Concert Review - Symphonic Fantasies

Last night I was fortunate enough to hear not only the London Symphony Orchestra, but also the London Symphony Chorus perform Symphonic Fantasies, a series of symphonic arrangements of music from Kingdom Hearts, Secret of Mana, Chrono Trigger, Chrono Cross, and Final Fantasy. It was magnificent. Sitting there listening to all this music gave me chills. Nothing compares to hearing it performed live. No sound system on Earth can give you the experience of hearing wonderfully talented musicians in person. And when the music is from games you love, it's even more powerful.

The LSO brought such zest to the music. And this was my first time hearing the London Symphony Chorus. They just made everything even more epic. Together with the soloists, Slava Sidorenko and Rony Barrack, we were taken on the most wonderful adventure through the worlds of these games.

I have finally heard music from Kingdom Hearts performed live. What a dream come true. I adored how Hand in Hand swelled with hope, joy and triumph before taking us down into The Other Promise - via a few strands of Sora and Kairi's themes. The orchestra really captured the ache in that music. They didn't lose the whimsy of the series either, or that feeling of being swept up in a grand adventure with big battles.

Oh, and the cello solo for Dearly Beloved just infuses the music with even more emotion. Simply amazing.

And not only did I hear her music, Yoko Shimomura herself spoke to us about her music and how she composes. Hearing her explain how she composed Vector to the Heavens was especially fascinating. She explained how she wanted to explore Xion's unfulfilled life, and if you know the music, you know precisely what that means. I loved hearing how she composed Dearly Beloved  to the sound of the sea, too. It was an honour to hear her speak about her music in such a way.

The Secret of Mana arrangement was such a new experience to me. The choir were astounding. It's such a cliche, but you have to hear it to believe it. They ushered the orchestra in with the sound of a storm. They moved and stomped, and used their voices to create wind, rain, and chaos. I've never heard anything like it. Recordings of this piece simply don't do it justice. The way the choir rises over the orchestra was just spectacular. The choir brought the music to us, and at the end they gently faded away as though the storm has passed. Just awe-inspiring. I haven't played these games in years, but the music was so powerful thanks to such a masterful performance.

Chrono Trigger and Chrono Cross have to be my highlight of the entire performance because Scars of Time is such a brilliant piece of music, and the orchestra clearly had a lot of fun playing it. It has the most incredible rhythm to it. I danced in my seat the whole way through. I think a lot of us were! It's a thrilling melody. The violin solo was very, very inspiring to me. Maybe in twenty years I'll be that good. Practice makes perfect!

Then, at last, we came to Final Fantasy. Hearing the Prelude was wonderful - harp and choir together. When I was younger, I used to leave the menu screen of Final Fantasy VII playing over and over so I could listen to this. It's so soothing. And we go from that to BOOM, the battle theme from VII. And the blending of the light and cheery Chocobo Theme with Phantom Forest from Final Fantasy VI worked so well. Phantom Forest is one of my favourite Uematsu compositions, and hearing it blend in with other themes was such a treat. The choir added a level of ominous expectation. You could just picture the ghosts waiting on the train ahead. Oh, and I will never, ever tire of hearing Battle for the Big Bridge live. Never. Or the Final Fantasy Main Theme. It's so uplifting, even when it's broken up with Bombing Mission. Hearing that live for the first time was so exciting. It just brought back all the emotions of playing Final Fantasy VII for the first time. It was well worth waiting for.

Finally, we were treated to the encore, which blended Destati, One Winged Angel and Dancing Mad. Hearing Destati live was so emotional for me. It's such a towering piece of music, and the strings pounded that beat home. Honestly, I sat there with my eyes closed so I could just bathe in the music and let it surround me. It was an experience I'll remember for life. And it led so well into the blending of Kefka's and Sephiroth's themes. I could picture those two villainous titans battling on stage. Hard to say who'd win ;)

Much like last year's Final Symphony II concert, this was a performance like no other. Every piece I heard was like hearing it all for the first time. There were nuances to the music that no recording could ever hope to catch. The orchestra, soloists, and choir brought the compositions to life in a way I've never experienced. It was magical. And I loved how conductor Eckehard Stier leapt and danced around his podium. A magnificent night, one I feel very lucky to have experienced. I'm still applauding you all today. Thank you, thank you, thank you!


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