By Connor Smith
Kendall Hall was cozily filled to the brim with both students and members of the community on Friday, Oct. 30, as an eager audience was ready to take part in a unique concert experience — the chance to see classic video game soundtracks and environments brought to life by the College’s wind ensemble.
The College’s music department presented “Pixel Music: Video Game Soundtracks in Concert,” conducted by David Vickerman. The concert also featured performances by the College’s Chorale, conducted by John Leonard.
“Video games have evolved faster than any art form,” Vickerman said.
Many classical orchestras around the world have found a following in video game fans who love being transported into worlds of fantasy and adventure.
As Vickerman’s silhouette made its way to the center of the stage, the audience anxiously awaited the first piece, “OneWinged Angel,” by Nobuo Uematsu, notably from the popular “Final Fantasy VII” game, released in 1997.
The piece began with thundering percussion that was followed by an equally menacing brass section. A projection of swirling clouds helped bring the world of “Final Fantasy” alive when paired with the iconic tune.
“I think I’ve heard that song more than I’d care to say,” Vickerman said in reference to the difficult boss battle that accompanied the piece in “Final Fantasy VII.”
“Theme from Myst III: Exile,” the second piece performed, was aided by a mountainous backdrop. The theme slowly intensified, which was boosted by a strong percussion performance.
“Bounty Hunter Theme” from the game “Advent Rising” followed immediately after as the lights were dimmed to a dark shade of orange to match the eerietone of the piece.
“The next piece isn’t from a video game,” said Vickerman in reference to “Yorkshire Ballad.” Vickerman then introduced Jason Verblaauw, a senior music education major, to conduct the piece. After a symbolic handing over of the baton, Verblaauw confidently conducted the ensemble through the rural piece. The slow flutes let out a soothing tone while the country feel couldn’t help but feel like home.
Vickerman returned to the stage after congratulating Verblaauw. He then introduced Suzanne Parker, a junior vocals major, who sang soprano for “I Was Born For This” from the game “Journey.”
“Banner Saga Suite” was the next piece, which was actually written for a wind ensemble, according to Vickerman.
“I was absolutely determined have us play this,” Vickerman said. “All of the other pieces were arranged for our use, aside from this piece.”
The first half of the concert concluded with the enchanting “Kingdom Hearts Overture” by Yoko Shimamura. The piece contrasted many of the earlier tunes highlighting an air of fantasy rather than destruction.
After a short intermission, Vickerman introduced two groups of students that composed their own original pieces, honoring the theme of “Tetris.”
“You’re about to witness a world premiere,” Vickerman said. Senior music education major Nicholas Parent then gave some background on the composition, “Serenade for Colored Blocks.”
“We essentially decided to chop the melody into small chunks,” Parent said. “We then made a section based on each chunk.”
The next group, who called themselves “Straight Outta Tetris,” composed a piece entitled “Fantasy on Korobeiniki,” which replaced popular Disney songs with the “Tetris” melody to create a unique fusion that had the audience laughing and applauding.
The anticipation in the room reached its climax as Vickerman began to introduce “Medley from The Legend of Zelda Ocarina of Time” by Koji Kondo. “The Legend of Zelda” soundtrack is so beloved that an official symphony tour based on the game has attracted huge mainstream attention.
“There was no way I was going to do this without ‘Legend of Zelda,’” Vickerman said. “It’s been called the lullaby of a generation.”
The medley did not disappoint as the hall appeared to fade into the lush rolling hills of Hyrule field as the ensemble powered through a large collection of tunes from the game.
“It gave me goosebumps,” said Evan Noone, a freshman technology education major.
The next piece was “Ballad of the Goddess” from “The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword.” Vickerman explained that he was inspired to include this piece while playing the game with his daughter.
Vickerman then introduced the TCNJ Chorale who joined the ensemble on stage to perform the main theme from “Halo.”
John Leonard, the chorale conductor, was then called onto the stage to guest conduct the piece “Baba Yetu” from “Civilization IV.” The piece featured lead tenor vocals from David Pauls, a senior physics major.
The final song on the program was “God of War: Revenge and Redemption” created by lead “God of War” composer Gerard Marino, who was then invited on the stage as a guest conductor.
After the piece concluded, Vickerman returned to the stage wearing the iconic red hat donner by Super Mario. The chorus quickly sported fake mustaches, and the ensemble began playing a surprise medley from the original “Super Mario Bros.”
The audience roared for the ensemble, the chorale and each of the conductors.