For over two decades Shigeru Miyamoto has entertained audiences with Nintendo’s seminal classic, The Legend of Zelda. Following in the steps of Video Games Live!, The Legend of Zelda: Symphony of the Goddesses looks to bring its brand of orchestral reinterpretation to audio-savvy audiences around the nation. After the crew’s performance in LA for this year’s E3, Gaming Unwrapped got a chance to catch up with Jeron Moore, the show’s producer and lead creative.
GU: Jeron, thanks for taking the time out to talk to GU! I mean, The Legend of Zelda series is one of the most highly regarded classics in gaming, truly a series that nearly all gamers have interacted and memories with in some way over the past two decades. What was it like bringing this amazing franchise to gamers across the country? Was there pressure to deliver a concert that’s as unforgettable as the games themselves?
Thanks for giving me the opportunity! Gosh, it’s just been a complete honor and privilege to work with the franchise and its creators in this capacity. Of course there’s a lot of pressure to get it right; Nintendo wouldn’t have it any other way, and of course there’s the unspoken necessity that have to – under no uncertain terms – live up to fan expectation. But, I suppose that’s a testament to how strong The Legend of Zelda is as a video game franchise. How brilliant and memorable the work Koji Kondo has done. I’ve been enthralled with Zelda since Day One. No, really – I’d whistle the themes and invent an imaginary Hyrule around me while taking adventurous shortcuts on the way home from elementary school. Haha. Fast forward 23, 24 years later. When I approached composer Chad Seiter to work with me in adapting Zelda for concert, being the fans we are and as familiar with the games as we are, it was almost the natural next step where funneling our passion and enthusiasm for this music was concerned… you know, because these were the soundtracks of our childhoods.
GU: The concert is a four-movement symphony bringing to listeners the adventures of Link in Ocarina of Time, Wind Waker, Link to the Past, and Twilight Princess, all of which fantastic, quintessential games of the series. Can you tell us a little bit about which tunes made the final cut?
Honestly, this was REALLY challenging. We’ve actually got longer versions of all of the movements, which go deeper into telling the story. Twilight Princess was originally 18 minutes long. It’s fantastic… but, producing a concert also has to be about balance. A little about that… there are a lot of factors to consider: how the show is broken up, what the flow will be, how we’re taxing the orchestra and when in the context of performance; ultimately the trick is making sure we’ve assembled a program that’s first and foremost rehearsable within a manageable and realistic schedule, while also assuring it makes sound, structural sense and can hold the attention of our audience — and not just an audience of Zelda fans. The show is attracting people from all walks, whether they are Zelda fans, orchestral music fans, parents, grandparents — all types, and we want the show to work well for them too. So, it’s a tall order.
As far as what made it into the final cut, you’ll be hearing all the melodies and cinematic moments from the games that Chad and I, as tried-and-true fans, felt conveyed the soul of that particular game most effectively.
For instance, for Ocarina of Time — which we took some creative license with (all approved by Koji Kondo), the musical story begins not with the main theme from the Title Screen, but with the way the game itself *actually* began, from within Link’s dreams. But, if you’ll recall, Link’s prophetic nightmare didn’t feature much underscore. You hear “Enter Ganondorf” during that sequence, and that’s it – the rest is just sound effects. It worked beautifully in the game, but for the concert we felt there was an opportunity for something really special.
In Symphony of the Goddesses (SotG), we illustrate Link’s nightmare a bit differently, but before I go into that, let’s consider how it played out in the game itself: during the original nightmare segment, which lasts a mere 28 seconds (before transitioning to the Deku Tree and his theme), we’re able to catch glimpses of Princess Zelda and Impa on horseback, with Ganondorf in hot pursuit while Link witnesses their escape — all of this without a formal introduction to those particular characters.
For the opening of the 12-minute Ocarina of Time movement in SotG, we’ve expanded Link’s nightmare into a minute long affair, extending that scene so you really feel the peril and urgency of what’s happening. It’s what sets up Link’s entire journey.
Drawing from various character themes fans are already familiar with (Zelda’s Theme, Ganon’s Theme, as well as the LoZ Main Theme), we’ve re-imagined the entire opening of the game in a way that’s going to feel faithful to the drama of the action in the original, but it’s also entirely new and exciting. From there we move into the Deku Tree’s theme, the Main Theme from Ocarina of Time (from Title Screen), Hyrule Field, Lost Woods / Saria’s Song, Sheik’s Theme, and then into the final confrontations between Link and Ganondorf. It’s a lot to squeeze into 12 minutes while still managing to do the important, story-hinging moments justice, but Chad did an amazing job, and I’m really thrilled about the outcome. I think fans will be, as well. I could go on about the other movements, but I think it’s better to experience it first hand.
GU: Working with one of the largest properties in their digital arsenal, what was Nintendo’s involvement with the concert series and its development? Have they been hands-on or did they give the production team a lot of creative freedom?
Nintendo’s been 100 percent hands on with us. Everything has gone through an approval process with Mr. Kondo and Mr. Aonuma, as well as select individuals at Nintendo of America. It’s been a lot of fun, too — these guys love the franchise every bit as we do and, being directly under the employ of Nintendo, are committed to making sure it’s represented properly. Fortunately for us, all those years of playing The Legend of Zelda and hearing our mothers say “that’s never going to do you any good!” are finally paying off… haha. As many times as we would send in material for the big guys to review, nervously, not knowing how they’d respond, it would always come back with a tremendous amount of encouragement and gratitude. It was an unreal privilege. Any notes we’d receive were mostly minimal, corrective — offering us deeper insight into the original composition. I think there’s a lot of mutual respect and admiration, and for a couple of guys who grew up playing these games, it just doesn’t get much cooler than that.
GU: E3 attendees got a chance to hear the concert earlier in the month in LA with renowned actress Zelda Williams hosting the event. Will she be continuing the tour to other major metropolitan areas? Or will fans get a different host on every stop?
Ha, well, that’s a funny question. We were very, very honored to have Zelda Williams as emcee for the Los Angeles show at The Greek Theatre. I’d worked with her before when she hosted the 25th Anniversary Symphony in London last October, so this was a bit of a reunion for us. However, her role as host was a one time thing for Los Angeles as that show directly coincided with E3. Back in April, starting with Phoenix, I was asked to step in as emcee, which I suppose has been going well as the team continues to encourage me in that capacity. And ya know, it’s been a lot of fun. At first I’m always a little nervous, stepping out on stage to talk about a passion project we have all worked so hard to bring to fans, but then… I remember everyone out there is just like me. The Legend of Zelda has brought us all together, and we’re all there to just have a good time. Upon which I let the orchestra, Kojo Kondo’s music and Chad Seiter’s beautiful arrangements do the rest… because that’s the real reason we’re all there, right? Me included.
Tickets are announced for most major US cities with the next show in Houston, TX and the full schedule can be found on the tour’s web site. Ocarinas and fairies not included with cost of admittance.
Photos courtesy of The Legend of Zelda: Symphony of the Goddesses // Andrew Craig