality displayed in the performance. The music is the foreground instead of the background, and nuances of songs, the swells and drama, and clever musical touches that correspond with what is occurring onscreen delightfully enhance the whole experience.

Memorably, following the suspenseful introductory scene, the BSO led into the famous “Hedwig’s Theme” in conjunction with the equally famous Harry Potter logo flying onscreen, to ardent audience applause. Meanwhile, the rapid-fire “The Quidditch Match” had us on the edge of our seats spinning along with the characters flying on broomsticks.

Though not often considered, but obvious when experienced live, this film score is also rather technically challenging and involved. The strings, for instance, have never a dull moment with runs, trills, constant fast notes and movement throughout nearly the entirety of the score.

Guest conductor Justin Freer demonstrates intricate musicality, leading the BSO under his baton through the entirety of the score. As a film noted film conductor, composer, and concert producer, he brings the expertise of cinematic music to the stage, where particulars in expression, timing, and programmatic effect make all the different in producing a vivid performance for all of the senses.

Harry Potter is the last concert in the BSO’s popular summer series before a short respite leading into their exciting lineup for the 2016-2017 season. What a wonderful way to close a successful summer season, bringing a bit of lighthearted magic to the tail end of a beautiful summer and a special treat to us Harry Potter fans.

Running Time: 3 hours, with one 15-minute intermission.

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BSO’s Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone In Concert will play for one more performance on Saturday, August 6 at 3:00 PM at the Meyerhoff Symphony Hall – 1212 Cathedral St, Baltimore, MD. Tickets can be purchased online.

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Emily Cao
Emily hails from Anchorage, AK and is an avid theater-lover, filmgoer, musician, history buff, and general extoller of the arts. A graduate of Duke University (BS Economics, BA Psychology), Emily has enjoyed over a decade of stage and musical productions foremost as an appreciative audience member, but also as a member of pit and opera orchestras as a musician. Emily's love of the theater arts encompasses all variety of modern and classic Broadway musicals, notable Shakespearean plays, and the great Romantic operas, to name a few, though her long-time secret obsession has been Andrew Lloyd Webber's Phantom of the Opera. Emily is currently working in government consulting in Arlington, and is a photography enthusiast and self-proclaimed Anglophile in her spare time. As a newcomer to the area, Emily is thrilled to have the opportunity to explore DC's vibrant performing arts scene with DCMetroTheaterArts.