Harry Potter and the Magical Score
We at the Becky Dell office recently went, purely as research of course, to the Warner Bros Studio tour on the making of Harry Potter.
Sorry..? No, no Becky riding a broomstick was crucial to our research…yes, absolutely.
It is phenomenal to see and to be surrounded by the level of production the Harry Potter films represent – several thousand people per film, department after department responsible for pulling J K Rowling’s magical stories out of our imaginations and into the real world for us to see with our very own eyes.
Each tiny element, from the children’s drawings on the wall of The Burrow and the weird and wonderful collection of objects in Dumbledore’s office, to the colossal creations like the mechanical entrance to the Chamber of Secrets (no, that was not a computer effect!) and the enormous clock pendulum that swings in the entrance hall was painstakingly considered, designed and brought into fruition by a team of true artists.
The production team on these films left not one detail to chance, not one corner of a set empty. So many little works of art that we may only see in the periphery of a single shot but each and every one act as a single crystal in an entire shining, magical world that they built for us. Aren’t we lucky?
And then – then there is the soundtrack. The music that holds the whole story together reminding us with little musical memories of everything that our favourite characters have seen and done and overcome. The same level of detail and painstaking love and attention was given to the score, breathing the life force into Harry’s new and wondrous Wizarding World.
So who is responsible for one of the World’s favourite soundtracks?
Well before I went to the Harry Potter studios I thought the simple answer to that question was, of course, John Williams. Oh, was I wrong.
See – I told you the trip was for research purposes.
Of course, the inhuman wonder that is 50 times Oscar nominated and 5 times Oscar winner film composer John Williams was responsible for some of our favourite themes in the Harry Potter saga. Between 2001 – 4 (yes, it really was that long ago) John Williams, along with two orchestrators, composed the score for the first three Harry Potter movies and created some of the most loved melodies in the score such as Hedwig’s Theme and Harry’s Wondrous World.
But… did you know that over the 10 years and 8 films there were 4 main composers, 15 orchestrators and 53 original themes composed…I know I didn’t.
The four composers make up a quartet of Hollywood film royalty, with enough film credits and award nominations and wins to fill most of Hogwarts and it’s many secret rooms.
The first of course we know.
John Williams is a household name responsible for a hefty percentage of …well, all the top selling feature films made in the World, ever.
Schindler’s List, E.T., Jaws, Jurassic Park, the Indiana Jones films, Saving Private Ryan, Hook, Catch Me If You Can, Minority Report, A.I. Artificial Intelligence, The BFG, all seven Star Wars films, Superman, Home Alone, Nixon, The Patriot, Angela’s Ashes, Seven Years in Tibet, The Witches of Eastwick…I mean, you get my point.
The second, responsible for the 4th filmThe Goblet of Fire, was Patrick Doyle. Doyle is particularly loved, with 2 Oscar nominations, for his work with director Sir Kenneth Branagh, writing the score for feature films Henry V, Much Ado About Nothing , Hamlet , As You Like It and Cinderella. To this day the two collaborate and Doyle even wrote the score in Branagh’s 2015 production of The Winter’s Tale that ran in Garrick Theatre in the West End.
The third is Nicholas Hooper, who wrote the music for The Order of the Pheonix and The Half-Blood Prince, reuniting with his old friend with David Yates, the director for those films. He was nominated for a Grammy for the music in The Half Blood Prince, which is a nice addition to his list – he’s won a BAFTA Award and an Ivor Novello Award for Original Score and another BAFTA for Best Original Television Music. All in a day’s work.
And for the big finale came Alexandre Desplat, left with a heavy duty of creating a score to end all Harry Potter scores as the series came to it’s dramatic close.
I feel we can safely say he was up to the job. In my humble opinion his thematic writing in Hogwarts’ final battle is some of my favourite film writing. I have no shame in saying it makes me cry every time.
He is another Hollywood veteran with a, frankly, slightly ridiculous credit list including films like The Queen, The Golden Compass, The Curious Case of Benjamin Button, The Twilight Saga: New Moon, Fantastic Mr. Fox, The King’s Speech, Moonrise Kingdom, Argo, Rise of the Guardians, The Grand Budapest Hotel, Godzilla, The Imitation Game..blah blah blah.
Sorry, what was that…? Yes, of course he’s won an Oscar as well.
10 years of soundtrack, 4 composers, 4 directors, 8 extraordinary films based on 7 extraordinary stories and about, I can only assume, 24 million people to make up the cast, crew, post production, designers, engineers, runners, camera people, cleaners, educators, screenwriters, costume designers and catering staff needed to make something like this possible.
J K Rowling brought the magical, wizarding world to life in all of our imaginations but these composers and these productions – well, I think they came the closest we Muggles will ever get to making real Magic…