BY CHRISTOPHER LEON
Like video games?
The score to The Legend of Zelda, originally led by composer Koji Kondo, is one of the most famous soundtracks in the world of Nintendo. And that’s why 30 years of Zelda has been set to orchestra and chorus, and will be showcased in a two-hour symphonic event this week.
Conducted by Jessica Gethin, The Legend of Zelda: Symphony of the Goddess will feature a new movement from The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword, along with the franchise’s A Link Between Worlds, Twilight Princess HD, Majora’s Mask 3D, Ocarina of Time 3D and A Link to the Past. With video accompaniment, the music will bring a gamer’s adventure into the Sydney Opera House.
The mastermind behind the show is Jason Michael Paul, who worked with the team at Nintendo to bring this to life.
How did you first get involved with Nintendo and the world of Zelda?
My first involvement with Nintendo and the world of Zelda began with the original NES and original The Legend of Zelda. The gold cartridge was where my involvement with Nintendo and Zelda began over 30 years ago.
As a professional, I got involved with Nintendo and Zelda when I conceptualised the creation of another concert titled PLAY! A Video Game Symphony. That concert featured Zelda, Mario, and Metroid. Nintendo was gracious enough to have Mr Kondo perform on stage and attend the premiere concert in Chicago back in 2006.
How did you orchestrate the 8-bit and 16-bit music to suit a full orchestra?
We were able to achieve this by bringing on the most passionate Zelda fans, combined with some of the best musical minds that work in Hollywood, on some of the most famous orchestral soundtracks of our generation. We also collaborated very closely with Mr Kondo and his musical team.
What did you learn working with the original Zelda composers led by Koji Kondo, and franchise producer Eiji Aonuma?
Mr Kondo and Mr Aonuma are very hands-on in everything that they do. Once the trust was established, they allowed us creative license so long as it stays true to the original.
The idea from the beginning was to create a reimagined score that can stand on its own but not stray to far off course from the originals. As long as we stay true to that, we can continue to be successful in the eyes of Nintendo. Ultimately, everything that is performed is blessed by Mr Kondo and Mr Aonuma. After the approvals are handed down, they are pretty hands off.
What was their reaction to reliving their iconic scores in a full orchestral setting?
These are some of the most humble and appreciative persons I have ever met. We strive to exceed their expectations and continue to make them proud. After so many shows, the energy and enthusiasm for Zelda is still at the same height, if not even more. And for that, they react with great appreciation and continued support.
What is it like performing the show with different orchestras at each location?
It is always a challenge, but we have a tremendous amount of pre-production that goes into the preparation of the orchestras and hours that we work with. We have all the parts sent digitally well in advance of the shows so that the musicians and singers can prepare to perform the music. We also have a click track system so that we can keep everything in sync, and the train on the tracks. This enables us to keep every performance consistent and at the highest performance level.
So what are the challenges and experiences of this?
Perhaps the biggest challenge is the fact that we have very limited rehearsal time. It is live, so there are no points to fix mistakes or change something. Fortunately, we have a team of highly professional persons with years and years of performing shows that are live. Collectively, my team has done thousands of shows of this nature, and over 250 shows with The Legend of Zelda. Experience gives us a lot of calm since it is truly second nature. The music is the music, and the technology is always provided with a back-up. With this approach, we are able to minimise any potential mishaps.
Are you working with Nintendo to bring any of their other popular franchises to the stage?
Hopefully, there will be announcements made soon about future Nintendo franchises that will be presented similarly to The Legend of Zelda. Time will tell!
See producer Jason Michael Paul’s event The Legend of Zelda: Symphony of the Goddess on October 29 in the Sydney Opera House. Follow Jason on Twitter via @jmpentinc.