Already an adult, Tim Hankewich wasn’t the target audience when Harry Potter hit the literary scene in 1997, but the music from the movies cast a spell on his soul.
“I sort of missed the bandwagon on (the books). I do have a lot of cred when it comes to fantasy, though,” said Hankewich, 51, Orchestra Iowa’s maestro. “I was always a fan of Tolkien — loved ‘The Lord of the Rings’ and ‘The Hobbit.’ I was a huge fan of ‘The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe.’ I read all the books of Robert Jordan and George R.R. Martin before anybody knew who they were.
“So I am a fantasy geek, but (Potter) was sort of a national craze that passed me by.”
Still, he did see several of the movies, and when he discovered that composer John Williams’ “Harry Potter” orchestral scores were available for purchase, Hankewich jumped at the chance to add them to Orchestra Iowa’s collection.
“John Williams is one of few film composers who makes his music publicly available,” Hankewich said. “In many other cases, other composers will just have their music for rent. In the last 15 years, there’s more interest in film music, so access to these materials is becoming easier and easier each year.
“After the flood, of all things, FEMA allocated resources for us to purchase music, and I asked our librarian to buy as much John Williams music as possible.”
That was a good move, Hankewich said, because with the rise in popularity came a rise in price. “This music is for purchase now for a very pretty penny,” he said, “but because of our recent past, we had it in our library.”
The time is right to bring it out in all its orchestral glory for a pair of weekend Pops concerts titled “The Magical Music of Harry Potter.” The mystical sounds will fill the Paramount Theatre in downtown Cedar Rapids on Saturday night (5/18) and Sunday afternoon (5/19). Professor Minerva McGonagall and Hagrid have RSVP’d, Hankewich added, so don’t be surprised if you see them in the crowd.
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“Even though the Harry Potter films are 10 years old now or more, this remains to be some of the most popular film music in recent memory — which is saying something, because John Williams is probably the greatest film composer of all time,” Hankewich said. “He’s got this body of work that just is staggering. Two years ago, we did a John Williams concert that was extremely successful, where we showcased some of his films from throughout his career. But this now, obviously, is focused on Harry Potter.”
The concert includes music from “Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone,” “The Goblet of Fire,” “The Chamber of Secrets” and “The Prisoner of Azkaban.” A symphonic suite near the end branches out with music by Williams, as well as the composers who wrote for “The Order of the Phoenix” and “The Deathly Hallows” Parts I and II.
It’s some of the most difficult music the ensemble has tackled this season, according to Hankewich. All of the musicians will be getting a workout, including the man waving a magic wand over it all.
“Twenty years ago, people used to condescend when it came to film music,” he said. “Now, today, I think people truly understand that John Williams is arguably one of the great musical minds of our generation. It just so happened that his medium was film music. The music that he writes is just so sophisticated for orchestra. He uses the entire orchestral palette and he writes in an extremely challenging technical manner for orchestra. You need an excellent orchestra to play this kind of music.
“Interestingly enough, when you hear his music next to Patrick Doyle, who wrote some of the music for ‘The Goblet of Fire,’ you will hear immediately the difference in craftsmanship,” Hankewich said, “because John Williams’ music stands very strongly alone as a concert piece, whereas a lot of lesser composers write for atmosphere, and it does the job for the film, but is completely forgettable without the visuals.”
This musical event will have some visuals, as well as other bells and whistles audiences have seen in previous Pops concerts, from lighting effects to some scripted moments. Fred Kiser, director of choral activities at Kirkwood Community College, will be bringing a Kirkwood chorus to perform on “Double Trouble” from “The Prisoner of Azkaban.”
Hankewich and company will be flinging aside their formal attire and conjuring up costumes, instead. They hope the audience will follow suit. Patrons of all ages are invited to dress as their favorite Harry Potter character and join in a costume parade onstage after intermission, to the tune of Grieg’s “In the Hall of the Mountain King” and the finale from Stravinsky’s “Firebird Suite.”
“It’s magical, fantastical music for (all ages) to parade their costumes,” Hankewich said. “Plus, overall, there is limited Harry Potter music to complete an entire concert on its own.”
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Lots of lobby activities also are in the works — from a Sorting Hat Ceremony station to coloring, wand-making and photo stations and various displays — to create an experience for young people in the crowd.
Hankewich is hoping to see all generations in the audience — parents, grandparents and kids.
“This is the perfect opportunity for them to bridge that gap and introduce a younger generation to the orchestra and to concert music, even though this music and the films they came from have made a huge impression on the kids already,” he said.
“What makes most people uncomfortable in a classical music setting is that they have to engage their own imagination to engage with the music. They have to answer for themselves: what does the music mean, how does it make them feel, does it inspire a plot. This was second-nature to audiences before film came along.
“But now, we’re such a visual society. This has the advantage of priming the pump, because almost everybody has seen these films now. They already know what the visuals are, and they don’t have to insert their own imagination into this music.”
If You Go
WHAT: Orchestra Iowa Pops: “The Magical Music of Harry Potter”
WHERE: Paramount Theatre, 123 Third Ave. SE, Cedar Rapids
WHEN: 7:30 p.m. Saturday (5/18) and 2:30 p.m. Sunday (5/19); doors open 1 hour before concert
TICKETS: $18 to $55, Paramount Ticket Office, (319) 366-8203 or Paramounttheatrecr.com/Events; call the ticket office for youth and student prices
Costume Parade, onstage after intermission
Pizzi Potter coloring & wand making station
Sorting Hat Ceremony station
Muggle & Wizard picture station
LEGO Harry Potter Hogwarts Castle display
Saturday: Cedar Rapids Museum of Art with “The Art of Harry Potter Book Covers,” 6:45 p.m., Opus Cafe
Sunday: West Music’s Instrument Petting Zoo, 1:30 p.m., Hall of Mirrors and Opus Concert Cafe
l Comments: (319) 368-8508; firstname.lastname@example.org