The Legend of Zelda: Symphony of the Goddesses
Davies Symphony Hall, San Francisco
Conducted by Eímear Noone
March 28, 2012
Last Wednesday, over a thousand Zelda fans descended on San Francisco’s Davies Symphony Hall in the heart of the city. The event? The 25th anniversary celebration of one of Nintendo’s most beloved franchise: The Legend of Zelda. “Zelda: Symphony of the Goddesses,” is a musical tribute to the history of Zelda and the great scores composed by Koji Kondo. The concert, directed by Irish conductor Eímear Noone, works with local musicians in each town to put together an entire orchestra to play the show.
As is the norm with the video game and other franchise symphonies that are cropping up around the nation, “Symphony of the Goddesses” featured a full-scale orchestra complete with a large screen overhead. Throughout the concert, the orchestra musically narrated parts of the game while footage from the series played on the screen.
Zelda lends itself to this type of display particularly well because it has no spoken dialogue. The brief flashes of each scene on screen were enough to communicate the gist of that particular moment, and narrate the story at that time. For this reason, “Symphony of the Goddesses” felt more like being immersed in the Zelda series than many other video game concerts, like Video Games Live, where one might expect to hear dialogue when seeing a character speak. It is the closest the Zelda franchise has ever been to becoming a movie. By hearing the music for each game and seeing the key scenes on screen, it was almost like reliving each game. You could recall the feelings of each moment — the fear of first seeing Ganondorf outside the castle gates in Ocarina of Time, the surprise when you’re blasted out of the cannon to the Forsaken Fortress in Windwaker, and the laughs when Link is attacked by Cuccos, along with many other memorable moments.
The concert opened with a medley of tunes from the original NES game up until Skyward Sword. A brief silence of awe followed the medley, broken by a single excited scream that was immediately echoed by the entire audience.
A rendition of the Kakariko Village theme came next, and then The Ballad of the Wind Fish. After these pieces, Noone introduced the main event of the evening: The four-part symphony written especially for this performance. Each movement highlighted a particular game and combined a number of themes from throughout the entire adventure. A prelude introduced the goddesses Din, Nayru, and Farore, who created the land of Hyrule, while the screen displayed the famous genesis scene from Ocarina of Time. The prelude was met with thunderous applause, and the concert moved into the first part of the symphony, highlighting Ocarina of Time. I found this part of the symphony the most moving since Ocarina was my first Zelda game, and the music evokes so many childhood memories. I was slightly disappointed that they used 3DS game footage instead of the original N64, but it was still lovely.
The second movement was of Windwaker, which truly features some of the best music from Zelda’s history. Hearing the ocean theme live was incredible — you almost felt as if you were in the boat with Link. After an intermission, the orchestra moved on to Twilight Princess. Midna’s Theme is one of my favorite melodies from the Zelda series, and it really shone in concert. The final movement was A Link to the Past, which was met with delighted cheers from the audience who did not expect the older game as the finale.
A standing ovation happened immediately after the concert ended — I have never seen such enthusiasm in Davies Symphony Hall. The cheers brought Noone back on stage for an encore, which she said was a “secret” but was very obviously the theme from Gerudo Valley. After this, a second standing ovation brought her back out for a second encore that she said was added to the program after a number of fans wrote to the creators. Fans had complained of the lack of a Majora’s Mask tribute, so the concert ended with a piece highlighting Ocarina of Time’s sometimes forgotten sequel. The (real) end of the show finished to deafening cheers from the audience, who stood up a third time.
In his piece about the Final Fantasy concert in Boston a few weeks ago, Philipp M. Diesinger described an enraptured audience whose reaction to the concert was “overwhelmingly positive.” This was also true of the Zelda concert — the energy in the room was unparalleled to any symphony I have ever attended. The attendees all desperately want to be there; they were personally connected to the music in a way most concertgoers are not in a classical symphony. The concert was almost a bonding experience for the entire audience — with everyone laughing and sighing with nostalgia at the same time, it was almost as if we had all been on the adventure together.
Many people cosplayed for the concert (I counted one Dark Link, one Malon, three Midnas, two Fis, and countless Links), and even more dressed in Zelda memorabilia or had strategic green dresses or shirts — along with dozens of people with Link hats.
As I left the concert hall I had the burning desire to go through and replay all of my favorite Zelda games. Unsurprisingly, I overheard a number of people express the same sentiment on my way out.