BWW Interview: John Jesensky of HARRY POTTER AND THE CHAMBER OF SECRETS IN CONCERT at Thalia Mara Hall
There are few movie series as beloved as the film adaptations of J.K. Rowling's Harry Potter books. One aspect of the movie that helps to bring the magic of these movies to life is the incredible score, written by the amazing John Williams, and with the help of CineConcerts, dozens of orchestra members, and conductor John Jesensky, the global tour of the Harry Potter Film Concert Series, the gorgeous music found in Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets will be brought to life in a new way for audience members at Thalia Mara Hall in Jackson, MS on Friday, February 29th. BroadwayWorld was able to conduct an e-mail interview with the conductor himself, John Kesensky, and get some answers as to what it's like to perform this magnificent score and what drives him to perform with this orchestra.
BWW: What are a few of the differences between conducting with media in the background and conducting without?
Jesensky: The main difference when conducting music with media is that it's almost like there is a special soloist up on the big screen. When conducting The Magic Flute by Mozart, a conductor can't only pay attention to the orchestra - they must also be perfectly in sync with the Queen of the Night to make one of the most famous arias in history pour out in all its glory. The film is like an enormous HD soloist who sings throughout the whole performance, and just like with an opera - when all of us are together as a unit, that's where the magic happens.
BWW: Is it difficult to find a balance between allowing the music itself and the orchestra shine and highlighting the movie's scenes?
Jesensky: One of the best parts of doing my job is that I don't have to worry about that! CineConcerts has an amazing technical staff that is constantly working to make sure the film balances properly with the music. My main focus - then - is on making great music with the orchestra. We take care of our balance and performance among ourselves, and take great care to give the audience not only a soundtrack to a film, but a stellar concert-going experience as well.
BWW: Have you taken any liberties with the score or do you conduct strictly to it as it was written for the movie?
Jesensky: The score is preserved exactly as Maestro Williams wrote it - note for note. I love this aspect, as to change a single note of John Williams music would be to lessen it - it's that good! Luckily though, Mr. Williams gives us a lot of room to make music, and slightly change the performance each time - to capture the mood of the moment, and expand in places. He is truly a genius when it comes to writing music that must adhere to a film, yet is entirely malleable and newly alive with each show.
BWW: What drew you to conducting the score of Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets, specifically?
Jesensky: I have always loved how John Williams develops his themes over the course of several movies. You can also look to the Indiana Jones films for examples of this. With Chamber of Secrets, the kids get to go into full detective mode and investigate this centuries old mystery, which is actually quite dark. The way that Williams molds his music from Sorcerer's Stone into this "detective story" is really impressive. And then, naturally, his new themes for both the Chamber of Secrets as well as Fawkes the Phoenix are pure Williams joy in musical form!
BWW: Are there any other movies that you would like to do in a style like this?
Jesensky: If you name a movie, then the answer is yes! I think that live-to-film concerts have done (and will continue to do) so much not only to bring new audiences in to hear orchestral music, but also to preserve and showcase music that is sometimes forgotten. Film music, by its nature, is meant to hide in the background of every frame. It's meant to help the audience experience the story without hogging the spotlight. Any chance we can get to give people film music in its pure form is a special one.
BWW: Is it intimidating, working on something that is so incredibly popular with such well-known musical pieces involved?
Jesensky: As with most musicians, I think the performing the piece is actually the least intimidating part! As not only a true Harry Potter nerd, but also an avid John Williams fan, I can't help but become instantly lost in the emotion and thrill of his music. Any nerves that may have existed quickly dissolve into the performance. For me, my 2 minute opening speech is always the most intimidating part of every concert! I've done that speech in front of thousands of people with a chest cold and a fever - voice crack territory! Once I have successfully navigated the dangerous waters of public speaking, I'm good to go!
BWW: What is your ultimate goal as a conductor?
Jesensky: My ultimate goal, beyond finding new meaning behind the music with each performance, is simply to bring music and happiness into the lives of anyone who hears what we are doing. It could be a child in the back row, a grandmother or even the 4th cellist up on stage with me. If I make one person happy, forget their troubles and get caught up in the real magic that we have - music - then I've met my goal for the day!
See the tour itinerary and purchase tickets here.