Opening ‘Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets in Concert’ in OKC

From a flying car and a fighting tree to a determined house elf and a terrifying monster, the cinematic and musical magic of the second ‘Harry Potter’ film comes to Oklahoma City.

For the second spring in a row, the “Harry Potter Film Concert Series” enchants two performances at Civic Center Music Hall. “Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets in Concert” takes place on Friday, April 26 at 7:30 PM and Saturday, April 27 at 2:00 PM at the venerable downtown OKC venue.

Both performances will feature a full symphony orchestra performing the entire score of the 2002 film “Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets” live, while the entire film is projected onto a huge high-definition screen.

What can film and music fans expect from the ‘Harry Potter Film Concert Series?’

Directed by Chris Columbus, the second film in the blockbuster film franchise is adapted from the second novel in British author JK Rowling’s best-selling seven-book series and features music by legendary Oscar-nominated composer John Williams.

“(With) ‘Harry Potter,’ these scores are so incredibly iconic. People know the theme. It doesn’t matter how old you are, people recognize it,” says conductor Shih-Hung Young, who will handle the baton for the upcoming OKC -concerts. .

Over the past decade, performing film music live alongside the film has become a popular new frontier in the symphony world.

Young, a Chinese conductor and violinist from Taiwan, has traveled the world conducting film concerts ranging from the “Harry Potter Film Concert Series” and “Lord of the Rings: Live to Projection Trilogy & Symphony” to “Gladiator: Live ” and several Disney Live-in-Concert productions, including “The Lion King,” “Frozen” and “Toy Story.”

‘Harry Potter Film Concert Series’ toured around the world, bringing out ‘Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone in Concert’, the first film based on Rowling’s famous book series, at the Civic Center for two nearly sold-out shows this time last year. As long as the “Harry Potter” performances remain popular with OKC audiences, you can expect them to return every year until all the wizarding adventures of The Boy Who Lived have been played.

“There are eight films … so the goal is to present all eight films to the city’s audience,” Young said.

How do film concerts differ from other orchestral performances for musicians and conductors?

Ahead of his OKC “Chamber of Secrets” shows, Young spoke with The Oklahoman about the challenges and rewards of conducting live movie concerts:

Q: How did you come to do these film music concerts?

Because I am a musician myself, I have been fascinated by the film score from a very young age, perhaps more than others. But I got into this kind of conducting genre with ‘The Lord of the Rings.’ …A friend of mine was on that project and invited me to be his assistant, so that’s how I was introduced to these types of formats. I was an assistant on ‘Lord of the Rings’ for over five years… until I got the opportunity to take the stage and conduct myself.

That’s kind of my journey, how I got into this niche of conducting, so to speak, because it’s very different from conducting a regular symphony orchestra concert.

Q: Can you talk about some of those differences?

My job is to synchronize the orchestra, whatever we play, minute by minute, second by second, with the film. So in a way, the orchestra and I don’t have as much freedom to over-express ourselves, especially because we have to maintain time within the film.

I have a 17-inch screen in front of me showing the movie everyone else is seeing on a big screen. But mine also has an overlay of (visual cues called) streamers and bumps, and that helps me sync the movie.

The first three ‘Harry Potter’ films (scores) were written by John Williams, and his film scores are always quite complicated and difficult. So making sure that everyone can absorb that and still be in sync on time, those are usually the challenges that we face in putting this production together.

Q: Is it similar to keeping track of the action when you’re conducting a score for a musical theater performance?

Yes, but when you’re playing in the pits in a musical, the tempo and everything is still determined by the conductor. However, my pace and the pace of the music are determined by the film itself. … Ultimately, I’m paralleling the film. So the players can still express themselves, but in a very limited time space.

That’s why I often say to the orchestra members: ‘If you enjoy your solo too much, I’ll cut you off.’ Because when the next downbeat comes, the movie goes away, and if you haven’t finished your solo by then, I’m so sorry. And they get it.

As musicians, we naturally want to express ourselves and everyone has a very different interpretation of what each theme and phrase should be. That’s the great thing about live performances. However, I often have to remind the orchestra that we can be as expressive as we want, but within the limited time given to us.

Q: With these types of shows you literally share the stage with a gigantic movie screen. Is it difficult not to be distracted by the film during these performances?

I think it’s very exciting for the audience, but for us I always tell the musicians not to watch the film. But sight is faster than sound, and people will unintentionally be attracted to it. I have done this so many times myself. …I’m not ignoring it completely. It’s part of the production and I try to embrace that and turn it somewhat to my advantage. …

It really depends on where the screen is hung. If it’s about eight to five feet high, right on top of me, then I can’t really see it. So that’s great for me in that way. But sometimes it’s in the middle of the stage or at the back of the stage, and then I see the big movie.

Ultimately the music serves the film, and sometimes, to tell the truth, I conduct from the big film, because my screen and the big film are also synchronized. But seeing Harry fly into the sky while Hedwig flies is much more dramatic, and you’ll feel it even more when you’re looking at a giant screen (rather than a 17-inch monitor).

Q: What keeps you coming back to these types of productions?

We always want to attract more audiences to our concert halls, and with today’s traditional classical music program that is very difficult. We have been facing such challenges for a long time. And these kinds of performances certainly attract many more audiences to the concert hall: people who might never have thought they would come to a symphony orchestra concert, but who would come for Harry Potter.

And once they see how this is made and experience a symphony orchestra, perhaps it will be a gateway for them to be introduced to the symphonic world of the orchestra.

For me it is always very rewarding to see so many young children and their families, especially with ‘Harry Potter’. People of all ages come to share this.

Ultimately, I want as many people as possible to come and listen to the symphony orchestra. And I feel like helping projects like this helps.