Final Fantasy fans of the New York area were finally able to rejoice this weekend of April 1, 2011. But luckily for us, it was no April Fool’s joke. For the first time ever, the Distant Worlds Philharmonic Orchestra has appeared in New York with Conductor Arnie Roth and the legendary Composer Nubuo Uematsu to perform the music of Final Fantasy. Over the course of two days, fans were able to listen and enjoy the enigmatic sound at the BAM Howard Gilman Opera House in Brooklyn, New York.
Imagine, sitting in the Opera House, watching as all of the orchestra comes together. Then the amazing Arnie Roth appears and not too long after, the wonderful Nubuo Uematsu. I’m sure not even they would have expected the ecstatic, warm welcome they received from their New York fans. The place just went crazy and we knew, the fun was only the beginning.
For the first night, we were treated to (in no particular order and every single piece accompanied by footage from each game on a large television screen):
The Final Fantasy Series: Prelude (with Chorus), Chocobo Medley 2010, Victory Theme (A special treat!)
FF V: Clash on the Big Bridge (with Chorus)
FF VI: Terra’s Theme
FF VII: J-E-N-O-V-A (with Chorus), Opening – Bombing Mission, One-Winged Angel (with Chorus)
FF VIII: Liberi Fatali (with Chorus), Fisherman’s Horizon (with Chorus), Don’t Be Afraid, Man with the Machine Gun
FF X: To Zanarkand, Suteki da Ne (with Susan Calloway)
FF XI: Memoro de la Stono – Distant Worlds (with Chorus and Susan Calloway)
FF XII: Kiss Me Goodbye (with Susan Calloway)
FF XIII: Prelude to Final Fantasy XIII, The Promise
FF XIV: Navigator’s Glory – The Theme of Limsa Lominsa, the American premiere of Answers (with Chorus and Susan Calloway)
Hearing some classics like “Terra’s Theme” or “J-E-N-O-V-A” played by a live orchestra is an breath-taking experience. Pieces like these two brought back the memories of when you were playing as Terra in Final Fantasy VI or fightning against Jenova in Final Fantasy VII. Nothing short of amazing.
One of the really nice treats was having the lovely special vocal guest, Susan Calloway. Having heard her sing “Memoro de la Stono – Distant Worlds” in the past, it was a pleasure to hear her powerful vocals delivering the english version to “Suteki da Ne”, “Kiss Me Goodbye”, and the stunning new song to the latest Final Fantasy XIV “Answers”.
This new theme really brought down the house as it opened with the Chorus calling out as if they were in an actual Final Fantasy as a people that were crying for help. And Susan Calloway’s answer to their pleas as if she were a goddess these people were praying to. I can honestly say that “Answers” is a true Nubuo Uematsu piece and has become a personal favorite.
Calloway’s version of “Kiss Me Goodbye” was sung beautifully and one could feel the emotions through her voice as Angela Aki had originally sung. “Suteki da Ne” was also a very nice rendition of the love theme from Final Fantasy X, done entirely in English. While I don’t usually mind mixing two languages together, I wished that the actual lyric Suteki da Ne was translated as well. But that is just my opinion and nonetheless, it was still a beautiful piece, and done extremely well.
Another orchestrated piece that the audience enjoyed was the new “Chocobo Medley 2010”, a fun arrangement of the classic theme dedicated to these sweet, giant yellow birds. The medley was accompanied by a video of the evolution from the first 8-bit Final Fantasy games to the full new 3D versions. It also sampled the newest Chocobo theme to FF XIV. Definitely a fun and enjoyable piece.
The audience became really excited when the orchestra played “Clash on the Big Bridge”, “Man with the Machine Gun” and “One-Winged Angel”. What can we say? Classics will never get old and they were all done equally well. To have Nubuo Uematsu, to sing (which he does very well) as part of the choir in “One-Winged Angel” made it much more enjoyable.
There was also another special guest that night, the composer for the soundtrack of FFXIII: Masashi Hamauzu. The orchestra played two selected pieces from that sound track – “Prelude to Final Fantasy XIII” and “The Promise”. Both very great tracks from a very beautiful game. (Which will have a sequel at the end of this year!”
We were also treated to another FF XIV theme, “Navigator’s Glory – The Theme of Limsa Lominsa”. As the song was played, we were able to watch footage from the online game, seeing all of the playable characters and the environment of XIV. For those of us who have not yet played the game, it allowed us to get a feel of the story and witness the beauty both in sound and visuals of the latest Final Fantasy game. I have never played an MMORPG that was subscription-based but this performance definitely made me want to give it a chance.
Many of the songs that were played have been heard before for many years and some were brand new but there is something special about being able to hear it played live. The moment that the main Final Fantasy Prelude began, many of the fans were getting teary-eyed, including myself. As a fan of both the games and the music, I and many other fans hope that this New York debut will be the start of many more yearly performances to come. Thank you Nubuo Uematsu, Arnie Roth, Distant Worlds Philharmonic Orchestra, Square-Enix, BAM Howard Gilman Opera House, and everyone else that was involved in this project! Please come back next year!