There are few games that have shaped geek culture to the extent The Legend of Zelda has. One of Nintendo’s flagship franchises, The Legend of Zelda has been a tremendously popular series worldwide – capturing hearts of geeks and gamers for over two decades. 2011 ushered in the momentous 25th anniversary of The Legend of Zelda along with the franchise’s latest release, The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword. The celebration didn’t stop there though. Together with Nintendo, Jason Michael Paul Productions organized a concert series showcasing the work of Koji Kondo, Nintendo’s composer and sound director. This concert series started out as a 25th Anniversary Symphony Concert for The Legend of Zelda in L.A. and transcended into a nation-wide tour of The Legend of Zelda: Symphony of the Goddesses. I was fortunate enough to be counted worthy to attend this magnificent event on its second to last stop, here in Miami and my goodness, was it a treat!
When I was first presented with the opportunity to attend this concert earlier this year, I was beside myself with excitement. Frankly, to me this was a once in a lifetime opportunity. There are already very few video gaming musical concerts and even less that come down to South Florida. What’s more, The Legend of Zelda: The Symphony of the Goddesses is the first video-game themed concert to feature a complete 4 movement symphony. That’s like having your dinner and dessert! Needless to say, one of my favorite video game franchises coupled with my love for music was not something I was going to miss.
Finally, it was the concert date: Sunday, December 9, 2012. All I had to do make it to the Adrienne Arsht Center before 8 PM, the time the concert was to begin. Unfortunately for me, I ran into some car troubles and then I went on to get stuck in traffic due to an accident blocking two lanes on the road. However, I honed in on my Need for Speed training (all within the regulations of the law, mind you) and made it to the center just after the curtains opened. I found some parking behind the buildings (cost me $20, ouch!) and ran across the streets to make my way into the Knight Concert Hall. The lobby was void of people other than workers. To my dismay, the opening Overture had already begun. I traversed over to Will Call to pick up my tickets and then headed up to the auditorium doors to get my seats. I did have to wait until the first interlude to make my way in, a common courtesy at these performances. Thankfully, the center did have some nice TV displays on the outside of the auditorium that I was able watch the performance from. I was also able to hear some of the Overture music streaming through the closed doors – but it was not at all comparable to the experience I was about to encounter. After the Overture, there was a brief interlude and the doors opened. I was taken to my seat which to my pleasant surprise was right in the Orchestra Pit center. If you do not know how seating at these type of orchestral events work, the orchestra pit seats are the best. So let me pause for a moment to give a HUGE “Thank You!” to Nintendo for providing this for me. Now, I was about to experience a musical event like none other.
The conductor, Eimear Noone, took a brief moment to introduce herself, the orchestra, choir, and give a few words about not only the concert that we were about to take in but also about the legacy of The Legend of Zelda, how it breaks both the visual media and musical barriers. She also introduced the show’s producer Jason Michael Paul who took a moment to thank us all for attending and even showed us his “lucky charm,” an original Legend of Zelda NES cartridge (which was wrapped up in cellophane for what I assume was protection). They set the stage for what was to come, which were some of the core themes of Zelda including the pieces: Dungeons of Hyrule, Kakariko Village ~ Hope and Calm, and Songs of the Hero.
The lights dimmed once more and the orchestra started to play again. The music was beyond amazing. Never mind that the building itself was beautiful, but the whole atmosphere was simply exhilarating. Like myself, some of you may have received the Legend of Zelda 25th Anniversary soundtrack that came with Skyward Sword last year. No doubt, it’s an enjoyable thing to hear at home but nothing compares to actually hearing the music live. The sound was absolutely amazing, for lack of a better word. There was a jumbo screen above the orchestra with a montage of Zelda through the ages and the orchestra was synced with the video to elicit the mood and complement the actions taking place on the screen. The sound and video went hand-in-hand flawlessly. Through the music and video, you will relive many experiences you had with Link and his many journeys. You’ll revisit Hyrule plains, the moment you received the Ocarina, encountered Majora for the first time, and your many epic battles from 8-bit form through Link’s evolution into the 3D gaming era. In addition to the video and music, the lighting itself was set to match the music. From light blues while portions from Wind Waker were being played and environments shown on the screen, down to fiery reds when Ganondorf battles took place.
The orchestra and choir were all local talents but admittedly not all gamers. They were passionate for the music nonetheless. You could see absolute focus and passion for the music in the body movements and facial expressions from each and every individual on the stage. Kudos to the choir who possessed both powerful and angelic voices to accompany some of the pieces. Even more impressive was the fact that the choir was from a local high school. Still, they were amazing. As the conductor put it, they use the best of the best for the performance, and they were no doubt up there with the best. It was a treat to see how the music was tied in with the game’s themes. The conductor even went to the point of having a custom baton made in the form of a Wind Waker and used it to conduct the orchestra while Wind Waker music was being played. The whole vibe and atmosphere was simply pleasant and exciting at the same time. The emotions that come up of nostalgia and awe, listening to themes known so well in a new powerful form through the talents of these musicians. There truly is nothing like a live orchestral performance.
The concert was divided into two acts. The program was as follows:
The finale consisted of a well deserved standing ovation from the packed house, encouraging not just one, not two, but three encore performances, with additional pieces not on the program, before the night came to a conclusion. In total, the show went on for about two and a half hours (including a brief intermission); The half, likely because of the encore performances.
The whole experience was moving, evoking so many different emotions throughout the whole performance. I ran into Yamilia Avendaño of Twinfinite at the performance, and as she put it, it was an experience that would give you “goosebumps.” The whole performance was a complete experience; A feast of sound and sights. Clear and powerful music with each instrument from the windpipe instruments, percussion, and stringed, everything was loud and clear but not overbearing. Truly a professional group. The crowd wasn’t bad either. I was a little nervous knowing that gamers were going and well, this is also Miami (I guess that should say it all) but the crowd stayed classy, giving applause after each performance.
Unfortunately, no cameras or recording devices were allowed in the auditorium, so I was not able to take any pictures to share with you guys – but The Legend of Zelda: Symphony of the Goddesses is definitely worth attending for yourself. Overall, the performance was lighthearted and pleasant but there honestly is no way for me to convey the true nature of the performance. This is something you must experience for yourself to grasp the magnitude of the whole concert. There were no pitches from a Nintendo rep saying “buy the latest game.” This was a pure and unadulterated celebration of Zelda, its music, and rich history. It was fascinating to see groups of friends, couples, and families of all ages attend this event. Whether you’re a gamer or just a music lover, if you have the chance, attend this magical performance – you will not regret it. You’ll no doubt be taken down a path of memories, your emotions will be stirred, and you may even get that nostalgic and excited feeling that you got when you played Zelda for the very first time. It was definitely a concert I am not soon to forget and if you attend, neither will you.
[Note: A set of complimentary tickets to The Legend of Zelda: The Symphony of the Goddesses were provided]