Despite getting wrapped up in all the hubbub of E3 2013′s second day, several attendees (myself included) still had it in them to mosey over to LA’s Greek Theatre for The Legend of Zelda: Symphony of the Goddesses, which would be performing its new “Second Quest” set that night.
Considering how the symphony was celebrating its 50th show with this performance, and with videogame music maestros like Tommy Tallarico and Shota Nakama in attendance, it was truly a night to remember.
Like the show in Philadelphia last year, there were a number of returning movements, including Ocarina of Time, The Wind Waker, Twilight Princess and A Link to the Past. Conductor Eimear Noone still pulled out that Wind Waker baton amidst a roaring crowd (that’ll never get old), and fans weren’t afraid to cheer and applaud during the performance. With that said, there were more than a handful of new and pleasant surprises, such as all-new Spirit Tracks and Skyward Sword medleys, but I’d easily say that the “Tal Tal Heights” portion of the Link’s Awakening medley alone was worth the price of admission.
Prior to the evening’s performance and incoming swarm of Zelda character cosplayers, I had the pleasure of sitting down with producer Jeron Moore to pick his brain about the process of assembling a concert so special that many Zelda fans would world-warp throughout all the corners of the Earth just to witness it.
Thanks for sitting down to talk with me. Both you and [producer] Jason Michael Paul have been known to do videogame orchestral concerts in the past. You’ve been involved with Play! and a few others, so how did the desire to produce these shows come about?
Just a passion for the music. You know, the thing that Chad Seiter and I always come back to as filmmakers – for film, and cinema, film music, orchestras. I think, growing up with that as well as a deep love for videogames, and then those games having such strong melodies - Zelda being one of the strongest… really, early onset, planted the seeds for something like this. I kinda feel like I’ve been preparing to do this for a very long time.
Probably since you first heard that music?
[laughs] Probably! Probably, because I’ve been hearing it this way in my head since I was a child, and understood what an orchestra sounded like. “Hey, you know, it’s not just Star Wars, or it’s not just Beethoven or Mozart, it’s not just… Superman or whatever, it can also be Zelda.
You know, it all comes down to people. People are the most important part, and relationships. And, of course developing relationships with…you know, it’s like putting together a football team. I mean, and I don’t know jack taco about football, but you have to have all the right pieces in place. Everyone has a very special role, and it’s carefully coordinated. And so, much like a football team, everyone on our team brings something very special and individualized to the table. And my role, as a producer, is to kind of recognize those skill sets and understand how to put them together and how to negotiate them and structure them. And then provide a creative direction for them. Tell Chad when he’s, you know, “I don’t like the way you’re doing this” or…which, he’s never done…
Never had to do something like that?
[laughs] No, we were always such in sync but…I have worked with composers and arrangers before where I’m like, “no let’s try it from a different standpoint.” It all comes down to initial direction and how clear you are [in] painting that picture before you even put pen to paper. And so a lot of preparation comes into that.
So how does the song selection process for the show work? I imagine Nintendo has final say with everything?
Nintendo does have final say with everything, but honestly, it’s been really easy. Chad and I had a very clear idea of how we wanted to structure the show: it all began with a clear narrative, you know, telling stories. And there’s only so many ways you can do that with Zelda when you factor in a concert format and the time that you have and how much things cost. So, we designed it so that the mainstays would become repertoire, the main themes that everyone wants to hear, that if you take them out, it’s no longer a Zelda concert. You have to hear “Hyrule Castle,” you have to hear “Hyrule Field.” You have to hear Princess Zelda’s theme, Ganon’s theme. We carried all of those things over from the first season, while taking away some of the other things that are kind of hot-swappable, like the “Ocarina Medley” or like the “Dungeon Medley.” Those things can come out and be replaced with other things. But I think it really rang true with Nintendo, the idea of telling a story and representing it in a big, grand cinematic way. And it was always extremely important to us to remain faithful. So, I think because we kind of stuck really close to it, and just sort of brought it to life, just added that Hollywood sparkle, as it were, I think that just made the transition/acceptance process…approval process easy.
How’s the feedback been from fans, regarding these shows?
You know, it’s really been nothing but positive. The only negatives we ever get are that the show is not long enough, or “why didn’t you play this?” or “why didn’t you play that?”
The length of the show is dictated by a lot of different factors. It’s kind of a sweet spot for attention span, and there’s a cost factor in how long you can have the orchestra on stage, you know, how many players we have. There are so many things that factor into why the show is the way it is, so we have to work with those, and it does play into, it does influence the package that we put together, but that’s anything. You make a movie [for instance], no one has a blank check..I mean almost nobody has a blank check, and so it’s important to do the best job you can with it, and those restrictions provide structure, and is almost a quality assurance process. So it’s good, it’s healthy, and you know, I hope fans are happy with it. As a fan I’m happy with it!
Judging by the cosplayers outside, yeah, definitely. So, this is not necessarily Zelda-related but, what’s a game soundtrack that you feel is very under-appreciated that deserves an orchestral show like this?
In terms of just, other games? A lot of people ask me this, you know, I’m a big fan of the Castlevania franchise, I love The Elder Scrolls, Jeremy Soule’s a really dear friend of mine, so that would be a lot of fun. I mean, any of Nintendo’s first-party titles would make for wonderful concert material. I mean, I would love to at some point hear Kid Icarus.
Oh yes, I’m glad you said that. I just finished Kid Icarus: Uprising.
[laughs] I ordered the three-disc import from Japan, it’s so cool.
And it has triple-A composers, this rag-tag group.
It’s like, “whoa, Yuzo Koshiro is on here, what?”
Yeah and Motoi Sakuraba…
Yeah, it’s so cool!
And finally, what’s your favorite Zelda piece and why?
Favorite Zelda piece…I waffle between…I really like “Hyrule Field” from Twilight Princess. It brings a lot of what I like about the original main theme from Zelda, in its Hyrule Field kind of format for A Link to the Past or the original game. It brings in all the elements that I like. Ocarina of Time’s [Hyrule Field] is a little too happy for me. I like it, I like it a lot and we put a different spin on it for the show that’s faithful but I almost feel like we put it in Indiana Jones mode, which I love. “The Dark World” is just another classic.
Alright Jeron. Thanks for your time. I appreciate it.
Yeah, of course, it was good to see you!
Second Quest Setlist:
1. The Legend of Zelda Theme Medley
2. Link’s Awakening Medley
3. Spirit Tracks Medley
4. Movement 1: Ocarina of Time
5. Movement 2: The Wind Waker
1. Gerudo Valley
2. Movement 3: Twilight Princess
3. Movement 4: A Link to the Past
1. Majora’s Mask Medley
2. Dragon Roost Island
3. Skyward Sword Medley