My First Concert with the Montclair Gamer Symphony Orchestra

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Published December 5, 2016
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The Montclarion
Photo courtesy of Montclair Gamer Symphony Orchestra (Facebook)
Photo courtesy of Montclair Gamer Symphony Orchestra (Facebook)

Photo courtesy of Montclair Gamer Symphony Orchestra (Facebook)

I’m no stranger to performing music for a large audience. Throughout middle school and high school, I played clarinet for symphonic band and learned the value of practice and cooperation with other players. However, before joining the Montclair Gamer Symphony Orchestra, I had little prior knowledge of playing video game music at an orchestral level. After playing my first concert last month, I can best describe the experience as nothing short of captivating and inspiring.

Founded in 2014 by conductor Alyssa Menes, the orchestra is comprised of a wide array of instruments, including woodwinds, strings, brass and percussion. The chorus director, Jorge Fuentes, works with vocalists for a number of songs, and Matt Weber, the assistant conductor, also accompanies the group with wonderful piano playing. The orchestra performs video game music across multiple consoles and generations, with pieces from The Legend of Zelda, Metal Gear Solid and Castlevania, to name a few.

From my first rehearsal, the inner gaming enthusiast in me was mesmerized by the sheer talent and dedication of the orchestra. I’ve listened to most of the songs dozens of times and played nearly every game we focused on, but symphonic compositions made them feel fresh and new. I couldn’t help but crack a smile each time we played a song I was particularly fond of, such as the comical use of kazoos and banjo during our Banjo Kazooie medley. As I anxiously awaited my first formal concert with the orchestra, I hoped we could provide an exciting experience for gamers and non-gamers alike.

While I sat beside my fellow musicians, my nerves began to kick in, as it dawned on me that this was the first concert I’d played in four years. Our concert was even appearing live on the popular video game streaming website, Twitch. I managed to find my comfort zone when I looked out into the crowd to see dozens of beaming faces and people bobbing their heads back and forth to the beat of the music. I often had to remind myself to pay attention to the conductor, rather than focusing on a grandmother joyfully dancing in her seat near the front row.

Each time the next song was announced, there was a collective cheer from the gamers in the audience and a look of curiosity and wonder among parents and grandparents. From the thunderous brass and vocal chanting of The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim, to the fun and lighthearted spirit of our Animal Crossing medley, there was something for everyone in the audience to appreciate.

With an upcoming concert in the spring and new members joining over time, the Montclair Gamer Symphony Orchestra has a bright future ahead of it. I’ve seen live orchestrated video game music in concert before, but having the opportunity to actually play alongside other passionate musicians was an experience I will always cherish. I can only wait in anticipation for our next thrilling performance.

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