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Interview: Justin Freer, Conductor and Producer of Harry Potter And The Philosopher's Stone In Concert

Listening to a John Williams soundtrack is always a treat but imagine listening to one of his masterpieces performed live by the Royal Philharmonic Concert Orchestra and the movie playing on  a 40-foot screen?  Well that's exactly what happens if you go and see Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone in concert.  You will be able to relive the magic of not only the film which was directed by Chris Columbus but the incredible soundtrack by John Williams.  The orchestra is conducted by Justin Freer who is also the producer of this worldwide tour as well as Founder and President of CineConcert.

We were lucky enough to interview Justin Freer who reveals his favourite John Williams piece and the challenges involved in performing a John Williams soundtrack live while the movie plays on the big screen.

The Harry Potter Film Concert Series is coming to the UK.  Does it make it extra special to be performing at the home of Harry Potter?
Absolutely, I think it will be great fun bringing the Harry Potter Film Concert series to the UK where so many loyal fans live. There is not only a great tradition of film in the UK, but of course one of music as well.

John Williams always seems to bring his magic to a movie (no pun intended) and make a soundtrack unforgettable.  Do you have a particular John Williams favourite, apart from Harry Potter?
John Williams’ score to Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone instantly transports us into J.K. Rowling’s Wizarding World. We are able to follow Harry and his friends through their first year at Hogwarts in a truly magical, dramatic and meaningful way, due in a big way, to the music of John Williams. His music transcends boundaries and there are many films through which he shares his musical genius. I adore the music score to Home Alone, another wonderful film by director Chris Columbus, who of course brought so much magic of his own to the Harry Potter films.

Hedwig's Theme is the signature piece to the Harry Potter movies and instantly recognizable as the music that will take you to the world of J.K. Rowling.  Do you have a favourite from Philosopher's Stone that has that magical feel?
This idea of magic through John Williams’ music exists in many forms. Sometimes whimsical, other times slightly dark. One of the fan favorites in concert halls continues to be when Harry is matched with his wand for the first time at Ollivanders. The music is very special at that moment.

What are the challenges of conducting a whole soundtrack live and in time with the movie playing?
I think the single greatest challenge with presenting these scores live to picture is keeping everything synchronized from beginning to end. It requires a great deal of focus from the podium and from the players on stage. I prefer to conduct these without click track, or an audible tempo in the ears of the musicians. We do everything with streamers and punches from the conductor video stream, which I think brings a much more organic experience to the music on stage.

Of course this is the first in The Harry Potter Film Concert Series.  I can't wait to hear Fawkes the Phoenix performed live from Chamber of Secrets.  One of the my favourite pieces from John Williams and 'Mischief Managed' from Azkaban.  Are there any particular pieces you are looking forward to performing live?
The Quidditch Match from Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone continues to present an immersive, and challenging experience for all of us on stage. It’s a tour de force and is always a favorite of audiences wherever we take this concert.

And finally.  Do you use a wand instead of a baton for The Harry Potter Film Concert Series and if so do you know any spells?
Well I’m proud, and a little surprised, to say that I have been using the same conductor’s baton since I was 16 years old. Knock on wood, it hasn’t let me down just yet.

Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone in Concert is currently on world tour.  Book your tickets here.

Rob Wainfur

The Bearded Trio - The Site For Steven Spielberg, George Lucas, John Williams and a whole lot more.




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