Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone™ in Concert
A Note from the Composer, John Williams...
The success of J.K. Rowling's Harry Potter series has been a heartwarming phenomenon to all those who love books. The worldwide reception these works have received has added greatly to the sense of privilege I felt when given the honor of composing the music for the film version of Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone.
The story's imaginative array of wizards flying on broomsticks and mail-delivering owls, all occupying a wondrous world of magic, offered a unique canvas for music. I'm especially delighted that so many orchestras around the world have agreed to perform the music in a live presentation of the movie.
I know I speak for everyone connected with the making of this film in saying that we are greatly honored by these events... and I hope that audiences will experience some measure of the joy and fun that we did when making the film.
The first book in J.K. Rowling's series about Harry Potter — the orphaned boy who learns on his 11th birthday that he is a wizard — was published in 1997. (Released as Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone in the UK, the title was changed to Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone by the US publisher.) During the next 14 years, six more best-selling books and eight blockbuster films followed, bringing to an audience of billions the epic adventures of Harry and his friends as they make their way through Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry while battling the most dangerous Dark wizard of all time, Lord Voldemort.
Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone — Program Notes
Producer David Heyman read the first book and instantly fell in love with the story. He brought it to Warner Bros., and they put together the filmmaking team that would create the on-screen wizarding world introduced to movie-goers in the film Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone.
After its release in November, 2001, Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone quickly became one of the most successful movies in box office history, launching a film series that would eventually make well over $7 billion worldwide. The movie received numerous award nominations, including three Oscar nods and eight BAFTA nominations (British Academy of Film and Television Arts awards).
For the film's musical score, Warner Bros. turned to John Williams, an esteemed composer who had proven his extraordinary ability to connect with audiences across a broad range of films — but particularly those with stories steeped in fantasy and adventure (the Star Wars films, Indiana Jones films, and Jurassic Park films, as well as E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial, Jaws, Dracula, The Fury, and Hook). Williams brought an enthusiasm and mastery to his work on the first Harry Potter film that would make his score an instant movie music classic.
John Williams is a product of both the East Coast and Hollywood, which might explain the unique balance of sophistication and showmanship in his work. He was born in New York and moved to Los Angeles with his family in 1948, where he attended North Hollywood High School and later UCLA. After serving in the U.S. Air Force and writing and arranging music for Air Force bands, Williams returned to New York to study at The Julliard School.
Williams headed back to Los Angeles in the late 1950s, where he worked as a session pianist on numerous film and television scores by composers like Henry Mancini, Elmer Bernstein, Leonard Bernstein, Alfred Newman, and even a young Jerry Goldsmith (Williams performed a lengthy, bravura piano solo on Goldsmith's 1960 score to Studs Lonigan). He also wrote orchestrations for other composers and composed scores for low-budget movies and television programs.
Williams's first two movie scoring assignments were the teenage delinquent melodramas Daddy-O (1958) and Because They're Young (1960). He soon moved on to a series of splashy comedies, including Bachelor Flat, Gidget Goes to Rome, Jon Goldfarb, Please, Come Home!, How to Steal a Million, Not with My Wife, You Don't!, Penelope, and A Guide for the Married Man.
During this time, Williams was honing his dramatic musical skills in the crucible of 1960s television — scoring everything from crime series (M Squad, Checkmate) to anthologies (General Electric Theater, Alcoa Premiere) to westerns (Wagon Train). He also began working in the science fiction and fantasy genres with three Irwin Allen series: Lost in Space, The Time Tunnel, and Land of the Giants.
When Irwin Allen then made the blockbuster films The Poseidon Adventure and The Towering Inferno in the early 1970s, Williams was the producer's first choice to score them. His electrifying scores earned him two Oscar nominations.
Around this time, Williams also earned Oscar nominations for Valley of the Dolls, Goodbye, Mr. Chips, and The Reivers, and won his first Oscar for Scoring Adaptation and Original Song Score for Fiddler on the Roof.
He went on to score a series of enormously popular blockbuster and franchise movies, including Superman, Close Encounters of the Third Kind, the Indiana Jones and Star Wars series, the first two Jurassic Park films, and the first two Home Alone films. He developed what would become a longstanding collaboration with director Steven Spielberg, and ultimately earned more Oscar nominations than any other composer, winning Academy Awards for Jaws, Star Wars, E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial, and Schnindler's List.
While enjoying such remarkable success as a composer, Williams also maintained an impressive career as a conductor, serving as the music director of the Boston Pops Orchestra for 14 seasons, guest conducting the Boston Symphony Orchestra, New York Philharmonic, Los Angeles Philharmonic, Chicago Symphony Orchestra, National Symphony Orchestra, and many others, as well as composing a series of concert works over the years.
His film and television work has earned Williams an unprecedented level of popularity — not only as a film composer, but as a musician in general. John Williams is a household name, and his movie themes are as instantly recognizable and acclaimed as many of the most popular hit songs and albums of the last four decades.
Williams defined the musical direction for the Harry Potter films before the first film as even completed when Warner Bros. approached hi to write music for an early piece of promotional material for the project. Without seeing a frame of film, Williams composed what would eventually become the series' most iconic piece of music, Hedwig's Theme.
Composing the score for Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone was an enormous challenge, even for a composer of John Williams’s talent and experience. Of course Williams had helped launch some of the greatest franchises in screen history with his Star Wars and Indiana Jones scores, but the first films in those series had been surprise hits, so Williams had been able to develop each one’s musical lexicon without any sort of specific audience expectation. Expectations for the movie adaptation of the first Harry Potter book, however, were enormous. Williams’s first Harry Potter score had to help establish the on-screen version of the magical universe infused with mystery and adventure — introducing audiences to spectacular environments like Diagon Alley and Hogwarts as well as elements of the wizarding world like Quidditch and spell-casting — new on-screen, but familiar to fans of the books.
Writing at his home in Hollywood and at Tanglewood, the composer's longtime, East Coast musical retreat and summer home of the Boston Symphony Orchestra, Williams created a score that built on the magic and mystery conveyed by Hedwig's Theme to provide the soundtrack for Harry's personal journey and defined many of the film's most spectacular sequences.
Hedwig's Theme first plays over the Warner Bros. logo and the film's first scene ("Prologue") as a lone owl soars over Little Whinging, the location of the home of Harry's aunt and uncle (the Dursleys), and continues as Hagrid arrives with one-year-old Harry himself. The theme is voiced by noble horns and accompanied by swirling strings and delicate notes from the celesta, an instrument that provides a spectral, magical sound. "Hedwig needed some music that was gossamer, light, so I thought celesta." Williams said in publicity interviews for the film. "It's kind of like a bird's feather floating."