"I remember sitting down with my music director Chad Seiter for the first time a few years ago and thinking 'Why hasn't anyone done a concert of Zelda music before?'" says concert producer Jeron Moore. "So we did."
This has been a a good eighteen months for video games and classical music. This year saw two pieces of classical music from our industry make it into the top five in Classic FMs Hall of Fame. The reactions were enormously varied, from debating whether or not video game music could even be considered classical, to those embracing new music and a new audience alike. The 25th Anniversary Concert was an enormous success, following in the footsteps of the hugely popular Distant Worlds: Final Fantasy concerts that have become something of a staple as winter kicks in.
Now we come to this: a full symphony in four movements. The shows opens with a grandiose prelude, the overture making the hairs on the back of my neck stand on end. The audience explodes into rapturous applause before, following a series of little single-theme musical interludes, the movements -- Ocarina of Time, Wind Waker, Twilight Princess, and A Link to the Past -- take us on a soaring, sweeping journey that plays with Koji Kondo's unforgettable themes, expanding them into a glorious orchestral spectacle thanks to some phenomenal arrangements from Seiter.
The tickets are a birthday present for my sister, who sat and watched me play through Ocarina of Time and Majora's Mask when she was little. She was never much for picking up the controller herself, but always used to come storming into my room of a weekend demanding to know when I'd next be revisiting Link's various adventures so she could lose herself in the story, in the world of Hyrule, and in the series' gorgeous music.
So it is here in the Apollo, sat in an audience made up of people from all walks of life, where cosplayers and the black tie crowd are intermingling. I spy a family chattering away as we file into the venue. The father is eagerly anticipating anything from A Link to the Past, the daughter is arguing that Link's Awakening was a better game, and the youngest son is busy collecting StreetPasses in between bouts of Ocarina of Time 3D. Walking past the bar during the intermission I bump into a middle-aged couple who've never played a Zelda game in their lives but have brought their grandson here for his birthday. They're loving it.
I glance down during the fantastic interplay of light and dark themes that makes up the tumultuous maelstrom of the Third Movement (Twilight Princess) The screen shows the transformed Midna bidding Link farewell, but four rows in front I happen to spot a couple beaming like idiots, tears streaming down their face and I can't help but smile. That moment came far earlier for me as the flutes and piccolo fluttered about, telling the story of Saria and the Kokiri boy who never really belonged in the forest.
When it reaches the Fourth Movement and Kondo's themes emerge in their most pure form, it's difficult not to feel utterly elated as both a Zelda fan, and as a fan of good music.
If there is one downside to the concert it's that there's no CD to be bought afterwards. In the face of such quality in concert, one can't help but feel that Nintendo and indeed the tour organisers are missing out on a spot of money, not to mention the fervent evangelism that shows such as this breed. You emerge and you instantly want to sink back into the music and tell people about it. It's why I'm sat here, listening to the fantastic (but secondary in this case) 25th Anniversary disc as I write this. I want to throw money at someone for a musical memento of this delightful evening. But I can't. T-shirts and an overpriced poster (£15!!) won't cut it.
Composers across the industry, publishers and producers too, should be taking careful note of concerts like this, and the growing groundswell surrounding video game music. There are ready-made audiences hungry for more concerts such as these, and even though it may seem as though Nintendo and Square hold a monopoly on the heartstrings of the retro-loving crowd, that's just an excuse. Video game scores are big business. Imagine a Soule Scrolls Symphony that dives into the history of one of the most beloved Western RPG franchises out there. Anyone who heard the Halo suite performed as part of the Play! concert could surely envisage an entire concert of Marty O'Donnell's phenomenal arrangements.
Well... maybe apart from Halo 2.
The point is that there's a hunger for this kind of event. Everybody wins: composers have their music performed; audiences get the music that they crave; more jobs for musicians and orchestras; and the IP owners get to reap the monetary benefits. Not just that, we see the art of the symphony revived, classical music injected with a shot of youth and adrenaline that can only be a good thing: no longer will concert halls be simply musical mausoleums for great works from great minds gone by, but this collision of popular and classical culture is by definition rooted in the present.
To return to the Symphony of the Goddesses, the triumph is plain to see. It's written on the faces of Moore and Conductor Eímear Noone, this labour of love. It's heard in the four thunderous standing ovations that greets the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra as Moore teases out three fantastic encores, including 'The Ballad of the Wind Fish' from Link's Awakening. It sallies forth from the smiles of a crowd that has spent two hours soaked in musical bliss. Symphony of the Goddesses is nothing less than a magical experience; a resounding victory in the continued push for game scores amongst other classical music.