Being able to attend not one but TWO video game music symphonies gives this Princess the warm fuzzies inside, folks. The gamers win! Our culture, our MUSIC, is becoming mainstream, and the victory is sweet. It was extra special to spend the evening with my godmother, uncle, and their two children. The younger of my two cousins, who is in band and enjoys video games, benefited from the experience greatly, and my aunt and uncle learned a thing or two as well.
Now, I don’t really have any good picture or video of the actual performance; of course, all devices are meant to be turned off so patrons do not have distractions, and these performances are really meant to be enjoyed in the moment.
However, intermission was a fantastic time for gamer attendees to whip out their 3DSes and StreetPass the snot out of dozens of people.
The Berklee Contemporary Symphony Orchestra sounded pretty solid, although there was one piece they got off to a bad start and needed a “do over.” Conductor Arnie Roth was a warm and charismatic host of the symphony that evening, interacting with fans and energetically waving about through the performance.
There was also so much to learn about the history of Distant Worlds, and Roth guided us through that musical journey. Licensed by Square Enix and corresponding closely with Nobuo Uematsu, it was clear that he chose pieces that were not only important to Uematsu and to himself personally, but to his intended audience as well. It was also thoroughly impressive to hear about the massive library of musical arrangements (well over 100?!) that have been slowly building over time, with of course some pieces getting tweaks here or there.
Although my personal favorite was not chosen that evening, Aria di Mezzo Carattere/Opera Maria and Draco from Final Fantasy VI (I daresay they may have been hard pressed to find soloists with vocals powerful enough not to be drowned out by the rest of the orchestra–the soloist they did have for another piece had a very lovely voice, but I just wish I could have heard more of her!), they did choose these:
FFVII- Opening “Bombing Mission” (I squirmed a little….”Bombing Mission?” In Boston? Still, seeing Aerith whispering to the Lifestream in the middle of Midgar and then having everything zoom out– those opening cinematics of FFVII– gave me good chills.)
FF Series- “Victory Theme” (A short classic.)
FFIII- DS Opening
FFXI- “Memoro de la Stono–Distant Worlds” (The soloist’s voice was BEAUTIFUL, absolutely stunning when the orchestra was playing quietly, but when the rest of the vocalists chimed in and the orchestra got louder, she was sadly drowned out. I heard this song again on YouTube and I was finally able to hear and understand all of the lyrics.)
FFVI- “Character Theme Medley” (Oh, my beautiful Celes!!)
FFXIII- “Fabula Nova Crystallis”
FFXIII- “Blinded by Light”
FFVIII- “Balamb GARDEN- Ami”
FF Series- “Swing de Chocobo” (Really fun to hear and watch clips– I later had to explain to my godmother and uncle that a chocobo is basically a cross between an ostrich and a chicken and used for land transportation in the games.)
INTERMISSION– EVERYBODY GET YOUR 3DSES OUT DOOD
FFVIII- “The Man with the Machine Gun”
FFIX- “Roses of May” (Actually my personal favorite IX song, whoo!)
FFXIV- “Torn from the Heavens”
FFIV- “Theme of Love” (Really pleasant to listen to, overall.)
FFV- “Main Theme” (Love for V, aww yeah.)
FFX- “Zanarkand” (When Arnie Roth started talking about this piece, interacting with the audience, the fans went crazy with approval, and for good reason. While I found X’s story to be, meh whatever, I did highly enjoy the gameplay, Blitzball, the sphere grid, and the music was exceptional.)
FFVII- “JENOVA COMPLETE” (A really exciting piece, and they showed a lot of Crisis Core clips. Very cool. Confused my aunt and uncle who knew about “Cloud” but had no idea who this “goofy black-haired kid” was. It was kinda adorable.)
FF Series- “Battle & Victory Theme Medley” (Roth likes medleys. I can’t blame him– too many awesome pieces to choose from? Medleys, baby!)
FF Series- “Main Theme”
Encore? FFVII- “One-Winged Angel”
My god, they really ended that show on a high note. AND the audience was invited to yell “SEPHIROTH” at the appropriate times. How often does one get to talk DURING a piece? Not very often, mind you. Let me tell you, these Final Fantasy nerds were quiet. Almost no noise during the actual performances all night, maybe only one or two cameras the whole night trying to snap a quick shot. These people were so well-behaved, it was like we were in Final Fantasy church. Honestly, it kind of put the behavior of the audience at the Symphony of the Goddesses to shame. Even when we were supposed to cry out, “Sephiroth!” it was pretty quiet. The first couple of times were strong, and then it just kind of tapered off near the middle as everyone meekly drifted back into reverent silence.
Friends, if you ever get a chance to go to one of these performances, do it. It’s an absolutely fantastic experience.