Zelda at the Symphony is Truly Legendary
Having covered the last two Final Fantasy: Distant Worlds concerts, it was a treat to see another iconic video game soundtrack get the orchestral treatment in Legend of Zelda: Symphony of the Goddesses. The Koji Kondo themes that make up the 25-year-old series have remained some of the most memorable in video game music history, and manage to somehow maintain their innovation despite constant repetition.
The crowd was a definitely as expected, a solid mix of fans from across the age groups. I was served merlot by a bartender with a tattoo of the Hyrulian crest peaking out of his shirt. He admitted that it was done in sharpie until he could afford the real deal. There were a few less cosplayers than I would've expected, but I sat near an 11-year-old boy fully-decked out in classic Link attire and armed with the Master Sword. Several folks bearing Majora's Masks could be seen but appropriately darted away when I tried to get close enough for pictures.
Unlike the music of Final Fantasy, most compositions from Zelda are not really meant to be played at a concert level. The pieces are too short, especially the most famous ones. What we ended up with were a selection of medleys that appropriately summed up a game series that has always had a pretty fractured chronology until Nintendo finally released an official timeline.
The evening was led by the capable hands of conductor Eimear Noone, who conducted the symphonic Zelda soundtrack that shipped with Skyward Sword, and has also conducted recordings for Starcraft and World of Warcraft. As both a female conductor and a veteran of video game music, she's rarer than the Triforce itself, but the skill she brings to the podium is undeniable. Throughout the evening she maintained an adventurous line that not only melded the different songs into each other perfectly, but expertly matched the video presentation that dominated over the heads of the musicians.
The first third of the concert was various collected melodies that shone through with only a few nagging complaints. "Dungeons" was more than worth the price of admission for the whole evening, and brought back memories of every epic battle fought by gamers in the name of defeating Ganon. It was especially nice to hear the high-energy themes from Adventure of Link, which remains a black sheep in the series despite the fact that it birthed many of the current conventions used and had a soundtrack that you honestly forget is pretty awesome until a symphony throws it at you.
Two more short works followed, a soft piece celebrating Kakariko Village that was more than pretty but seemed to try and draw too much from a somewhat shallow well, and a celebration of the ocarina tunes from Ocarina of Time called "Songs of the Hero."
This was a definite highlight of the evening. Ocarina is arguably the best game in the series, and could also be said to have invented many aspects of modern gaming with its innovative battle system. When Chad Seiter set out to arrange the magic songs that make up so much a part of the plot, it was the one thing that he had better not screw up. Did he?