Monday, April 1, 2013
VIDEO GAMES LIVE A MUSICAL SPECTACULAR
If you're a fan of a short and pudgy member of the Mushroom Kingdom, an Italian plumber with a large mustache answering to the name of "Mario," the Bushnell Center for the Performing Arts has your number: a Video Games Live concert.
Perhaps "Lara Croft, Tomb Raider" is more your speed as this young and eager archaeology graduate searches for the lost kingdom of Yamatai. Another choice might be the science fiction game about an interstellar war between humans and aliens known as the Covenant in the series "Halo." Whatever your video game selection, Video Game Live is sure to feature music that highlights your favorites on Saturday, April 13 at 7:30 p.m. in Hartford. Come at 6 p.m. in costume for some great pre-show activities like Guitar Hero, with prizes.
The creator, producer and host of this industry phenomenon is Tommy Tallarico, a game industry veteran and superstar who orchestrated all the music you hear as you play the games. He's worked on more than 300 to date, from Zelda to Tron to Sonic the Hedgehog. Video Game Live debuted at the Hollywood Bowl with the Los Angeles Philharmonic on July 6, 2005, with 11,000 people in attendance. Since then, it has circled the globe from Canada to China, Mexico to Brazil, Taiwan to New Zealand and everywhere in between. In 2008, it was inducted into the Guinness Book of World Records for most video concerts in one year, numbering 43.
Tommy Tallarico is a combination Horatio Alger and Donald Trump, arriving in the sacred city of Hollywood in 1991 at the age of 21 with no money, no job, no place to live and no friends. He slept under the pier at the Huntington Beach. An ad in a newspaper for a keyboard seller gave him his start and, as luck would have it, a foot in the door to an industry that was just waiting for him to knock.
His first customer at the keyboard store was a producer for Richard Branson's Virgin Mastertronic video game studio. The fact that Tommy was wearing a unique video game t-shirt (almost the sum total of his wardrobe) led to a conversation and an offer of a dream job, as a tester of video games. For $6 an hour, he got to play "Super Mario" and "Pac-Man" and discover problems. With this entree into the industry, Tallarico pushed to get the chance to compose music for the games, offering to do it for free. After six months, his big chance came with "Prince of Persia," which led to him
winning Best Music Video of the Year, an honor he garnered for the next four years. At that point, he was in demand and he could name his own price.
In 1995, he left Virgin and started his own company and did work for all the industry leaders. The "cherry on top" for him was moving his whole family from Springfield, Massachusetts to California to work for him. Tallarico admits how lucky he is to have combined his two greatest loves: music and video games. He also likes to brag that his cousin is rock star legend Steven Tyler (nee Tallarico).
His talents were apparent early on, when at three he sat down at the family piano and, without lessons, began playing by ear. His parents had hoped by buying the piano, they would take lessons but they never did. Instead, Tommy was soon banging out Jerry Lee Lewis and Elvis Presley tunes. At age six, his dad took him to a neighbor's house and they played "Pong" for the first time and so his second love, video games, was born.
By age ten, he was putting on video game concerts for his friends and charging a nickel. He would splice the video games and the music together, jump in front of the T.V. with his guitar and impress everyone in attendance there and later at school assemblies. Is it any wonder that now Tommy Tallarico is devoting himself to validating and legitimizing this art form in an astonishingly grand concert form?
At the Bushnell, he will be performing with the Connecticut Youth Symphony, Daniel D'Addio conductor, and the Hartt Community Choir, Noah Blocker-Glynn conductor, in a live action symphony concert, with synchronized special effects, cutting edge visuals, the fun of video games and all the power and emotion of symphonic sound. Some lucky person will even get to play a video game on stage!
In China and Brazil, the audiences go "over the top emotionally," cheering like crazy to see their own national symphony, treating the event like "the second coming of Elvis Presley." Tallarico hopes to prove to the world that his music is "culturally artistic" and reverse the negative thoughts that persist about video games and their possible violence. He admits that 2% are violent but he is quick to point out that most gamers are over 35 years of age, 47% are women, and 80% of parents play with their children and 66% feel the games have brought them closer to their kids.
Personally, he was inspired at age 10 by John Williams' score in "Star Wars" that "blew me away" as well as by the music of Mozart and Beethoven, whom he called "the rock stars of their day." He recognized Mozart's music in a Bugs Bunny movie and asserts that video game music can "stand on its own, it is so special and so unique that people will see the symphony like they've never seen it before!" Even someone who has never played a video game will be intrigued by the emotion and catchy melodies.
When Tallarico creates his music, it's all about the melody, the tune that he wants to stay with you, long after the game is over. For him, it's about the emotion, the action and the characters and how they are feeling. The validation for what he does comes in fan letters after these concerts, but recently a mother in her early fifties came up to him before the show to thank him. She had been playing the cello with the orchestra for twenty years and that night her 17 year old son was coming to hear her play. She had invited him for years. Suddenly now, because of Video Game Live, he was coming with all his friends and bragging that his mom was playing "Halo." For Tommy Tallarico, it doesn't get much better than this.
For tickets ($17.50 -$55), call the Bushnell, 166 Capitol Avenue, Hartford at 860- 987-5900 or online at www.bushnell.org. A special VIP $175 ticket includes a tour behind the scenes with Tommy, the best seats, a pre-show party, the chance to meet video game designers from all over the globe, a post-show meet and greet, a laminated tour pass, a free download card for Video Games Live: Level 2 Album and a Video Game Live poster.
Come and be floored by the beauty of the music that proves that video games are art to be enjoyed and to inspire. The next time you're playing Sonic the Hedgehog to see how fast you can dash, jump and spin or Mega Man, the robot that is battling the evils of Dr Wily, stop and think about the background music that excites you and encourages you to work your way to the next level of competition and give thanks and a thumbs up to Tommy Tallarico and his talented head, heart and hands.