I'm ushered into my seat as the conductor takes her place on the podium — but an ordinary night at the symphony this is not. The audience is in cosplay and the music of The Legend of Zelda begins, triggering memories of swashbuckling through Hyrule.
But it's nothing like the 246-megabit soundtrack I grew up with. No, this is Symphony of the Goddesses, a reimagining of the beloved Nintendo franchise, filling San Francisco's Davies Symphony Hall with heroic sounds inspired by the game, while scenes from a selection of Zelda titles are projected above the musicians. The concert, now touring the US and Canada, is a must-see music experience that's not just for gamers.
After The Legend of Zelda: A Link Between Worlds' recent release on Nintendo 3DS, it seems fitting to relive the best musical moments of the 27-year-old franchise with the grandeur of the symphony.
Even if you've never channeled the justice-seeking, princess-avenging, Ganon-destroying hero, Link, the spectacle of this performance and score will move you. But executive producer Jason Michael Paul wants to reassure Nintendo fans that Symphony of the Goddesses is a completely authentic Zelda experience.
Both the music and multimedia presentation are preapproved by Nintendo, and Jason spent a great deal of effort to maintain the integrity of legendary Nintendo game composer Koji Kondo's work. "That's a heavy responsibility and I take that very seriously," he said.
Seriously indeed. Before the show, Jason showed me around backstage, where members of the 66-piece orchestra (featuring not one but two harpists because, well, it's Zelda) and 24-voice choir were preparing for the two-act performance featuring nine pieces (and, spoiler alert: several encores) from the original Zelda themes. The orchestral adaptations were arranged by composer Chad Seiter, who's no stranger to geek sounds with a résumé that includes Star Trek Into Darkness, Fringe, and Lost.
In fact, there was no shortage of geekery in Davies Symphony Hall: the Skywalker Symphony Orchestra was the performing group on stage that night, the conductor wielded a Wind Waker baton, and the auditorium was full of fans dressed in cosplay. It felt less like going to a classical performance and more like a mini, Zelda-exclusive Comic-Con.
"Once you walk through the door, you have the feeling that you're at a video game concert. You see people dressed up... from the green tunics to Ganon costumes to Link costumes. It's quite an atmosphere and it's something that I strongly encourage," Jason said.
The fandom is, perhaps, the most innovative thing about Symphony of the Goddesses. The show breathes new life into the classical format, introducing the grandeur of a live orchestra to a different audience. The crowd cheered through the performance, a reminder that these were not conventional golf-clapping concertgoers. Attendees of all ages were present that night, from young symphony first-timers to grown-up geek couples — there was even a proposal during intermission!
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The Zelda Symphony season is just kicking off touring the rest of the country through October, including tonight's performance at the Greek Theatre in LA. And the geek concerts don't stop with the Zelda franchise.
Jason Michael Paul Productions is premiering rePLAY in October, a sequel to Play! A Video Game Symphony, which features a catalog of music from PlayStation, Nintendo, and Xbox. We'll keep you posted on all the latest happenings on the video game concert front, but first, watch an excerpt from Symphony of the Goddesses at a 2012 show in Montreal.