Recap: Harry Potter and the Grand Rapids Pops thrill audience for second time with ‘Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets’

By Jeffrey Kaczmarczyk -

Fans of Harry Potter films all have their favorite scenes.

Harry’s first visit to Diagon Alley, his first defeat of Lord Voldemort, conjuring his first Patronus Charm, rescuing his godfather, Sirius Black, winning the Tri-Wizard Cup, finally defeating the Dark Lord – it goes on and on and on.

Harry Potter, fighting the dreaded basilisk in the Chamber of Secrets, is among the most scary and exhilarating scenes in the entire canon of Harry Potter films.

The thrills are nothing without John Williams’ epic musical score. And the scene is everything with the Grand Rapids Pops performing it.

Harry Potter returns to Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry in  Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets, and Harry, Ron and Hermione returned to Grand Rapids for the second performance of the Harry Potter Film Concert Series on Friday, September 29.

The Grand Rapids Symphony with Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets repeats on Saturday, September 30, with two shows at 2 p.m. and 7:30 p.m. Tickets remain available, especially for the evening performance.

Australian conductor Nicholas Buc, who was in DeVos Hall in January with the Grand Rapids Symphony for Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone, returned to lead the Grand Rapids Symphony in the film in which Harry Potter discovers a mysterious diary is the key to defeating Lord Voldemort and rescuing Ginny Weasley from certain death.

Grand Rapids Symphony's 'Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone'

Buc is not only an accomplished conductor, he’s a showman who knows how to rev an audience up.

“This is no ordinary movie screening,” he told the audience at the start. “We want to you to laugh and cheer your heroes and boo and hiss the villains.”

Some of the loudest cheers of the evening were for the first appearance of Dobby the House Elf and for Fawkes the Phoenix, arriving in the Chamber of Secrets to save the day.

“And we highly encourage displays of house pride,” he added, a reference to the four houses of Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry, Gryffindor, Ravenclaw, Hufflepuff and Slytherin.

Friday’s audience came prepared to do just that, many dressed in the colors and trappings of Hogwarts as depicted in the movie.

The Harry Potter films are a tale of magic and its use to defeat evil. A tale of magic needs magical music, and John Williams’ epic score is full of wonder and delight.

Moments such as the beginning of the journey into the Enchanted Forrest are potent. But so is the wonder of an ordinary car soaring over the skies of London or the drama and whimsy of students wresting with a pack of Cornish pixies escaped from its cage

Music has a powerful effect on the drama. Live music even more so. A scene as ordinary as a Professor McGonagall telling her class the story of the Chamber of Secrets might be an ordinary lecture, but the ominous music beneath gives the audience chills as she tells it.

The Grand Rapids Symphony gave a magnificent performance that was authentic to the original production but also revelatory in subtle ways. In a concert hall, you hear things in new and different ways.

The fast-paced action of a game of Quidditch, a little like basketball played on broomsticks, becomes even more exciting when accompanied by 80 musicians powering the action, and even more frightening when the game suddenly becomes a life-and-death struggle when our hero comes under attack by a bewitched bludger.

Our heroes’ surprising escape from hundreds of giant spiders as well the dramatic death of Tom Riddle in the Chamber of Secrets were experiences that can take your breath away.

It’s also a heroic effort all by itself to play through. Though the film, based on the second book by J.K. Rowling, is the shortest of the seven books in the series, it’s the longest of the eight films. Including intermission, the entire show was just shy of three hours.

To be sure, the dialogue, of course, is present (and closed-caption as well). So are all the sound effects. In fact, the extra subwoofers that kick in for the mighty thuds of a Whomping Willow, the rumble of moving staircases in motion, or the opening of the Chamber of Secrets are amazing all on their own.

But nothing beats the grand and glorious sound of a full-size symphony orchestra, full of musicians playing their hearts out. You can’t experience that at home or in the movie theater. You can with the Grand Rapids Symphony in DeVos Performance Hall.

Posted by Jeffrey Kaczmarczyk at 08:00
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