By Cory Taggart
It’s hard to explain why Pokémon has such widespread appeal. Maybe it’s the numerous, colorful creatures. Perhaps it’s the simplistic but enjoyable stories. Or it could be the series’ well-loved music.
Pokémon Symphonic Evolutions is an ongoing series of concerts, held across the world, highlighting some of the best tracks from the video games. After a performance on January 17, 2015, the show returned on January 24, 2016 by popular demand. Presented by Princeton Entertainment at The Pokémon Company International, the show was a rousing success with attendees of all ages.
The conductor for the afternoon was Susie Benchasil Seiter, who previously worked on The Legend of Zelda: Symphony of the Goddess, an orchestra show for another Nintendo franchise, The Legend of Zelda. Her husband, Chad Seiter, composed and arranged the songs, and Jeron Moore was Creative Producer. The music was all performed by the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra.
The songs were all orchestral arrangements of familiar themes from all the main series games, from the beginning games of Pokémon Red, Blue, and Yellow, to the newest releases, Pokémon X and Y. Save for the final game, all six generations of games had three songs on the playlist (X and Y had 4). There was also an encore, featuring a sing-along to the anime adaptation’s classic theme “Gotta Catch ‘Em All.”
It was not a mere auditory experience, either: a screen was placed on stage, showing footage of the games in sync to the music. The audience cheered and laughed at certain iconic scenes and battles, most notably at the recurring phrase, “I like shorts! They’re comfy and easy to wear!” which has achieved meme-like status. Many also yelled in approval when Red (the protagonist of Red and Blue) chose Charmander as his starter (its second evolved form, Charizard, is a fan favorite Pokémon.)
It was a hit, with many people attending in costume. Carlow junior Morgan Boyer was there, attired appropriately in a dress covered in Pokéballs. “I thought it was full of energy and brought a lot of attention to the symphony,” she told me after the show. “It reminds people how important the symphony is to Pittsburgh.” She also noted how impressed she was with the female conductor.
I went with my younger sister, Kat, who was quite pleased with the event, although she did have a few complaints. “I was expecting them to play themes from each of the routes and towns,” she lamented on the way home. “I really wanted to hear the Undella Town song. It’s so soothing, like a lullaby.” (Undella Town is located in Unova, the region in Pokémon Black and White.)
After the concert had concluded, there was a meet-and-greet with Mrs. Seiter and Moore for those that had purchased official Pokémon Symphonic Evolutions merchandise. Up for sale was a poster, shirt, and special Pikachu plush only available at this event. Unfortunately, I was unable to attend.
As Pokémon enters its twentieth year (Red and Blue was first released in Japan in 1996), the series continues to pick up new fans and find ways to entertain them. And when something is as iconic as Pokémon has become, it’s no wonder a Pokémon concert was so well received by many. The Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra has done Pikachu proud.
Malcom and Simon, dressed as Riolu and Mega Lucario. Image used with permission.