Distant Worlds 2011 – Music From Final Fantasy

Distant Worlds 2011 – Music From Final Fantasy

Distant Worlds 2011 Recap http://cplus2magazine.com/vindictus-bake-off/- Music from Final Fantasy -

by Gina

As a long time a fan of classical music, particularly of orchestra performances and symphony arrangements. There’s something about the blend of strings and brass that always transports my senses to another world. Imagine my giddiness when two of my favorite things – classical music and video games – came together in the Distant Worlds: Music from Final Fantasy concert.

Last year was the first that I’ve heard of such an event; Final Fantasy is a series that is very dear to my heart, and playing the games was one of the predominant memories I have of my childhood. While other girls flocked to department stores to hunt for the latest fashion trends, I was off on wild adventures with Cloud, Squall, and Tidus.

The first time I attended Distant Worlds was during San Diego Comic Con 2010, and I was absolutely thrilled with the experience. When I heard that they would be performing again in LA this year, I bought my tickets the moment they went on sale!

UCLA - Royce Hall

UCLA - Royce Hall, Night View

This year’s concert was slightly different from the previous ones; it was to be held at a different venue, the Royce Hallconcert hall, which is located on the UCLA campus. What was special about the LA performance is that the set list was divided over a two-day program, featuring “Dancing Mad” on Friday, September 9, 2011, a song that would be performed for the very first time in the US! Moreover, in addition to having the esteemed Nobuo Uematsu (composer for Final Fantasy I~ XII) in attendance, Distant Worlds also announced an additional special guest for the LA performance: Hironobu Sakaguchi, the producer of Final Fantasy himself. I imagine many fans -myself included- nearly wet their pants in excitement when they heard the news.

Distant Worlds 2011: Attendees lining up to enter the concert hall.

Distant Worlds 2011: Attendees lining up to enter the concert hall - Photo by BigWhiteBazooka Photography

I arrived an hour before showtime and was immediately impressed by the selected venue. From the outside, the architectural style of Royce Hall resembled an ancient castle, and under the campus lighting the building glowed almost golden at night. Modeled after a basilica in Milan, Royce Hall is one of the oldest buildings of UCLA. Coincidentally, its look and feel is also very reminiscent of certain in-game environments such as the opera scene in FF6, traverse town from Kingdom Hearts, Alexandria from FF9, etc.

Royce Hall - Balcony View - photo by BigWhiteBazooka Photogrpahy

Distant Worlds 2011 @ Royce Hall - Balcony View - photo by BigWhiteBazooka Photogrpahy

 Inside the concert hall, the actual auditorium was a lot smaller than I imagined. It was hard to imagine that filled to capacity, it could seat up to 1833 attendees.

Originally, I thought that the row F tickets I purchased would put us somewhere in the middle of the concert hall, but when the usher led me to the 6th row from the front of the stage where I could practically lean forward and touch the celloists, I could hardly contain our excitement. I exchanged a wide-eyed “OMG ARE YOU SERIOUS I CAN’T BELIEVE HOW CLOSE WE ARE TO THE STAGE AND I WOULD SCREAM IF IT WAS APPROPRIATE” look with my friend and fellow attendee before we sat down, dazed, next to two kind gentlemen from Westwood.

Final Fantasy 7, Yuffie from Dirge of Cereberus and Kingdom Hearts Cosplay

Distant Worlds 2011: Yuffie Cosplayers at UCLA Royce Hall - Photo by BigWhiteBazooka Photography

Our seats were located on the left end aisle of the right orchestra section, which turned out to be a good thing for two reasons. First, it put us close to the center section which gave us a fantastic view of the entire stage. Second, it made it much easier for us to stand up and move to the aisle since we kept getting asked by other concert attendees for photos!

Distant Worlds 2011: Yuffie from Kingdom Hearts (left); me as Yuffie from Dirge of Cereberus (right); photo by Evalime Photography

Distant Worlds 2011: Yuffie from Kingdom Hearts (left); me as Yuffie from Dirge of Cereberus (right); photo by Evalime Photography

Like several other Final Fantasy fans in the audience, my friend and I had decided to attend the concert in a Final Fantasy costume. The character I chose to cosplay was Yuffie Kisaragi, a female ninja character originally from Final Fantasy 7, but who has had several big and small appearances in other games such as Dirge of Cereberus and Kingdom Hearts. We were pretty ecstatic to see several other fans dress up as their favorite characters. Among the cosplayers present at the concert, there was Kefka from FFVI, a white mage, Aerith from FFVII, Fran and Balthier from FFXII, and also Lightning and Oerba Yun Fang from FFXIII.

As the last of the guests finally trickled in, the concert kicked off with a special preview of FFXIII-2 on the big overhead screen. Honored guests Nobuo Uematsu and Hironobu Sakaguchi surprised everyone by sitting right in the middle of the audience! When they were introduced by Arnie Roth, they stood up so that everyone could see where they were sitting. Judging from the screams that resulted, I believe a few fans who were sitting right next to them had a mini heart-attack!

Distant Worlds 2011: Arnie Roth conducting the Distant Worlds Philharmonic Orchestra at Royce Hall

Hearing the video game music that I grew up with being brought to life in an orchestral performance was more exhilarating than words can describe. One of my personal highlights of the night was Susan Calloway‘s performance of my favorite Final Fantasy song, Memoro de la Stono from Final Fantasy XI Online. Although the tempo seemed slightly off from the original CD recording and she initially struggled somewhat with the higher notes of the song, she went on to perform beautifully and much more confidently the next night with a lovely rendition of “Suteki Da Ne” from Final Fantasy X and an absolutely amazing performance of “Kiss Me Goodbye” from Final Fantasy XIII.

Royce Hall houses an authentic, antique pipe organ which was used in LA’s premiere performance of “Dancing Mad” from Final Fantasy VI, an 11-minute long, highly intense, very difficult and challenging arrangement. The UCLA master chorale and the sound of the organ really brought out the intensity the final boss fight music, and ferocious intensity and energy of this piece definitely marked the climax of Friday night’s performance.

Sephiroth, the main villain from Final Fantasy VII

Clearly, Sephiroth fans couldn't be upstaged by Kefka, so of course “One-Winged Angel” was performed as the encore, and to the audience's delight, Nobuo Uematsu joined the stage as part of the chorale. “One-Winged Angel” was also performed as the encore on Saturday night, but with a twist – as the UCLA master chorale could not be present on Saturday, conductor Arnie Roth and Final Fantasy composer Nobuo Uematsu turned the entire audience into the world’s biggest choir: The audience sang along Karaoke-style with Latin lyrics that appeared on the big screen overhead, concluding the second night of the Distant Worlds concert.

As we left the concert venue (wistful but happy), we overheard the event staff comment on how well-behaved the fans were. They had been expecting the crowd to be unruly, but instead were surprised at how respectful and friendly the attendees were. This, I think, is part of why I adore Distant Worlds so much. Most of the attendees were fans of Final Fantasy and played the games growing up. Although attending the event as strangers, their shared love of music and Final Fantasy allowed them to feel a special connection to one another. Everyone at the concert was helpful, friendly, and polite. One concert-goer posted a photo of the crowd on facebook and remarked, “Why do I feel like you’re all my close friends?”

Although I have linked much of the music here, nothing beats a live orchestra experience. If you are interested in classical music, Final Fantasy, or both, I highly recommend you to attend one of the Distant Worlds concert - not just because of the fantastic music, but also because the encouragement, friendliness and excitement shared among the fans will certainly make it a doubly rewarding experience.

More info about the Distant Worlds Tour can be found on their official website, http://www.ffdistantworlds.com/