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Speaker Series: A Musical Journey from Hogwarts to Hobbiton

“Ah, music," he said, wiping his eyes. "A magic beyond all we do here!” Professor Dumbledore, Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone

I won’t pretend that my choice to attend Durham University wasn’t influenced by the fact that it offered a module on Harry Potter called ‘Harry Potter and the Age of Illusion’. Studying Harry Potter, in a place where it was filmed? Sold! I mean, look at it (pictured below). It was about as close to Hogwarts as anyone could ever come!

Photo of Durham University
Durham University Campus

Our first lecture was a ‘Sorting Ceremony’ and from the moment Dr. Martin Richardson uttered the words “I always gown for Potter”, I knew the next year was going to be brilliant. The most incredible orator, Dr. Richardson had me on the edge of my seat in lectures; I was utterly spellbound by his words (see what I did there?!) and he was a major influence in my decision to become a teacher.

I have turned my dissertation - which not only looked at the Harry Potter  and The Lord of the Rings  books and films but also the music scores - into a lecture of my own. After much fine-tuning in literary events in the UK such as Stonyhurst College’s Literature Festival, I have decided to offer it again to students and families of Park Street Education via our Speaker Series programme (sorry I still can’t bring myself to spell it ‘program’ in the North American way)!

The excitement surrounding The Lord of the Rings  films was immense. By all logic, The Lord of the Rings  should never have been filmed, especially not as a nine-hour trilogy which was shot in its entirety over fifteen consecutive months. The author’s complex literary structure required a worthy musical equivalent and thus it was crucial that Howard Shore managed to match the visual feast of Peter Jackson’s films, by vividly evoking the imagery of Middle-earth, a world where good and evil collide vehemently with sword and fire and where the courage of even one person, no matter how small, will ‘shape the fortunes of all’. His musical tapestry of histories, cultures, languages and principles is undoubtedly every bit as complex as the world it describes.

Likewise, all of the composers for the Harry Potter  series were tasked with the privilege of writing the music for an unquenchable literary phenomenon. The scores are an intricately woven set of themes of impressive complexity with each composer bringing a different dimension to Rowling’s oeuvre. Arguably the music is particularly striking for its smooth beauty which rather spectacularly manages to remain even when illustrating scenes dripping with evil or laden with pain. The music manages brilliantly to suggest the wonder and enchantment of magic, the joys and fears of growing up and the struggle for good to triumph over evil. From the hauntingly beautiful ‘Harry in Winter’ to the always tear-inducing and flawlessly understated ‘Dumbledore’s Farewell’, the score is successful in its attempt to convey the full library of emotions.

I cannot wait to see you all on Thursday 24th November at 6:30pm to share my lecture with you and to rekindle my love for two literary phenomena that will always have pride of place on my bookshelf.

To register your kid to this upcoming Speaker Series: A Musical Journey from Hogwarts to Hobbiton, email our Program Director, Lisa Headley (

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