You can be sure a lot of beer will be consumed as Soundtrack Cologne 9.0 is preparing to bring some esteemed videogame music legends together for a round of panels and an exclusive concert over the weekend of November 15-18 a...
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[Update: Contest over! Winner of the FFXI concert tickets is MistaAytch!]
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You need to see The Legend of Zelda: Symphony of the Goddesses. First, Chad saw Godessess and even reviewed it. This year, Tony saw it and raved about it, and then Jayson and I attended in San Diego a few months lat...
This year marks the 25th anniversary of Square Enix's Final Fantasy series, and the company has a couple of special events planned for this year that you should know about.
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If you've attended or heard recordings of Symphonic Shades, Symphonic Fantasies, Symphonic Legends, or Symphonic Odysseys, then you're already familiar with the work of producer Thomas Boecker and his team at Merregnon Studio...
Aug 09 //
#5 - Cosplay
Most of the concerts I mentioned above have some kind of costume contest, but the quality of cosplay I've seen at these shows has been pretty exceptional. We saw a ton of concert-goers dressed up as Link and Zelda, but there were a few unexpected costumes including Minish Cap Link, Sheik, and Tingle. It was also great seeing everyone from younger kids to adults getting in on the action, and of course, lots of female Link. Need I say more?
#4 - A varied program drawing from across the entire franchise
The team at JMP Productions has prepared a very well-rounded concert featuring music from across the entire franchise. For me, the two most important Zelda titles are the original The Legend of Zelda and A Link to the Past (still my personal favorite). Not only does A Link to the Past get an entire 10-mintue suite dedicated to it, but Ocarina of Time, The Wind Waker, and Twilight Princess also get their moments in the spotlight. And that's just the core "Symphony of the Goddesses" portion. There's everything from Link's Awakening to "Great Fairy Fountain" and "Kakariko Village" as well.
#3 - A ton of music
The concert lasted a good two hours, including three encores! Who does that? I felt completely satisfied by the time the concert ended, so the fact that we even got a single encore was a surprise. But fans kept clapping, and producer Jeron Moore came back to the stage two more times to introduce another piece. Maybe they could have included these tracks in the main program and had fewer encores, but I have to admit that it makes each and every performance feel really special, especially when you hear the opening notes of your favorite song that you started believing you weren't going to hear that night.
#2 - Fantastic arrangements
Chad Seiter, the primary arranger for the concert, has done an amazing job bringing these individual pieces to the orchestra. I'll now gush about individual pieces performed at the concert.
"Dungeons Medley" comes in at the beginning of the concert, and it will engross you immediately as nostalgic boss battles play out on the screen above the stage and familiar melodies grace your ears. This was one of my favorite pieces of the night, despite its rather dark atmosphere. While I wasn't particularly looking forward to "Kakariko Village," it also stood out for its whimsical yet emotional performance.
We also dug the montage of the chicken swarms through various Zelda games. Finally, "Great Fairy Fountain," with dueling harps, was simply beautiful. There's an alternate version of this arrangement on the CD that came with Skyward Sword, but you need to hear this arrangement live to appreciate it fully.
#1 - A story told through music
Again, as noted in #4, this is a concert for series fans. The addition of the screen above the stage allows the production team to score the key moments of the games in real time. Transitions are well thought out, and you're essentially able to relive your own experiences with each of the games throughout the course of the concert. This is particularly true during the four-movement "Symphony of the Goddesses" portion.
As an example, The Wind Waker is probably my least favorite of the four games that get their own segment in the "Symphony of the Goddesses," but the upbeat and cleverly-sequenced pairing of music and visuals makes it one of my favorite moments of the show. Similarly, I found the Twilight Princess movement very touching as it highlights the relationship between Link and Midna.
Even though A Link to the Past is my favorite Zelda game and soundtrack, I was surprised to find that it wasn't my favorite moment from the concert (even though it was also amazing), due almost entirely to this element of storytelling with music being so strong with the other movements.
This concert is really something you need to experience for yourself. And you'll need to do it before the end of 2012, as there's no certainty that it will continue beyond that time. Get concert dates and ticket information at the tour's official website.
Have you experienced Symphony of the Goddesses and want to share your impressions of the show with us? Do you agree that your favorite game in the series may not be your favorite moment of the concert
[Photos from the Los Angeles performance courtesy of Andrew Craig]
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Jun 16 //
"This show, I think, represents my original vision of how we wanted to do Zelda in concert," Jeron told me after the crowds has returned home. Granted, I was unable to catch any of the original three anniversary concerts, but I understand that the show has grown and evolved in ever so subtle ways since then to the point where Jeron feels Symphony of the Goddesses has finally found its sweet spot.
Zelda in concert is a dream come true that has long been overdue. As Jeron explained, "[Music director and arranger Chad Seiter] and I teamed up with the executive producer, Jason Michael Paul, who had a relationship with Nintendo and basically opened the door for us to pitch our idea to them... We were going to do the 25th Anniversary Symphony in Tokyo, but instead, how about we do it in three different cities and you guys help produce it, and then we'll look at this other thing after that?" It seems so simple in retrospect, you wonder why it didn't occur sooner.
But I'm getting ahead of myself! Roll back the clock to 7:30 PM, June 6, when Steven Hansen, Brett Zeidler, Patrick Hancock, and myself were sitting in our rented van, enjoying a dinner of El Pollo Loco, on our way to the Greek Theater. Located in the beautiful Griffith Park, the Greek Theater makes you forget that just moments ago you were in the hustle and bustle of urban LA. One minute, you are driving past a taco joint or a dim sum restaurant at every intersection, then the next minute, you are scaling a thick, wooded mountainside, passing by the homes of people well out of your tax bracket. It's so quiet and secluded, there's a slight chill in the air, and... holy shit, is that a coyote!? I see no less than three coyotes scavenging the streets for food! Where am I!?
We eventually find our seats, located near the front in Section A (you are the man, Jayson!). The open air theater is breathtaking -- seeing so many Zelda music lovers stretched out into the distance, towered over by these grand, illuminated pine trees, fills you with so much pure joy. So many people are to here to listen to a live performance of videogame music, and not just nerds in T-shirts either! Why, there is this man in his 50s sitting next to us, and throughout the show, he is describing to his wife the events unfolding in the video clips accompanying the performance, overflowing with the enthusiasm of a child on Christmas morning.
Our host for the evening was Zelda Williams, daughter of comedian Robin Williams and somewhat the unofficial spokesperson for the Zelda series as of late. She had previously emceed the London anniversary concert, but despite her past experience in addition to her acting background, she was visibly and audibly nervous in front of thousands of people. Performing in front of a camera is clearly a completely different ballgame for her.
But you know what? She was a champ. Through her corny jokes and shy demeanor, you could tell that she was being genuine. This is a girl who loves the Zelda series as much as anyone in the audience. And when she introduced the Majora's Mask arrangement, she geeked out ever so slightly at the anticipation of hearing music from her favorite game in the franchise. I can't think of a more appropriate host.
Presentation aside, it all comes down to the music, which is as rich and as varied as the games themselves. Like Jeron says, "Every game is so frickin' epic, but they're all different. Just like the games, where visually every game has its own style, when you are looking to the four-movement symphony, every movement has its own character, not one of them sounds alike, but there are little things that tie them all together. It's fun to play with that."
If you've attended one of the anniversary shows or listened to the CD bundled with Skyward Sword, you are already slightly familiar with the material that was played. The concert is still conducted by Eímear Noone, and you still hear movements based on The Wind Waker, Twilight Princess, and more. But even if you know what to expect, you can't prepare for just how awe-inspiring the performance is. I mean, this is the soundtrack to those sleepovers with your best friend, waking up before dawn on Saturday morning to get through Turtle Rock before his mom can even start breakfast. Hearing it live by a full orchestra is to literally hear the legend come to life.
I have to apologize to Concelmo for the gloating I'm about to do, but remember how you lamented the lack of "The Ballad of the Wind Fish"? Yeah, I heard it, and it was amazing. Seiter was able to stretch it out and explore variations of the theme to take us on a musical journey through Link's portable quest. As Jeron humorously described, Seiter asked himself, "How would Hans Zimmer do this?"
Following the tour kick-off in Jeron's home town of Dallas, the program was shortened for a time before the current set list was finalized. Even at that, there is so much music that we'll probably never get to hear. "We actually have longer versions of every movement we started with, and it became monstrous. Like, whoa, there is no way possible that we could actually do this in concert! It's just too massive! So we had to condense it down and pick the core things that (A) people are expecting or (B) that are absolutely important to the story."
I would love to hear some of that cutting room material one day. I'd also love to hear more pieces from Skyward Sword other than "Ballad of the Goddess," but Nintendo would most likely say no. For that same reason, there probably won't be another compilation album for a while as well. "We would love to [make a new album]! The key is that it's a little too close to the release of Skyward Sword. [Nintendo] doesn't want to step on that." Unfortunate for now, but rest assured that the idea is cooking!
The Legend of Zelda: Symphony of the Goddesses is pure magic. There is simply no other way to describe it. In fact, I'm seriously debating whether to see it a second time when it arrives in Orlando next month. I advise all of you to check the schedule and make your own plans as soon as possible. I guarantee you won't regret it!
[Photographs courtesy of Andrew Craig]
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Oct 24 //
When I walked into the Pantages and saw the gorgeous, historic theater decorated in Triforce banners and Zelda imagery, I kind of lost my mind a little bit. I was having trouble accepting that I was about to sit down and listen to a full orchestra play music from a bunch of different Zelda games.
I couldn't believe it was happening! As the lights went down and the charming conductor Eímear Noone walked out, I almost couldn't hold in all of excitement.
Before I had a chance to rip off my shirt, run around the theater with my arms flailing, and shout about how happy I was, the concert thankfully began (whew!).
I won't go into too much detail about exactly what was played, as this concert is going on tour starting next year and will most likely come to a city near you. Hearing everything for the first time and not knowing what to expect was part of the magic. I wouldn't want to ruin that for you.
I will say this: a lot of music was featured. I think the only Zelda games that weren't represented in the concert were Zelda II, Link's Awakening, and The Minish Cap. While all three of those games have great music, I was shocked and quite saddened not to hear "The Ballad of the Wind Fish" or any of the other fine, haunting pieces from Link's Awakening.
Despite that -- as well as a few small video and audio glitches -- the performance was near perfect.
For anyone that is a Zelda fan, the 25th Anniversary Symphony is a must-see. Heck, even if you don't know or like Zelda (blasphemy!), the concert is beautiful and dynamic enough to entertain and mesmerize even the most general music fan.
The performance itself was separated into two parts. Each part featured medley after medley of various Zelda music. Themes from A Link to the Past, Ocarina of Time (Bolero of Fire!), Majora's Mask, Wind Waker, Twilight Princess, and even the original Zelda were performed, and each sounded more beautiful than the one before it.
Some of my highlights include:
A duo of harps playing the Fairy Fountain music from A Link to the Past.
The Gerudo Valley theme in all its magnificent glory.
The final, epic medley that ends in a crescendo so glorious it will bring a tear to your eye.
And speaking of tears in the eye, I was on the verge of breaking down the entire concert! The combination of music, images, and wonderful memories filled my entire body with emotion. Hearing the music brought me back to so many different moments in my life that it was all very overwhelming. Wonderfully overwhelming, but overwhelming nonetheless.
But I held it in. My eyes were filled with tears, but as I quietly watched the concert, I did my best to not completely lose it in front of a sold-out crowd of fellow Zelda fans.
But then Koji Kondo made a surprise appearance at the very end.
After the last piece was played, the composer of the Zelda games shyly took the stage and sat behind a grand piano. He then began to play a piano solo of "Grandma's Theme" from The Wind Waker.
I lost it.
All of the emotions bubbling up inside of me the entire concert just came bursting out when Koji Kondo's fingers hit those ivory keys. It was beautiful and heartbreaking and haunting and stunning and absolutely wonderful.
The show could not have ended on a better note.
Once the 25th Anniversary Symphony starts going on tour next year, I highly recommend going to see it. Hearing the already gorgeous Zelda music played by a full orchestra is truly a once in a lifetime experience.
It is something I will never forget for the rest of my life.
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