90-Piece Video Game Orchestra Returns to Berklee

Nick Balkin
November 12, 2009
The Video Game Orchestra performs at the Berklee Performance Center in December 2008.
Photo by Phil Farnsworth

The Video Game Orchestra (VGO) returns to the Berklee Performance Center on Saturday, December 5 for its first show at Berklee since the group sold out the 1,200-seat venue last March, and its first public performance since drawing more than 5,000 listeners at the 2009 Anime Boston convention. The 90-member VGO consists of a 45-piece orchestra, 40-piece choir, and five-piece rock band, with players from more than 20 countries who are students at Berklee, Boston University, Boston Conservatory, and New England Conservatory.

The VGO will perform new arrangements of classic titles such as Super Mario Bros. and Final Fantasy, and music from modern hits like God of War, Silent Hill, and Metal Gear Solid. Renowned video game music composer Wataru Hokoyama (Afrika, Resident Evil 5) will guest-conduct the VGO for his own "Afrika Suite," which won numerous awards last year.

The concert takes place on Saturday, December 5, at 7:30 p.m. at the Berklee Performance Center (BPC), 136 Massachusetts Avenue, Boston. General admission tickets are $15 and are available at the BPC box office, at ticketmaster.com, or by calling 617 931-2000. For information, call 617 747-2261 or visit berkleebpc.com. Tickets are $10 for Berklee students with ID.

As the video game industry continues to expand, so too does Berklee's game music curriculum. Berklee students are working collaboratively on projects with the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and the University of Southern California, providing audio direction, sound design, and music for interactive media programs at those institutions. In January 2010, Berklee will open its first dedicated video game scoring lab.

Berklee alumnus and VGO producer/music director Shota Nakama '08 created the group in April 2008. The VGO provides a valuable learning experience for its members, who not only perform the material but also arrange and produce it. The group has over 30 pieces in its repertoire, including music from such titles as Sonic the Hedgehog, Halo, and Chrono Trigger. For more information, visit vgo-online.org.

Top 5 Greatest Video Game Soundtracks

By Video Game Orchestra artistic director Shota Nakama

1. Dragon Quest—"Koichi Sugiyama was the first composer to organize orchestral game concerts. He was a pioneer."

2. Final Fantasy—"Composer Nobuo Uematsu is the Beethoven of video game music. He writes the most melodic, memorable themes."

3. Chrono Cross—"Made me serious about game music. Its opening theme is one of the best pieces ever written for this medium."

4. God of War II—"The music is epic—especially when fighting huge bosses!"

5. Afrika—"I listen to this soundtrack almost every day. Composer Wataru Hokoyama is a true genius."