Behind the Magic: Zelda’s Symphony of the Goddesses

Toronto is one of the few Canadian cities selected to host The Legend of Zelda: Symphony of the Goddesses.

Symphony of the Goddesses is a four movement symphony conducted by Irish maestro Eimear Noone with music direction by Chad Seiter. I was fortunate to be in attendance for the sold out show at the Sony Center here in Toronto. To put it simply, the evening was a fantastic musical journey through one of the most beloved game franchises of all time. Before the overture I got a chance to speak with both Eimear Noone and Chad Seiter about how the symphony came to be, the importance of videogame music, and of course their favorite games.

Comics & Gaming Magazine: Eimear, being from Ireland what brought you out here to North America and how did you first begin working with videogame music?

Eimear Noone: Well, I had just finished my undergraduate studies and I took a course in orchestration for film and games and was hired as an assistant by composer Jason Hayes and ended up going out to LA to work on World of Warcraft with him. So that’s what brought me out. Really it was games that brought me out.

CGM: Now Chad, you may be young, but are by no means new to composing music. In the past you’ve worked with Oscar winning composers like Michael Giacchino and now the music of Koji Kondo who’s a legend in his own right. What’s it like for you to work with so many amazing people and how does that rub off on you as an artist?

Chad Seiter: You know, I don’t get asked that too much. I really like this question, when I get to talk about the film side of my life. I think that that’s the most important part of my life and is why I was able to do stuff like Symphony of the Goddesses. What I wanted to do was musically take the Zelda story and re-create it so it sounded like you were listening to a film score. So you felt the drama and it told the story, because a film score is a different representation of a film’s story. So I asked myself, “What if Zelda were a film? What would the score sound like?” In doing this you kind of have to reinterpret these melodies which are amazing and epic and it’s really just sensational material. So to take those and organize it into a film score was great, because I got to deconstruct it, bring it down to the bare-bones of melody and chords and then I would start from the ground up and start adding stuff back in and now I feel it’s a much more tense piece. In the game it was looped and they used it a hundred times, but now it’s being used the way it was meant to be.

CGM: How did you both get involved with Nintendo and begin working on Symphony of the Goddesses?

CS: We kind of took it right to Nintendo. We came up with the idea, me and Jeron Moore who is the producer of the show. We sat down and decided that this is what we wanted to do, we organized and did some demos. We then went to Jason Micheal Paul who knew a bunch of people at Nintendo marketing and pitched it to him and they loved the idea. Then it just shot up the ranks of the company all the way up to Koji Kondo and even Miyamoto himself and they said “that sounds great, let’s do that.”. This was one of the first times, if not the first time, that Nintendo’s ever welcomed a third party.

EN: The team knew my background in game scores and in film scores and I had produced a show with my husband, composer Craig Garfinkle, at Royce Hall in LA called This is Ireland. I did it because I’m Irish and I was sick of people asking me silly questions about being Irish. So I went okay, this is Ireland, and that’s not (laughs). So I had been talking to the Zelda team about being part of the project, and had invited them to the show, and they asked me that night if I would be the conductor for Symphony of the Goddesses.

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CGM: I understand that bringing classical and orchestral music to new audiences is very important to you. Do you feel that using the music of videogames is an effective way of bringing new people into the classical music scene?

EN: Absolutely! Gamers spend so much time with this music, and the symphonic sound. They play every single day while listening to orchestral music, it’s amazing. So, it should be a lot easier now to say that this language didn’t just come out of thin air, it has this whole back story going back hundreds and hundreds of years. I’m a huge music fan across the genres, and my family aren’t professional musicians, so I’m always explaining how excited I am about music and the orchestra in layman’s terms because it’s so exciting. I want everyone to enjoy it and experience and feel the passion that we feel on stage.

CGM: How is Symphony of the Goddess different from last year’s series of shows celebrating the 25th anniversary of the Legend of Zelda?

CS: With the 25th anniversary show Koji Kondo was very involved and we did three shows, one in London, one in Tokyo and one in Los Angeles. With that Kondo-san had done a bunch of arrangements of his own and we had two movements of the Symphony of the Goddesses with the intention that this would become a spin off series. Symphony of the Goddesses specifically tells the story of the Legend of Zelda.

CGM: The score from the Zelda series is one that many people have very fond memories of. As the conductor what’s it like to took out into the audience and see their faces as the theme from Kokiri Forrest starts up?

EN: It’s very moving, it’s so special, and I appreciate every single one of them. I love seeing people come out in their costumes, and I love seeing families. I love seeing the orchestra treated the way Zelda fans treat them. Which is how I feel about the orchestra. They get treated like rock stars by the fans. The orchestra is then looking out into this audience and seeing how much this music means to these fans and there’s this loop of emotion going in the room and I’m right in the middle of it, I get the best seat in the house. It’s very special and it’s a very unique experience.

CGM: I was going to ask what your favorite videogame was but I have a feeling you’ll say one of the Zelda titles so I’ll be more specific. Which entry in the Zelda series is your favorite?

CS: A Link to the Past, because I was so young and it was the first game that was like a puzzle challenge, and it made me feel smart that I was finally smart enough to be able to beat it.

CGM: Eimear, I know you’ve worked with Blizzard and are now working with Nintendo so I’m curious to know what is your favorite videogame?

EN: Oh that’s difficult. I’m very partial towards Skyward Sword because we did record the disc that came with the game and I’m very nostalgic and sentimental about it. But I really love Diablo, it’s very dark, it’s very very dark. (whispering) But I’m probably not supposed to say that. So let’s say Skyward Sword.

CGM: Eimear, your secret is safe with me and the readers of C&G Magazine.

Thank you very much to Eimear Noone and Chad Seiter for speaking to us. The Symphony of the Goddesses is still on tour, for more information or to find a performance date near you please visit