Video Game Orchestra
|Video Game Orchestra (VGO)|
Video Game Orchestra Logo
|Origin||Boston, United States|
|Genres||video game music, Progressive metal, progressive rock, symphonic rock, neo-classical metal, classical music, acoustic|
|Associated acts||Distant Worlds, Video Games Live, The Legend of Zelda: Symphony of the Goddesses|
Video Game Orchestra (VGO) is a Boston-based project that performs its own "rockestral" arrangements of video game music with a rock band, orchestra and choir. The project was created by Shota Nakama, an Okinawan-born producer who graduated from Berklee College of Music and The Boston Conservatory. Comparative to the other existing major video game concert acts, which mostly focus on the pure orchestral performances, the rock band element is the core essence of the VGO. Their concerts are presented as a rock show with entertaining audience engagement, improvised solos and 80's like show tricks on stage.
Formation & Debut
VGO became comprised by a group of Boston based musicians, both young and established talents from local communities, as well as talents from around the world. Nakama's own intentions with the group was to deliver something different and fresh to the worlds of both classical music and video games, and created an orchestra with a full rock band integrated to allow for a larger sound and more freedom creatively for both the performers and the arrangements, though the rock band would not make its debut until the second concert.
VGO's debut concert, A Night of Symphonic Video Game Music, was held at Gordon Chapel in Old South Church in Boston on July 2, 2008. The orchestra, or rather a small ensemble of 28 musicians, performed the music from popular titles such as Final Fantasy, Chrono Trigger, Chrono Cross, Legend of Mana, and Metal Gear Solid. Their second concert was held at Church of the Covenant of Boston on November 2, 2008, which also saw the addition of a choir.
VGO's concert on March 5 at the Berklee Performance Center was sold out and became a landmark for Berklee College of Music by being the very first concert of its kind that the school participated in. In attendance were four of America's most prolific video game composers, Jack Wall, Gerard Marino, Duncan Watt, and Keith Zizza with Wall conducting his own compositions with the VGO. It received heavy promotion and the orchestra was featured on NECN News, Boston Globe, and numerous other papers, radio stations, and websites around the world.
On May 7, 2009, Independent Game Conference hosted VGO as its closing event and was held at Fenway Center in Boston. This concert featured the VGO chamber group outfit for the first time in a very intimate acoustic setting.
The group was asked to perform at Anime Boston as the opening act for the main musical guest, Kalafina and Yuki Kajiura. The concert was held at Hynes Convention Center Auditorium on May 23, 2009. VGO featured its chamber group along with the rock band. To honor the presence of Yuki Kajiura, they included an Anime song from Tsubasa Chronicle that Kajiura composed in their set list. VGO also had a special appearance at the end of the Music for Video Games workshop at Berklee College of Music. Norihiko Hibino, a composer from the Metal Gear Solid franchise, attended the concert.
After a year of experimenting with different performance styles, the VGO decided to return to their full orchestra size for their big show in their home town of Boston. The concert entitled ~Awakening~ was held at the Berklee Performance Center and took place on December 5, 2009. ~Awakening~ featured an accomplished film/game composer, Wataru Hokoyama.
During PAX East 2010 at Hynes Convention Center in March 2010, VGO was featured as one of seven musical guests, performing alongside more visible and tenured performers such as Jonathan Coulton and The Protomen. Starting the proceedings on the first day of concerts, their performance was hailed as the best of the night. Capped with a standing ovation and incessant chants. The show was so successful that PAX East has invited the group back each year since.
VGO returned for Anime Boston at Hynes Convention Center on April 2, 2010, this time with its full group unlike the previous year. The convention guest of honor, Nobuo Uematsu, had a surprise appearance on One Winged Angel during the encore, marking one of the very first time the famous composer has performed alongside a video game cover band.
2011 & Breakthrough
During 2011, VGO reached another milestone by performing at the Boston Symphony Hall which marked the very first time that video game music would be featured as a main draw in the venue. The show was titled Back to the Future ~Rockestral Renditions of Timeless Video Game and Film Music~ and sold out all tickets within only days, and was attended by music industry legends such as Alan Silvestri and Howard Shore. The show was a monumental success, and gained VGO nationwide coverage and high praise from the music communities.
The group spent the rest of the year touring conventions and video game festivals, including making their first appearance at PAX Prime in Seattle on January 13, 2011.
2012: Distant Worlds, Kickstarter and China Tour
After Nakama appeared as a special guest during a concert in Pittsburgh on February 25, VGO was personally selected by conductor Arnie Roth as the orchestra to perform the world touring Distant Worlds program on their tour stop in Boston, officially sanctioned by Square Enix and based on the legendary Final Fantasy video game franchise. The concert was held on March 10 in Boston Symphony Hall, and gained high praise and sold out within mere days of tickets being put on sale.
After several convention shows, a new concert was announced in August titled ~Live At Symphony Hall~, and would see VGO return to Boston Symphony Hall after their success with Distant Worlds. Uniquely, a Kickstarter campaign was launched at the same time as the concert was announced in order to fund an official live recording album, to be released in Spring of 2013. Setting the goal amount at $30,000, the campaign would in the end go past the projected end sum and raise over $37,000.
~Live At Symphony Hall~ was held on October 7. The event was sold out, and in attendance was 4 of Japan's most prolific names in the video game music industry, Kinuyo Yamashita, Yoko Shimomura, Noriyuki Iwadare, and Hitoshi Sakimoto. Each composer was honored by a piece based on their works, including the very first time music from the game Grandia was performed live by an orchestra outside of Japan. The concert saw a large amount of international media and attention, including being featured on the Japanese television network NHK for their El Mundo program, as well as a large interview in Asahi Shimbun.
Building on their success from ~Live At Symphony Hall~, VGO embarked on their first international tour, doing a 4 show tour in China. The tour marked the first time a video game based music act has toured China, and drew over 9,000 attendees.
2013: Lightning Returns: Final Fantasy XIII
Riding off the success of their performances at Distant Worlds and the many PAXs they've attended, VGO was invited as a special guest for the 11th iteration of MagFest, playing alongside nerdcore stalwarts Brentalfloss and Powerglove. MagFest XI took place in the Gaylord National Resort & Convention Center from January 3–6, 2013.
VGO developed new acoustic style show was created uniquely for U-CON, held at the UCONN Student Union on February 16, featuring all new arrangements of many of their most popular songs from their repertoire. In March 2013, VGO once again headlined PAX East.
On June 12 at E3, Square Enix, Video Game Orchestra and Masashi Hamauzu jointly announced their partnership for the game Lightning Returns: Final Fantasy XIII. VGO producer Shota Nakama was tasked to orchestrate Hamauzu's compositions for the game, and the orchestrated performances were recorded in VGO's studios in Boston, MA.
- Rockestral Game Music - Independent, promotional release (September, 2011)
- ~Live at Symphony Hall~ - Kickstarter-funded, full length live album (April, 2013)