Respawn! Fifth House Ensemble's "Journey Live"

Feb 18, 2016

A view of the player's destination in Journey.

An emotional playthrough of Journey inspired members of Chicago's Fifth House Ensemble to create a live version. I talked with Melissa and Eric Snoza about how they created this unique concert experience.

Journey proved that a video game didn't have to involve combat or death to be an emotional experience for players. Instead, you are given the almost insurmountable challenge of reaching the peak of a distant mountain with just your meager abilities to fly and glide. Along the way, other players wordlessly join you, helping you find secrets to increase your stamina, and show you where danger lies.

A mysterious ally accompanies players from time to time in Journey.

Journey is a story told with stunning visuals and a beautiful score composed by Austin Wintory, which won multiple awards.

Playing through Journey for the first time was such a powerful experience for Melissa Snoza, of Chicago's Fifth House Ensemble, that her first thought was to find a way to bring the music to a concert setting.

Melissa and two other members of Fifth House, Eric Snoza and Dan Visconti, all had a deep emotional reaction to the game: "If you can picture it, it's me and Dan and Eric all sitting on the couch at the end of the game with tears streaming down our faces, and another member of the group wanders in and wonders what happened to us all!"

She and the other members of Fifth House worked with Wintory, as well as arranger Patrick O'Malley, to turn the score into a playable concert piece, collaborating with a game player on stage.

A successful Kickstarter campaign reached its goal in just a couple of hours, and ended up raising tens of thousands of dollars, showing what a huge impact Journey has on its fans.

The premiere, with Wintory conducting, will be at MAG Fest in Baltimore, on Feb. 20, with performances after that in Chicago, Ill., Boca Raton, Fla., Springfield, Ill., and Brooklyn, N.Y.

Obstacles in a player's path in Journey.

"Our challenge now is to do what our backers are asking," Melissa added. "We asked them with their pledges to tell us where we should go next, and we have a running tally of all the requests we've been getting."

When I asked if there had been any unexpected moments during the project, Eric said, "The first time we played through the score in rehearsal. It's one thing to play the game and hear the music in the game, but when you sit down and hear the music live, the emotions well up."

With requests for performances all around the U.S., as well as Britain and Australia, it's likely that Fifth House Ensemble has a long Journey ahead.