Patience is a virtue, unless you’re a “Game of Thrones” fan. While the withdrawal of HBO’s hit show continues to settle in since the most recent episode aired last June, good things are coming to those that wait (and wait) for the announcement of the upcoming seventh season.
GAME OF THRONES® LIVE CONCERT EXPERIENCE When: 8 p.m., Feb. 22 Where: United Center, 1901 W. Madison Tickets: Starting at $19 Info: ticketmaster.com
Next week, the “Game of Thrones” Live Concert Experience comes to United Center — a massive and immersive production that visually and audibly brings the Emmy-winning show to life, under the auspices of the show’s composer, Ramin Djawadi.
“We wanted to create something exciting and different, that had never been done before,” says Djawadi, who worked on the concept for three years with full support from show creators David Benioff and D.B Weiss.
“It was one of those conversations that just sort of came up when we were in the studio doing a music review of one of the [early] episodes,” recalls Djawadi of the initial inspiration. “One of them said, ‘This would be great live; you should do a concert.’”
It started with a show in L.A., before Djawadi hatched the idea of a whole tour with a specially designed stage for a real fan experience. He says, “I’m very pleased to see how it has come together.”
To be clear, this is no run-of-the-mill orchestra performance in a formal theatre. To match the largess of “Game of Thrones,” Djawadi has created an original in-the-round stage that features rotating sets and floating screens equipped with state-of-the-art digital projections offering iconic scenes from the show and dazzling effects of fire and snow (at one point a blizzard overtakes the musicians), all in an effort to take attendees on a journey through the Westeros and Essos realms. While the main attraction is King’s Landing abutting a 30-foot walkway to Winterfell, Meereen, Pyke, Braavos and Dorne are also represented in the two-hour performance that is so highly anticipated, an animated preview has already been viewed 10 million times.
To get an idea of how massive Djawadi’s set is, 807 linear feet of video wall and 255 pieces of lighting are used each night, as well as timed pyrotechnics, fog and 136 speakers to amplify all the battle calls and dragon screams. At the crux of the show, though, are the 60-plus musicians — a mix of touring soloists and local artists from the Lyric Opera Orchestra, Chicago Symphony Orchestra, Grant Park Symphony, Lake Forest Symphony, Elgin Symphony and the Chicago Philharmonic — who perform key compositions from the show’s score with a combination of strings, brass, choir and nearly a dozen eclectic instruments including the duduk (a Middle Eastern, double-reed woodwind flute) and a percussive hammered dulcimer.
“Some are common in different regions of the world but are not used as much in Western music,” says Djawadi, also noting that one-of-a-kind instruments were especially built for the performances. “Giant hand pipes for example and one instrument built to represent the Wildling horn.”
Djawadi admits it was “tricky” picking which compositions to include. “There’s so much material in every show, but we had to summarize it somehow.” He says a big question became how to transition from some of the music pieces used as key focal points in various episodes and also making sure a good amount of characters were represented. Ultimately, though, he says, “I think there’s a nice variety of what we are playing.”
The “Game of Thrones” live experience is slated to include the ever-popular and often-imitated main theme song as well as the evocative “Rains of Castamere,” which viewers may remember from season three’s Red Wedding. But there will also be a few “new” pieces, promises Djawadi. “I’ve done some different arrangements that vary from the soundtrack that are just for the concert, which hopefully people will like hearing.”
Djawadi, a Grammy-nominated composer who also currently creates the music for HBO’s “Westworld,” says much of his inspiration for the “Game of Thrones” score comes from the “beautiful storytelling” of George R.R. Martin, whose fantasy novels inspired the show. Though Djawadi couldn’t have ever anticipated how much the music would become its own character.
“To think of even how many cover versions there are for the main theme song on YouTube … we had no idea it would be so successful,” he says, conceding, “On every project I really try to do my best work but this one is special and has really defined me as a composer. It’s been a great journey.”
He also hopes that feeling will be one that translates for fans during the live concert experience. “We really want to take the audience through a nice montage of season one through six, to be able to recap that all over again and hope people will then be even more excited for season seven.”
Selena Fragassi is a freelance writer.