Symphony of the Goddesses
Or, what happens when you throw a bunch of Hyrulians in a room for 2+ hours.
In the summer of 1986 Americans were encountered with one quizzical line that opens what has become one of the greatest franchises of all time, “It’s dangerous to go alone, take this!” Any Hyrulian knows exactly what i’m talking about. It is no surprise, that as we converged at The Symphony of the Goddesses concert in Newark, when that screenshot appeared projected and synced with live orchestration, that combination received raucous applause.
As great music does, this performance conjured up a lot of powerful emotional responses. This ranged in the audience from laughter to tears, but I think largely this came from the communal aspect of this game. All of the Legend of Zelda games with the exception of one game, (Four Swords) is a personal journey every time. There has unfortunately never been a two player option.
Surprisingly, in spite of the over 25 year history of these games, there has never been an event solely dedicated to Zelda fans. We have seen iterations of this, and it is usually an inevitable appearance at larger catch-all comic/video game conventions, but nothing for stand alone Zelda fans, which I will happily admit to be a member. It is no surprised then, that the New Jersey Symphonic Orchestra were extremely well received in a forum of Hyrulians, and frankly, I don’t even think some of the members of the Orchestra understood why they received a standing ovation and three encores. This series of shows has been so popular, they decided to extend the tour into what they call the “Second Quest.”
This Symphony is a bit of an experiment, considering that this is the first video game-themed concert paired with visuals from these loved games. As the composer of the symphony, Chad Seiter stated, “In its simplest definition, a symphony is story told in multiple parts.” Although that is a crowd-friendly explanation, it was a necessary one, seeing as it was not an audience that usually goes to symphonies (this became even more clear with wardrobe varying from; a small-but-powerful cosplay contest, the usual t-shirt and jeans looking gamer, to people that dressed in their finest tux and tails for the performance). It was an amalgamation of multiple personalities of fans, but that is largely due to the fact these games have had an extremely broad appeal for the masses.
The Legend of Zelda franchise not only has embraced music, but it has continuously made music an integral aspect of the game. If it is the titular Ocarina that’s melodies transform the landscape in Ocarina of Time, or the infuriatingly difficult dance to the asynchronous beat-defying mini games to obtain the Noble Sword in the Oracle of Ages, and Oracle of Seasons games; music has always been a vital part to these games. This makes sense considering nerd-royalty Koji Kondo has been orchestrating and composing music for this franchise, the Mario games, and many other Nintendo properties since 1984.
Movements selected to be played in the orchestra were from “the four of the most important games in the franchise history” according to Seiter, Ocarina of Time, Wind Waker, Twilight Princess, and Link to the Past. Every moment included a corresponding visual chronology of the game. These included milestone moments such as getting the Master Sword and defeating Gannon, the absurd moments of Cucco’s attacking Link relentlessly and one laugh inducing moment when choosing to saving the princess or opening the treasure,the projection chose the treasure first.
Link to the Past was the first game that I played and really loved, so I would have expected that to be the most emotionally resonant for me. I was surprised to see that the music of Twilight Princess elicited a stronger reaction. That could have been because my fondest memories involved me playing the game alongside with my future best man. I would imagine that there a quite a few attendants that have had similar playing scenarios, considering their were a myriad of couples, families, and friends all there enjoying the performance.
There were also some extremely playful moments, when Seiter interrupted the conductor, (his wife, Susie Benchasil Seiter) to make sure that she conducted the Windwaker movement of the symphony with the Windwaker itself. You would hope that a symphony about video games would have a sense of humor about it, and they absolutely did. They saved the fan-favorite Majora’s Mask themes for the final encore.
My only negative criticism of this amazing experience was that the concert organizer neglected to realize that NJPAC is right by Minish Park, and did not play any songs from another excellent game in the franchise, Minish Cap (I know… it’s lame, but that’s what I thought).
Regardless, I can’t wait to continue these adventures, games, and the incredible music. But maybe one day, they could create a game -with undoubtedly incredible music- that multiple players can enjoy. After all, according to some creepy old men in caves,we shouldn’t go alone out there.