Zelda fans filled Jones Hall like bombchus in a bombchu bag. Half the crowd were wearing Triforce t-shirts, Zelda dresses, or Link hats while the other half purchased some for themselves at the merchandise stand. Although I was one of the Triforce t-shirt guys, I gazed upon an Ezlo-shaped cap with delight and a tinge of jealousy. Popping open my 3DS invited a bunch of these fine folk to Mii Plaza, wherein their virtual forms still wore Zelda-themed apparel as they gave me puzzle piece after puzzle piece. I failed to glimpse a single face– human or Mii– that didn’t look psyched to be there. Everyone was on the same page and surrounded by people who actually understood that weird thing they put so much time and care into; for it all to occur in an elaborate concert hall made it even better. Catching snatches of conversation about whether or not the treasure chest song would be played and why the opening overture featured Skyward Sword was inches away from surreal but entirely amazing. Symphony of the Goddesses, a globe-trotting concert all about The Legend of Zelda, had finally come to my dwelling place of Houston, Texas.
I had already walked the too-luxurious-for-my-battered-sneakers carpet of Jones Hall four times before, mostly due to the blissful days when Tommy Tallarico would stop by to say hello with Video Games Live. The sound of an orchestra warming up always sends a special thrill of excitement down my spine, and I’d say the Houston Symphony trumps even the PS3 boot-up screen. Sitting in the very front row meant craning my neck to see over the five-foot stage, but it’s hard to complain when you can count the violin strings from your seat. Even closer was conductor Eimear Noone, an Irish musician who has orchestrated the likes of World of Warcraft and Starcraft II. She and Jeron Moore (producer for both Symphony of the Goddesses and Play! A Video Game Symphony) did a superb job running a show that practically glows with genuine respect for the source material. Despite a large screen and some colourful lighting, there was a complete absence of brazen fireworks or light shows or pyrotechnics– after all, dodongo dislikes smoke machines. This was a true five-part symphony that just happened to encourage wild bursts of applause, and beyond a Shadow Link of a doubt, Symphony of the Goddesses deserved every last clap.
Never had I realized the majesty of Hyrule Castle or how malevolently atmospheric the dungeons could be until seeing them performed right before my eyes. Gripped by some kind of ancient Hylian magic, I watched and listened as twenty-five years of Zelda history sprang seemingly from thin air. The raw, tense power of Ganondorf’s growling choir overpowered the hall with just as much emotion as tender notes from Sheik’s harp, with nearly every game in the series sharing the spotlight at one time or another.
Goosebumps ran up and down my arms at the sound of A Link to the Past’s rain scene while the field themes from Twilight Princess and Ocarina of Time dropped my jaw and put a smile on my face. The violin solo to what may be my favourite track in the series, Wind Waker’s joyous ending credits, was enough to choke me up a little– all while close enough to high-five the violinist. Vibrant creativity wielded by the hands of experts awakened new life in these classic songs while never straying from the very roots Koji Kondo planted so long ago. It felt like a journey that spanned ages, but not a journey one takes alone. It was so special, so memorable, and so ear-murderingly loud (ahem, Girl who Screamed her Head off Directly Behind Me) because of the people taking the journey.
The Legend of Zelda– especially the music– is one big shared adventure. Everyone there had already visited the places Symphony of the Goddesses took them. Everyone had played the Serenade of Water on an ocarina; everyone had lit torches to hear the solved puzzle jingle; everyone had watched dawn rise with the Sun’s Song. The lazy flow of Kakariko Village’s theme was like flipping through an old photo album of a fondly-remembered vacation spot, but one that an entire concert hall shared in. As laughter rippled all around me at the sight of a dozen on-screen cuccos in a livid rage, I wondered how many tales the audience could tell about discovering that terrifying little Easter egg. In retrospect, I probably should have conducted interviews. Being mauled by invulnerable fowl, of course, is only one side of the coin; the timeless stories of Zelda are one of the strongest links between players there is. Setting sail in Wild Waker and the bittersweet ending to Twilight Princess were relived through renditions so passionate and sweeping that I can’t imagine anyone leaving that theatre unmoved.
Standing beneath Hylian banners draped across the walls, the creators seemed to care about Zelda just as much as the audience: Jeron Moore came on stage with his original gold NES cartridge in hand and Eimear Noone replaced her baton to conduct the Wind Waker movement with an actual life-sized Wind Waker. Once the Fairy Fountain song concluded, Mr. Moore even expressed his hope that everyone was feeling “refreshed and revived” after the intermission; a man after my own heart piece. When the symphony finally wrapped up, it actually didn’t; not one, not two, but three secret arrangements were pulled out one after the other. Gerudo Valley and Ballad of the Wind Fish delighted the audience, but it was Majora’s Mask that brought the house down like a maniacally angry moon. This fan-requested idea was successfully pitched to Nintendo and now lives on in the warm memory of anyone lucky enough to hear its chilling yet powerful finale. In the heart of noisy, busy, sometimes smelly downtown Houston, we managed to slip somewhere out of time and remember a world that doesn’t exist. I guess that’s what happens when you combine music, videogames, and people who care about them. Well, a professional symphony helps, too.
At the end of the night, my final count was thirty-five. That’s right, thirty-five street passes and more puzzle pieces than I ever dreamed of collecting. These thirty-five fans bearing Nintendo consoles might have been a drop in the hat when compared to the entire crowd of Jones Hall, but I think their pre-set 3DS messages such as “Zelda music FTW!” and “hello” spoke for us all. It was a joy to see and hear Symphony of the Goddesses with everyone involved and it has rekindled my urge to play Zelda games until my Tingle Tuner runs out of batteries. You can hunt around online for the 25th Anniversary soundtrack that came with Skyward Sword if you’d like a stupendous sampling of the concert, but do try and attend the real deal if at all possible. It gets the No Tune Unturned Stamp of Approval… which is pretty much just me liking something, I guess. But I like it a lot.
If you know of any tunes that deserve unturning, it would be fantastic for you to leave a comment below or let me know via Twitter (@NoTuneUnturned). Is there an obscure RPG soundtrack that 100% deserves more attention? Maybe you have a composer whose career is worth talking about? Whatever it may be, I’m all ears. And as always, I have some closing words that I live by every day:
Videogame music is great, so listen to it!