I arrived early at the Barbican to collect my ticket for this concert, well aware that the previous Zelda concerts at Hammersmith Apollo had both had big crowds outside from early on. So I was surprised that there was not really anyone around that was going to the concert until about 5:30 (and these happened to all be people who knew about the 6pm talk with the arrangers). This probably prepared me for the fact that this concert was going to be quite different from the other concerts.
The pre-concert talk was quite interesting, despite the fact that the arrangers did not really give much away and just went through what was written in the programme. That said, I do really feel it succeeded in getting those that attended the talk in the mood for the concert. The arrangers also took some interesting questions from the crowd (again, despite that fact they did not give much away or go into much detail). The highlight from this part, for me, was when someone asked if the arrangers realised the date of the concert was the same day as the World Cup Final. To this they replied that they did not realise until about two minutes after the concert was announced, and also joked that the organiser had also questioned why this one date was free in a very jam packed calendar at the Barbican (although I don’t think it was much of an issue myself especially as there were some big acts playing elsewhere in London on the same night). Someone also made a joke about hoping the conductor stayed for the duration as he was German (Germany were in the final, and won, for those that don’t know).
The first part of the concert started with a piece called ‘Fanfare For The Common Eight-Bit Hero’, which the arrangers said, during the pre-concert talk, was to warm both the orchestra and audience up ready for the concert to get into full swing. The orchestra went on to play music from Skyward Sword (which was chosen to go first as it’s the first game in the Zelda timeline). The main themes from the game were there and the inclusion of the harp during many pieces helped to emphasise this. However, there were large elements of the tracks that were unrecognisable, as they had been extended to make them last for about 20 minutes. After this the orchestra went on to play music based on Wind Waker, along with the help of a folk music band called Spark (who, I have to say, made the night for me because of their energy and enthusiasm being so easy for everyone to see, even if they did get drowned out by the orchestra at some points during the concert).
After the interval the orchestral played a section the organisers called ‘The Legend of Zelda Symphonic Poem’ which I would say was hardly recognisable from any Zelda music apart from the main theme and other themes being heard here and there throughout the piece. I also found this part of the concert dragged a bit as it lasted for the whole second part of the concert, which I personally thought was a bit too long. I think it would have worked better if it was like the other Zelda concerts where they play the original themes as intended, but I’m sure there were others who loved the way this was.
Overall I’ve got to say I think this concert is a bit unfortunate to have come after the two officially endorsed Nintendo concerts as it did feel like a cheaper version of those events. This was due, in part, to the concert being on a smaller sale, and I also felt it suffered by omitting the inclusion of scenes from the games, which always helped set the scene for the audience. As a piece of orchestral and chorus music it was brilliant, but I do not think it celebrated its origins enough and was more about creating largely new pieces of music that greatly expanded the original themes from the Zelda games. I found the end results to be unexpected and mostly unrecognisable. The best part of the night for me was Spark, especially as two members of the group energetically played their recorders, which reminded me of both music and characters from the Zelda games. They also seemed really excited and were easy to watch, which made the audience smile and meant they got one of, if not, the biggest, applauses of the night. In conclusion I had a good night and I’m glad I went to the concert. That said, would I go if they were to do another Zelda-themed concert? I’ve got to say I’m not sure I would (where as I would definitely go to another official one).
~David Durban (nintyfandavid on Miiverse)
NB: This concert did have permission from Nintendo to use music from the Zelda series, which the arrangers said was hard to get, which indicates that Nintendo did endorse it but did not have any input with what the music that was actually produced.