The Dublin International Game Music Festival

The Dublin International Game Music Festival
The iDIG Music Fest - Click on the image to go to our website!

Thursday, December 6, 2012

The Goddesses at Madison Square Garden

Performing at Madison Square Garden is something of which every performer dreams and although we were in The Garden's smaller 5,500 seat theater I nonetheless relished the opportunity to open the show with "Good Evening Madison Square Garden!" and told the audience how much I'd always wanted to say that.
What a dork!

Our orchestra for the night was The Orchestra of St. Luke's under expert concertmaster Krista Bennion Feeney (I much prefer the European non-gender-specific term "leader"). Krista was an absolute professional and consummate artist in light of some unforseen technical difficulties at the beginning of the show - the gods (and goddesses) of the theater were being mischievious as is their wont from time to time; I assured the audience that such were the joys of real live performance. Without skipping a beat Krista gracefully lead her section and her heart-stopping solos soared through the sparkly seventies-disco-esque rafters of the MSG Theater.

After an inauspicious start the performance with OLS was became one of the most joyful and exuberant of the tour. The musicians rose to the occasion and captivated the audience with their boundless energy and brilliance. The audience responded in turn and I found myself in the enviable position of being in the middle of this feedback loop of pure passion. Heartfelt thanks to Valerie Broderick, Jenny Kampmeier and the artists of the Orchestra and Chorus of St. Luke's.

The Zelda audience was as exuberent as ever and showed their love for the orchestra in no uncertain terms.

When I took out the Wind Waker baton above the roar of the crowd I could hear one guy yell "OH MY GAAAAAAWWD!!!".

I also spotted a stunning replica of Majora's Mask from the stage - it was unmissably enormous actually.

Performing for this audience never gets old...

Jeron took this photo of the audience from the wings.
Here we are on stage at MSG - a bit blurry. Thanks to Laura Kimpel Moncada for the photo

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Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Nintendo World NYC and a Guy Called Triforce

Before our Toronto performance we flew down to New York for a short promotional teaser for the MSG show at Nintendo World in Rockefeller Plaza. With reduced versions of the score and some new arrangements, we gave Nintendo fans a taste of the Zelda Symphony via live Septet at the Nintendo World store.

It blew my mind to see hundreds of sitting on their hunkers in anticipation of hearing a string quintet flute and harp play chamber versions of their favorite themes. It was absolutely magical.

This is actual "chamber music" guys (perhaps I shouldn't tell them...).

Our friends from IMGMR flew down from Montreal to be with us and the photos used in this entry are theirs.

However, big eye-opener for me: The night before the performance we were still on West Coast time so we decided to drop by 30 Rock and see what was going on. It was about 1am NYC time when we got there and we experienced firsthand the passion and tenacity of dyed-in-the-wool Zelda fans: there were about 20-30 people sleeping outside the store to make sure they got in to see the performance!!!

I couldn't believe it. Actually in hind-sight, they were right; security was so tight the next day that I couldn't get past the black-clad giant pillars of man at the door to get in and conduct the ensemble.

Our favorite Zelda Symphony veteran, Triforce was there in all his Hyrulian glory. Yes, Triforce is his real middle name - he had it legally changed... of course...

I'm intensely excited to deliver the full power of the symphony to these guys tomorrow night; they deserve the very best we've got.

Thanks to Mark Robertson in LA and Ralph Farris in NYC for putting together an excellent septet for us.Thanks to all at IMGMR for being a constant support and taking some great shots.

Thanks to Triforce for being... well... Triforce!

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The Leaning Bassoon of Pittsburgh

It has been a touring whirlwind from Toronto to NYC, Dallas, Philly, Pittsburgh, Washington DC, Minneapolis, Boston, Chicago, San Antonio, Calgary... and at this very moment I'm on a plane to NYC for our performance at the Madison Square Garden Theater (very excited!). I haven't had a moment to keep up with the blog but I'm going to give some of the highlight so far including some very funny moments.


(All of the photography in this entry is by brilliant photographic artist, Derek Brad; You can check out his work here:

Working with Pittsburgh Symphony was a magnificent experience that I would love to repeat as often as possible over this lifetime and the next few. We gave two performances of The Symphony of the Goddesses together - at The Mann Centre in Philadelphia and the orchestra's home of Heinz Hall in Pittsburgh.

Performing at The Mann and meeting the team there was unforgettable and ended in a bucket of champagne and a beautiful card in my dressing room after the performance - never a bad thing! Thanks to all at The Mann for making us feel so welcome and comfortable - you guys really are a class act.

Thank you so much in particular to Catherine Cahill, Nancy Newman and Ed Kasses.

On stage at The Mann Center with the Pittsburgh Symphony
Most Memorable Moment (besides the brilliance of the brass - for God's sakes don't tell them...):
Photo of the Mann Center by Photographer extraordinaire, Derek Brad
One of the movements of the symphony has "drunken solo" written in the bassoon part for a particularly showy solo and the consensus - between bassoonist David Soggs and I - after the first performance was that although slurred and stumbling, the level of bassoonic innebriation hadn't quite reached the depths I had observed on a wet St. Paddy's Day in Dublin.

When that over-21s moment came in our second performance - this time at the PSO's home in the opulent Heinz Hall - Mr. Soggs dug into the depths of something like musical method acting and brought the druken solo to a whole new level of intoxication.

I looked up from the podium to give David his cue to find a cross-eyed "bowsie" (a Dublin term - you can probably guess...), his spectacles askew on his face and the bassoon held at an angle that made the clarinets extremely nervous.

I hardly think it proper concert etiquette for the conductor to get a "fit of giggles" on the podium (very manly and maestro-like you know), but the bold Mr. Soggs set me up you see...

Look away!: spoiler alert!: it's the nigh mythological Wind Waker
What is it about bassoonists? It must be all of those brain-chemistry-altering ostinatos...

Ok, perhaps I am a little partial - the bassoon being one of my favorite instruments; "Le Sacre" being no.1 on my desert island discs (I know there are lots of great recordings but Markevich's are my favorites).

Thanks to David Soggs for bringing his brilliance to our performance and not being afraid to "go there", foregoing convention for the theatre in the performance and - making me laugh!

Thanks to that kind and enthusiastic usher at Heinz Hall who took care of me when I was exhausted and wanted me to come back and perform again - very sweet...

Thanks to the musicians and staff of the PSO and chorus for a memorable and ahem... intoxicating experience.

With the PSO
Members of the PSO Chorus
Making shadow puppets on the screen... ok maybe not...
Our loyal and beloved on the lawn at The Mann


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Monday, August 6, 2012

Conducting The National Symphony Orchestra at Wolf Trap

I may not have gone through the gates of Ellis Island but I am still an old fashioned Irish emigrant at heart, so it was a poignant experience for me to conduct The National Symphony of my adopted country in rehearsals at The Kennedy Center and in performance at Wolf Trap National Park for the Performing Arts.

The Hall of Nations at Kennedy Center reminded me that Washington DC was designed by the Forefathers with the express intention of intimidating foreign dignitaries.  As I looked at the flags of the world's nations above me in this cavernous hall I naturally had to find my own green, white and gold.

The SOTG team outside The Hall of Nations at The Kenndy Center, Washington DC

Just after finding the tri-color on the ceiling I opened the backstage door to be confronted by a black and white photo of the Belfast tornado himself, the bold Jimmy Galway. I thought, maybe I'm not such a foreigner here afterall...
I was shown to the conductor's dressing room which was like a private gallery of photographs of some of music history's greatest maestros (maestri?). My favorite being one of Leonard Bernstein in full flight:


Maestros Galore

Rehearsals with the NSO went extremely well and I got a chance to talk with principal harpist, the fabulous Dotian Levalier, whose extraordinarily sonorous playing was quite the musical and sonic experience.

We both agreed that comfortable trousers are a crucial pre-requisite for both of our jobs (thanks to composer Julia Newman my dear friend for those same trousers!) but aside from sartorial concerns, there was the worry of the inevitable heat and humidity at Wolf Trap breaking harp strings...
And I thought that only happens when I get near a harp; it's the musical equivalent of the smell of brimstone.

Rehearsals for the concert happend on the semi-outdoor stage at Wolf Trap and wow, Dotian was correct - someone had just thrown a few coals on Dante's Inferno and we were dripping in perspiration during rehearsals.  The kindly and excellent staff at Wolf Trap did everything they could for us but the Virginian weather had other ideas.
Any, extreme of temperature is problematic for orchestral musicians. Wood, brass, nickel etc. react to heat and cold in ways that are difficult to control. I always see it as part of my responsibility as a conductor to help create a physical and emotional environment conducive to my colleagues doing their best work in comfort. It was clear to me that a lengthy rehearsal was not a good idea especially since the orchestra had worked so hard and performed exceptionally at The Kennedy Center rehearsal.  The orchestra were absolute troopers at this, their summer home.

The performance at Wolf Trap was a great success. We had an audience just shy of 7,000 souls and as per usual Zelda fans treated the orchestra like rock-stars. Our concertmaster for the evening, Ricardo Cyncynates lent his stunning musicianship to the violin solos in the score. We've met some incredible concertmasters on our travels and I have to say, Ricardo was definitely one of my personal favorites.

Rehearsals with the NSO at Wolf Trap

This is why I referred to Wolf Trap as semi-outdoor:

My Heels on the podium at Wolf Trap!

You can read a review of the Wolf Trap show by Erica Laxson here.

Thanks to Emily Cary of the Washington Examiner for the article below.

You can view the original feature here.

Ireland's eclectic conductor tackles 'Zelda' at Wolf Trap

Photo -

Eimear Noone grew up in the tiny village of Kilconnell, Galway, loving every musical genre. When she was not practicing classical passages on her flute, she was listening to pop, rock or the symphonic concert music of popular video games. It's no wonder the accomplished Irish conductor-composer has captured hearts of Nintendo fans as she conducts symphony orchestras performing "The Legend of Zelda" while graphics from the videos play on giant screens.
"It's a fun show," she promised. "Being an Irish immigrant, I'm very excited to conduct the National Symphony Orchestra that I've known about and admired for years. Like everyone in my generation, I've loved the music in this program since my childhood and am crazy about the arrangements. My background is in classical music, so I knew from the start that this is a symphonic score."

The music for "The Legend of Zelda" was created by Japanese composer Koji Kondo, who has contributed many Nintendo soundtracks. This year marks the 25th anniversary of the video that has sold nearly 70 million copies. Its primary character, Link, is a courageous lad, whose many adventures include saving Princess Zelda, named for F. Scott Fitzgerald's wife. He carries a baton called a Wind Waker to invoke powers of nature. To help him achieve his goals, the players must solve games and musical puzzles. The various instruments featured are important components that the players never forget.

"Video games became the soundtrack of young people's lives, but wherever I conduct this music, it's still amazing to me that some in the audience burst into tears," Noone said. "When the concertmaster comes out, he gets a huge round of applause, and this phenomenon happens each time a principal player takes a bow. It's like a rock concert filled with respect for the players. We made a special Wind Waker like the one Link uses, and every time we hold it up, there's a great roar from the audience."

Noone's passion for conducting and composing film scores led to an invitation to meet with the makers of World of Warcraft and record the score of "Starcraft" at Skywalker Ranch with members of the San Francisco Symphony Orchestra and the San Francisco Ballet. She now makes her home in Los Angeles, where she has scored or orchestrated a variety of films, including "The Hole," "The Donner Party," "The New Daughter" and "Mirrors."

Here Lewis Lipnick discusses the Contraforte:
After our first rehearsal together, I bumped into principal contrabassoonist - or should I say, principal contraforte bassoonist - Lewis Lipnick and got to talk to him about this astonishing instrument his brass playing colleagues call "the rocket launcher" (it would be the brass, wouldn't it...). The sound of the contra-forte is much more refined that the regular old contrabassoon with an extended range and high notes that sound somthing like a soprano sax. Lewis is the only musician in a professional US orchestra playing the contraforte and he also commissioned an exhilarating concerto for the instrument by Finnish composer Kalevi Aho.
I was so excited to learn about this instrument and the Aho Concerto as coincidentally I'd studied briefly with Aho at the Ennis IMRO Composition School when I was about 17! His work is exceptional and of course Lewis gave me a copy of the recording (and score; yeaay, geek-out) he made of the concerto for BIS.

Naturally I'd love any old excuse to perform it...
Here it is on ebay.

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Friday, August 3, 2012

Inspirational Voices - Anúna and Sacra/Profana


For over twenty years now, Irish choir Anúna has been pushing the envelope of choral music and not for that reason but purely as a side-effect of the unique sound their visionary director Michael McGlynn has endeavored to bring forth from the recesses of his own musical mind. Quite simply, they sound unlike any other singing group on the planet and we are the richer for it.

I have been a fan of Anúna and Michael's for many years and when Blizzard Entertainment's audio director and composer Russell Brower told me that he was looking for a unique and "different" sound for Diablo III, Anúna instantly sprung to mind. Two years after that conversation we found ourselves at Windmill Lane in Dublin with not one but two legendary recording engineers, John Kurlander and Brian Masterson recording the group Russell had chosen to represent the seductive voices of hell (!) for this immense project.

More about that later - I have a whole essay to write about the unbelievable experience we had on Diablo III.

Last night at Dublin's National Concert Hall I got to experience the choir as an audience member - with the added treat of John McGlynn's singing/song-writing - as they performed Michael's stunning arrangements and two of Russell's pieces from D3. I was more than mildly entertained to see the Classical organ at the NCH adorned with flames in wonderfully lit theatrics characteristic of an Anúna show (The profanity! Love it!).

 The live sound that Brian Masterson got for the choir - which he has specially designed for them over years of working with Michael - was nothing short of exquisite.

Michael has set so many beautiful ancient texts, folk songs, chants and literary gems for the choir but I have to admit, having loved everything on the program and being an avid fan of early and renaissance music it was Michael's arrangement of The Derry Air (Danny Boy) that brought a tear to my eye. The arrangement has a beauty of understanding that could only come from the heart of a true Irish man.
Danny Boy is a tough one to tackle as most Irish people can't decide whether they love it or hate it. Mostly we're sick to death of it! Suffice it to say, it has taken Michael 25 years - he says himself - to tackle that particular monster and let's just say he charmed it into submission.

When Russell, John, Joey Ray Hall and I arrived in Dublin to being working with the group they chose this arrangement as a warm up and had all of us in tears - soft eejits that we are! It was such a joy to share the arrangement with Blizzard's resident über genius, Chris Metzen, who despite the last name is actually one of "my people" and was thus affected in the appropriate manner for a true Paddy.

After experiencing the weird vibe in Dublin over the last few days and noticing how many of our young people are simply missing after hundreds of thousands having emigrated; after reading more about how our elder statesmen's unpatriotic greed has indebted us for generations; it was this world-class group of Irish artists that reminded me of my pride as an Irish woman.  As usual, it is our artists that represent our true nature and replenish our flagging souls.

I will have more about all of this - photos etc - in later posts when I finally get to share some of the absolute joy we experienced on recording the D3 soundtrack.

You can learn more about Anúna here.


I received an email today from choral group SACRA/PROFANA's director Krishan Oberoi, including a link to the video below.

I got the opportunity to work with this fabulous group at our SOTG Comic Con performance with the San Diego Symphony. Their energy and enthusiasm was infectious and they sang their hearts out for us.

Krishan has a great vision for the choir and when we worked together they had just shot the video for his arrangement of Marroon 5's Payphone.

Although very different musically, like Anúna, this is a group out there in the world pushing the envelope and bringing their own brand of joy to thousands. I also love the fact that they don't limit themselves to any particular genre and are at home - and fabulously happy - in whichever genre they choose to inhabit.

Of course I get a great kick out of hearing "proper" choral singers singing "THE F WORD" (as we call it in the US; In Ireland we just say it) in a terribly proper way.

Adam Levine would be so proud!

Now does sing-swearing fall into the category of sacred or profane then Krishan?

It's like Schönberg's sprech-gesang only... so much more wholesome.

You can learn more about Sacra/Profana here.

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Monday, July 30, 2012


'Philadelphia here I come, right back where I started from..'Aha Mr. Friel, I followed your footsteps on my travels this past week and ended up at the Mann Center in Philly with the fabulous Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra.

"The Mann" was the utmost in outdoor summer concert chic (it's own fashion genre don't you know) and the staff there treated us like rock stars. Toasting with champagne in the dressing room post-concert - courtesy of Catherine Cahill CEO and the Mann team - was one of those memorable pinch-worthy moments.

Most importantly however was my excitement over the orchestra whose brass section need to be heard to be believed but more about that in later posts...

During our brief time in Philadelphia, the guys on the team all had to experience a "Philly Cheese Steak" which is a type of sick poisonous torture to a celiac like me, but of course I had to tag along to vicariously experience this cultural phenomenon. Suffice it to say that I developed an instant new-found interest in vegetarianism and have never seen such an enormous vat of fluorescent cheeze whiz in my life. I stand vicariously culturally educated - without the indigestion.

I did however find an interesting name beneath my feet on Philly's music walk of fame:

Lepold Stokowski, best known for inspiring a generation of young musicians with Disney's Fantasia and wielding a big stick with a very suspect dodgy Eastern European accent.

However, you know you've made it when you get parodied by Bugs Bunny (I find this utterly hilarious which is tragically uncool):
We played to just shy of 7,000 mad cheering souls at The Mann Center but this is what it looked like earlier in the day - Another Jeron photo classic
Stage at The Mann

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Monday, July 23, 2012


Normally, one would prefer a nice quiet plane ride but there's something infectious about the innocent excitement of kids on the family adventure of a lifetime to Disney World/Universal etc. etc. Some sugar-filled die-hards already had their Mickey ears on - seat-belts: not so much; safety devices just get in the way of jumping up and down on the seats aparently - something that looked intensely exhilarating...

The only cloud on our horizon was the bad weather that hit us in Houston on our short stop-over and there was now a distinct possibility of our being late for rehearsal with The Orlando Philharmonic: not a nice feeling at all.

When we landed, Mark Fisher, principal french horn and personnel manager for the orchestra helped graciously guide our way and we arrived to a friendly and welcoming atmosphere at the rehearsal space. The SOTG team had everything up and running in record time. At this point we have our rehearsal strategy and tech down to a fine art.

The energy in a group is always very obvious to me in the first few minutes of meeting them and I could feel a good rapport amongst these musicians for each other, which they generously extended to us. This is the kind of thing that makes an enormous difference to the conductor, especially when we only have two rehearsals to get to know each other.

The next day we got to meet our chorus - Florida Opera Theater Chorus - under the proud direction of Robin Stamper; and yes, he did have a lot to be proud of, they sounded fantastic with a perfect blend, tight ensemble and great performance discipline.

The audience reception in Orlando was electric - we're now spoiled and have come to expect such an atmosphere from Zelda fans - and the Floridians did not disappoint, in fact I think they're neck and neck with Montreál for the best audience of the tour award. Then again, the Canadians actually sang to us from the auditorium...

At dress rehearsal and after the show I got to meet one of my favorite SOTG fans, Ajay Kundlas.

Ajay takes the time to wish Jeron and I well before every performance no matter what city we're performing in and is the epitome of the passionate but gentle soul that tends to populate our audiences. These are the people that make the schlepp across the continent unquestionably worthwhile. Ajay is also one of an elite group I like to call our "repeat attenders" and has seen the show a few times now. It is for fans like this that we work so hard and for whom I sweat all of my make-up off on stage - anything less would be a comfortably dry-skinned - and therefore passionless - travesty.

Thanks to principal percussionist Carl Rendek and sublime concertmaster Annabelle Gardiner (can I please say "leader" like we do in NW Europe? Concertmistress sounds so loaded and spell check underlines it in red (not underlining "concertmaster" however - hmm... methinks that may need to be remedied for its implied spelling sexism)).

Most memorable moment of our time in Orlando:

Well... there might be more than one actually...

Chad and I decided to see how close cultural clichés are to the truth in an examination of my hard-core Irish-ness as pertaining to flammable liquids. Thank you for that Chad. The answer is 100%...

Secondly there was that moment at the end of rehearsal when a member of the percussion section asked: Do you want us back in for the section we just taceted or do you want us tacet permanently? I went out on a limb with some dark Irish humor and pointed out that "Tacet Permanently" sounded like something you'd read on a musician's gravestone. Thinking that Floridians have too much sunshine for such gallows humor, I was proven gloriously wrong by the peals of laughter that came from the orchestra. Thank God: musicians are musicians no matter what their exposure to vitamin D and sunny wholesomeness.

But most memorably: I got the greatest compliment of my career - in my obtuse opinion - from one of the men of the Florida Opera Theater Chorus, who wryly announced:

'A conductor who wears an AC/DC t-shirt to rehearsal and drops Spinal Tap references... I'm not used to that!'


Thank you Orlando.

All of the photos below were taken by Ajay Kundlas:

Back stage at the Bob Carr Center, Orlando, the legendary Wind Waker in hand

Rehearsing with the Orlando Phil and Florida Opera Theater Chorus
Here's a look behind the curtain

Oh dear... "headphones hair" is not a good look...

post dress rehearsal with an aspiring young percussionist and über fan...

Our friend Ajay with some members of the Zelda team: Exec producer, Jason Michael Paul; creative producer, Jeron Moore and Composer/arranger Chad Seiter

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Saturday, July 21, 2012

Comic Con and San Diego Symphony

So I hit Comic Con with the Zelda Symphony team, my trusty assistant Miss Madz and SJB in tow. What a fantastic audience - I've never seen so many Links in one place at the same time, well not during the day-time anyway...

Rehearsals with San Diego Symphony went well - aside from a weather advisory that threatened to rain on our parade - so I felt good about the show before we started. I also got to meet and work with a very special choral group called Sacra/Profana under the superb direction of Krishan Oberoi. As well as working on standard repertoire, they had just shot a video for an arrangement of some Maroon 5's stuff. You can find out more about them here.


HEADS UP!: Mini javelin-like projectile coming your way: The occupational hazards of working in an orchestra with Eímear.

The concert begins and the overture is off to a rousing start. My music-stand isn't big enough for the tall Zelda score so stand lights had been mounted to a second music-stand in front of me. Not accustomed to said wall of music-stands, in the middle of the overture my baton hit the underside of one of the stand lights and well... it "caught some air" (SJB's a surfer so I'm generally bombarded with such "lofty" terminology) catapulting itself into the first violins, narrowly missing the associate concert-master - poor sod. The overture ends and there's the usual enthusiastic response from our beloved Zelda fans.

Before I turn to the audience an impishly smirking associate concert-master hands me back the baton with a grandiose flourish hidden from the audience by his desk-partner. Of course, not being one to keep any drama from our friends in the audience, I took the microphone and proclaimed it to be a great portent from the fates, or simply a sign of good luck, that the conductor throws the baton at the orchestra during the overture. Naturellement?!

Gotta love live performance...

Ooops, was that your head madam?!

Here are some images from rehearsals and performance by my precocious 12 1/2 year old assistant (the 1/2 is terribly important you know) and step-daughter Miss Madz:


Rehearsing at The Embarcadero, summer home to the San Diego Symphony - rehearsing with a crazed mind focused on the potential threat from some ominous looking rain-clouds.
Beautiful harpist's hands on the jumbotron
The prettiest artists' entrance anywhere...
Backstage wasn't too bad either
Getting our act together


Discussions with The Zelda Team pre-rehearsal

The guts of the operation
Finally found my way on stage after Spinal Tap-esque tour of the warren back stage
The view from the stage was pretty decent, oh and the waterfront looked nice too...
On stage with Jeron

Our Fabulous Papparazzo

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