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Video Game Music Concerts in 2021

In this article, game composer Winifred Phillips discusses how video game concert tours and other video game music events have coped with Covid-19. Included: links to live-stream performances, free online concerts, and news about upcoming concert dates.

Photo of video game composer Winifred Phillips, pictured standing in front of the official poster for the Assassin's Creed Symphony concert tour.

By Winifred Phillips  |  Contact  |  Follow

Hi!  I'm videogame composer Winifred Phillips.  These are the times that try our musical souls, with live concerts enduring an avalanche of cancelations and postponements due to the Covid-19 pandemic.  For our community as game music composers and game audio pros, this means that most video game concert tours have gone silent.  As one of the composers whose work was featured in the Assassin's Creed Symphony World Tour, I was honored to join the players onstage during the Montreal performance last year (pictured below).  It was a thrill to have my music from Assassin's Creed Liberation performed in Berlin, Milan, and all around the world.

Photo of game music composer Winifred Phillips onstage during the Montreal performance of the Assassin's Creed Symphony worldwide concert tour.

Now, I've sadly watched as the coronavirus postponed the entire UK leg of the tour, with no resumption date as of yet. This fate is common to live concert events around the world.

While we all have reason to be sad about this, there is some light in the darkness.  A few touring companies and orchestras have nimbly shifted to online live-streaming events as a way to sustain their fan bases and keep enthusiasm alive through the Covid-19 pandemic.  Other video game music shows are holding things together while continuing to sell tickets, with optimistic plans to resume their in-person tours later in 2021.  As both game audio pros and game music fans, we all want to enjoy and support this music, so let's check out what's happening this year in the world of VGM concerts!  We'll start by taking a look at those organizations that have moved their concerts online with live-streamed events.  After that, we'll check out the concert tours that are still selling tickets with hopes to return to their stages sometime later this year.

Online Concerts

The 8-Bit Big Band Live Stream

The 8-Bit Big Band logo, as it appears in the article by Winifred Phillips (composer of game music).Ever dreamed that you could hear your favorite video game tunes reimagined by an awesome old-school jazz big band?  The 8-Bit Big Band has been making these dreams come true since they released their first album in 2018.  Located in New York City, this jazz force-of-nature is set to appear in a live show on Saturday May 1st 2021, in which they'll perform their greatest hits at Sony Hall in NYC.  While the venue isn't selling tickets for in-person attendees, the show will be live-streamed (with tickets available for online audience members.)  As an example of what to expect during the performance, here's one of their most recent YouTube uploads featuring their Sinatra-style cover performance of "Want You Gone" from Portal 2:

At their charmingly retro website, the 8-Bit Big Band has provided loads of free goodies for fans, including downloadable sheet music and lots of Spotify playlists.  For those of us who want to give back, the site offers merch that supports the band and simultaneously donates half the proceeds to Meals 4 Heroes (providing meals from local restaurants to New York City medical professionals.)

Separator image depicting a piano keyboard, from the article by composer of video game music Winifred Phillips.

 

Game Music Festival

The official gamemusic festival logo, as included in the article written by award-winning game composer Winifred Phillips.Every year, the Game Music Festival gathers together top composers, great musicians and game music fans for a two-day festival of live concerts, masterclass workshops, Q&A sessions, and community events taking place at the National Forum of Music in Krakow Poland.  This year, the event was forced to scale back attendance sharply, in keeping with Covid-19 regulations.  Nevertheless, the Game Music Festival organization managed to avoid cancelation with careful planning and strict safety protocols.

As a part of this reimagined festival, both nights of concert performances were live-streamed free to the public, and afterwards the recordings were made available online.  Here's the entire live-stream of the second night of performances (the concert begins 27 minutes into the recording):

To enable fans to watch the first night of performances, the Game Music Festival also uploaded the video of that full-length concert to YouTube.  For those of us who would like to financially support the Game Music Festival (and receive some bonus goodies as a reward), the Game Music Festival has pulled together a collection of digital soundtracks, posters and video files to show their gratitude.  Check it out here.

Separator image consisting of a piano keyboard, as included in the article written by Winifred Phillips (composer of music for video games).

 

The Game Music Ensemble at UCLA

The official Game Music Ensemble at UCLA logo. This image is used to illustrate an article about game music concerts during the Covid-19 pandemic, written by game music composer Winifred Phillips.Founded in 2014 at the University of California in Los Angeles, the Game Music Ensemble at UCLA maintains orchestra, chamber and choir ensembles dedicated to the performance of video game music.  Their talented student members mount large-scale concerts semi-annually, interspersed with chamber performances throughout the year.

In response to the coronavirus pandemic, the organization has moved much of its operations online, including some live-streamed chamber music performances.  In addition, the Game Music Ensemble has begun to release full-length concert videos from previous seasons via its YouTube channel.  Here's a video from their current YouTube series spotlighting their Legend of Zelda: The History of Hyrule concert from February 2019:

Other videos in this Legend of Zelda series feature performances from Temple of Time, Majora's Mask, Twilight Princess, and Breath of the Wild.  For those of us who would like to give back, the official web site has provided a page for those who want to help support the Game Music Ensemble at UCLA.

A horizontal separator consisting of a black and white piano keyboard, as included in the article about game music concerts in the time of the coronavirus pandemic, as written by video game composer Winifred Phillips.

 

The United States Army Field Band Virtual Concert Series

The official logo of the United States Army Field Band, included in an article about video game music in concert during the Covid-19 pandemic. This article was written by Winifred Phillips (composer of game music).Headquartered in Maryland and founded as a public service organization, the United States Army Field Band responded quickly to the Covid-19 pandemic by launching a series of interactive online performances that began last March.  The music in this virtual concert series includes a wide range of musical styles, from Broadway to Beethoven to Bebop, performed by expert musicians-in-uniform.  Among these offerings, the Army Field Band has managed to slip in a few concerts of music "for the video game generation."  These have included a jam session with a Guitar Heroes theme, a livestream dedicated to Super Mario Bros, and a more wide-ranging performance of the best of video game music in general.  As a rule, all performances by the "Musical Ambassadors of the Army" must be offered free of charge to the public.  Here's an excerpt from one of their video game themed livestreams:

The streaming schedule of upcoming programming from the Army Field Band is available here.  If you'd like to hear more, their latest album is entitled The Soundtrack of the American Soldier, and includes a suite of music from the video game Medal of Honor.

Design element depicting a simple musical keyboard, as used in the article about VGM concerts during Covid-19 (written by composer of video game music Winifred Phillips).

 

Gaming Sounds

The logo image for the WDR Funkhaus Orchestra, from the article written by Winifred Phillips (composer of video game music).Taken all together, the WDR Symphony Orchestra, the WDR Radio Choir, the WDR Big Band, and the WDR Funkhaus Orchestra are among the most renowned musical ensembles in Germany.  These ensembles mount hundreds of live concerts a year, along with approximately a hundred broadcast performances for WDR radio and television.  Each ensemble has its own specialization, and the WDR Funkhaus Orchestra embraces audience favorites – serving as the equivalent of a beloved Pops orchestra for the German concert-going public.  After the onset of the Covid-19 pandemic, the WDR Funkhaus Orchestra cancelled its live performances and took its concert schedule online in live-steams simulcast via WDR 3 radio.  This included their Gaming Sounds concert, which took place on November 20th 2020 in Cologne with a live-stream event.  Afterwards, they generously posted full-length videos of the performances from the event, including the Victoria 2 Concert Suite, The Seventh Whistler (Everybody's Gone to the Rapture), An Early Harvest (Everybody's Gone to the Rapture), The Main Theme from The Lion's Song, The Allies Main Theme from Hearts of Iron 4, Nascence/Apotheosis from Journey, Delphinus Delphis from Abzu, the Tetris Theme, and the Main Theme from Angry Birds:

A black-and white design element depicting a piano keyboard, as included in this article about game music concerts during the coronavirus pandemic (written by Winifred Phillips, composer of music for video games).

 

Now we've taken a look at some of what's happening with live-streaming concerts in the world of video game music.  So let's move on to those concert tours that are still planning to mount traditional performances later in the year.... and let's keep our fingers crossed that all goes well!

 

IN-PERSON CONCERT EVENTS

 

Final Fantasy VII Remake Orchestra World Tour

The logo image of the Final Fantasy IVV Remake Orchestra World Tour. This concert tour is discussed in the article about live game music performances during the coronavirus pandemic, written by Winifred Phillips (video game composer).This concert tour was struck down by incredibly unlucky timing.  Set to begin concurrently with the world-wide launch of the hotly-anticipated Final Fantasy VII Remake game, this orchestral tour had a whole calendar of performances scheduled around the world, starting with a glittering Los Angeles premiere on June 14th 2020 at the Microsoft Theater.  And then the Covid-19 pandemic happened, and everything was called off.  The organizers subsequently announced an even larger and more ambitious schedule of performances for 2021, beginning in February with a premiere in Tokyo.  However, on January 15th, the Tokyo premiere was canceled outright, and the following two concert dates in Osaka are on precarious ground, with the organizers "carefully considering the situation." Unfortunately, their previously-announced Spring 2021 tour dates at London's Royal Albert Hall and Paris' Palais Des Congres are already sold out (making cancelation much more complicated).  We hope that this concert tour is able to regroup and relaunch itself when it becomes safe to do so.

The tour is scheduled to include music from the Final Fantasy VII Remake game performed by an orchestra and chorus of over a hundred musicians led by conductor Arnie Roth.  Since there have as yet been no performances or trailers to announce the tour, the best we can do is imagine what these performances might be like.  In the meantime, our imaginations might be assisted by another talented group of musicians... 

The Game Music Collective

The logo of the Game Music Collective, as included in the article by video game composer Winifred Phillips. This article discusses the logistics of live video game music concerts during the coronavirus pandemic.Located in Finland, the Game Music Collective is known for impassioned live performances featuring a relatively small ensemble of skillful musicians who add to the energy of the music by remaining on their feet throughout the concerts.  Unfortunately, they haven't posted tour dates for 2021, and they aren't organizing live-streaming events during the coronavirus pandemic. However, their YouTube channel is very active with posts of game music performances recorded before the live music scene shut down. These posts include a video of their own performance of music from Final Fantasy VII Remake. Until the official Final Fantasy VII Remake Orchestral World Tour kicks off, this video from the Game Music Collective should make waiting easier:

For those who'd like to hear more from the Game Music Collective, this YouTube playlist is a good start.

Used as a divider to separate sections of the article, this image depicts the well-known layout of a piano keyboard. Included in the article by video game composer Winifred Phillips about live video game music events with Covid-19 restrictions. Winifred Phillips is a well-known video game composer.

 

Video Games in Symphony

The logo of the Video Games in Symphony concert, as included in the article by Winifred Phillips (composer of game music). The article discusses the feasibility of live concert events during the coronavirus pandemic, and what is currently happening in the field.Since 2018, the Aalborg Symphony Orchestra in Denmark has regularly presented a "Video Games in Symphony" concert as part of its repertoire.  As of this writing, the Aalborg Symphony Orchestra has closed its doors temporarily due to the Covid-19 pandemic, with plans to reopen on February 28th 2021.  With that in mind, we should remember that the current schedule of offerings may be subject to change.  However, their current schedule includes a "Video Games in Symphony" concert set for April 9th, 2021.  According to their web site, "With Video Games in Symphony, we pay tribute to the fantastic music that helps to tell and amplify gripping stories. Aalborg Symphony Orchestra takes you on a musical adventure, presented by game and film enthusiasts Jacob Ege Hinchely and Elias Eliot, who make up the Han Duo."  The concert will be conducted by Alexander Hanson.  Past performances have included music from Call of Duty, World of Warcraft, Skyrim, Kingdom Hearts, and many others.  As an example of what to expect, here's a video of a  performance from the Sept. 2019 edition of "Video Games in Symphony."

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