Undertale Live to meld Fifth House Ensemble concert, video game story

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"Undertale Live" logo

The video game culture began on the couch. Taking it to the stage required getting off the couch. 

It’s a little like Richard Wagner meets “Candy Crush.” But for this event, coming to an outdoor setting Sept. 1, you won’t need a Dual Shock 4 or set of Joy-Cons.

Undertale” (tale about monsters under the topsoil) is one of the most acclaimed video games of the past decade, with almost 4 million fans around the globe. Toby Fox, all by himself, developed this indie fun-wonder, which tells a story filled with heart, about characters filled with quirks. Fox also composed the game’s unorthodox music that furthers its tales: long ago, monsters got sealed underground. Fox added a surprise; players can resolve each encounter nonviolently, inviting us to have empathy for those we see as different.

“Undertale” roared into the gaming scene in 2015. People knew about Fox’s previous work on web comic “Homestuck,” but the popularity of “Undertale” astonished. A game of adventure, it topples players’ predictions by relying on role-playing.

Fifth House Ensemble

But who will play Fox’s remarkable score Sept. 1? To the rescue comes the distinguished Chicago-based dectet (10 members) chamber group Fifth House Ensemble.

Fifth House launches artists’ careers through entrepreneurship residencies and training programs, working with the top U.S. music schools, including those at Yale College, Eastman, Indiana University (Jacobs School of Music) and San Francisco Conservatory of Music.

What does it mean to be a 21st-century musician? 

“Most people love classical music and just don’t know it yet,” said cellist and founding member, Herine Coetzee Koschak, in a Zoom interview. “This (collaboration) is about meeting people where they are.” In fact, “Undertale” is Fifth House’s second venture with video games; in this second one the audience gets to vote.

“It’s retro-style,” Koschak said. “And there’s a lot of 8-bit (video games) in it. Fox’ score is a blast to play. We use a lot of iPads.”

Alain Barker, director of the Jacobs School of Music’s Community Engagement Initiative, the program that is hosting the event, said the program acknowledges the power and popularity of game theory. “We are reimagining classical music in today’s culture. Over the past 20 years we’ve been seeking ways to respond to trends and new audiences.”

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