.::NEW COLUMNIST PIECE::.
Pei-Pei’s Pennies — A New Author for A New World
Welcome, nerds and nerdettes, to “PeiPei’s Pennies;” My brand-new, affectionately named column, wherein I give my two-cents on subjects and events ya’ll should know about. Today, I’ll be discussing the surreal beauty that is A New World: Intimate Music From FINAL FANTASY. In case you were all unaware, A New World is a symphonic experience in which an orchestra plays songs from the world famous Final Fantasy game series to a live audience.
Through my life, I have been to three FINAL FANTASY symphonies. The Distant Worlds: music from FINAL FANTASY symphonies to be more precise. The grandeur and power that the Distant Worlds symphonies are nothing to shake a buster-sword at. I can’t think of many times when I was more overwhelmed by emotions than I was the first time I had heard this music live. An overpowering sense of majesty fills the venues as each and every song plays from my favorite installments in the series. So, upon hearing that A New World strips away that majesty to that of a small chamber orchestra, I had my reservation.Thankfully, I was proven wonderfully wrong.
On October 20th, for the first time ever, A New Wold played in Denver, Colorado. To the delight of franchise fans and lovers of classical music, they performed a handful of carefully chosen classics to celebrate the Thirty-Year history of FINAL FANTASY. Compositions by legendary composers Nobuo Uematsu, Naoshi Mizuta, Masashi Hamauzu and Hitoshi Sakimoto were all on the set list last night (I would hazard a guess and say XV is still too young for Miss Yoko Shimomura’s music to be the only major title missing from the set list). Under the direction of acclaimed conductor Eric Roth and with a world famous pianist, Benyamin Nuss, along with the New World Players chamber orchestra. A New World shattered my expectations and has acquired a secure place among my memories. By no means do I wish to demean the performances of each musician that played, however, I feel as though it’d be criminal not to briefly mention the outstanding performance of the pianist Benyamin Nuss. Mr. Nuss’s artistry is absolutely outstanding. He is perhaps one of, if not the best, solo pianist I have ever heard live. His solo performances of “Those who Fight,” “Heroes,” and “Gold Saucer” are now among my favorite interpretations of those songs.
However, by performing in a more intimate seting, A New World grants us the chance to see some of our favorite pieces performed in entirely new ways. In fact, it distills a certain purity that is notably lacking in larger performances. The songs chosen for the ensemble lend themselves to the faithfulness of original arrangements. The new FINAL FANTASY arrangements written by Arnie Roth, his son Eric Roth, and the Distant Worlds team refine each piece to the “intimate” nature that the team so rightfully boasts. With each daring arrangement, the focus of the audience is laid bare on the stage for each single musician to reach out and take, to fight for, to demand.Daring arrangements that take the originals and turn them completely on their heads:
- The String Quartet version of the originally percussion-heavy “Fight with Seymour” was
an unexpected need I never knew I had.
- The painfully delicate guitar solo that was the performance of “Elia of Water Maiden”
calmed and soothed
- The devastatingly commanding piano solo of “Heroes” from XIV subsited long after it
was over .
- Each new arrangement generated vocal praise from the audience after every
That said, there are even those pieces that can not go unperformed even in such a setting. One of those pieces was the finale of the concert, “One Winged Angel.” Most definitely one of the more known pieces of the Final Fantasy repertoire, and deservingly so. Even when stripped to the very essence of a chamber orchestra, without the choir, without the power of a full symphony, the New World arrangement of piece displays an overwhelming sense of grace and intimidation fit for the One Winged Angel, Sephiroth. To speak only of the performances themselves, however, would also be a slight on the experience as a whole. The atmosphere was absolutely elegant. The venue at The University of Denver was gorgeous and the air of camaraderie was lingering throughout. Most were formally dressed for the occasion and the merchandise booth grew busier and busier as the night drew on Cosplayers were also in attendance, encouraged even. A few were kind enough to give us pictures of their outfits. It was no more apparent however, in the kinship that was had between Final Fantasy fans than during the concert itself. The cheers and the laughs, the encouragement and compliments. All were there to be given, had, exchanged, and appreciated.
The Thirty Year Anniversary celebration is well underway for the Final Fantasy series and the continuation of the series’ musical performances don’t seem to be slowing down. A New World’s performance here in Colorado was, in this goers opinion, very well received. I can only hope that the success of the night’s events will only lead to return visits. Extraordinary pieces that can best be appreciated through the medium that is live performance, deserve the ability to continue to produce the immediate and eternally gratifying and intimate encounters with audiences around the nations — fans and new comers alike. I look forward to having more from these shows with the themes, characters and settings that only Final Fantasy can offer.