REVIEW: Paul Rhodes’s verdict on The Magical Music Of Harry Potter, York Barbican, December 13

London Philharmonic & Symphonic Film Orchestra members performing the magical music of Harry Potter. All pictures: Paul Rhodes

The Magical Music Of Harry Potter, Live In Concert, with a Weasley and the London Philharmonic & Symphonic Film Orchestra, York Barbican

A STELLAR concert to light up the dreariest of winter nights. Despite the new restrictions, we gathered to enjoy the music of Harry Potter, young and less young alike.

This was not a Bach crowd, and the performance was well adapted to make the experience accessible to newcomers. This will likely have been the first experience for many, at least since Covid, to appreciate the majesty of an orchestra in full swing.

The depth of the sound was awesome, from the airy massed violins to the double basses and cellos, via the trombones to the deft percussionists.

Chris Rankin (Percy Weasley in the Harry Potter film series) hosting Monday’s concert at York Barbican

Likewise, the synchronicity of the playing was a marvel. It was fun to watch how the London Philharmonic & Symphonic Film Orchestra members watched one another – with each of the instruments coming to the fore over the course of the two-hour performance.

The icing on the cake was master of ceremonies and narrator Chris Rankin, who played the irksome but ultimately decent Percy Weasley – “everyone’s seventh favourite Weasley,” he quipped – in the film franchise.

On stage, he was a superb host, boyishly enthusiastic about the music and sharing wonderful insider stories of how they made the films (filming started in 2000). One example, did you know that every seven seconds of the Quidditch game on film took one day to film? Well ,there you go. My daughter has been telling anyone who will listen that and the others ever since.

The opening notes of John Williams’ Hedwig’s Theme is so indelibly associated with the story that his successors, all soundtrack luminaries, Patrick Doyle, Nicholas Hooper and Alexandre Desplat, chose to incorporate it within their own scores.

London Philharmonic & Symphonic Film Orchestra musicians in a magical musical moment on Monday

These different composers brought welcome variation, from the pastoral Harry In Winter to the drama of Buckbeak’s Flight. Christmas At Hogwarts was in stark contrast to a typical York yuletide with its snow and twinkle. Even that looked positively bashful alongside the zaniness of the Knight Bus, which the orchestra clearly enjoyed playing up to.

There were darker sections, and the musicians changed the atmosphere with aplomb. Less enchanting were the visual effects, which were at best passable, but this did at least serve to accentuate rather than distract from the music.

Passable could also sum up Rankin’s singing voice, although he was in full flight for the closing Do The Hippogriff, a welcome chance to rock. The ‘embedded’ band who had been the epitome of restraint were unleashed.

The young ‘witch’ to our right was clearly having the time of her life – and it will be an experience many will remember. Memorable in other ways too. To cap the last night of this European tour (shortened by tightening Covid restrictions), the viola player (Cosma) successfully proposed to the 2nd violin (Danila), bringing the house to its feet. It was a fitting moment of joy that summed up the night.

Review by Paul Rhodes