From the moment you hear the heavenly "Hedwig's Theme" on celesta in the opening notes of "Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone,'' John Williams' exciting, layered score is an integral part of experiencing the magic and fantasy of the film. 

On June 29 and 30, the Cleveland Orchestra will give its first live performance of that score while the iconic 2001 film is shown on multiple massive screens at the Blossom Music Festival.

"It's the first film in the [Harry Potter] series. I think it's something that resonates with everybody, whether you were a child then or a child now," said Ilya Gidalevich, artistic administrator of the Cleveland Orchestra.

For the festival's opening weekend, families will experience nearly wall-to-wall music by a full 100-plus-piece orchestra as they experience "Harry Potter" live, conducted by Justin Freer in his Blossom debut.

It all starts with Hedwig's fanciful flight at the beginning of the film, with the owl forever linked to the sounds of the celesta, a beautiful "dulcimer-esque" instrument that looks like a piano.

"Of course, it's become one of the most famous themes that John [Williams] has ever written," Freer said of the legendary film composer, whose other epic scores include "Star Wars," "E.T." and "Indiana Jones."

Williams' score is so integral to the "Harry Potter" experience, a short documentary before the film at Blossom will feature interviews with the film's composer, producers, director and actors talking about its exciting music.

"It's a recent John Williams score, so kind of in the prime of his maturity, and it's an incredibly exciting score to highlight what is essentially a very exciting film," Gidalevich said.

Experiencing "Harry Potter" live with thousands on the Blossom lawn or in the pavilion promises to be a one-of-a-kind event. The film, which Freer calls one of the greatest in the fantasy family genre, will be shown on 15- and 26-foot LED screens on either side of the stage inside the pavilion, as well as on huge screens above center stage and two more outside, on either side of the lawn.

Freer is the founder of CineConcerts, which is just launching the eighth concert film in the Harry Potter Film Series ("Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2") with performances this weekend with the Indianapolis Symphony Orchestra. The company has produced more than 1,000 live "Harry Potter" performances with orchestras in 48 countries, playing to 1.3 million fans.

In cities around the world, some families are experiencing live symphonic music for the first time at the "Potter" concerts.  At every "Potter" concert he conducts, Freer said it's a joy to hear children laughing and making new musical connections.

"Children, in some cases, for the very first time, connect that maybe, just maybe, one of the reasons that they're afraid of Voldemort is because of the trombone," he said.

"They're introduced to live performance in a way that they can connect with because they understand film. ... I think that we're moving them and inspiring them in a very unique way, in a very modern way."

The biggest thing that will make the movie under the stars experience special at Blossom is the Cleveland Orchestra, the conductor said.

"The Cleveland Orchestra is regarded as one of the greatest orchestras, not only currently in the world, but has been for many, many decades. It's really one of our world's treasures as far as orchestras and sound," Freer said. "That alone brings an element of class and style to an otherwise incredibly well-written music score by composer John Williams."

Film score expert Freer previously conducted the Cleveland Orchestra in a "Breakfast at Tiffany's Live in Concert" performance in 2017 at Severance Hall.

Freer, who sees film music as one of the greatest art forms in music history, has devoted his career to preserving both digital and physical movie scores. He's had the joy of seeing Williams' original manuscripts, created in pencil, in film score archives.

"It's very much a kid-in-a-candy-store moment and I'm lucky that I get to relive those moments pretty much every day,'' he said.

Other popular John Williams-scored movies that the Cleveland Orchestra has performed at Blossom are "E.T.," "Raiders of the Last Ark" and last year's "Star Wars: Episode IV."  More than 30,000 people attended "Star Wars" last year. The Cleveland Orchestra will continue with that franchise this season by closing the Blossom Music Festival with another iconic Williams score — "Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back Live" — Aug. 30 to Sept. 1.

Next weekend, conductor Freer, based in Los Angeles, will keep the orchestra in sync with "Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone" by following the movie on an iPad-sized screen that's sequenced with superimposed "punches and streamers." The punches are flashes of light that appear on the downbeat of each measure and the streamers are colored bands that flow across the screen. Both coincide with important moments in the film.

The punches and streamers system is built in-house by CineConcerts, said Freer, who will be conducting "The Sorcerer's Stone" for the first time in nearly a year.

"It's up to me to figure out a way to keep it all together,'' he said. "It's an incredibly fun experience that comes with a great deal of stress but it's very rewarding at the end."

 

Arts writer Kerry Clawson may be reached at 330-996-3527 or kclawson@thebeaconjournal.com. Follow her at @KerryClawsonABJ or www.facebook.com/kclawsonabj.