Wow, this review is fantastic. Thanks a lot!
I appreciate that you went and reviewed this among all of the requests. To be honest one of the reasons why I requested this is because I was hoping that you'd review this because your reviews are awesome :P.
I'll respond to most of the points in your review...
To be honest the intro isn't something I worked too hard on. I wanted it to start very softly and progressively move on to the 'epic' part at 0:40, without making the progression too gradual. I see exactly what you mean about the shakers. They do stand out a bit too much over there and don't seem to mingle well in that part. I'm not very creative with different percussion sounds so I just wanted to add some soft percussion there and the shaker is all that came to mind xP.
Yep, those are choirs. Just an 'ooh' choir that comes with the orchestral VST I'm using (East/West Symphonic Orchestra Silver). Really awesome VST.
The part at 1:00 is actually a harp not a piano, believe it or not :P. I should've turned it up more and turned down the strings a little, so that it can actually make some more significance. The piano comes in a little later playing low notes at 1:11.
I'm also very happy you like the percussion. I like to think that I'm not terrible at orchestral percussion, even though I may lack in other areas :3.
The tempo-change is something I do very often in my orchestral songs. Really helps to give a little more variety, I think, although transitioning to the slower part can be tough sometimes.
The flute is from East/West and all the instruments there are recorded from actual instruments, so I wasn't surprised when you said it sounds like it could have been played live. I love using vibrato on my flutes though, you're not the first to point it out. Must be a bad habit. D:
Haha 1:32 is probably the part I'm most proud of.
I play piano myself so I'm glad you like the piano solo. It's not the first time I did a piano solo (actually I use pianos in my songs a lot. I love piano). The sample is also from East/West, it's got a very nice Steinway B sample.
This song is actually a remix of SBB's song Shadow People, so I shouldn't take full credit for the composition. I changed his melody around a lot though, completely changed the structure and the flute/piano melodies were all by me, but the main melody is still his. You should check out the song if you get the time: http://www.newgrounds.com/audio/liste n/362888
If you go to 2:42 of that song you'll hear the melody which I remixed.
So yeah at 2:29 in this song, that little transitional melody is part of a melody that plays in Shadow People. It works as part of the melody in his song but here I just showcase it as a buildup to the outro.
Good thing you think 2:38 fits well as an outro. I originally didn't have it but SBB suggested I add it. I'm not so good at changing stuff in a song once I've finished it, so I was hoping that part would fit alright after I edited it in.
All in all, thanks a lot for the great review and the constructive criticism. These types of reviews are the reviews I enjoy getting the most!
Glad you liked it, and oh well, I suppose the response ended up bigger than the review. I'm sorry xP.