Koji Kondo must be so proud.
For the first time ever, his musical creations are traveling the country, playing in cities all over the world, as part of The Legend of Zelda: Symphony of the Goddesses. This concert stopped by the Mann Center in Philadelphia on July 25th, and when I heard it was coming I knew I couldn’t pass it up. I purchased my tickets on January 20th, and I counted down the six months and five days until some of my favorite music would come to life via the Pittsburgh Orchestra.
The main question is this: was my six month wait worth it? Was the Symphony of the Goddesses worthy of the Legend of Zelda name?
OF COURSE IT WAS. DID YOU EXPECT ANY LESS?!
Thirteen orchestral pieces (with a 15-minute intermission) sent me into a two-hour Zelda nostalgia coma. Every note washed over me in a sea of melody and harmony. I laughed. I cheered. I went numb. Yes, I even teared up a bit. Not going to lie to you all: I cried all the happy tears during the concert. There, I said it.
Below are my thoughts on all thirteen Zelda pieces played for us in what was a fantastic night for video game music, but first, a few facts:
Locale – The Mann Center, Philadelphia, PA. Right in the heart of Fairmount Park. A beautiful location with indoor and outdoor seating, the Mann was more than a fitting scene for this concert.
Orchestra – The Pittsburgh Orchestra. Strange that an orchestra has to travel across the state to play, but we were all better for it, because they were divine.
Length – Approximately two hours, with a 15-minute intermission as stated above. Five pre-Symphony pieces, then the first two movements, intermission, another extra piece, the second two movements, and three encores.
Video – Each song had a video accompaniment with game footage related to what was playing. These videos were crucial to anyone who attends the concert for “moral support” and not because they’re familiar with Zelda.
Here we go!
1. “Overture” – This is the song that played at the beginning of E3 2011, introducing us to the entire idea of a Zelda symphony orchestra. It’s also the first track on the orchestral CD that came with the limited edition of Skyward Sword. It was just as good this time as it was at that E3.
2. “Dungeons” – A medley of some of the most famous dungeon tunes, including those from Link to the Past, the Oracle games, and the original Legend of Zelda. These are such simple tunes, yet this symphony made them sound worthy of Mozart.
3. “Kakariko Village” – While the video showed all of the many Kakariko Villages throughout Zelda history, the music was that of Ocarina of Time’s version. Fitting due to OoT’s popularity, sure, but I would have preferred a rendition of Twilight Princess’ Kakariko. I always preferred how TP turned Kakariko into a Pueblo-style area as opposed to a standard Zelda village, and I especially preferred the music. Regardless, it was still a very well-played track…I’m still humming it as I write this, actually.
4. “Songs of the Hero” – This was a medley of five songs played by Link himself throughout the series: Morning Song (Sun Song), Song of Time, Serenade of Water, Song of Healing, and Song of Storms. Never before had those Ocarina tunes sounded so beautiful. Oh, and yes, there were plenty of “Ooh, Sun Song, hope it comes back out!” and “OMG SONG OF STORMS NO WE DON’T WANT RAIN OUT HERE!” jokes from those sitting in the outside areas.
5. “Prelude ~ The Creation of Hyrule” – A video of the creation of Hyrule in Ocarina of Time played on the screen while the symphony played the exact track that went with it. I felt like I was seeing it for the first time again, and my entire body went numb. It’s hard to explain unless it is experienced, but I was very impressed with this piece.
6. “Movement 1: Ocarina of Time” – Now we were getting into the meat of this Zelda symphony, and thing just got better and better from here. Like the others that would follow, this Ocarina of Time movement followed the course of the game from beginning to end, playing the Lost Woods, the Ganondorf battle song, and more. As each new melody began, the video would advance the story. Each song in the medley would elicit cheers from one section of the crowd and the rest of us would follow suit. This was beginning to turn into a symphony rock concert, for sure.
7. “Movement 2: The Wind Waker” – This is it. This is the part where a 5’9″, 300+ pound man had tears build up in his eyes as he listened to the orchestra. I had forgotten just how excellent the Wind Waker’s music was, but my subliminal self didn’t. As soon as the end credits/main title theme started, and the flute began its Irish jig-like melody, the beauty of the music just overwhelmed me, and I teared up. Couldn’t help it, and I’d bet dollars to donuts I wasn’t the only one. Amazing.
8. “Fairy Fountain” – Zelda Symphony, you are a shrewd one. Intermission ends, we’re all finishing our refreshments and ready for more, and you drop this song on us, lulling us all to sleep. The entire crowd fell into this calm, serene daze as this song flowed through the air around us. Thanks for bringing us back down to Earth, only to send us back into a frenzy later on.
9. “Movement 3: Twilight Princess” – Like Wind Waker before, I had forgotten just how incredible Twilight Princess’ soundtrack was until this movement. As the medley played I kept having these “holy crap I forgot about this song” moments that made me love this music even more. When I arrived home from the show, I fired up Twilight Princess for old times’ sake thanks to this movement.
10. “Movement 4: A Link to the Past” – NOSTALGIA CITY HERE. After playing the most popular/recent Zelda games, I thought for sure that Skyward Sword would be next, but the host said that Link to the Past would end the show! This was a pleasant surprise and a fantastic rendition of every major track in the game. The orchestra even saved Zelda’s Lullaby for Link to the Past where it originated! A fantastic end to the actual symphony, but we weren’t done yet…
11. ENCORE 1: “Ballad of the Wind Fish” – A Link’s Awakening track! One could tell that the gathered crowd wasn’t expecting the concert to go that far back into the archives, because the reaction was near-deafening. Even though the younger crowd was like “huh? Wind Fish?”, the seasoned Zelda veterans were humming in their seats.
12. ENCORE 2: “Gerudo Valley” – My favorite song on the orchestral CD, and they saved it for the encores! I love the way Gerudo Valley is arranged in this setting; the song just sounds ten times more epic than it ever did on the Nintendo 64. To hear it live was one of the best parts of the show for me…even if I didn’t think I’d hear it at all.
13. ENCORE 3: “Suite from Majora’s Mask” – Oh man. I thought the reaction for Wind Fish was loud, but the crowd ERUPTED when the host said “suite from Majora’s Mask.” I have never heard a reaction like that outside of wrestling fans being asked if they smell what’s cookin’. The Majora’s Mask suite was a fitting end to an excellent show, one that those in attendance won’t soon forget.
The Legend of Zelda is a pioneer in gaming in many ways, and we all know what they are. However, I have a feeling Zelda will blaze a new trail, one that longtime fans have wanted for a long, long time: the era of video game symphony concerts. Sure, there’s Video Games Live, and they’ve done a hell of a job bringing video game orchestras to the forefront, and Square Enix has been doing well with Distant Worlds: Final Fantasy, but The Legend of Zelda is one of the most popular gaming franchise of all time. If any game series can show how viable video game music is, look no further than the land of Hyrule.
As for this particular concert, I couldn’t be more pleased with it. It was 25 years of gaming music excellence wrapped into one two-hour concert. There are still dates and tickets available, so if you want to experience the Symphony of the Goddesses for yourself, I suggest you do it.