By Alex Wilking
Boston University News Service
Amy Andersson doesn’t play “The Legend of Zelda.” But she has immersed herself in the video game’s 8-bit melodies for most of her life with the help of her children.
“My two sons were avid gamers when they were younger, and Zelda was one of their favorite games,” Andersson said. “Zelda was in the background when I was cooking dinner. When we went on vacation, they brought all the cables and the Wii.”
Andersson is the principal conductor of “The Legend of Zelda: Symphony of the Goddesses,” a touring production that plays symphonic renditions of famous tunes from the franchise. Andersson joined the symphony as conductor in January 2015, and while she doesn’t play video games, she’s a huge fan of scores from games like “Final Fantasy” and “Chrono Trigger.”
Now the production is on a world tour with Andersson at the helm. “The Legend of Zelda: Symphony of the Goddesses” will perform its next show in Boston on February 23 at Symphony Hall.
The 2016 show is separated into four “movements,” ranging from notorious anthems from “The Legend of Zelda: The Ocarina of Time”—the fifth game in the Zelda series—to brand new compositions from “The Legend of Zelda: Tri Force Heroes,” the newest game in the series that came out last October for Nintendo 3DS. Visuals from the franchise display on a screen showing montages of gameplay behind the the orchestra while they perform.
“There are many moments during the show where I get choked up and get tears my eyes, because it’s so beautiful and touching,” Andersson said. “It touches our hearts on a deep level, so I feel that, too, even though I’m up there working and engaged. I feel all of that when I’m up there.”
Leading the symphony from behind the scenes is Jason Michael Paul, a renowned producer behind other video game performances such as “rePLAY: Symphony of Heroes.” Paul started “Symphony of the Goddesses” back in 2012 with the help from Nintendo. He oversees the entire performance, working with the company to finalize the setlist and make sure everything runs smoothly. The entire show, with intermission, runs about two and a half hours.
“Everything that’s included in the program is, at a point, where it’s everything that I want,” Paul said. “It’s everything I think the audience wants. I think it’s very well-rounded, and has a lot of additions as well. I’m a little bit of a perfectionist, so I’m very aware of the experience that we’re trying to deliver.”
“Symphony of the Goddesses” also appeared on “The Late Show with Stephen Colbert” earlier last October, when Andersson made one of her first major appearances as conductor.
“Everything about [the performance] was new for me,” Andersson said. “The musicians we had hired were some of the top musicians in New York, and they were terrific. And Stephen Colbert was just a delight. He has a fabulous sense of humor and a warm heart. Just standing a few feet away from him, I could feel his energy and who he was.”
When the 2016 tour comes to a close, both Andersson and Paul are planning future endeavors for the fall. Andersson is putting together her own show and hopes to sing and perform it in New York City later this year, while looking for another video game symphony to get involved with.
“I would love to conduct Final Fantasy,” Andersson said. “There are so many wonderful video games and music, but that’s on the top of my list. Halo, Bioshock, Chrono Trigger as well. The music has such vitality and vibrance — they’re such compelling scores. It’d be very gratifying to experience them through my work as a conductor.”
Paul says he has a number of ideas under production as well, though he says it’s premature to reveal details at this time. However, he does say that it’s safe to expect more video game symphonies in the near future.
“I’ve put forth some very wonderful ideas that I’m hopeful I’ll get the opportunity to produce,” Paul said. “Now it’s just a matter of getting the necessary permissions and getting the necessary parties involved, so we can continue to bring video game music to the masses.”