My love for Uematsu Nobuo goes back many, many years. I was first introduced to the Final Fantasy series when I was a wee 3rd grader. A friend told me about FFVII and we role-played on the playground for a while before I was able to convince my dad to buy me the computer version (I wasn’t fancy enough for a PlayStation by that point). Over time, I delved into many of the other entries and spin-offs (the one I was most excited for pre-release and which my father was most skeptical of was Kingdom Hearts) and while I’ve enjoyed the characters and the plots to different degrees, I’ve loved the music– especially that composed by Uematsu Nobuo– across it all. I don’t recall the first time I heard of the Distant Worlds concert series, but I knew I wanted to go the first opportunity I got. Naturally, this meant that it finally came round to Portland while I was here.
Last year, I was able to go to the Bra☆Bra concert in Osaka, which was a gigantic relief after failing to get Distant Worlds tickets. Everyone was given a pamphlet detailing the tour, short bios about Uematsu (who served as the MC), the Siena Wind Orchestra, and the conductor, Kurita Hirofumi, available goods, and most importantly, the setlist (or プログラム), along with a million flyers and a plastic tambourine. The first selection was a battle medley, which was the same this year. This is potentially confusing if you’re unaware it’s a medley. Having forgotten, and lacking a pamphlet this year, hearing songs I definitely knew were not from the same game was disorienting at first (though enjoyable nonetheless). In the last quarter of the concert, there were several smaller groups who played. Perhaps my favorite among these was the saxophone quartet who played a more soul-inspired version of FFX’s To Zanarkand, especially as I used to play half of their instruments once upon a time. I was also caught unawares by the orchestra inviting up anyone with an instrument to play Mambo de Chocobo following their encore.
This year followed a similar format to last’s. Uematsu was once again the MC along with Yamashita Mami, and both were wonderful. Kurita was as animated a conductor as I’d remembered. Fortunately, I was able to borrow a friend’s flute, and roped another friend into bringing her violin so we could participate. We both fussed about the timing and when we should go up, but it all turned out marvelously.
The concert is highly interactive, and Uematsu enters the stage at the beginning, calling on people to shout certain phrases. One of my favorite parts was when we were instructed in the ways of clapping/stomping along with a piece. The final rhythm is a little tricky, so everyone was laughing at their screw-ups. The instructor is also extremely animated when cueing the audience to join in. Following the recorder song (I am still in shock that they can sound so not terrible, though I suppose if anyone can, it’s the professionals), those who have brought their own (along with the music, downloadable on the website) can join in (unsurprisingly, this was more ear-splitting). As was true last year, the final song (Mambo de Chocobo) is performed by both the Siena Wind Orchestra and any audience members who want to join them on stage. You can bring your own instrument, sing, or use one of the plastic ones provided. This year, a fellow Hyogo Times contributor and I joined in on the fun, and I highly recommend it. It was my first time playing in an ensemble in nearly seven years, so it was super 懐かしい。
To fully enjoy the experience, brush up on your FFVII and FFIX soundtracks in particular. If you have a DS and Theathrhythm (especially Curtain Call), that’s also a great way to interact with (all) the music to pump yourself up. Also, if you have an instrument and decide to join the full ensemble and all the other musical fans, print out the sheet music for your part and bring a stand or some other means to hold the music. Or, you know, memorize it, depending on how dedicated you are.
You have several options for purchasing your tickets, as well as where you choose to experience the magic. As of the publishing date, there are still tickets available for the most local show: July 23rd at 神戸国際会館、which is smack dab in the middle of Sannomiya. You can check on the official website for other upcoming locations and purchasing methods. If you have even the slightest bit of fondness for Final Fantasy music, this is not an event to be missed!