This mammoth 100-piece orchestra brings the mythical music of ‘Final Fantasy’ to life

This mammoth 100-piece orchestra brings the mythical music of ‘Final Fantasy’ to life

Distant Worlds
Words by Jacob Colliver

Few franchises in video game history boast the legacy of Final Fantasy. Over the last 32 years, the beloved RPG fantasy series has earned a place in the hearts of countless people, selling over 144 million games worldwide.

Nothing frames the drama and adventure of Final Fantasy’s tales more perfectly than its music and it is these iconic and diverse soundtracks that the concert series Distant Worlds: Music from Final Fantasy powerfully delivers to a live audience.

“These scores are beautifully written, really excellent orchestrations, and difficult, depending on the orchestra,” notes conductor Arnie Roth. “The orchestra has to play very classically written orchestrations and they also have to play some scores which cross over into different genres –jazz and rock and operatic and all kinds of things contemporary. They really have a lot of learning to do quickly on the first rehearsals.

“That’s what I’ll be doing basically – this is a totally live concert experience. There’s no prerecorded tracks, there’s no band playing with us or anything like that – this is totally live, so everything has to be perfect on the stage. We don’t have a choice there.”

Arriving in Melbourne for the first time, Distant Worlds shall see a 100-piece philharmonic orchestra and chorus perform memorable pieces from titles such as Final Fantasy XV, XIV and VII alongside scenes from the games in a breathtaking audiovisual experience.

Having previously worked alongside series composers such as Hitoshi Sakimoto and Naoshi Mizuta, the Grammy-winning Roth found great joy working once again with esteemed Final Fantasy XV and Kingdom Hearts composer Yoko Shimomura on this tour to bring the spirit of her work to life.

“She’s great fun to work with,” Roth says. “She’s a wonderful composer and, by the way, a really good pianist as well.

“When I was sent some of the scores from XV, I started working with her about the way that we were going to perform some of these scores,” he continues. “Oftentimes, these composers, they’re writing for the music soundtrack for the video game itself. Sometimes, we get scores that are the short 90-second versions because that’s how it was in the video game, and we have to enlarge them to be full concert tracks – three minutes, five minutes, whatever they may be.”

As fun as it can be, Roth takes great pride in his work. Choosing arrangements between hundreds of thousands of hours of music is difficult enough, but the challenge of capturing the feeling of Final Fantasy – the emotion and heart that resonates with so many – is both important and rewarding.

“It’s all very compelling, strong music all the way throughout,” Roth explains. “Part of it is the combination of an RPG game and what [series composer] Nobuo Uematsu created at the beginning, which was, every character has [an] individual motif. Every battle, every journey, every romantic relationship.

“It was just kind of fascinating – and then, years later on another version of the game, they bring some of those themes back in new arrangements.

Roth is excited for the chance to deliver Distant Worlds to Melbourne and encapsulate the sonic landscape of one of the greatest games series of all time.

“We have many fans that write to us in advance of the concerts and they’re asking to propose marriage to their significant others during our concerts,” Roth reveals. “They’re sending us special messages that, if we can accommodate, we put it up on the screen – it’s a very emotional moment for them.

“Also, we get many fans telling us at the IP receptions or writing in that they used ‘Zanarkand’ or ‘Aerith’s Theme’ or something else as the music they walked down the aisle for. This stuff is extremely personal for these video game players and I really take that as a big responsibility from our standpoint.”

The music of Final Fantasy will come to life at Melbourne Arena on Saturday August 24. Grab your tickets via the MJR Presents website.