Friday, May 13, 2016

A New Day, A New World: A Final Fantasy Concert Experience

 The Fangirl Experience is a monthly column suggested by Jaime Heller, featuring contributions from both our staff and our readers. Everybody has those moments when being a fangirl feels like the world has become perfectly balanced. It's those moments when you feel a stir in your heart that maybe you've made the right decision in falling down the fandom vortex. When, in the words of my good "friend" Zachary Levi, your "unbridled passion for something, or things, defines who they are as a person without fear of other people's judgment." It's that moment you want to share with the whole world, scream to the rooftops, about what happened. Maybe it's a small moment, maybe it's a big one. But every fangirl has one--or will have one--and we would like to share ours with you.
Because our Initiative would be nothing without the Experience.

Final Fantasy is known for its gripping stories, stunning graphics, and memorable characters.  One way we relive all that the games have to offer is by listening to the series’ transcendent music.  Through this, we recall memories of everything from romantic kisses to character deaths.  Who could forget the battle music that plays during grind sessions?  It takes hours of experience to beat lunatic villains or fierce behemoths, thus it’s only natural that the music has to be exceptional.

So, when I found out Final Fantasy:  A New World (an orchestral concert dedicated to the music of Final Fantasy)  was coming to North Carolina the same time I would be visiting family, I had no choice.  I had to go.  It was time to get the gang together and enjoy Final Fantasy music.  

We donned our best evening attire (because what else would you wear to an event like this?  Okay...cosplay would be the only other acceptable answer).  After all, this was an orchestral performance honoring one of my favorite video game series of all time, so we had to go in style. (Side note:  I recently found out a Kingdom Hearts concert now exists and is coming to the United States.)

Once we arrived and I had a chance to look around, something occurred to me.  I hadn’t seen a single child.  Everyone attending the event was close to my age or older. (Huzzah!  Geek culture rules supreme!) I came to the realization that, look, I’m an adult, and hey, I will forever love video games and fandoms of all shapes and sizes.  That’s right.  No matter your age, geek culture is appreciated because it’s inspiring and touching.  It presents age-old stories and universal ideals.

Before long, it came time for the concert to begin.  A side door creaked open and out emerged the German Pianist Benyamin Nuss followed by the conductor.  Before they settled, the crowd immediately grew silent.  It was so instantaneous that it was startling.  I had never experienced anything like it.  Everyone was here to appreciate Final Fantasy music and they respected the orchestra enough that, even during the concert, I did not see a single cell phone.  Every person had turned them off and settled in.  We were all too enthralled with the experience to do anything else.  

The concert began with the conductor greeting everyone.  He explained how the night would go and introduced the talented Benyamin Nuss, who would be playing a select few piano solos.  (The solos were in good hands!  Thank goodness because I always look forward to the piano pieces.)

Since they were playing Final Fantasy music, the orchestra HAD to start off with the Final Fantasy "Victory Fanfare", which is normally used to indicate a battle victory (how appropriate).  Then the real fun began.  

Concert Highlights

The concert included final boss music and classic melodies.  Some theme songs reoccur throughout the series (like the "Victory Fanfare") and vary from game to game.  One of these happened to be one of the most lighthearted songs of the night--the "Chocobo Theme Song." Did you know that there are hundreds of variations of the "Chocobo Theme Song"?  Well, the orchestra took a few fan favorites and compiled them into one incredible, fun loving medley.  What made it even better was that one instrument even played a sound similar to a chocobo call.  Plus, they even squeezed a cute chocobo squeaker toy.

The concert pulled from the entire series, but the Final Fantasy X soundtrack was the one they drew from the most.  It was especially exciting to hear the final boss battle on the piano and the heartbreaking "Zanarkand"!  I literally cried.

I was also amused with how the piano solos were handled.  Nuss was brilliant, and he took his job seriously.  While he played, his entire body jumped and shifted, his toes tapped and his fingers flew across the keys.  It was almost like the music had possessed him.  Definitely phenomenal to watch.

But the cherry on top was that final song (which of course was "One-Winged Angel").  It wasn’t just the song that was fabulous (even though "One-Winged Angel" is pretty badass).  No, what was truly fantastic was that the audience was able to sing along.  This was exciting because "One-Winged Angel" is the most recognized song from the games.  It was actually the first Final Fantasy piece to have vocals.  Plus, it’s one part epic, one part Latin-tastic, and one part horror movie theme.  What’s notable (and the most memorable) is that at certain instances, the name Sephiroth (the villain of Final Fantasy VII) is repeated throughout the piece.  So, whenever Sephiroth was said in the song, the audience sang along like an angry angelic chorus.

By the end of the night, I was shaking so hard from pure joy and adrenaline that I wobbled as I got out of my seat for that standing ovation.

Would you go to a Final Fantasy or Kingdom Hearts concert?  What’s your favorite song from either of these series?

Have you ever had an out-of-this-world fangirl experience? The Fangirl Initiative wouldn't be complete without the help of you, our readers. We want to hear and feature your stories and tales. If you have a fangirl experience you'd like to share in this column, let us know!

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