The orchestra tunes with a cacophony of notes and the musicians settle into their seats. Then the conductor enters, readying her music.
This isn’t just any other concert. Tonight, there is no Beethoven, Brahms or Mozart. Tonight — March 19 at the Sony Centre for the Performing Arts — the symphony is playing music from the Zelda video games.
For many, the 30-year-old franchise has been the soundtrack throughout much of their lives.
For conductor Kelly Corcoran playing music from video games is just as important as any other classical composer.
“I think that repertoire is always evolving,” said Corcoran. “I think it’s important that we play the masterpieces of the past but we need to be playing the music of now. That’s what orchestras have always done historically. You have to do both.”
Zelda: Symphony of the Goddesses is a two-hour concert with an 80-piece symphonic orchestra playing music from all of the Zelda games. The music is accompanied by visuals on a large screen. It can be tricky to synchronize but each musician has an earpiece that clicks on the beat, helping them synchronize with the screen.
Zelda and the symphony seem to be a natural fit. Music has been a prominent gameplay feature, especially in The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time and The Legend of Zelda: Majora’s Mask.
Jason Michael Paul, producer of the show, sees experiencing familiar music this way as a sort of gateway to the symphony.
“It may very well be [a fan’s] first concert,” said Paul. “The fact that it’s their first concert and it’s a symphonic concert, I think, is really a testament to what I’m doing and what I’m trying to do, which is a richer and deeper appreciation for symphonic music.”
The concert was devised in 2010 as a way to celebrate the Zelda games’s 25th anniversary. Since then, it has been around the world and is on its fourth tour.
The concert seems to be beloved on both sides of the stage. For the musicians and the conductor, it’s a break from the regular repertoire and a chance to play something people are really excited about.
“There’s something really exhilarating as a conductor to perform for an audience that is so engaged and so excited about the music,” Corcoran said.
For the fans, it’s a way to experience their favourite game in a whole new way while also gaining an appreciation for another art form.