After watching “Distant Worlds,” a concert full of orchestral music from the “Final Fantasy” video games, I want to go home, dust off my old Nintendo and play through the series.
I'm probably not alone. The concert, performed Thursday at the Holland Performing Arts Center, was sold out and full of more young people than I've ever seen there, let alone at an orchestral concert.
Some dressed as characters from the series, such as Tidus, Yuna, the black mage and even a chocobo (sort of like a big chicken).
It was an entertaining celebration of music from the series, which included battle themes such as “Zanarkand” from the 10th installment of the series and character themes such as “Aerith's Theme” from the seventh game.
“Final Fantasy” composer Nobuo Uematsu, who created most of the music for the series as well as all but one song in Thursday night's concert, was in attendance for the concert, which occurred on his 54th birthday.
Fans cheered him several times and gave the composer several standing ovations.
“Final Fantasy” has music that's as moving and emotional as any film score and includes everything from sweeping love songs to rhythmic battle themes. While watching scenes from the game with no sound but the music, I could still follow along and feel the emotions of the scenes.
Fans loved it, too. They shouted out when conductor Arnie Roth announced a favorite song was coming up next and when they heard the opening notes of songs such as “The Man With the Machine Gun.”
As the orchestra struck up its second song, a medley of themes from the first three games, projections from those games (in all their 8-bit graphic glory) played behind the orchestra.
That occurred all night, and we saw early 3-D graphics as we heard “Jenova” from “Final Fantasy VII” and smooth, beautiful modern computer-generated video during “Blinded by Light” from “Final Fantasy XIII.”
During “Swing de Chocobo,” a montage of game snippets from a variety of games featuring the beloved animal, fans cheered and laughed as the animal waddled through various scenes.
Soloists spiced up various songs. Ron Cooley of Mannheim Steamroller played classical guitar on “Dear Friends” and “Vamo alla Flamenco.” And three singers — Shelby VanNordstrand, Jack Cotterell and Kirk Vaughn-Robinson — stole the scene during the operatic “Maria and Draco.”
The University of Nebraska at Omaha Chamber Choir sang with the orchestra and made the concert's finale, “One-Winged Angel,” sound positively epic.
Fans loved the presence of composer Uematsu on his birthday.
One song, “Unrequited Love” from “Final Fantasy IX,” was played especially for Uematsu and was the first time it had been played at a “Distant Worlds” show.
Later, Roth gave Uematsu a birthday cake, and the full orchestra performed “Happy Birthday.”
Following that, the orchestra performed “One-Winged Angel,” probably the most famous song from the series, as the finale.
Amid cheers and a standing ovation, Uematsu ran back to the choir and joined its members to sing the song.
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