Bust out your ocarina: The music of ‘Zelda’ hits the MKE stage

Photo courtesy of Andrew Craig

Photo courtesy of Andrew Craig

Fans of the “The Legend of Zelda” can now be whisked away to the magical kingdom of Hyrule. Instead of a video game counsel, however, now the music will create the adventure.

“The Legend of Zelda: Symphony of the Goddesses” is coming to the Riverside Theater on Jan. 26. The show will feature a multimedia experience that presents 25 years worth of video game music into an action-packed 90-minute show.

“Symphony of the Goddesses” was created by music director and composer Chad Seiter along with producer and lead creative Jeron Moore. The four-part symphony tells the story of the Hero of Hyrule, Link. It follows his struggle against the villainous Ganon aided by Zelda, the Princess of Hyrule.

“It’s a very operatic story,” Seiter said. “When you strip away all elements, you have this chess game between Link, Zelda and Ganon.”

The symphony begins with an overture introducing the audience to the themes of Zelda. Link’s Theme, Zelda’s Theme and Ganon’s Theme begin the show, and audiences are introduced to the story of the video game series. Seiter considers the overture a type of “appetizer.”

The symphony continues into four movements based on the main games in the series: “Ocarina of Time,” “The Wind Waker,” “Twilight Princess” and “A Link to the Past.”

“It’s organized in a story chronology and through that, you get to re-experience the stories and see highlights from the games,” Moore said. “We walk you through the history of Link and Zelda and their struggle against the bad guys.”

In addition to producing, Moore serves as the host of the show. Every two or three songs, he walks onstage to introduce the music and help guide the audience through what it is about to experience. A large screen hovers over Moore and  the orchestra showing shots from the game played in synch with the music.

“I’m a huge Zelda fan, so it’s just fun to make anecdotal remarks, joke around and geek out with everyone there,” Moore said. “It’s really rewarding seeing the audience enjoy what’s been a labor of love for the whole team.”

The show’s conductor, Eimear Noone, is an Irish composer and conductor working in video games, feature films and television scores. She recently created the scores to the popular video games “World of Warcraft” and “Starcraft II.”

Although Noone tours with “Symphony of the Goddesses” as its principal conductor, she does not conduct a traveling symphony. The show instead uses local symphonies from each city it visits.

“This is really important to me,” Seiter said. “In a time when orchestra music is slowly dying, it’s important to me to be able to bring this to many markets and use the local economy with the show.”

Like many fans, Seiter and Moore both grew up playing the “The Legend of Zelda” series and saw the potential of the music.

Prior to “Symphony of the Goddesses,” Moore worked on another concert series called “Play! A Video Game Symphony.” Moore said the show gave him experience in how video game concerts are produced, vital experience that helped him created the Zelda show.

“(‘Symphony of the Goddesses’) was the one that I always felt the world was missing and that fans would really appreciate, but I couldn’t just come right out and do it,” Moore said. “I needed to earn the right to pitch it. So I worked hard to that, and put together the team I believed in and things worked out.”

Throughout the orchestration process, Seiter had the opportunity to work with Koji Kondo, the original and current composer of Zelda franchise music. For Seiter, it was “very daunting” to be working with Kondo because he had been listening to his music since he was a kid.

“Thankfully, he wrote back saying ‘This is wonderful, I love it,’” Seiter said. “It let me do my vision to his melodies, which was very humbling.”

Though “Symphony of the Goddesses” is focused on the story of Hyrule, the producers of the show encourage non-Zelda fans to see the show. It is meant to be musically interesting and entertaining on its own.

“One of the fun things is that kids are dragging their parents in, and then there are guys like me who are in their early 30s who have been playing the games since they were young,” Moore said. “Their significant others haven’t always understood. They don’t understand why their partner likes Zelda, why they are a gamer or what it is about this thing that appeals to them so much. This is kind of an opportunity to share that in a digestible, entertaining way.”

As to why the Zelda games are so popular, Seiter and Moore point to the story as a reason people keep playing 25 years after the release of the first game.

“The story is humongous, and the gameplay is everlasting,” Seiter said. “It was the first time you had an open world where you are going back to places you had already been. It’s an immersive experience, and I think that’s why people love it so much.”

“I think people gravitate toward the idea of a classic story of good versus evil,” Moore added. “It’s the classic tale of a hero saving the princess from the clutches of evil. These games are big and full of discovery, and the characters are memorable.”

Seiter and Moore also attribute the series’ success to the music created by Koji Kondo, who helped define the series with his music.

“I think a lot of parents and grandparents are coming in saying ‘oh, Zelda, that’s cute,’ and they are leaving and it has impacted them in an emotional way and in a way that has them thinking ‘there’s more to this than I realized. Maybe my child or grandchild is getting something richer and deeper than I originally understood,” Moore said.

Seiter said video games are an art form similar to music, “where lots of people put in lots of effort to create something amazing.” As a gamer himself, it was important for him pass along his love of this art form to an audience who might not see the art in gaming.

“It’s important to show the world that video games are not these tiny little concepts, that they are far reaching and do touch people’s hearts,” Seiter said.

The ultimate goal for Seiter and Moore goes beyond celebrating Zelda. The creators also hope the show will expose new audiences to an entirely new artform.

“We are bringing younger audiences into the hall and introducing them to the symphony using something they understand and are passionate about as a gateway to  to a form of culture they might not have chosen to explore before,” Moore said. “If one person in every concert is inspired to go and pick up an instrument, then that’s really what it’s about.”

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