John Williams: ‘Leaving Hogwarts’ from Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone
Welcome Classicalexburns readers to the next exciting instalment on the site. Recently, I have been listening to a lot of film soundtracks, so I thought I’d share with you one of my favourite short tracks from the first Harry Potter film, with the score composed by John Williams. This blog will be a part of a new mini-series of film music blogs, which will focus on the music, rather than the biographies of composers etc. This mini-series sets out to give you short and sweet write ups of some of the most-loved film scores. If you would like to know more about John Williams then you can click here to find out more.
John Williams’ score for Harry Potter and the Sorcerers Stone has been the basis for all of the Harry Potter film scores. Unlike many other soundtracks, this one in particular is very popular, with most tracks being instantly recognisable. Williams is intelligent in the way he orchestrates previous themes into different tracks, making each one idiosyncratic in its character, but they all sound familiar to the ear.
I aim to write more on the music from the Harry Potter films soon, but for now I would like to share perhaps my favourite track on this soundtrack: ‘Leaving Hogwarts’. Being the second to last piece on the soundtrack, and due to the title of the piece, one can deduce that this is the finale sequence before the credits run at the end of the film. Harry is at Hogwarts train station, ready to leave for the summer before his second year begins later in the year. He says an emotional goodbye to Hagrid, who gives him a gift, which is a family album, with a picture of Harry and his family in it. Harry then boards the train, and Hermione remarks how strange it is to leave Hogwarts and go home, to which Harry says that he is not truly leaving Hogwarts. The final scene sees Harry and Hargrid waving each other off, as the train pulls out of the station for another year.
A tentative harp and string accompaniment begin this track, and the first theme heard is a reprise of the ‘Family Theme’, which was heard when Harry learned about his family history in earlier scenes. This coincides with the screen, where Hagrid offers Harry the photo album as a gift. There is a real sense of nostalgia here, both in the music, and on screen. The yearning for family, but also this realisation that Hagrid is family to Harry now, as are his friends, Ron and Hermione. The music underscored here is luscious, rich, and full of love and affection, which represents love and family bonds.
As the two characters are talking, the music theme shifts to ‘Hedwig’s Theme’, which coincides with Hagrid jesting about Harry’s cousin, Dudley. The winds take this more humorous theme on, which gives a very different timbre to the previous string melody. After Harry gets to the train and says to his friends that he’s not truly leaving Hogwarts, the music shifts once more, representing ‘Harry’s Theme’, which is one of the classic melodies heard in the older Harry Potter films. The strings reach their top range, and underneath the horns take up the melody and their warm sound brings us back to the idea of family and love for this new world Harry is in.
The whole orchestra then build to an emotional and heartwarming statement of ‘Harry’s Theme’, with the rich timbre really moving this melody along. The camera then begins to pan out, and as we see Hogwarts in the distance, the music suddenly changes from the noble sounds of ‘Harry’s Theme’, to ‘Hedwig’s Theme’, which foreshadows Harry returning to this magical world soon. The glittering end to this score is emotional, but very heartwarming at the same time.
For a track that only lasts about 2:15, it is full of themes and other musical delights. Williams’ clever underscoring makes this scene incredibly effective, and drives the audience to really feel something at the end of this film. An absolutely wonderful score, which I am sure I will write more about in the future.
Here is the actual film scene with the music: