Monday, March 9, 2015

Concert Review: RePLAY - A Symphony of Heroes

Last night, Conklederp and I had the pleasure to attend the Oregon Symphony at Arlene Schnitzer Hall (locally referred to as the "Schnitz" I just found out) with what appeared to me to be a full house.  The music being performed was not that of Beethoven, Bach, Tchaikovsky, Hayden or Glass, but of Soule, Curry, Uematsu, Mitsuda and Yamane.  It was a symphony of music written for video games.  It was very nearly everything my 15 year old self was asking for regarding the recognition of video game music all the way back in 1995.

"RePLAY" is the followup to"Play!," a video game concert series that ran from 2006 through 2010.  For whatever reason, I was never able to attend any of the "Play!" performances, although I assume that if I were to go back and look through my Google calendar I might find that my schedule never coincided with a close-by performance.  This year, RePLAY currently has a very limited schedule with the only other listed performance being in Phoenix, AZ in June.  If you are within travelling distance of that Arizonian town, I highly recommend attending.

I will not list all of the songs that were performed during the concert as that information is available on RePLAY's website, but I will say that there were some surprises.  When I first heard that there was going to be narration between each piece, I was a little put off.  I wanted the night to be about the music, that someone could sit back and listen the music from a video game and enjoy it for the music's sake.  Well, whomever they hired to do the writing did a fantastic job and the narration, although canned, was done by Nigel Carrington, the narrator from Dear Esther.  For me that added quite a lot of credibility to what could have ended up being very cheesy in all the wrong ways.

Another surprise was that bookending every piece was music from Dear Esther composed by Jessica Curry.  This threw me a bit because here you have music from a game that was very well received by "critics," it is not what the larger video game audience would call a video game.  To receive this kind of recognition while featuring music from such franchises as Mass Effect, Halo, Castlevania, and The Elder Scrolls was huge, not only for Jessica Curry but for The Chinese Room, the makers of Dear Esther (as well as co-creators of Amnesia: A Machine for Pigs and the upcoming Everybody's Gone to the Rapture).

After the performance, both Conklederp and I commented about the selection of games that where chosen and the apparently lack of Nintendo.  While some of the selections from Castlevania, Chrono Trigger / Cross and Kingdom Hearts were released on Nintendo platforms, none have been exclusive titles such as Journey or Shadow of the Colossus.  I must admit that I was a little sad that there was nothing from The Legend of Zelda, Super Mario Bros. or Metroid, but someone with a different gaming background could say the same about there not being any music from Sonic the Hedgehog, Call of Duty, or World of Warcraft.  But selecting music from a catalogue of well over I don't know how many games ever made and being able to secure the rights from their respective studio (and/or composer) and publicly perform that music to a paying audience probably has some limitations.  In the end, I knew music from eight of the 19 featured games and those that I did not know or recognize, were still beautifully performed by a great orchestra.

Since beginning in 2004 with "Dear Friends - Music from Final Fantasy," video game music performed in the United States has seen some growth and recognition [citation needed] and I can only hope that it will continue to do so with it reaching, at least, the status that film soundtracks from composers such as John Williams, James Horner, Michael Kamen, and John Barry have been given. There is still a ways to go, but I would like to think we are headed long the right path.


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