Interview: Sarah Day-Smith Talks The Magical Music Of Harry Potter

Leeds Town Hall is heading for Platform 9 and 3/4 this month as The Magical Music Of Harry Potter is set to swoop in and land there on Saturday 23rd February 2019. Presenting will be Sarah Day-Smith, Potter appreciator and lover of the magic of live music. I caught up with her recently to find out all about The Magical Music Of Harry Potter in concert…

You’re set to present the upcoming concert The Magical Music of Harry Potter at Leeds Town Hall soon. How are you preparing to take your audience on this magical musical journey? Does it involve revisiting the books and/or films?

We travel through the films in chronological order exploring how the music supports the developing story and characters. There are 4 composers and 4 directors involved so there are a lot of styles and creativity to explain and enjoy! It was also a brilliant excuse for me to have a massive movie – marathon of all 8 Films! 

Sounds like great research to me! When did you first come across J.K Rowling’s stories?

I used to listen to the Harry Potter Audio Books in the car on the way to Primary School with my brother. It definitely kept us quiet. 

Would you consider yourself a Potter-head?

I absolutely adore Harry Potter but I think I would be insulting the true Potter Heads because there are still so many facts I am learning through presenting this evening that I had no idea about! 

How does the concert take shape? Will there be additional performance or visual elements alongside the orchestra as star attraction?

The stories are so big and complex that it’s impossible to tell them in full so we give the audience a taste of each film and illustrate how brilliantly and cleverly the music supports the story in certain places. The orchestra dress code for this concert is (unusually) Potter-tastic so don’t expect them to look as they normally do! 

Sounds like a lovely touch to me. The Harry Potter franchise is pretty expansive…just how many of the movies are given a musical outing in this concert?

All of them!

Now that’s impressive! Have Rowling, John Williams, Patrick Doyle, Nicholas Hooper or Alexandre Desplat heard about this celebration of Harry Potter? Have they sent word or had direct input in any way?

Yes, conductor Stephen Bell is a colleague of Nicholas Hooper’s and it’s possible he may be able to attend.

Music is so influential in movies but people don’t often pick up on it so much while watching. How would you describe the draw of hearing the music away from the complete product?

Some film music stands alone in the concert hall as fabulous orchestral material in its own right, and some styles of film music composition occupy a more supportive role. This concert has a mixture of both from all 4 composers and because the script explains the thinking behind each scene, the audience are given a fascinating window into the complex art of successful film scoring.

What do you think makes hearing music performed live by an orchestra so special and worth seeing?

The sound is incredible and you get a real sense of the virtuosity of the players when you can see the speed at which they often have to play and the complexities of the writing right in front of you.

If you had to name your favourite, or perhaps your top three pieces in the line-up, what would you pick?

I’d have to say the Fantastically Mad ‘Knight Bus’ has to be my favourite! It is absolutely crazy just as you’d expect. 

Are you expecting or encouraging enthusiasts to dress up for the event – and will you be joining them if you do?

We would love and encourage everyone, of all ages to dress up! I will be joining them along with the Orchestra. Who doesn’t want an excuse to get dressed up as a Wizard or Witch? 

Indeed. Even I could be tempted… What would you say you enjoy most about presenting events like this?

It would have to be the atmosphere! It’s just magical. Everybody that chooses to come to these types of events tend to be big fans, full of appreciation and adoration for these incredible musical scores. This sense of unity and respect between the Orchestra, Conductor, Choirs, Presenters and Fans is something really special. 

Now for a Potter Quick-Round!

Which house would you have the Sorting Hat pick you for?

Gryffindor all the way! 

Favourite character?

I’d have to say Ron; he was the first character I instantly took to, his humour and naivety just make him so likeable. 

Favourite Professor at Hogwart’s?

Professor Dumbledore. In my eyes, no one can take his crown. ​

Best villain in your opinion? 

(Whispered) Lord Voldemort.  Between me and you that name wasn’t uttered! 

Mum’s the word! A moment which made you laugh?

There are so many moments to choose just one but I do love the line from Hermione in ‘The Order of Phoenix’ to Ron when she says “just because you’ve got an emotional range of a teaspoon.” It’s absolutely brilliant. And when Harry says ‘Not to mention the Pincers’ in Half Blood Prince. 

A moment which brought tears?

The death of Fred, Ron’s brother – it gets me every time. 

Favourite book/ film in the collection?

I love the Goblet of Fire. 

If you were loaned Harry’s Invisibility Cape for one day, what would you do?

Bit mischievous really but… I absolutely love making people jump so it would just make my scares even better! 

Would you pick Quidditch or an opportunity for an hour in the Restricted Section of the Hogwarts Library?

I have such a guilty pleasure for Libraries ever since I have been young so an hour in the restricted section of the Hogwarts Library would be unreal but being able to fly has to top it I think! Although, I don’t think I’d be very good, my co-ordination is similar to Ron’s! 

Which would you find more fearsome – a Boggart, a Chimaera or the Cruciatus Curse?

The Cruciatus Curse, definitely. 

Would you choose to Apparate to an exciting place for a once-in-a-lifetime experience if it meant travelling through a precarious route involving Bulbadox Powder and Cornish Pixies…or would you give it a miss?

I’d risk it for a once in a lifetime opportunity despite the pixies and horrible boils! 

If you were gifted one re-write from J.K Rowling, what would it be?

That Dobby the Elf didn’t die! 

Can you name your all-time favourite moments across the entire franchise – or, as the collection is so sprawling, can you name your all time top three moments?

I genuinely think finding out Professor Snape is actually a good character all along, tops it for me. 

To close, can you pitch this concert to audiences in just one sentence? 

An unmissable evening of music, mystery and of course magic; bring your wands!

So there you have it! Sarah Day-Smith will be guiding audiences through the music of Harry Potter from Diagon Alley to the Halls Of Hogwarts on February 23rd 2019 – you can find tickets for Leeds Town Hall here.

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