The National Symphony Orchestra teamed up with video game composers for a variety show hosted by Tommy Tallarico, a guitarist/musician who has been writing video game music for 23 years.
In Video Games Live: Bonus Round expert musicians and singers performed classical, choral and operatic selections as the video games from which they were drawn appeared on a huge screen behind them.
There can be a haunting beauty in the music, which has quick changes depending on the scene and what the player does. Though these numbers were mostly scripted, the orchestra seemed spontaneous under the baton of Emmanuel Fratianni, an award-winning composer who worked on The Amazing Spiderman movie.
Flutist Laura Intravia, a specialist in contemporary art-song, played the music from Donkey Kong on an electronic wind instrument. It was one of the most unusual musical interludes I have ever experienced.
I also liked it when they turned the videos off and the orchestra played the music from Super Mario Brothers. They gave it a distinctly American flavor with the exuberance of Leonard Bernstein and the rising intonations of a brassy New Orleans street band.
What I loved the most about the show was the audience. They clapped in unison when three opera singers featuring Jillian Aversa (the singer of Halo) sang ethereal crescendos going from trepidation to terror.
The lively fans also cheered along with people who were picked to play live video games on stage to the accompaniment of the orchestra. A young person named Henry was so good at Guitar Hero that the audience roared when he completed a particularly difficult sequence.
The two games with the biggest fandoms—kingdom of fans, my nephew Kirby Kelley explained—were Pokémon and The Legend of Zelda, which appeals to a lot of girl gamers (and there are many of them). And of course everyone loves PacMan.
Other music and games in the show included World of Warcraft Cataclysm, Journey, Diablo 3, and Tallarico’s personal favorite, Earthworm Jim, among many others, including hilarious mash-ups of old and new that reminded me of Bambi Meets Godzilla.
Video Games Live: Bonus Round!’ played for one-night-only on July 13, 2013 at The Filene Center at Wolf Trap -1645 Trap Road, in Vienna, VA. For future performances and Information, call (877) 965-3872, or check their calendar of events. For information about the Video Games Live tour, check their website.