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Producer brings 'Heroes: A Video Game Symphony' to the Straz Center in May

An orchestra plays while an image from The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion is on the screen above it.
Courtesy of The Straz Center
An orchestra plays while an image from The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion is on the screen above it.

Concert producer Jason Michael Paul combined his love of video games and music to create a project using more than a dozen intellectual properties. The show will focus on the music and some of the images video gamers know and love.

Jason Michael Paul understands musical spectacle.

After all, one of his early jobs was working on the final "Three Tenors Concerts" with the late producer, Tibor Rudas.

The concerts spawned many "tenor" copycats. But who can beat Luciano Pavarotti, Jose Carreras and Placido Domingo singing together?

A man with fair skin and a closely-cropped beard, dressed in a dark collared shirt and pullover looks at the camera.
Straz Center
Producer Jason Michael Paul

It was during set up for one of the trio's concerts in Costa Rica where Paul said he had a "lightbulb" moment.

"And I put this 'Final Fantasy' song in the the PA mixer. And everyone was freaking out. They were like 'what is this? This is crazy. This is amazing.' And I was kind of like, 'Hmmm.. maybe I'm onto something here,'" Paul said.

He mentioned that the late Composer Koichi Sugiyama - known for writing the music for the "Dragon Quest" franchise - used to do video game music concerts, with only music. As did Composer Nabuo Uematso, who penned the music for several 'Final Fantasy' video games.

At the time, the Square Enixmerger was about to happen. The multinational company releases role-playing video games such as "Final Fantasy" and "Dragon Quest."

"And not only did I do the first ever video game music concertwith the Los Angeles Philharmonic, and the L.A. Master Chorale conducted by Miguel Harth-Bedoya. It was a press event followed by a concert that literally sold out in three days and... it's been going ever since," Paul said.

Now, twenty years later, Paul is bringing,"Heroes" A Video Game Symphony" to the Straz Center in Tampa.

“The true essence of Heroes is really capturing those moments, both visually and musically, to really transcend the viewer into that game. Those moments, that's why we get teardrops in the eyes of some of the spectators, right?” Paul said.

He also said the concert doesn’t have a hard time finding musicians who want to participate.

“These people are typically signing up for these types of programs because they know it's not going to be a stuffy audience,” Paul said. “They know that this is going to be music that's going to be fun, playful and the audience is very responsive.”

He said unlike earlier projects, this one is fully narrated.

"I enlisted Nigel Carrington. He's a BAFTA award-winning voice talent. And I recorded him. And he recorded the narrations for our show, which is taking you on this hero's journey," Paul said.

The program was inspired by the work of Joseph Campbell.

"Video games are very mythological. You know, there's a lot of reccurring themes, like for example, 'The Legend of Zelda.' 'The Elder Scrolls' series is very mythological. I can go on and on and on. And, you know, what better way to do that than to bring Joseph Campbell into the mix and using the monomyth, 'The Hero's Journey,'" he said.

And the music of many other franchises video gamers know and love will be in the mix. Like, 'Bioshock,' 'The Legend of Zelda,' and 'Mass Effect.'

“In the past, where I only had one particular IP, like ‘Final Fantasy,’ or the ‘Legend of Zelda,’ [now] I have 17 of those with an amazing reach. I mean, these games are multi-million copies sold… like for Starfield, for example, which is a relatively new game. They did over 10 million units in the first two weeks. I mean, that's insane. You know, so there is a mass audience,” Paul said.

That's likely to take gamers right back into the games they know so well.

"Many people come to our concert, because we have so many titles that are represented as part of our show. They see the game on the screen, and they hear the music and they're like, 'Damn, I need to start playing that again! That game was great, why did I stop playing that?' "The reality is they have so many games at their disposal that they probably got caught up in 'Tears of the Kingdom,' or 'Baldur's Gate 3,' right?" he said.

"For gamers, by gamers is the true essence of "Heroes: A Video Game Symphony," Paul said.

The show is at The Straz Center in Tampa on May 11th. You can get details here.

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