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July 19, 2015

The Legend of Zelda: Symphony of the Goddesses

Even with years of clarinet experience under by belt, I've never really gained a true appreciation of classical or symphonic music. All that changed last night when Dr. Phillips Center for the Performing Arts hosted The Legend of Zelda: Symphony of the Goddesses. 


This is the third worldwide tour for the symphony - the "Master Quest", combining three decades of phenomenal gaming with a masterfully recreated musical score. Producer Jason Michael Paul worked very closely with Nintendo, and the individual creators of the Zelda series to bring this beloved, multi-generational force to vibrant life. With the talents of Conductor Amy Andersson and the Orlando Philharmonic Orchestra, it was a night of magic and majesty.
I'm ashamed to say that my Zelda experience pretty much begins and ends with NES, but my son has carried the torch with vigor. He was in his element, in all his Link glory, and he was not alone. Downtown Orlando transformed into Hyrule, as legions of gaming fans descended upon the Dr. Phillips Center. We even encountered Kira Koneko from Zelda Dungeon! My son was simply starstruck, but he collected himself enough to discuss his excitement about the evening's event. 
Prior to the start of the show, we were fortunate enough to sit in on the symphony's rehearsal. This was when I fully realized what an amazing evening this would be. With only four of us in attendance for this preview (we were in good company with the Zelda Dungeon crew), we were able to snag the finest seats, and sneak a peek at the wonder that awaited us. Here's just a small sampling of that performance...


It is not easy to fairly describe how magnificent Symphony of the Goddesses truly is, or the level of talent that the participants display. I'm not sure that words exist to capture the brilliance of such a performance. Visually, it is stunning. Everything works in such perfect synchronicity! The screen projects an evolution of the Zelda series that mirrors the sound as the story unfolds, providing a cinematic feel that is larger than life. Lighting effects enhance the emotion in color throughout the rise and fall of victory and defeat, love and loss, solitude and unity. Like the pieces of a perfect puzzle, everything fits so snugly to lure the audience through a fairy tale universe that explores such a wide variety or feelings, drama, nostalgia, and magic. 
The performers are second-to-none. Just as the sounds blend with beautifully melodic passion, the players are numerous parts of one singular motion. The strings line the outer portions of the stage, and their bows rise and fall in hypnotic unison. Watching them is genuinely as moving as listening to them. I could feel nothing but amazement as I struggled to take in each individual contribution in every sweeping glance. I lost count of the times I muttered a simple "wow", as there was no other word I could muster. Inspiration in its most explicit form, indeed. I'm hesitant to admit - I never knew that a simple video game could be so emotionally moving.
Perhaps this is what too many of us fail to comprehend. As I discussed with the folks from Zelda Dungeon, gaming is not the mind-numbing past-time that many believe - especially as it exists today. No longer are we spending hours weaving a simple chomping circle across a maze of dots and blips with no evolution or accomplishment to achieve. We're saving universes and becoming heroes. We're learning honor and pride - teamwork and loyalty - with undertones of architecture and mechanics, creation and discovery, and it moves us to expand our minds and live by code. It sparks a curiosity and wonder that other hobbies and interests cannot ignite. It encompasses art in all forms, and provokes a desire to take part in a brother/sisterhood of like minds and brilliance. Throughout the evening, this vision was reiterated with enthusiastic greetings and explanations from Nintendo's Koji Kondo and Shigeru Miyamoto, intertwined with the show's visual accompaniments. Most respectably, the performance included a moment of silence honoring Satoru Iwata, the President of Nintendo. 
The energy of the crowd was undeniable throughout the performance, with reverberating cheers and applause abundant. After repeated standing ovations and encores, it was over. With a 20 minute intermission, the show clocked it at well over two hours. That alone is a testament to the power and talent of those involved. From chiming, whimsical whispers to thunderous, triumphant roars, it was a roller coaster of feeling and awe. We eagerly congratulated Producer Jason Michael Paul after the rehearsal, and lavishly praised Conductor Amy Andersson following the full performance, but as a parent, I also want to thank them for providing a new "level" to the Zelda series - a level of sophisticated class and reality that my son may not have otherwise discovered. They unlocked a new realm that can be appreciated by all, understood from so many angles, and respected from the depths of the soul. It was an eye-opening exploration of a parallel universe with elements of art and pure beauty that spanned and united generations. 
For more information on Zelda Symphony, please read our "Q and A" with Jason Michael Paul. Please follow Zelda Symphony on Twitter, and you can find a Zelda Symphony performance near you by checking their tour schedule.