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Arts & Music

Video games, classical music meet in St. Petersburg

Tribune correspondent
Published:   |   Updated: March 13, 2013 at 11:15 AM

Genre fusion is like a B12 shot for the entertainment industry. Music, in particular, benefits creatively and financially from the unlikeliest combinations. This is especially so when one generation has ignored another's brand of sound or amusement.

For example, who would ever think that video games and classical music could or would cross paths? Just ask Tommy Tallarico. He'll set you straight. In 2002, the veteran gaming industry musician and icon innovated a way to sync video game music with a full symphony and choir. The result — "Video Games Live!" — combined all the power and emotion of an orchestra with the excitement of a rock concert.

Symphonies around the globe have taken a chance on Tallarico's invention, surprising themselves and their audiences with the effective fusion.

"It's tough to convince orchestras to do this. We play all over the world, and it's still a tough sell. Symphony people sometimes shy away from pop culture and don't consider it on the same level as Beethoven and Mozart," said Tallarico.

Fortunately, the Florida Orchestra is hip to what's hot. Award-winning Emmanuel Fratianni will conduct this groundbreaking union for one night only at the Mahaffey Theatre.

Today's video game music is not like yesterday's Pac-Man and Pong, where mindless beeps and burps helped give the '80s a bad rap. Those sounds have since evolved into complete compositions grounded in classics ranging from Beethoven to Billy Joel.

"I wanted to prove to the world how culturally significant video games are," said Tallarico. "I wanted to usher in a younger generation to come out and appreciate the symphony. When I designed the show, I didn't do it for just hard-core gamers. I designed it for everyone. You don't have to know anything about gaming to come and be blown away."

For "Video Games Live!" the USF Chamber Singers join the Florida Orchestra to perform music from "Mario," "Zelda," "Final Fantasy," "Halo," "StarCraft," "Myst," "Interactive Guitar Hero," "Tomb Raider," "Crysis," "Monkey Island" and many more. Video footage, solo performers, electronic percussionists and synchronized lighting complement the mix.

"Non-gamers get the biggest kick out of the concert. Music is at its core. Forget what it was made for; it's stunningly beautiful. When non-gamers see the show, they can't believe how beautiful the music was, the graphics. They get why kids are into [video games]," Tallarico said.

Serious gamers have the option to purchase a Video Games Live Ultimate VIP Backstage pass. The experience will include one VIP ticket for the "best seats in the house" to view the show; a Video Games Live! backstage laminated tour pass; a pre-show production tour; a Q&A and special personal meet-and-greet with Tallarico; a free download card for the special extended Video Games Live!: Level 2 album; an official vintage Video Games Live! Poster; and front-of-the-line access to the Video Games Live! post-show meet-and-greet.

As the G-Man said in "Half Life: Episode Two," "Prepare for unforeseen consequences."

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