To even the most seasoned fan, the idea of an orchestral concert based on a video game series might sound silly. But think about your favorite video game as a child. Now, what about those memories has lodged itself into the forefront of your brain as you read these words? The music. Those catchy tunes that played ad infinitum as you leaped on top of turtle shells, launched laser beams from your sword or neatly fit puzzle pieces together.
Jeron Moore, producer and creative lead for The Legend of Zelda: Symphony of the Goddesses, a comprehensive concert series spanning The Legend of Zelda mythos, remembers that feeling all too well. It’s what got him here in the first place.
“My older sister gave me her score to a film called ‘Out of Africa’ by a composer named John Barry, who wrote the James Bond theme. I was, like, six or seven years old, which is a really weird age for me to kind of latch on to music like that,” Moore admits, “but something about it really captured my imagination. And at that same time, I just got a Nintendo, and along with that, once it came out, the gold cartridge.”
As the gap between the complexity of music in games and in film grew smaller, Moore pursued a career in music and video production in the video game industry. He has worked on some of the most prominent releases in gaming, including The Elder Scrolls Morrowind and Oblivion, Prey, Duke Nukem Forever and more. But as music in games reached critical mass in terms of quality, Moore saw a golden opportunity.
“Now we’re at the point where you can look back at the ancient stuff and do these crazy retro references. You can just have fun. You can really tap into nostalgia,” Moore points out, referring to the recent trend of video game-inspired orchestral concerts. “For me, that was kind of what doing the Zelda concert was about. Tapping into, well first and foremost, my nostalgia. I don’t mean that in a selfish way, because, for me, I’m a diehard Zelda fan. I figure, if I can get it right and be happy with it myself–because I’m very discerning and critical when it comes to that sort of thing–then I think it would be great if other people were happy with it.”
As it turns out, Symphony of the Goddesses has been received with acclaim, leading to the audiovisual event recently receiving 11 more tour dates and a free special event at the Nintendo World Store in Rockefeller Plaza, New York on Sept. 14 in New York. In other words, the show has been a resounding success. But members of the team, even executive producer Jason Michael Paul, had their doubts when Moore presented his idea for Symphony of the Goddesses to his dream team.
“At first, [Jason] liked Zelda, don’t get me wrong, but Final Fantasy was always his game. He was like, ‘Are you sure? Do you think it will work?’ I was like, ‘Are you kidding me?’ I already had kind of the team in mind,” Moore explains. “One of my best friends, Chad Seiter, who’s the music director and arranger for Symphony of the Goddesses, is in it. Our team actually is the team that put together the E3  presentation, where the orchestra came out from under ground and performed that big overture for the 25th anniversary.”
Being a performance that melds both dramatic visual content from previous releases in the series, Symphony of the Goddesses was quite the massive undertaking. The show is what Moore calls a “four movement symphony,” with each movement focusing on a major game within the franchise … paying respect to The Timeline, of course. (Moore isn’t kidding when he claims to be “a diehard Zelda fan.”)
“Little did we know, when Hyrule Historia was released in Japan, that the two timelines are really three. So, that sort of blew some minds and confused some people, [but] it’s slowly been accepted,” Moore says, letting his fan flag fly. “Bear in mind, our concert is linear. We can’t set a room over here, a room over there and say, ‘OK, for these next couple pieces, if you want to go to Timeline A, go over there. And if you want to go to Timeline C, go over here.’ That would be a huge production and confusing–completely impractical.”
Given Moore’s intensely intimate knowledge of The Legend of Zelda series, it’s not surprising that he claims franchise composer Koji Kondo and producer Eiji Aonuma had little to no issues with Symphony of the Goddesses. Though, Moore recalls one particularly nerve-wracking interaction with Mr. Aonuma and Mr. Kondo in the flesh.
After working rather closely with the duo for months prior on the music for the concert, Moore (pictured above center) had unfortunately learned that Eiji had yet to see the video content he created for the show. Hours before the show was to go live in Los Angeles at the Pantages Theater, Eiji was prepared to see the videos that would play during:
Bill Trenton, [Shigeru] Miyamoto’s translator and the product director at Nintendo, pulls me aside and says, ‘Hey, Jeron, lets go review the videos with Mr. Aonuma.’ And so, we walk down. The auditorium is completely empty, and we just file into one of the rows in front of the orchestra, as they’re playing.
And Mr. Kondo is already sitting out there, so Bill sits next to Mr. Kondo, so Mr. Kondo’s to Bills left. I sit next to Bill, and then Mr. Aonuma sits to my right. So, I’m sandwiched between these three guys. Normally it wouldn’t be a big deal, but my brain was exploding. I mean, the only person who was missing was Mr. Miyamoto.
I’m just sitting here with these icons, and then of course, with the idea that Mr. Aonuma hasn’t seen any of the work that I’ve labored over for the past few weeks, and we’re supposed to have a show later that evening. So, I’m like, ‘What if there’s something wrong? What if he wants a change? I don’t have time to go back and do this.’ You know, we’ve got a lot going on.
At the end, after we finished watching it all, he extended out his hand, shook my hand and said, ‘Excellent work.’ And I was just like, ‘Awesome. That just made my year.’ Just getting his full stamp of approval, no caveats. He was totally fine with it all.
Moore has already proved the weight of his work to some of the greatest minds behind The Legend of Zelda series. But he’s more concerned with everyone else in the theater–the moms, dads and grandparents who were dragged there by their little Link fans, especially. To Moore, Symphony of the Goddesses has something important to say to the audience.
“It’s not just a video game. It’s not just a silly toy. Their eyes open to, ‘Hey, there is actually something to this. Maybe I misjudged. Maybe I sized it up too quickly.’ Obviously, the audience for Zelda–all of us–saw something in it that was special, acknowledged it as a piece of art and experienced it as such. That’s something that a lot of people don’t get initially.”
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