On the 8th October I fulfilled a dream of being able to hear a live orchestra and chorus perform video game music suites before my very eyes and ears. There are several of these types of concert productions that rotate the world and I hadn’t heard any of this production before – I was delighted and surprised with what I experienced.
The event, guest attended by Yoko Shimomura, whom cutely ran out to join the audience right before the off and tried to not get on the stage for the ovation at the end and wanted to hide behind the orchestra instead, was split into four Fantasies (acts).
After an overture we were let loose with a Kingdom Hearts medley. It fused many key songs together but the key different here was that there was freedom of interpretation. Instead of straight renditions, each 15 minute-ish Fantasy had transitions, mash ups and tweaks on the originals because they all blended into each other. Whilst I noticed in the audience some people were getting their conducts arms going and then getting confused when the arrangement would veer off onto its own interpretation, I found it so refreshing that small tweaks and nuances would really reshape an original piece. That being said, the Kingdom Heart’s Fantasy was all about the central “Dearly Beloved” which was slowed down to an achingly beautiful melody that rose into a powerful climax. I had watery eyes – it was that good.
“Secret of Mana” followed with the London Symphony Chorus joining in London Symphony Orchestra for some fantastic arrangements of the soundtrack. The chorus opened and closed by making rain and wind sounds with their mouths and hands and with the percussion man smashing away at lightning sheets and various tuned percussive instruments it was a cracking rearrangement. I loved that it kept returning to the main theme as a ground zero anchor before exploring other themes. Considering it’s from 1993, I think this Fantasy was the most evolved of the lot and it really showed.
“Chrono Trigger and Chrono Cross” followed and opened with one of my personal favourite tracks of all time Scar of Time before picking songs from both games and merging them seamlessly. Here darbouka soloist Rony Barrak added a new layer to the thick strings by giving us a certain Asian percussive flair that’s present in the game and made only more flamboyant and alive in real life. Indeed each Fantasy had its own character. Kingdom Hearts was regal, Mana was experimental, Chrono felt like a magical dance and then we came to Final Fantasy.
In what can only be described as audio trolling, the arrangement hinted at One Winged Angel and then burst into the Chocobo theme several times over. In fact its big moment was actual Battle at the Big Bridge rather than anything end boss like. It was a playful arrangement that stayed rooted firmly in the VI and VII era rather than attempting to pile in many different games. When taken on its own merit, it’s a fine arrangement but I think with such a wide song choice to choose from, it’s something that you dream of certain arrangements and can be slightly underwhelmed when you get something else. I had an absolute blast though and the encore was a fantastic mash-up of boss themes from Kingdom Hearts and Final Fantasy VI and VII. Destati was a particular stand out and I absolutely adored the way Kefka’s song was intermingled in places with One Winged Angel. They fit so well together that I wanted more of that – but as an encore, it was the big crowd pleaser and I was elated and enraptured.
As an experience, I fully recommend hearing a full orchestra and chorus in person at least one in your life if you can. The atmosphere was electric – you could hear a pin drop in places when things were quiet. If you want very set standard arrangements then Distant World’s may have the edge, but if you’d like a big budget re-jigging medley setting for your game soundtracks – this was spellbinding. Highly, highly recommended. I want to go again!