Friday 8th July 2016
The Los Angeles Philharmonic's performance of the score to Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone sent chills through the crowd of 17,000, turning the Hollywood Bowl into a sea of swaying colourful scarves and ties — all four houses unified as one.
Rock audiences may hold lighters in the air, but on Wednesday night, when LA's premier symphony, conducted by Justin Freer, played Hedwig's Theme, many among the sold-out crowd raised light-tipped wands.
The camaraderie first blossomed as fans walked up the hill from the Hollywood Bowl's parking lots, congratulating each other on their costumes and sharing their palpable excitement. John Williams's gorgeous score will be played live, in sync with the film, and we all get to enjoy it together.
It was a playful night, perhaps in part due to the Sorcerer's Stone being one of the most light-hearted of the Potter films. Of the experience of watching it with such a big crowd, Kathleen, a fan, said afterward, ‘It seemed funnier. And more like you were there, in the film with them.’
It felt this way in part because of the vocal cheering at the introduction of almost every character, especially Hermione. But even her reception couldn't match that of Snape's. When he appeared onscreen, the crowd seemed to return his appearance with deafening love.
Draco, on the other hand, was met with both jeers and cheers. And Professor Quirrell only heard boos — although not the Quirrell who was spotted in line for popcorn before the show began, wearing the artfully accurate costume; that Quirrell only got high-fives.
‘You celebrate things that maybe would get glossed over if you were just watching it by yourself,’ fan Ally explained during the intermission. For example, when Snape first interrogates Harry in his Potions class, hands shot eagerly into the air all across the stadium, as if we were trying to answer the questions along with Hermione. And Hermione's beloved line, ‘Or worse, expelled,’ was shouted in unison by many in the crowd.
Of course, no moment in the evening received as much raucous adoration as the final bow of the LA Philharmonic, conducted by Justin Freer, who so beautifully and expertly brought Williams's moving music to the forefront of the experience. While film scores sometimes go unnoticed, no one could have forgotten the music on Wednesday night. The hair of audience members was blown back just like Harry's, when a wand finally chose him at Ollivanders.
Tinkling bells gave way to strings; the chorus, onstage behind the symphony, joined in; and everyone but poor Harry knew in which wand that other phoenix feather lay. Moments later, our hairs then stood on end, as the first-years rode boats toward the castle, with Hedwig's Theme suddenly booming and the chorus in full tilt.
And it wasn't only Williams's iconic moments that delighted. ‘You noticed the silences more, the moments when there wasn't music,’ opined a fan named Ezra, on his walk out of the Bowl. ‘[Having the symphony play live] made it really clear how beautiful the transitions were between sequences.’
The score perhaps shined brightest during tense moments, intensifying the action, for example, during the Quidditch match. Later, the frenzied strings and booming horns, when Harry comes across the cloaked figure by the fallen unicorn in the Forbidden Forest, caused us all to momentarily forget that the centaur Firenze was on his way.
And the slow, relentless crescendo that Williams paired with Quirrell’s famous adage — ‘There is no good and evil, there is only power and those too weak to seek it’ — matched also the chill in the air as a sunny Southern California day turned into a cool desert-climate night. Los Angeles came out 17,000 strong to celebrate Williams, Harry, and J.K. Rowling.
When Dumbledore announced the winner of the House Cup, and Slytherin's banners transformed into Gryffindor's, this crowd of mega fans could see the California state flag waving next to them, just to the right of the giant screen. After all, that flag has a bear on it — perhaps it represents a house in a great North American wizarding school yet to be discovered, one still hidden among the SoCal No-Majs.