The Legend of Zelda: Symphony of the Goddesses – 10/10
So today I’m going to review a somewhat unusual event. ‘The Legend of Zelda’ is one of Nintendo’s most well known video game franchises and in 2011 they celebrated the IP’s 25th birthday with ‘The Legend of Zelda 25th Anniversary Symphony‘ of just three shows in Tokyo, Los Angeles and London. Each show consisted of a different orchestra putting together medleys of various classic songs throughout the franchise history.
The project then became much more ambitious and turned into a full scale tour with a heavily extended set entitled ‘The Legend of Zelda: Symphony of the Goddesses’. After 45 shows the tour returned to London’s Hammersmith Apollo where I was lucky enough to see it for myself.
The music was performed by the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra and show producer Jeron Moore came on stage intermittently to introduce each piece. The show was centred on four major movements, each dedicated to a single game accompanied by various smaller medleys and musical snippits taken from other parts of the series.
The orchestra opened with a short overture that featured a teaser of the main theme and the ‘Ballad of the Goddess’ from the game ‘Skyward Sword’. The music was accompanied by visual displays showing cut-scenes and in-game footage of the various games. It attempts to deliver a short-hand exposition of the four central games but without any prior knowledge you would have struggled to figure out what the hell was going on from the visuals alone.
Jeron came to the stage to introduce Movement’s 1 and 2, which were dedicated to fan-favourite ‘Ocarina of Time‘ and ‘The Wind Waker‘ respectively. You could tell this guy was a serious Zelda fan, firing out obscure references left, right and centre (eg. the infuriating water dungeon) that were lovingly understood by 99% of those who attended the sell out show.
The main event kick-started with some ‘dungeon’ music and a compilation of the multiple ‘Kakariko Village’ themes before rolling into more iconic songs focused around the series protagonist, Link (who is NOT called Zelda despite popular belief… first clue, Zelda is a girls fucking name!). ‘The Song of Time and Serenade of Water‘ inevitably made the cut, kudos to the men’s choir for their performance on the former especially.
‘The Ocarina of Time Movement‘ was mostly what people would come to expect, the ‘Hyrule Field Theme‘ and ‘Saria’s Song‘ were integral parts of course. ‘Epona’s Song‘ was thrown in albeit very briefly (for the uninitiated, Epona is Link’s horse) and it all culminated with ‘Ganon’s Theme‘ (he’s the bad guy) and the score to the final confrontation. I did notice one very glaring omission in the ‘Ocarina Movement’, a distinct lack of ‘Zelda’s Lullaby‘! Surely that’s got to be the most well known LoZ song after the main theme itself… more on that later.
There was a brief pause between the 2 movements so that conductor Eímear Noone could very appropriately replace her baton with a replica of the wind waker in preparation for… ‘The Wind Waker Movement‘! It was a nice touch. ‘The Wind Waker Movement‘ (much like the game) was more light hearted and decidedly less dramatic than the other main pieces. The game’s main/intro music, ‘Outset Island‘ and ‘Great Sea themes’ were all present and accounted for, I had expected ‘Dragon Roost Island‘ but no such luck. Never the less a great movement!
After the intermission the orchestra moved straight into a fun interpretation of the ‘Fairy Fountain Theme’. The harp players and female choir had their work cut out for them on this one but they nailed it. FYI, if you have not played a Zelda game before but you have seen the movie ‘Scott Pilgrim vs the World‘ then you’ll have heard the ‘Fairy Fountain Theme‘ during the school corridor dream sequence.
Jeron returned to the stage to introduce the next two movements, a big give away for movement 3 was the statement of moving into ‘darker territory’ and indeed the Zelda franchise does not come much darker than Twilight Princess. I loved the shout out he gave to the cosplayer in the audience dressed as Midna (again for the uninitiated, Midna IS the Twilight Princess). As one might expect Midna’s Theme, the music for the various provinces and of course the Spirits of Light Theme all made an appearance. This was the most overly dramatic and, dare I say, heaviest of the 4 movements. However the music did soften significantly right at the end, finishing with Midna’s final farewell to Link and Zelda.
Movement 4 was dedicated to (and this one got a serious cheer) ‘A Link to the Past’, a SNES game released in 1991. A Link to the Past was by no means the original game of the series but musically it brought in many staple melodies that have permeated into all subsequent games to this day including the LoZ Main Theme itself, which was finally played in its entirety. I need to rewind time slightly to Jeron’s introduction to Movement 4 as he directly acknowledged the huge omission I referred to earlier. Zelda’s Lullaby was perhaps made famous by its inclusion in Ocarina of Time but it was actually first introduced in A Link To The Past (I will admit, I might’ve forgotten about this fact). He semi-jokingly stated “I want to be very clear on that!” so yes Zelda’s Lullaby was also a focal point.
Upon finishing the main act the orchestra performed not one or two but three encores. The Ballad of the Wind Fish is a very obscure throwback to another popular retro game, Link’s Awakening. I must admit I loved the game but had no recollection of this number. It was mind-numbingly catchy though.
Second encore was dedicated to the ladies of the audience, Gerudo Valley (help for the uninitiated once again, the Gerudo’s are an all female tribe of desert warriors… hence the dedication). A popular track from Ocarina, met with rapturous applause and a standing ovation.
The final encore was something of a surprise, a 5th movement! Dedicated to a game that has been referred to as “The Empire Strikes Back of Zelda”; Majora’s Mask. A very dark game focussed on Armageddon. Think of the sword of Damocles but replace the sword with the moon and Damocles with the entire world, so Link has just 3 days to sort some serious shit out! This movement was slightly shorter than the others, focussing mostly on the Skull Kid/Majora Theme, the Termina Theme and the Oath to Order. Also met with a standing ovation.
In conclusion to that very extensive rundown of this 2+ hour extravaganza, I would like to take this opportunity to urge pretty much anyone who loves either classical music or film/game scores in general to go to one of the remaining shows. Sadly, no more in the UK but some in Europe and plenty in the States to come. The visuals will mean little to those unfamiliar with the Legend of Zelda but the music is spectacular. The orchestra did an amazing job and these classic melodies were wonderfully re-imagined, orchestrated and composed. Do something different, be open-minded and go check out Symphony of the Goddesses!
Overture: Main Theme/Ballad of the Goddesses
Dungeons of Hyrule
Kakariko Village: Hope and Calm
Songs of the Hero: Morning Song/Song of Time/Serenade of Water/Song of Healing/
Song of Storms
Prelude: The Creation of Hyrule/Three Golden Goddesses
Movement 1: Ocarina of Time
Movement 2: The Wind Waker
Movement 3: Twilight Princess
Movement 4: A Link to the Past
Ballad of the Wind Fish
Suite of Majora’s Mask
Review by Al Westlake