Arts Review

QSO Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince

Cineconcerts present Harry Potter and The Half-Blood Prince with the Queensland Symphony Orchestra


Saturday 25th Feb, 2023

Brisbane Convention Centre

Conducted by Nicholas Buch 

Composed by Nicholas Hooper


Another flawless fantastical film accompaniment!


Dr Gemma Regan


Excited wizards and witches and a few parent muggles piled into The ‘Great Hall’ at the Brisbane Convention Centre on Saturday to attend the sixth year of Hogwarts with Harry Potter and The Half-Blood Prince presented by Cineconcerts and the enchanting Queensland Symphony Orchestra. 


The sixth instalment of J.K. Rowling’s iconic Harry Potter series is a fan favourite of eight films based on her seven books with one for each year of Harry Potter’s High school, English kids have and extra year of school with seven years, not six like here in Australia! 


With the Mind, Body and Spirit Convention just down the hall, pupils had ample opportunity to purchase their crystals and potion supplies ready for the start of term. There was a good mix of mature Potter fans and families with younger children, creating a whole new generation of Harry Potter fans and potential future orchestral musicians. 


The unique screening of the 2009 film was to be able to witness the 50-strong Queensland Symphony Orchestra with Alan Smith in the role of Concertmaster, playing the entire musical score live in real time. Whilst seated below the high-definition 12-metre screen you could simultaneously watch as the film and dialogue played and the musicians accompanying with the music.


The score was composed by Nicholas Hooper, who also wrote the music for the previous film Harry Potter & the Order of the Phoenix. The incredible John Williams only composed the first three due to other commitments. Patrick Doyle scored the fourth one, Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire and Alexandre Desalt the last two. There are 28 tracks in total and over an hour of material making it one of the longest Harry Potter soundtracks. This comes as a surprise as many of the scenes had no music at all, instead using an ominous silence with the dialogue. The mood has become much darker than the previous four films, as hormones rage and Voldemort and the Death Eaters create havoc in both the magical and muggle Worlds. Lending a much more sinister dimension than the previous films.


Conductor Nicholas Buc introduced the concert warning the audience who may not have seen the film that it was the saddest of the series and there wouldn’t be a dry eye in the house! He then asked about the usual allegiances to the houses with the biggest cheer obviously for Gryffndor, although I was cheering for the ‘nasty Slytherins’. 


With a ‘let the magic begin’ there was a guttural rumbling from the timpani and we were launched into a terrifying scene of destruction as the Death Eaters caused chaos in London, killing muggles and destroying the Millennium Bridge. This is actually one of three scenes that are not in the book, with an attack on a Muggle bridge only being mentioned to the prime minister by Cornelius Fudge. Two other original scenes are Harry flirting with a waitress in a cafe at the station before meeting up with Dumbledore on the platform (Sir Michael Gambon); and the terrifying Death Eater attack at the Burrow.


It was a while before the opening credits and the famous Hedwig’s Theme by John Williams is totally omitted, which I found disappointing. In fact the only part of recognisable theme music is when Harry Potter (Daniel Radcliffe) appears on the scene in London and the orchestra play a few bars of Harry’s uplifting motif. For this reason I found the QSO experience musically less appealing than the other films, despite the popularity of the film.


This year Harry changes to potions classes when Professor Snape finally becomes the Dark Arts teacher and without a potions book, both he and Ron comically fight over two classroom copies. Harry draws the short straw getting a ragged one with tiny writing scrawled across each page previously owned by the talented Half-Blood Prince. However, once Harry tries out the unorthodox methods scribbled in the methods for potion making he tops the class much to the annoyance of Hermione. There were lots of musical pops and bangs from the QSO to accompany these comical scenes.


The small screen that the Conductor, Nicholas Buc used to coordinate the live QSO performance with precision timing, had green bars to denote the upcoming start of each piece with grey bars scrolling along for each musical bar and a red bar for the end of each piece. A white flash appeared to indicate that the next piece was imminent, enabling Buc to prepare the orchestra with raised arms, lest they got too interested in the film plot! Amusingly, most of the musicians watched along with the film during each interlude and appeared to be fans. 


The audience was mesmerised watching both the orchestra and the film simultaneously. Sinister minor keys signified the darkening gloom when the dark mark appeared in the sky, marking a successful killing of a great wizard. The scene was so moving with the soulful music and harp that when the wizards held their wands aloft beaming out light in mourning, many in the audience held their lit phones aloft in solidarity!


The strings were adept at producing the sinister screeching that accompanied a lot of the film sliding their fingers slowly down the strings whilst bowing. The percussionists also came to the fore in this film with the wind machine, bells, xylophone and marimba, and thunder boards being frequently used to create the stormy tension and encroaching fear. The harp was particularly apparent throughout weaving beautiful melodies composed by Hooper to enthuse the audience with mystical awe.


Another favourite musical moment was the fabulous whirling sounds created by five or six musicians simultaneously whirling luminous singing plastic tubes around their heads. It is a formal musical instrument and has many names such as whirly tubes, the lasso d'amore, the corruga tube, corrugaphone, sound tube, musical tube, or even the Bloogle Resonator! It is one of the most fun musical instruments and I had one as a kid, consisting of a corrugated plastic tube that you play by swinging it quickly in a circle. The whirring wailing sound is created by the air moving quickly across the kinks through the tube and it was very effective!


Despite the mournful tone of the film and the lack of flare from the iconic John Williams’ themes, it was a magical concert for muggles, magicians and music lovers alike with another fantastical flawless presentation by Buc and the QSO. 

Cineconcerts and the QSO will be returning in 2024 with the penultimate film of the Harry Potter series, part one of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, so look out book early for the final intakes as a senior at Hogwarts next year!


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