On March 14th we were the guests of Nintendo Canada  and Jason Michael Paul Productions  for the Vancouver performance of The Legend of Zelda: Symphony of the Goddesses  at The Orpheum Theatre. This magical presentation featured Irish conductor Eímear Noone  leading the Vancouver Film Orchestra  and members of the Vancouver Chamber Choir  in an incredible performance that culminated in two standing ovations and three encores.
We were given permission to shoot video during the dress rehearsal in the afternoon, allowing us to give you a small four minute sample of what you can look forward to in future performances. My favourite quote of the day came from the dress rehearsal when conductor Eímear spoke with the orchestra during one of the segment breaks. I believe she was putting the musicians at ease with her observation that “there may be a mistake made but don’t worry about it, just make it a glorious one.”
Something that didn’t become obvious until the evening’s official performance was the passion and incredible talent of the Vancouver Film Orchestra. This was hard to pick up on during the afternoon because the rehearsal jumped all over the program with many stops and starts, but once you witness the show from beginning to end, it is easy to be carried along by the power and emotion conveyed by the orchestra and choir as they move through the composition. In even more praise of the Vancouver Film Orchestra’s talent and professionalism, some members received the score for the show only a few days prior to the performance, while many saw the score for the first time at their rehearsal on Tuesday – yet they played as if they had been practicing for weeks. Combined with the visual effects, game play video, cinematics and cameo shots of the orchestra, Zelda: Symphony of the Goddesses is an engaging experience that  will leave you wanting more.
Jason Michael Paul Productions is also the producer for Dear Friends – Music from Final Fantasy, More Friends – Music from Final Fantasy, Zelda 25th Anniversary Symphony and PLAY! A Video Game Symphony . On a side note, PLAY! will be presenting three performances in Calgary  this May. We are hoping that it returns to Vancouver, as we missed the show’s debut performance here.
Getting back to the topic at hand though, for a little background, this is the official description of The Legend of Zelda: Symphony of the Goddesses when the show was first announced, as written by JMP Productions:
“The name ‘Symphony of the Goddesses’ refers not only to the concert program but also to the new four-movement symphony recounting the classic storylines from:
- The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time™
- The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker™
- The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess™
- The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past™
Fans can also expect to hear stirring orchestral renditions of music from other series games, including The Legend of Zelda: Link’s Awakening™ and The Legend of Zelda: Majora’s Mask™. The full orchestra will be conducted by Eímear Noone with arrangements by music director Chad Seiter.”
The Legend of Zelda: Symphony of the Goddesses differs from the Zelda 25th Anniversary Symphony in that the four movements are telling a story, with each movement like a chapter, one flowing into the next. Featuring the music of Nintendo sound director and composer Koji Kondo, the show spent one year in research and development, with Nintendo really helping to push it forward, according to Jeron Moore, the show’s Producer – Showrunner and Lead Creative, whom we interviewed following the dress rehearsal.
In the past decade, video game fans have begun to see a real emphasis being put on game soundtracks. I asked Jeron if he felt that shows like Video Games Live and Play! had aided in growing that emphasis. Jeron answered that he has a lot of respect for game music, and he is “excited to be both a part of and intrigued by” this segment of the interactive entertainment industry, and he agreed that both symphonies have helped open the door to game music appreciation. 
VG: how the music was chosen, written and developed for the show?
Jeron: The symphony grew out of what stuck with me from the games, the strongest themes and recurring characters were important in supporting the story we wanted to tell with this symphony. The connective tissue is each of the four movements telling their own story from beginning to end, with overall, full story revealed at the end. The show’s repertoire was designed to be adaptable, with segments like the Songs of the Hero Medley tying many story aspects together.
VG: What is your favourite part of the show?
Jeron: Seeing all of the big themes and visuals come together with the orchestra. I love those moments where your hair stands on end, where it’s all better than you remembered it or as if you’re seeing it brand new for the first time – all over again. Whereas the 25th Anniversary Symphony was a mash-up of Zelda music, with Symphony of the Goddesses you get to hear the music in its proper order.
Jeron also noted that he loves the Nintendo sampling stations where fans can play the Zelda titles or pose with a Link statue for photos, and how every performance is a Nintendo 3DS street pass heaven. We didn’t have our 3DS with us (gasp), but our friend Kirby Yablonski from Canadian Online Gamers Network  had his, and he noted that there was someone in the building from Connecticut – and there were definitely lots of Nintendo DS’ and 3DS’ in use prior to the show and during the brief intermission.
When asked how the show is put together, Jeron explained that they begin with a vision, almost reverse-engineering the show in regards to how theatrical shows are generally developed. Instead of scoring the music to go with the visuals, Jeron finds the visuals to go with the structure and story that he and music director Chad Seiter orchestrate. He also noted that while the team does a lot of work remotely, the show is ultimately a team effort and could never have come together without the talent and vision of each team member.
“Show Producer Jason Michael Paul is the ringleader, he’s able to push the show in many positive directions, while conductor Eímear Noone is passionate about the show, and channels all of that energy to both the orchestra and the audience,” he continued. 
With Nintendo Canada putting its full support behind the Canadian leg of the tour, I asked Jeron how Nintendo has been to work with on the show’s development.
Jeron answered with “Nintendo has been awesome and very supportive. There has been no push-back in regards to materials or music, and very little revision was needed. Teams of very dedicated game players at Nintendo captured all of the footage we needed to put the Symphony’s visual effects together. They worked from a video mash-up and outline I provided, and I think that the end result is great. It was important to our team, and to myself personally, to stay true to the value of what makes Zelda, Zelda. We didn’t want to toy with the audience’s nostalgia for the franchise.”
I was curious as to how the playing of “game music” was met by the various orchestras in each of the cities, and Jeron said that “both shows, Zelda and Play! are met with enthusiasm. As with the Vancouver Film Orchestra, several of the musicians are members of the digital generation and as such are game fans themselves, while others are the parents or grandparents of gamers, so the shows present them with a rather unique way to connect with their children or grandchildren.”
While The Legend of Zelda: Symphony of the Goddesses is based on video games, this performance lacked the frivolity that usually accompanies performances of Play! and Video Games Live – there were very few cos-players, and while the atmosphere was not as formal as a “night at the symphony” can be, there was still an air of anticipation and appreciation for the performance – especially as much-loved themes were recognized. I hope that the rest of the audience left the show as we did – with memories of a favourite franchise expanded and an even greater appreciation for the talent of our local classical musicians and vocalists.
Following the concert we attended a small reception at The Coast Restaurant, where we able to convey our gratitude for the performance to the Vancouver Film Orchestra’s Music Director Hal Beckett  and Nintendo Canada’s Communications Wizard Matt Ryan, as well as to Jeron Moore and Jason Michael Paul. It was the perfect way to cap off a very enjoyable event.
We strongly recommend that our readers in Toronto and Montreal  seize the opportunity to attend the performances in your cities. While there are no plans for an official CD at this time, you can pick up T-Shirts and Posters at the shows.
- Montreal  – May 31 2012 – Tickets now on sale
- Toronto – September 15 2012 – Tickets on sale March 31st