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This article was published 27/6/2009 (2978 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.
Millions of today's kids, teens and young adults have their emotions stirred every day by regal horns, soaring violins and haunting woodwinds.
They're even getting hooked by glorious choral music.
Unbeknownst to many parents, the soundtracks of video games -- once limited to electronic blips and beeps -- have evolved into sophisticated orchestral scores, some as majestic as classic film scores.
A year ago, the Winnipeg Symphony Orchestra performed Video Games Live (VGL), a touring production in which a local orchestra performs video-game music, accompanied by a laser light show, appearances by video-game characters and synchronized game clips on a giant screen.
The family-friendly show was such a success, it's back as a three-night festival, July 6-8 at the Centennial Concert Hall. The WSO, joined by the Prairie Voices choir, will perform on the first and third nights as part of its one-week 2009 summer season.
The second night, July 7, centres around a Guitar Hero competition among audience members. The champion will get to "perform" the Aerosmith song Sweet Emotion on the game with the WSO live on July 8.
Orchestra member Jauvon Gilliam had a great time performing VGL last year. The 29-year-old timpani (kettle drum) player, originally from Indiana, has been a gamer himself since his college days.
"I had a blast," he says. "I had played quite a few of those games, Final Fantasy being probably my favourite of all time. A lot of that music was very familiar to me.
"I think anything that brings in that many young people is something we should be doing. Diversifying our clientele is something we have to do."
Since its debut performance in 2005 with the Los Angeles Philharmonic, VGL has been seen by more than 300,000 people around the world.
The music comes from popular game franchises such as Mario, Zelda, Final Fantasy, Kingdom Hearts, Warcraft, Halo and Metal Gear Solid. There's also a medley of old-school arcade-game soundtracks.
One incentive for fans to buy a three-day festival pass is that at least half the music will differ between the two concert nights.
The show's producers also promise that at least half the material differs from last year. New game themes this year include Chrono Trigger, Metroid and StarCraft II -- a game that hasn't been released yet.
Tommy Tallarico, 41, is the co-creator of VGL. A cousin of Aerosmith singer Steven Tyler (whose real name is Steven Tallarico), he's a self-taught composer who ranks as one of the world's top video-game music minds.
There's no question VGL is attracting a new generation to live orchestral music, Tallarico says by phone from California. He receives emails, he says, from parents whose children announce at the breakfast table the morning after the show that they want violin lessons.
"The whole idea of the show, when I created it, was to prove to the world how culturally significant and artistic video games had become.... The folks who are familiar with the symphony (but not with video games) are the ones who are most entertained and surprised by the performance.
"The music is very complex and difficult and emotional and powerful."
Tallarico hosts the performance and plays guitar for a portion of it. Co-creator/producer Jack Wall conducts the orchestra. The concert, Tallarico says, lets young people scream and applaud for an orchestra the way they do for rock acts, rather than sit quietly and "golf clap."
The show includes an interactive segment in which an audience volunteer dons a motion-tracking shirt and gets to control a character live on the giant screen. Meanwhile, the orchestra has to change its tune on the fly.
The musicians wear headsets to hear both Wall's instructions and a rhythmic "click track" that keeps them in sync with the projected video. With each move by the gamer, the musicians have to jump to another spot in the sheet music.
Doesn't the VGL team encounter some musicians who roll their eyes -- or look down their noses -- at the whole concept?
"I'd be lying if I said we didn't," says Tallarico. "The first time we play with an orchestra, a lot of players are kind of apprehensive, as well they should be. They're kind of going, 'Sonic the Hedgehog? World of Warcraft? This isn't Stravinsky!'
"Once they (rehearse) the music, you can see them all start to nod their heads, like, 'This is actually great music.' Then when the halls are sold out and it's young people, and they're screaming and cheering and clapping... we'll get players coming up to us and saying, 'You know, I've been playing the oboe for over 50 years professionally, and I've never, ever had a reception like this.' They get tears in their eyes."
WSO summer season
The Winnipeg Symphony Orchestra introduced a brief summer season last year. The concept has been expanded for 2009. The orchestra's 65 members, who have been on holidays since mid-May, are reconvening for six performances. Half are free outdoor concerts -- just the kind of summer show that young timpani player Jauvon Gilliam thinks the WSO should offer.
"It's our duty as a civic ensemble to bring our music to the masses," says Gilliam, 29. "Enjoy a nice picnic and some great music. It makes a great date."
Canada Day at The Forks
July 1, 9:45 p.m., Scotiabank Stage
Conductor: Alexander Mickelthwate
The WSO plays the last set at the free Canada Day concert, performing popular classics like Verdi's Anvil Chorus. Local folk band The Duhks will join the orchestra for several songs. The show ends with fireworks timed to Tchaikovsky's 1812 Overture, a piece written to include cannonfire. Full fireworks go off after the performance at 11 p.m.
Dee Dee Bridgewater with the WSO
July 2, 8 p.m., Centennial Concert Hall
Conductor: Alexander Mickelthwate
Tickets $45 at Ticketmaster
Grammy-winning jazz singer Dee Dee Bridgewater performs with the WSO as part of the Jazz Winnipeg Festival.
Kenora's Keewatin Homecoming Celebration
July 4, 7:30 p.m., Harbourfront in Kenora
Conductor: Rei Hotoda
Free Kenora concert with the WSO performing Tchaikovsky's 1812 Overture, Verdi's Anvil Chorus and film music by John Williams, as well as Guess Who tunes and selections from the musical Hair. The show ends with fireworks.
WSO at the Lyric Theatre
July 5, 7 p.m., Assiniboine Park Lyric Theatre
Conductor: Rei Hotoda
Free concert with the WSO performing music by John Williams, the Guess Who, the musical Hair and more. The night ends with the 1812 Overture, with live artillery courtesy of the Royal Winnipeg Rifles. This is the farewell performance for departing assistant conductor Hotoda.
Video Games Live (VGL) Festival
July 6-8, 8 p.m., Centennial Concert Hall
Conductor: VGL co-creator Jack Wall
Tickets for July 6 or 8, $65, $49.50 or $35 at Ticketmaster or WSO.
Three-day pass, $99. You must have either a ticket for July 6 or 8 or a three-day pass to attend July 7.
All three nights at 6 p.m., there's a pre-show festival presented by Future Shop where fans can try out games. Fans are encouraged to dress up and there are costume prizes.
The WSO, with the Prairie Voices choir, performs on July 6 and 8.
On July 7, the WSO does not perform. The all-ages Guitar Hero qualifying round starts at 6 p.m. There is no pre-registration; arrive early for the best chance of competing. At the end of the night, the top eight scorers battle it out on stage for the opportunity to perform Aerosmith's Sweet Emotion with the WSO on July 8.
At 8 p.m. on July 7, there's a performance by local video-game cover band Mode 7 and a Q & A panel discussion with VGL creators Tommy Tallarico and Jack Wall, as well as other industry insiders.
For more information, go to www.videogameslive.com