After nearly 1,000 performances, CineConcerts' unique live musical event is coming to Montana.
“Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone in Concert” will be in Missoula on Friday, May 10, after stops in Great Falls and Bozeman.
CineConcerts, which was started in 2010, presents screenings of classic films with no soundtrack piped through the speakers. Instead, a full symphony orchestra plays the music live with the movie.
“The greatest challenge in syncing up live music with such a cherished film is to know when you must be precisely with the actions on the screen, and alternatively, when you have space to breathe musically,” conductor John Jesensky said in an email.
The method of live performance hearkens back to the silent film era, when musicians would accompany movies to play the soundtrack in theaters. But founder Justin Freer had a grander vision in mind when he started CineConcerts, beginning with “Gladiator.”
“CineConcerts began with a vision to not only restore some of the most cherished film scores of our time, but to exhibit them in the best way possible to the public,” Freer wrote, also in an email. “We make our choice based on our love for the music first and foremost.”
That means a series with “Gladiator,” “Breakfast at Tiffany’s,” “The Godfather” and, as of 2016, the “Harry Potter” movies.
CineConcerts began the Harry Potter series with the first movie, moving to the next film in the series as they revisited towns (an article in the Charleston Post and Courier from February, 2019 noted their third CinceConcerts stop meant the third Harry Potter entry: “Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban.”)
As this is CineConcerts’ first visit to the area, it means “The Sorcerer’s Stone” for all of us.
The current iteration of CineConcerts travels with an 80-person orchestra, after using local symphonies for early showings. This group travels internationally, through 48 countries. They came to Montana from Saudi Arabia and Macau earlier in the spring.
The movie itself will be projected onto a 40-foot screen in the Adams Center, with the musicians set up in front in non-distracting lighting.
Freer noted in his email that CineConcerts travels with an expert audio-visual team to make sure that the movie and sound is top-notch in every venue. A necessity when moving from the MGM Theater in Macau to the Adams Center in Missoula.
“Each venue layout is different acoustically, in addition to a varying degree of technology responsible for projection in the concert hall itself,” Freer wrote. “Everything you see/hear in the performance is of the highest quality.”
One of the best moments in the movie, from Jesensky’s perspective as the conductor, is the Quidditch match.
“Our orchestra must simultaneously create wonderful music while capturing every object zipping by, every dive of the broomstick and every thud or collision!” he wrote. “In that sequence, we must be paying attention at every moment.”
Other sections offer more breathing room for the orchestra, Jesensky said, where they can play a little more loosely. He pointed out a scene where it changes from winter to spring as Harry’s owl Hedwig flies above Hogwarts castle.
“The music can flow freely and change from night to night in small ways,” he said. “The great thing is that both aspects of conducting are incredibly rewarding when we pull them off as an ensemble!”