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Davis, California

Sunday, May 19, 2024

Video Game Orchestra: Explore Beyond

A performance of beautiful, lesser known indie games scores

On Sunday, March 10, the Video Game Orchestra Club presented its concert “Explore Beyond” in the ARC Ballroom. Consisting of thirteen songs that come from mostly independent video games, the ensemble proved their musical prowess by conducting an impressive performance that was filled with with soul-moving songs and an obvious air of comradery between the team of musicians.

What started as a nine member string ensemble in 2017 has grown to a 40 member group two years later. It has also become an official UC Davis club and welcome all music and video game lovers. According to the program handed out at the beginning of the concert, their goal is to “showcase the many endless unique worlds [one] can find in video games.”

The orchestra executed their goal quite well as their songs moved from joyous to melancholy to upbeat to downright hilarious. The ensemble’s performance was hosted in a room with a theater-sized screen, which projected certain scenes from each video game they covered.

As 6 p.m. dawned, the orchestra took their positions with their instruments, all clad in their black club shirt and aligned themselves in sections of strings, winds and percussion. They began their set with a song from the game “Capoka,” which truly set the mood for the night; a game that focuses on a free-roaming bird flying across a totalitarian landscape, the music was uplifting and brought a level of excitement to the audience as they watched scenes of this unbound blue jay taking flight above the concert of students.

Each song lasted anywhere from three minutes to upwards of ten minutes; most of the drawn out songs featured soloists showing off their talent attained over the years in the span of a few minutes. Directly after the opening song, the mood shifted as the concert went from upbeat to downhearted with a song from the (not-so-indie) “The Last of Us,” which featured Austin Kyran as the solo cello. One but needs to look into the gloomy, apocalyptic storyline of this game to understand the depth of musical talent that Kyran brought to the performance of this song titled “All Gone (No Escape).”

From there, a series of other merry performances would have raised the audience to their feet for a dance had there not been a climate of formality tying them to their chairs. The orchestra covered songs from “To the Moon,” which featured Savita Pereira on piano and vocals; “Journey,” which featured Kyan on cello, Diane Le on piano and Lauren Ting on flute; “Undertale,” which featured Justin Satnick on clarinet, Justin Tavassolikhah on alto saxophone, Brandon Cao on trumpet, Ziad Asadi on piano and Ryan Jung on guitar and “Hollow Knight,” which featured the string orchestra, Satnick and Julie Meyers on french horn, Shannon Kipling and Christopher Rivas on clarinet and Ting and Sharon Giat on flute.

Just before the 10-minute intermission, an obvious fan favorite was the “Super Smash Bros Medley” from the Super Smash Bros Series which featured Satnick and Tavassolikhah on center-stage in a brotherly fashion performing the medley’s entirety. Satnick bounced back-and-forth between french horn and trumpet while Tavassolikhah took on saxophone and clarinet. A far from simple composition, the Justins made it look easy as they performed the piece with such groove it had many audience members holding up camera phones to record the spectacle. They ended on a firm high-five that was echoed by a round of applause.

The intermission consisted of friendly, video game based conversations and a massively popular raffle consisting of two prizes: a Cuphead video game figurine and the privilege to choose what song the orchestra would master and perform in the next concert. The raffle winner from their last concert met their chosen song from the video game “Xenoblade Chronicles” in the second act. This raffle takes place every year, and although I dumped 20 dollars into the pot in hopes to pick a song from “Halo 2,” but my luck was no match to that of another audience member.

The second half of the concert went as smoothly as the first, featuring songs from “Ori and the Blind Forest,” which featured Jason Mak on piano; “The Beholder,” which featured Oscar Santamaria on bassoon and Jung on guitar; “A Hat in Time;” “Cuphead,” which featured Gabriel Patterson, Abigail Cohen and Aliya Hunter on samba percussions, Charles Cook on trumpet and Mak on piano and more “Hollow Knight,” with Chung on piano.

At the end of the concert, the crowd was ecstatic and laden with applause and loud cheers — for video game and music lovers alike, the night was a success. It’s safe to say that this diverse crowd of musical gamers are in good hands with the Video Game Orchestra.

The Video Game Orchestra plans to host a concert every quarter in order to bring joy to the community through their music. The environment they cultivate and the music they produce is one of a kind, as well as the sideshows they host — such as the raffle I will be doubling up on for their next performance.

To any and all who are interested in joining their community, they meet in Room 105 in the Music Building every Friday from 6 to 8 p.m.. More information can be found on their website as well as on all social media platforms.

Written By: Clay Allen Rogers — arts@theaggie.org


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