On Sunday, November 5, I got to experience one of the most mesmerizing magical times of my life: The Symphony of the Goddesses. Around 2 p.m. my dad and I started our three-hour-long trek to Columbus, Ohio from our small town in the middle of nowhere in West Virginia. Having only been to Columbus once before, just the journey on its own was exciting — not withstanding what we were actually heading to Columbus for! We made sure to leave early since we didn’t know what traffic was going to be like. The road proved uneventful, and we made it with plenty of time to spare.
Having never experienced a concert or symphony of any kind, I figured that the best place for me to start would be to go to one focused upon something that I loved: The Legend of Zelda. I missed out on Symphony of the Goddesses when it first came around, and I promised myself that I would make sure to attend at some point. My luck seemed to have paid off when I realized it was coming to Columbus. I started planning for it months in advance. Being a student, I tried to make sure that my schedule worked out — as I had school the next day — but lucky for me my classes the following Monday wouldn’t start until 1 p.m. That was a blessing as it was certainly a long trip; I didn’t get home until nearly 1 a.m. the next day, but I made a six-hour journey out of it and I would gladly do so again.
Once arriving I had the wonderful privilege of going backstage and speaking with the producer Jason Michael Paul for a few minutes. He spoke of how he met Koji Kondo at an event and even got to hear him play piano. I told him of my intention to work for Nintendo someday, and he mentioned that it was vitally important to be bilingual. Unfortunately, I haven’t had much luck at learning new languages, but I took his words to heart and gained more motivation to keep working at them. I was also delighted to learn that his daughter and I share a name.
Afterwards people began arriving and the line stretched blocks down the street. Night was falling outside but I was able to take quite a few photographs once we got into better lighting. While in the lobby, I had the privilege of meeting a great group of girls from the Tumblr page Growing Up Gerudo, which runs a Zelda webcomic.
There was a ton of great merchandise, such as the Wind Waker baton, T-shirts, posters, the program for the show, and even a tote bag! I wanted to get something, but the lines were super long, and I didn’t want to miss any of the amazing show. As such, we went into the theater right away, taking our seats near the middle of the theater with a clear vantage point of the orchestra.
The Ohio Theater — the venue for the show — is a national landmark, and it was easy to see why. I really felt transported backwards in time where I could imagine people coming to see plays and enjoying the lavish environment. The building was certainly as grand as the Symphony itself and created a complementing atmosphere.
The show itself was beyond words, but I’ll do my best to explain. The symphony is comprised of four movements, and the performance is intricately synched to a screen that shows off gameplay footage of the various Zelda games relevant to the movement they’re playing. Although having never attended a concert, and having not looked at the lineup of the symphony, I had few expectations. Generally I was very pleased. However, I was hoping they would have played Gerudo Valley from Ocarina of Time, one of my favorite melodies. I feel that it was a very powerful piece that spoke of the harsh desert dwellers from which the Evil King rose. Although it wasn’t featured, the music was so wonderfully composed that it wasn’t missed. A nice touch was when the conductor came out with the Wind Waker baton to conduct the Wind Waker movement of the symphony. The Wind Waker was the first Zelda game I played despite having a Nintendo 64 before getting a GameCube, so that section was very moving. It’s the little things like that which enhance the overall performance and experience.
There was nothing about the symphony that I disliked. All the pieces were so magically fused together that I transported right back into the game every time. At many points, I found myself moved to tears and overcome by the emotions of reliving many of the spectacular moments of my childhood. A very poignant moment for me was when they played the music from Ganon’s Tower from Ocarina of Time as it called me back to when I was ascending the tower to face the Evil King himself. I’ll never forget reaching the top where he stops playing his organ, dramatically swishes his cape, and yells, “These toys are too much for you!” The symphony captured that feeling so well and matched the music perfectly to the scene.
Before I knew it, the symphony was over. All in all it only lasted about two hours, but I was immeasurably lost in the swirling sounds. The selection featured most of the games: Skyward Sword, The Wind Waker, Ocarina of Time, Majora’s Mask, A Link to the Past, A Link Between Worlds, Twilight Princess, Link’s Awakening, and Breath of the Wild. One of my favorite things was that the Hyrule Castle Theme appeared multiple times: shortly during A Link Between Worlds and The Wind Waker but fully during A Link to the Past. Its grandiose melodies made me feel as if I was in the castle myself. Twilight Princess’ orchestrated soundtrack lent itself well to being performed, and the night theme for Hyrule Field made me feel as if I was on horseback surveying the area around Kakariko Village. Perhaps because of the prevalence of horses in Breath of the Wild and the featuring of footage of Loftwings from Skyward Sword, I realized suddenly during the performance that Skyward Sword didn’t have horses! Instead we got colorful birds with the exact same mechanics but flying. The symphony was truly a masterpiece.
Some of the musical choices I found surprising. Towards the end of the show, “The Ballad of the Wind Fish” from Link’s Awakening was featured. But if I had thought about it more, both A Link to the Past and A Link Between Worlds were featured so it made since. I was also surprised by the Goron City theme from Breath of the Wild. They played the main theme, and it was spectacular so I was curious as to what else would be played. I imagine Goron City was chosen because of its loud and imposing sound that comes across well in an orchestra. The other town themes had a different atmosphere and were much more mellow and soft so they probably wouldn’t have had such a dramatic impact. I do think it would have been interesting if they had played the Stone Talus theme, but that may have been too unrecognizable.
But just as the end of a game is reached, and we put Ganon to rest again and again, so too must the symphony end. Although it was only beginning to rain when we arrived, a large storm came through so we got quite wet getting back to the car. We drove home through the rain, but we discovered an IHOP Express, just one of the only nine in the United States, and stopped to get pancakes. This interesting find added another unique touch to the journey and made a sweet end to an immensely satisfying night.
If you haven’t seen Symphony of the Goddess I highly encourage you to go. The Legend of Zelda means something different to all of us, and the symphony truly believes itself to be the best, whether anyone is a fan of The Legend of Zelda or not. It’s a unique experience and a unique journey that brings about the greatest things about not only the game but inside yourself as well. As for me, I feel more energized than ever to chase my goal of getting to Nintendo and working on the game so very dear to my heart.