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The Magical Music of Harry Potter

The Mississippi Symphony Orchestra, with special guest conductor Ron Spigelman, will perform the music of “Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone” live during a screening of the film on Jan. 19-20 at Thalia Mara Hall. Photo courtesy Cineconcerts

The Mississippi Symphony Orchestra, with special guest conductor Ron Spigelman, will perform the music of “Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone” live during a screening of the film on Jan. 19-20 at Thalia Mara Hall. Photo courtesy Cineconcerts Photo by Cineconcerts

For Ron Spigelman, there is just as much magic in a conductor's baton as the wand of any witch or wizard. "Music, in my opinion," he says, "is the true third dimension in film."

The Australia native is an honors graduate from the Royal Academy of Music in London who has served as a conductor with orchestras around the world since the early 1990s.

While some of his musical peers are most drawn to classical compositions, Spigelman says that he has always had a passion for the music of movies.

"Even though I'm a classically trained conductor, my very first memory of playing trumpet, which was the instrument I studied, the very first tune I played that I can remember was the theme to 'Star Wars,'" he says. "That was way back in the late '70s, you know, and so it's been with me my whole life."

Around 1994, he began conducting live music for film screenings in Australia before moving to the United States, where he continued to seek out those types of performances. Over the years, he has conducted orchestras for screenings of movies such as "The Wizard of Oz," "Fantasia," "Pirates of the Caribbean," "Star Wars" and "The Nightmare Before Christmas."

In November 2018, the Tulsa Symphony Orchestra, where Spigelman is the pops guest conductor, performed the music of "Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets," the second film in the popular fantasy franchise, for a screening from entertainment company CineConcerts.

That opened the door for him to serve as guest conductor for the Mississippi Symphony Orchestra, who will be performing for two showings of "Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone."

Even for hardcore Potter-heads who have seen the 2001 film many times over, the concert will provide something new, Spigelman says.

"It's sort of a spectacular event," he says. "You think about a giant 40-foot screen, and you think about a full 80- to 90-piece orchestra right there. ... The film was made 17 years ago, but it's like we are bringing it to life where it's truly happening right now when you hear the music live. It's a very visceral sensory experience."

On top of being a Harry Potter fan—he's a Gryffindor, if you were wondering—Spigelman says he has long been a fan of John Williams and that "Sorcerer's Stone" shows the composer's understanding of how to meld character and music to create memorable moments.

Whereas the score in "Chamber of Secrets" follows the film's darker story, "Sorcerer's Stone" is often charming and bright because the characters and audiences are discovering this magical world for the first time.

"The highlights all start in that first film," he says, "because those are the characters you grow with the whole way."

A little-known fact, Spigelman says, is that Williams wrote "Hedwig's Theme," which has become the most iconic song from the film, before seeing any footage, simply going off a description.

"You wouldn't know it when you hear it," he says. "It's like, 'Oh, that's it.' You hear it, and you see the owl flying."

In the case of the Harry Potter movies, the music goes a long way in bringing viewers into author J.K. Rowling's "wizarding world." Amp that level of immersion up 10 times when you hear the music live, Spigelman says.

"I've done many of these films and done many films," he says. "Every single time, it gives me chills to do it this way. I just love it."

"Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone" in Concert is 8 p.m. on Saturday, Jan. 19, and 2 p.m. on Sunday, Jan. 20, at Thalia Mara Hall (225 E. Pascagoula St.). 
Ticket prices range from $50 to $115 on ticketmaster.com. For more information, visit jacksonbroadway.com.


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