Throats sore from cheering, hands burning from applauding, but a mind so content it doesn’t matter one bit. These are things that the Zelda fans in Europe were feeling as they left the Legend of Zelda: 25th Anniversary Symphony. Hundreds of fans attended the event on October 25th and Zelda Universe was present.
I had flown all the way from Sweden just to cover this event (and of course enjoy it). I met up with my colleague Charlie (known as cpiddy on the forums) who’s also the assisting editor of the ZU Podcast. We met up early to go through the day, what we were going to do, what to record and which questions to ask people, etc. We headed out hours early with multiple cameras fully charged and our pockets full of 1500 Operation Moonfall cards designed by ZU’s talented graphic artists.
I think we didn’t quite realise how many people would show up for this event and our batteries were almost totally exhausted by the time we were let in. So that’s why we decided to write our impressions of the symphony here, while leaving you with our video on ZUTV.
The first thing that needs to be said is that we met some wonderful people over there. Hands were shaken, hugs were shared and the entire crowd of hundreds was beaming with excitement. There wasn’t a single frown in that crowd, even before we went inside.
The Hammersmith Apollo in London was dressed in an appropriate fashion. Banners with the Royal Family emblem and the 25th anniversary symbol pride the walls, booths sold posters and t-shirts and on the second floor there were display monitors and Skyward Sword demos we both got to try out, if only for a minute. With what must have been over a thousand attendees, six puny demo stations weren’t nearly enough. But that wasn’t the reason anyone was there that night.
The music… Oh, God… the music. It was mindblowingly amazing. I know that the concert already is up online after someone from Los Angeles recorded it (which mr Aonuma was not pleased with, he told us), but we’re telling you right now, you can’t really compare the two. This was the sort of thing you had to experience in real life. Not only for the sound quality, but just seeing the orchestra there and interacting with them to some degree through cheering and applauding… it was great, especially with the guests that honored us with their presence that night. As I said, Aonuma himself was there and you could see that he was equally amazed by the presence of the audience as I was. The very same thing could be said for the fabulous Zelda Williams who was actually the host (exclusive for London by the way) of the evening. She was pretty nervous, you could tell. She even misspoke twice and said “Kakariko Valley” instead of Kakariko Village. The only person who seemed untouched by the audience was Koji Kondo who appeared to be modesty personified. He carefully entered the edge of the stage, sat down to play the piano and then left, looking slightly confused as to whether he should go out and say hello to us or leave as quietly as he had come.
Oh right, what was I supposed to say about the music? The evening gave us so many great moments it’s hard to stay on subject. Right, now… I’m not a musician, I’m not technical about instruments, notes, rhythm or anything like that. But that’s okay because I don’t think most people are. I will say though that the classical orchestra did an outstanding job which really showed in themes such as Gerudo Valley which originally featured a guitar as its main instrument. I think that themes such as those allow the orchestra to make small adjustments and take a level of artistic freedom to make these songs sound great and not get boring. Even though me and Charlie had both heard every single song before we were never bored. As for the choice of songs, I personally think they picked the best selection possible which is a difficult task. Zelda has such a wide range of music and every song is somebody’s favourite. This selection was probably the most popular bunch of songs in the series, from Hyrule Field to the final showdown with Ganon.
Now, Charlie and I didn’t sit together, he was sitting a floor above me and I was sitting quite close to the orchestra and I had made sure to buy a VIP ticket. Now, as you may know, the Zelda Symphony is set to go on tour in 2012. We assume that each location will be slightly different so don’t hold me to the details here, but I want to tell you what exactly is included in the VIP ticket and if it’s worth it or not.
A VIP ticket cost nearly twice as much as a regular one. We got a bit better seating as I said which was nice if you like to get close to the action, but it’s not like the regular seats didn’t get just as good of a listening experience. The real treat of a VIP ticket comes after the concert where we were taken to a “meet and greet” with the people behind the scenes. To go along with hat we were given a few special items such as a plastic Ocarina, some Ocarina of Time 3D keychain as well as the latest issue of Edge Magazine (guess why?). There was also a sign saying there’d be pies (I don’t know why, it seemed random and I joked with the other guys in the line about getting into the room to see the whole orchestra eating pie) but there were none. Or Aonuma and Kondo stole them all as they went back to Japan.
So the line to the meet and greet was probably… two hours or something, and for that kind of price you really need to consider if it’s worth it to you. For someone who’s interested in music production or like to meet the people who put a show together, it’s a great opportunity for you. If you’re not into that kind of stuff then save yourself some money and go with a regular ticket. For me personally, the VIP was well worth it. First was the conductress. I had her sign the plastic Ocarina as well as the event program which I asked everybody to sign) and I gave her a hug and thanked her for an amazing performance. Next was the producer of the show. I asked him how he got this assignment and he told me he just emailed Nintendo and asked if they could do it, and Nintendo said yes. The amazing thing was that they sent the email one day before the disastrous earthquake in Japan, but Nintendo still got back to them. The third person was… I don’t even know who it was, the brief conversation with the producer held me up a bit and we sort of bypassed eachother. I’m sure he was someone important but I didn’t see him on stage or anything. A bit embarrassing perhaps (EDIT: I’ve now been reminded he’s with ZREO and helped produce the symphony. We had a brief chat as ZU and ZREO are affiliates ). Last but not least was the lovely Zelda Williams. What a nice person, she’s just as happy and bright as she appears in the Nintendo videos and on the stage earlier that night. I made sure to thank her for supporting Operation Moonfall and gave her a card. She also signed my Edge Magazine even though I didn’t ask for it (as did the director) and I also got a picture taken with her. All of them were very nice even after having met with probably a hundred fans during two hours before I got there and it was past midnight.
After the show was over I was asked by a camerawoman who I’d previously helped organise the singing of Song of Time (as can be seen in the video) what the best part of the concert was. I was not ready to make that kind of call on the spot so I said Gerudo Valley which I indeed think was one of the highlights, but I’d like to take that statement back. As I said before, people were quite overwhelmed by the energy emitted from the audience. And throughout the concert, that was really noticeable, we were all… together.
You could notice it in the way a light laughter rolled through the audience as Nintendo made fun of themselves showing how NES Link had trouble getting through a dungeon door. You could notice it in the way heads were bouncing back and forth as the orchestra played Saria’s Song. You could notice it in the revered silence as a new song began. And when the final song was finished, every single person in that hall stood up to applaud the orchestra, for minutes without cease. It was an incredible thing to experience with our fellow Zelda fans, from start to finish. Come 2012, if there’s a Zelda symphony anywhere near you, make sure you don’t miss out. This is not something that can be experienced watching a recording on Youtube. Just like watching a game on TV might be good enough some days, nothing beats going to a big event with your fellow fans – and being part of the legend.
You can watch the video here: