Harry Potter in Concert

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Long before I ever got pregnant or even married, I, like many of us, had visions of what kind of parent I wanted to be. I had pictures in my mind of my perfectly groomed children, following me around quietly, as we went from fancy restaurants to art galleries to the theater, appreciating every step of the way.

Of course, reality has changed that significantly, but there are some of those things that apply. Max enjoys the theater with me, and is a joy to take to fancy restaurants, as he is both well-behaved and an adventurous eater. We don't really do art galleries or museums though, but I'm mostly OK with that. Yesterday, we dipped our family toes into the symphony, and loved every minute of it.

I've seen these “Music of ____movie____” performances before, but never has one worked out as well as this. I happened to be wandering the internet recently, and happened upon an upcoming performance of Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban, done by Symphony Silicon Valley in San Jose. Max is at PEAK Harry Potter these days, as he's currently in between books 5 and 6, and we're surprising him with a trip to Wizarding World for Christmas this year. (Emphasis on SURPRISING. If you see him offline, don't mention it!) I grabbed a few tickets for the Saturday matinee, and we were off!

Generally speaking, the format of the event is simple. There's an orchestra, a chorus, and a movie screen. The movie plays (with subtitles) above the orchestra, who provides all of the music in perfect time to the action on the screen overhead. I'm tempted to go back and watch the movie again at home, because I'm curious to see if it's a special music-heavy arrangement of the movie, or if I just truly don't notice how often the music is crucial to the feel of a scene.

Max was excited to the see the movie on a big screen, and I was excited to also expose him to the wonder if live symphonic music, the way it fills you and overtakes you in a way that no recording can.

What I wasn't expecting, was the fandom, and I absolutely loved it.

If you've ever been to an installment of a popular movie franchise on opening night, you've experienced this a little bit. If you've ever been to a singalong Sound of Music or Disney film, you have an idea of this. The audience engagement is unlike anything I've ever experienced.

First off, the audience goes all out for this event. Tiny wizards trotted out next week's Halloween costumes, millennials who grew up with Harry wore their HerUniverse skater skirts and carried Hogwarts backpacks, and grandparents who were dead ringers for Minerva McGonagall and even Dumbledore himself wore their finest cloaks and hats.

The conductor stepped up onto the podium and greeted each house, with boos and jeers for Slytherin, of course. He encouraged us to engage with the movie as much as we wanted, with cheers, boos, and laughter, and everyone took that suggestion to heart.

Roaring applause when Hagrid first came on-screen, boos and hisses for Malfoy's first appearance. It's the sort of interactivity that just doesn't happen often in the world, and it was wonderful.

There's an intermission in the movie, which was nice, so there was a chance to grab a snack and a drink, and probably a welcome pee-or-run-around-the-halls break for younger kids.

We had a wonderful time, and I can't recommend this highly enough for the Harry Potter fan in your life, when it comes to a symphony near you. As for us, we're eyeballing the Zelda performance that's coming in December, and Goblet of Fire will be performed in April, right around Max's birthday. While Zelda won't have a movie component, we do have an excellent costume that makes it seem like fate.

Have you ever attended one of these symphonic performances of a movie? Which one?

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