Last weekend my wife and I left our kids at their grandparents’ and headed down to the Southeast’s true cultural hub, Atlanta, Georgia, for a night on the town. Saturday evening the Cobb Energy Performing Arts Centre played host to a sold out performance of The Legend of Zelda: Symphony of the Goddesses, the latest marriage of highbrow art and tech-savvy pop culture from Jason Michael Paul Productions.
The night was hosted by producer Jeron Moore, whose reverence for the iconic compositions of Koji Kondo and simple, personal delivery ably complimented an eclectic crowd composed of twenty-something cosplayers, jeans-clad parents and their brood and formally attired music fans. Conductor Susie Seiter -– a name many will likely recognize from her work on the 25th Anniversary CD -– led a choir and orchestra composed of regional musicians in an overture to set the mood as in-game clips from across the breadth of the series’ history played on a monitor above the stage.
After a brief interlude wherein Moore explained the significance of the symphony’s title, a reference to the three Golden Goddesses of Zelda lore, the music and accompanying visuals focused on the origin and mythology of Hyrule. From there, and most certainly unsurprisingly, the first movement delved further into fan-favorite Ocarina of Time. The musical swell as a 64-bit Link rode Epona across the fields of Hyrule was the first of many truly breathtaking moments of the night’s performance.
The symphony’s second moment, a Wind Waker suite, was a personal highlight from a game that’s cell-shaded style originally turned off many Zeldapurists. Its lushly layered strings and punctuating brass hits not only evoked the strong classical elements of the soundtrack, but also channeled every bit of the whimsy of its folksier, sea shanty leanings.
After a brief intermission we were refreshed by “The Great Fairy’s Fountain Theme” before proceeding into the darker sounds of the Twilight Princess movement. With a heavy focus on the interplay of darkness and light, both in the musical selection and the video, and a performance that highlighted theretofore-unnoticed (at least by me) hints of Mussorgsky’s “A Night on Bald Mountain,” it surely marked the symphony’s more intense moments.
This contrasted nicely against the fourth and final movement, a florid reinterpretation of selections from 16-bit classic A Link to the Past. This old school goodness extended into the first encore, which gave some love to one of the series’ portable iterations, Link’s Awakening. After thunderous applause a thankful conductor relented and presented a second encore, returning again to Ocarina of Time‘s “Gerudo Valley.” After another round of applause Moore and Seiter agreed to one more encore, and chose to close on a selection that fans had been begging for, Majora’s Mask.
While not every major title in the Legend of Zelda franchise was afforded its own movement, this performance of Symphony of the Goddesses did an excellent job in highlighting pivotal musical moments from throughout the series. These familiar instrumental soundscapes are sure to bring back memories of your 8-bit youth or spur you to revisit your favorite moments in more contemporary fare like Skyward Sword, but even those whose experience with Zelda games is minimal — my wife has, by her own admission, only played The Adventure of Link –- can’t help but get caught up in the power of these anthemic selections.
This was certainly no typical night at the symphony, what with its scores of casually attired listeners and musical subject matter. And similarly there was an obvious lack of the classical reservation one might expect; folks clapped and hollered and, as so often we do in the Deep South, wooh-ed at the slightest provocation, but, in a symphony that explored such comical tropes as Cucco attacks and falling down holes, it did little to dull an amazing musical experience. In fact, save the dreadful live camerawork that was interspersed amid the backing video clips -– which managed to capture an awful lot of spit valve-cleaning and brow-wiping –- The Legend of Zelda: Symphony of the Goddesses was an utterly flawless presentation.