Forest folk, princesses, even a Ghost Hunter – this is not how Baltimore typically looks on a Saturday night. These adventurers made their way to the Joseph Meyerhoff Symphony Hall to hear The Legend of Zelda: Symphony of the Goddesses, the first video game performance to feature a four movement symphony.
Conducted by Eímear Noone (www.eimearworld.com), who has conducted for movies and games (including the 25th anniversary CD released along with Skyward Sword), and arranged by Chad Seiter (www.chadseiter.com), who has orchestrated music for Lost, Fringe, and Star Trek, the concert was set to footage from the games, and each movement told the story of Link’s journeys in the land of Hyrule.
Overture and Interludes
The Legend of Zelda theme, Ganon’s theme, and Zelda’s theme – the three elements of power, wisdom, and courage that define the series – were wonderfully interwoven in the overture.
From there, the first interlude – “Dungeons of Hyrule” – was a fun orchestral interpretation of the earlier games’ dungeon crawls. The Kakariko Village interlude was followed by “Songs of the Hero”, a greatest hits collection of songs on ocarina.
“The Creation of Hyrule”, the prelude, will be well known to Ocarina of Time fans. This was taken from the Ocarina of Time cutscene that recounts the goddesses Din, Farore, and Nayru, and the genesis of Hyrule. It was a magical piece that teed up the first movement.
Ocarina of Time
From the foreboding introduction of the Great Deku Tree’s visions, to the jaunty Kokiri Forest theme, and through the final epic battle with Ganondorf, this was a fantastic mix of some of The Legend of Zelda’s greatest music.
Memories of stepping out onto Hyrule Field for the first time will flow back during this first movement, and to hear the classic overworld theme fully orchestrated was amazing.
The Wind Waker
Ahead of the second movement, Eímear Noone raised the greatest round of applause when she unveiled her very own custom-made Wind Waker baton to conduct the orchestra.
The Wind Waker movement will be familiar to gamers who own the Skyward Sword special edition CD – but that didn’t make the performance any less compelling. We began with understated flutes, before hearing the cheerful Outset Island theme and the pirates’ bumbling tunes, and then on to sailing the Great Sea. Music from The Wind Waker’s title screen – the motif that weaves itself throughout the game and its characters – closed out this sweeping movement.
After an intermezzo at the Great Fairy’s Fountain (“are we all feeling refreshed?!”), this third movement may have been the strongest. As a game, Twilight Princess has its flaws, and from a musical perspective was sadly not orchestrated. This movement provided a sense of what might have been.
The title screen and the pounding Hyrule Field score were highlights, and the well-chosen footage from the game reinforced that this is all about Midna – her tale and her music underpins the story. This movement provided a new appreciation of Twilight Princess.
A Link to the Past
Undoubtedly the fans’ favorite – and who can disagree when we heard the crescendo of the Dark World theme? But the orchestra still had a few surprises for us.
Three times Eímear Noone asked the audience if we wanted another journey through the music of Zelda. The encores were:
Gerudo Valley theme – the flamenco influence was in full force here!
Ballad of the Wind Fish – the central theme of Link’s Awakening, and like the game itself this piece was haunting.
Majora’s Mask – the strangest, saddest entry in the Zelda series, reflected in the atmospheric introduction of Link and Epona wandering alone in the woods – a subtle piece of music that hushed the audience. The lively Clock Town theme provided a moment of reprieve, but even that could not withstand the creeping influence of the Majora’s Mask theme. The Oath to Order, the giants’ salvation of Termina – and the Skull Kid’s tragic final realization that his friends never abandoned him – closed the concert out, and highlighted the power of Koji Kondo’s music and the talented artists that created Symphony of the Goddesses.
Pointy ears, green tunics, Master Swords and shields – it’s fair to say the core Zelda fans were well represented. But all the attendees were thrilled by this phenomenal performance. I couldn’t count the number of standing ovations that The Legend of Zelda: Symphony of the Goddesses received at the end.
As gamers, we over-analyze whether computer games can be art, when the beauty of The Legend of Zelda’s music speaks of an already mature medium.
You can find out more about the symphony and its upcoming performances in the US, Canada, and Mexico at www.zelda-symphony.com.