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Spokane Symphony transforms Fox into Hogwarts for Halloween shows

Bethany Schoeff has been thinking about Halloween since May.

As personnel manager and creative director of special programs for the Spokane Symphony, she is responsible for planning “Halloween at Hogwarts,” an interactive experience paired with a symphony performance of pieces from the “Harry Potter” films and other Halloween-appropriate works.

“Halloween at Hogwarts” takes places Saturday at the Martin Woldson Theater at the Fox.

After the success of last year’s “The Music of ‘Harry Potter’ ” concerts, Schoeff said the symphony decided to own the Halloween show, making up for what they saw as a lack of kids-friendly Halloween events.

“We thought it would be something that would be really excellent to introduce kids to classical music as well because the music is classically based,” she said.

The symphony stuck with the “Harry Potter” theme but didn’t want this year’s event to be exactly the same as “The Music of ‘Harry Potter’.”

The 2016 concerts focused on the four houses Hogwarts students can be placed into. For “Halloween at Hogwarts,” Schoeff and her team have brought the school of magic to life, transforming areas of the Fox into classrooms.

To help prepare, Schoeff went back to school herself.

“I enjoy the movies; I didn’t read the books,” she said. “I did have to do my homework for this, and I watched every single movie probably twice.”

During “Halloween at Hogwarts,” Spokane Civic Theatre actors will portray professors and help children complete a variety of activities.

In potions class, witches and wizards can create a potion necklace and make potions (sparkles and glycerin water) to take home.

In the defense against the dark arts class, students will complete glow-in-the-dark activities, and in herbology class, students will make their own mandrakes using radishes.

Eastern Washington University history professors will also help students with trivia quizzes.

The final class of the day will be the newly created Hogwarts orchestra class, led by “professor” Morihiko Nakahara.

As students complete their classes, they can check them off their list and get a glow band bracelet to wear, with each color representing a different class.

It won’t be all work and no play for visiting witches and wizards though, as the Fox’s Founder’s Gallery will be transformed into Diagon Alley, complete with an owlery, a bookstore and even Platform 9 ¾.

At the Leaky Cauldron, students can get a glass of non-alcoholic butterbeer, and adult witches and wizards can enjoy polyjuice potion.

In the lobby of the Fox, set designer Bryan Durbin is building a 10-foot-tall castle that will double as Ollivander’s Wand Shop, where merchandise will be sold.

Before and during the show, dancers will act as fantastic beasts, dementors and ghosts.

“It’s going to be a whole interactive experience,” Schoeff said. “We want people to get excited about music and with symphony orchestras, it’s been tough… (A sold-out show) doesn’t really happen that much when you’re playing Mahler and Brahms. It should, but it doesn’t.”

But with Nakahara at the helm, Schoeff is sure audiences of all ages are going to have a good time.

“Morihiko is the best conductor for these shows,” she said. “He is so funny and so good on the fly that I don’t think we could do these without him… He’s got this comedic heart that adds to all of it.”

“Halloween at Hogwarts” features the following pieces:

J.S. Bach’s Toccata, John Williams’ “Hedwig’s Theme” (Movement I) from “Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone,” Camille Saint-Saens’ “Danse Macabre,” Williams’ “Dobby the House Elf” (Movement 1) from “Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets,” Modest Mussorgsky and Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov’s “Night on Bald Mountain,” Williams’ “Witches, Wands, and Wizards” (Movement V) from “Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban” and James Newton Howard’s “Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them.”


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