Time to bring out the cake and celebrate! Harry Potter and The Philosopher’s Stone is celebrating its 20th birthday this year. As arguably the most defining and inspirational stories of our generation, it is amazing to see the impact the novels and films have had worldwide. Childhoods were made of waiting for the upcoming squeals, and enjoying every inch of the Wizarding World.
Our very own Daryl Griffth from 2nd Foundation Music played a part in the world of Harry Potter, working as an orchestrater on one of the most notable soundtracks of the series Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince. In celebration of the occasion, I sat down with Daryl unlocking the secrets behind the music.
So Daryl, how did you become a part of Harry Potter and The Half Blood Prince?
I had been orchestrating for the composer, Nicholas Hooper, for some years, and had worked with him on many films as orchestrator; two of which won BAFTAs for best music. So when the director of The Young Visiters, David Yates, was asked to direct Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix, Nicholas was his first choice as composer. As it happens, I was unable to work on that one, so when The Half-Blood Prince came round, Nick insisted that I worked on it!
The Half Blood Prince has a much darker tone compared to the rest of the series. How did you find carrying the light hearted theme song or melody alongside the darker undertones for this film? Was this something you were conscious of during production?
Having worked with Nick on some very dark films, I wasn’t surprised in the way that he wrote the score. However, it was interesting that although some of the John Williams themes were used, they were used far less than I originally thought they would be. One of the main jobs of an orchestrator is to make sure that the finished product matches the original demos, but also has to be slightly larger than life; suitable for the big screen. Hopefully I was successful with that in my orchestrations.
What is your favourite memory working on the film?
It sounds silly, but for once it was a fairly relaxed schedule, so there was plenty of time to check and double check. I didn’t have to do any all-nighters. In fact I was booked to do one, but as it turned out, the cue never arrived, so I just took the day off instead!
It was also nice to go to the cast and crew showing at the Leicester Square Odeon, and know that I was a part of it all. I found it rather amusing that security was so tight that they had big, beefy security men patrolling during the showing using night vision goggles, to make sure that nobody tried to sneak a mobile phone in and was try to film it.
What was the most challenging moment of working on ‘Harry Potter’?
I don’t think that any of it was unusually challenging, as it was such a smooth running operation. Inevitably there were a few new cuts of the film from time to time, which mean re-doing some of the orchestrations, but that’s pretty much par for the course these days.
What does Harry Potter mean to you now compared to when you first started the project?
I have to admit, that whilst I’d seen the films, I’d never read any of the books. Therefore I wasn’t really aware of the following that the HP series had (and still does). Obviously it’s always nice to be part of something successful, and no matter what else I do in my life, it is satisfying to know that I was a part, albeit a small one, of one of the most successful franchises in history.
Can you tell me something that no one knows about the album?
Well, it’s a little bit embarrassing, but here goes… Having not read the books, I wasn’t sure who all the characters were, but as the demos from Nick were fairly self-explanatory and he had been very specific about me having to do certain cues, I didn’t think it mattered. I was specifically asked to orchestrate the scene for the death of Aragog, so, thinking that he was a really important character (having not really paid attention in the earlier movies), I put my heart and soul into it, making sure that there wouldn’t be a dry eye in the theatre. Imagine my surprise when I found out that he was actually just a giant spider…
Oh wow, that must have been quite a shock! Were you nervous at all about coming on board, knowing the following and global success that Harry Potter has worldwide?
As I’d worked with Nick for many years, there was nothing to be nervous about. I knew what I was doing. I understood his way of working, and as there was quite a big team, there was actually less responsibility than I was previously used to.
How has being part of Harry Potter impacted your career?
In a way, it hasn’t, because I don’t earn my living as an orchestrator. However, there is a little bit of trivia that you might like to know. HP6 was the first major film where my young assistant helped with things like MIDI transfer, and liaising with other members of the team. He was on a gap year before joining the prestigious Tonmeister Course at the University of Surrey. His name is Bradley Farmer, and as well as subsequently being Music Editor on many Hollywood Studio films, and a superb composer in his own right, is also the co-director of 2nd Foundation Music!
Congratulations to Harry Potter – bringing fans and musicians together worldwide since 1997!