It makes me very happy to see concerts starting to appear again as the pandemic seems to be coming to an end. This is not only true for me, to be able to write about something other than album reviews, but also for the audience who can get out of their house and enjoy live music, and I should, of course, not forget the orchestras and other musicians, who finally get to perform again. For my second live concert of this year, after the FMF last month, I didn’t even have to travel very far, since my hometown orchestra, The North Netherlands Orchestra (NNO), had planned another game music concert after a wonderful first edition back in 2017.
Many things were different for this concert. There was, for example, more music on the program and it included an intermission this time, but other things stayed the same. Game ambassador and developer Rami Ismail had been reinvited as a host to inform the audience about all kinds of trivia about the people making the games and the music for them. The first piece “I Was Born for This” from Journey was also a repeat from the first edition, including the wonderful soothing voice of Julie Elven performing the song. After a suite from “Assassin’s Creed IV Black Flag,” which is a piece I have heard a couple of times before at different concerts, I could listen to a completely new cue for me, “Unforgotten” from Halo 2. I was quite impressed by the emotional play by the strings and the piano. It was a gorgeous introduction of this piece, which transitioned into the iconic main theme from the game.
The next piece sounded very familiar, because it reminded me a lot of the music from Conan the Barbarian. When I had a look at the program during the intermission, I had to laugh a little, because it was the main theme from the game Conan Exiles from the same universe. After the eerie sounds of “The Ocean on his Shoulders” and the gorgeous violin solo of “Welcome to Rapture,” both from Bioshock, we could listen to music from Secret of Mana, which was an unknown piece to me that I should explore. For the final piece of the first half Julie Elven returned to the stage to sing the unnerving “Lullaby of Woe” from The Witcher 3: Blood and Wine.
After the intermission we could listen to a suite from Bloodborne, a sinister sounding piece, to which Elven’s soothing voice added an extra layer to the darkness. The suite from Wing Commander that followed formed quite a contrast, because it sounded quite uplifting and heroic. After two classics, the main theme from Final Fantasy and a suite from Shadow of Colossus, we could experience the gorgeous and very emotional “All Gone” from The Last of Us, wonderfully performed by the first cellist and some other members of the orchestra.
With Julie Elven present, music of Horizon: Zero Dawn had to be performed. We could listen to two individual tracks from the soundtrack at the concert four years ago, but this time we were treated to a suite with music from the game, including the magnificent “Aloy’s Theme.” After a joyful-sounding medley from Sonic the Hedgehog, the orchestra performed the music from a game that was also featured four years ago. During that concert it played “Dragonborn” from Skyrim, which is a fantastic piece but does not work very well without a choir. For this concert we could listen to Elven sing “The Dragonborn Comes” from the same game which worked much better.
After a standing ovation, including loud applause and cheering, the orchestra was happy to do an encore, and they opted for the song “Snake Eater” from Metal Gear Solid 3. This James Bond-sounding song was a perfect conclusion to an excellent concert.
When a game music concert gets announced in the Netherlands, I am always a bit anxious about whether it will be successful or not. Orchestras playing music from movies and games in the Netherlands are still not common, and I am always a bit scared that I may be the only person in the audience, but when I entered the venue, I noticed many people in the lobby. Not only were there many interested guests, I was also one of the oldest, and I loved the fact that some young children were entering the concert hall with one of their parents, but also groups of friends with glasses of beer, who were ready for an evening filled with entertainment.
It looked like NNO’s first game music concert was an event to test the waters, it being a short one, with no intermission, and only being performed in Groningen. With this concert they took a leap of faith, with the help of Underscore Productions, and not only turned it into a regular-length concert with an intermission, they also did the same concert the next day in Drachten. Hopefully NNO will be planning more of these kinds of concerts. Not only did the audience have a wonderful time, I also saw many happy faces on stage, including Rami Ismail, Julie Elven and conductor Arjan Tien, who conducted the orchestra brilliantly with good focus and great enthusiasm. This event was a marvelous showcase of an irregular concert for a symphony orchestra, and it proved that there is an audience for those. I hope we will get many more of these concerts soon. The North Netherlands Orchestra is definitely on the right track.
Where: Oosterpoort in Groningen, the Netherlands
When: September 23, 2021
Orchestra: The North Netherlands Orchestra conducted by Arjan Tien
Vocalist: Julie Elven
Host: Rami Ismail
- Austin Wintory – “I was Born for This” from Journey
- Brian Tyler – Suite from Assassin’s Creed IV: Black Flag
- Martin O’Donnell – “Unforgotten” from Halo 2
- Martin O’Donnell – Main theme from Halo
- Knut Avenstroup Haugen – Main theme from Conan Exiles
- Manami Matsumae, Takashi Tateishi, Yasuaki Fujita, Harumi Fujita – Suite from Mega Man
- Garry Schyman – Bioshock
- The Ocean on his Shoulders
- Welcome to Rapture
- Hiroki Kikuta – “Fear Of The Heavens” from Secret Of Mana
- Marcin Przybylowicz – “Lullaby of Woe” from The Witcher 3: Blood and Wine
- Ryan Amon – Suite from Bloodborne
- George Sanger – Suite from Wing Commander
- Nobuo Uematsu – Main theme from Final Fantasy VII
- Kow Otani – Suite from Shadow of the Colossus
- Gustavo Santaolalla – “All Gone” from The Last of Us
- Joris de Man – Suite from Horizon: Zero Dawn
- Masato Nakamura – Medley from Sonic the Hedgehog
- Jeremy Soule – “The Dragonborn Comes” from The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim
- Norihiko Hibino – “Snake Eater” from Metal Gear Solid 3 (encore)