Soundtrack Central The best classic game music and more

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Adam Corn Jun 9, 2009

This has been mentioned in another thread but I figured it deserved its own since:
1) Tickets are still available.
2) I got my own and will totally be reporting on it when it's over.
3) FFVI music is to die for.

The concert is set for August 23, 2009, to be performed by the Little Jack Orchestra.  It's apparently some sort of fan orchestra but they've been doing yearly concerts since 2004 and have booked quite a nice venue so I have high hopes for the event.

The third and final batch of tickets go on sale at e-plus from June 12 (try this link or check the Little Jack homepage).

Here's the concert program with translations:

- 予兆 Opening Theme
- 戦闘 Battle Theme
- 勝利のファンファーレ Fanfare
- 魔道士ケフカ Cefka
- 迷いの森 The Mystic Forest
- 街角の子供たち Kids Run Through the City Corner
- 幻獣を守れ! Save Them!
- 決戦 The Decisive Battle
- ティナのテーマ Terra's Theme
- 婚礼のワルツ~決闘 The Wedding Waltz ~ Duel
- 大団円 Grand Finale?
- レスト・イン・ピース Rest in Peace
- 仲間を求めて Searching for Friends
- 墓碑名 Epitaph
- 妖星乱舞(ラスボス) Dancing Mad
- 蘇る緑(エンディング) Ending Theme
- プレリュード Prelude

I need not comment on how spectacular this set list is.  If they merely perform a complete arrangement of the ending theme (or of the character medley part of it at least) my life will be complete. big_smile

Vaeran Jun 9, 2009

Adam Corn wrote:

- 仲間を求めて Searching for Friends


The underappreciated gem of FFVI.

Idolores Jun 9, 2009 (edited Jun 9, 2009)

Vaeran wrote:
Adam Corn wrote:

- 仲間を求めて Searching for Friends


The underappreciated gem of FFVI.

I honestly didn't think there WAS any underappreciated music in FFVI. smile

Edit: Adam, do you think they'll have CD's of their work for sale at this event?

Vaeran Jun 9, 2009

Idolores wrote:

I honestly didn't think there WAS any underappreciated music in FFVI. smile

Well, in relative terms, of course. Everyone talks about the big boys like Dancing Mad, Decisive Battle, the ending, the character themes, the opera, etc., and Searching for Friends hardly ever gets any love.

Angela Jun 9, 2009

'Tis a promising tracklist.  High hopes that they'd be ambitious enough to do Dancing Mad and the Ending Theme in their entirety.

I'm surprised at the trio of battle themes involved, though.  Dancing Mad could certainly work, but it'll be interesting to see how well the progressive nature of Battle Theme and Decisive Battle translates to orchestra.

Zane Jun 9, 2009

Adam Corn wrote:

- レスト・イン・ピース Rest in Peace
- 仲間を求めて Searching for Friends
- 墓碑名 Epitaph

Whoa. That little suite will be ridiculous!

Adam Corn Jun 9, 2009

Vaeran wrote:
Idolores wrote:

I honestly didn't think there WAS any underappreciated music in FFVI. smile

Well, in relative terms, of course. Everyone talks about the big boys like Dancing Mad, Decisive Battle, the ending, the character themes, the opera, etc., and Searching for Friends hardly ever gets any love.

Everyone has their own list of favorites (mine consisting mostly of the character themes and their reprises, town and exploration themes, dungeon themes, and Ending Theme) but you can take just about any track from FFVI OSV and find something to appreciate without looking hard at all.

I just listened through the soundtrack for the first time in a while yesterday, and even "The Serpent Trench", which is one of the very few tracks I skip regularly, works for the mock-orchestral New Age bit that it is.

As for the concert, I think even the more progressive-tinged battle themes can work fine as orchestral arrangements.  It'll be interesting to hear how all-out they go on "Dancing Mad" (I actually hope they tone it down).  Aside from the obvious picks like "Opening Theme" and "Ending Theme", I'm most interested in hearing how "The Mystic Forest" and "Kids Run Through the City Corner" compare to their Grand Finale versions.  And of course can't wait for an orchestral version of "Epitaph". smile

Ugly Bob Jun 9, 2009

I hope that there will be CD's for sale. I would really like to hear epic performances of the Ending Theme (my favorite VGM tune of all time!)

I also hope that it isn't truncated too much. I look forward to your report!

Adam Corn Jun 9, 2009

I will really be surprised if they offer a recording of the concert, given how closely Square Enix guard their IP.  I didn't notice any mention of previous concert recordings on the orchestra's home page either.

I'm guessing the reason the tickets are so cheap in the first place (only 1000 yen - that is insane) is because they can't legally make any money off of it.  But I'm really not well versed on how copyrights for musical compositions and performances work in Japan so I could be wrong.

...I hope I am.  The only thing potentially better than a live FFVI orchestral concert would be a CD release of it. big_smile

Jon Turner Jun 10, 2009

Wonderful.  FFVI is Nobuo Uematsu's masterpiece and I feel his tunes deserve better recognition.

Soto Jun 10, 2009

Man, and I'm going to be in Yokohama sometime this fall for a factory visit, but I have no idea when.

Schala Jun 15, 2009

Yow! Dang! Orchestral concert devoted to FF6?!? Wish I could go. Adam, we'll be waiting for your review. ^_~

Adam Corn Aug 23, 2009 (edited Aug 24, 2009)

The concert was today, and I made the trip to Minato Mirai Hall in Yokohama to be there for the one VGM concert I could absolutely under no circumstances miss (give or take a couple wink).  The show did not disappoint, not one tiny little iota.  I will save the superlatives for my next post (it's been a busy day, in a good way) and will just post the final program for now.  Consecutive tracks (without a space between them) were played as such, without a pause in between or in medley fashion.

Opening Theme
Battle Theme

Kids Run Through the City Corner

Save Them
The Decisive Battle
The Fierce Battle


The Wedding Waltz ~ Duel
Grand Finale?

The Mystic Forest

Rest in Peace
Searching for Friends


Dancing Mad
Ending Theme

The Prelude

Final Fantasy III - Roaming Sheep

Blue Dragon - Waterside ~for Piano and Orchestra~

Final Fantasy IV - Golbeza Clad in the Dark, Battle with the Four Fiends (The Dreadful Fight)

Angela Aug 23, 2009

Adam Corn wrote:

Dancing Mad
Ending Theme

Details soon :)

Time length confirmations! Stat!

Carl Aug 24, 2009

Awesome, glad you enjoyed it, Adam!

now we'll just hope for a bootleg to surface sometime.

Chris Aug 25, 2009

Well, I was very skeptical about this one, so I'm really impressed they apparently pulled it off. I'm looking forward to reading more about you experiences, Adam!

Adam Corn Aug 30, 2009

Sorry for the delay, here are some impressions from the Final Fantasy VI orchestral concert.  They were meant to be quick and brief but wound up being neither. big_smile

Let me begin by saying I had deliberately tempered my expectations going into this concert.  Final Fantasy VI is the score that got me into collecting game soundtracks, and despite some tremendous competition it remains my favorite to this day.  Having been to a few other game orchestral concerts and being to varying degrees entertained but also underwhelmed, I didn't want to set myself up for disappointment here, especially considering it was being performed by an amateur orchestra which I'd never heard of before.

It took all of ten seconds into the concert for that wall of feigned indifference to crumble.

As expected, the concert opened with FFVI's classic "Opening Theme".  As fantastic as the original version of this piece is, the organ that preludes it has always felt a bit peculiar to me - like a strange bit of VGM horror in an otherwise impeccable, atmospheric opening.  But no matter what version I listen to from this day forth, I'll always remember the massive wall of sound radiating from the pipe organ in Minato Mirai Hall to lead this performance.  Upon hearing those opening chords, my outlook on the concert immediately went from cautious expectation to wonder and excitement.  The orchestral rendition of the opening and "Tina's Theme" that then followed established the pattern for the rest of the concert - arrangements tactfully orchestrated and faithful to the original versions, but with some occasional original touches (a simple but effective instrumental call-and-repeat of Tina's theme in this case).

In most other game concerts the performance would stop at that point for some early applause (and likely some incessant chatter from an emcee), but without missing a beat the orchestra jumped straight into "Battle Theme".  I'd considered FFVI's battle theme to be a weak point of the soundtrack (relative to its many strengths and to the revolutionary battle themes in FFVII), but it was a completely different beast here.  Orchestral trumpets made far greater impact over the OST's slightly whiny synth versions, while live strings massively amplified the frantic essence of the original.  With only one run-through before going into a brisk rendition of the victory "Fanfare", my only concern that remained going into the first intermission was that the concert might be a bit short.

Following a lovely performance of "Kids Run Through the City Corner" and a charismatic rendition of "Cefca's Theme" was a battle suite for the ages.  Even the boss battle themes in FFVI don't rank among my favorites, but as with the normal battle theme, the medley of "Save Them!", "The Decisive Battle" and "The Fierce Battle" took a whole other form in this concert.  "The Decisive Battle" in particularly is one crazy-hectic boss theme, but amazingly it was rendered live at the same frantic tempo, almost note for note with the original version.  Even compared to performances by professional orchestras in other game music concerts, the sheer force behind the Little Jack orchestra - particularly the string section - was awesome.

The selections from the FFVI opera were the sole area of the concert that I'd say fell short of existing material, merely because they had already been arranged and performed in such spectacular form in Orchestral Game Concert 4.  Nonetheless both "The Wedding Waltz ~ Duel" and "Grand Finale?" were done extremely well and were a joy to hear live, even having heard the OGC4 version so many times as a standard.

All the arranged versions of the fan-favorite "Mystic Forest" theme have been beautiful (see FFVI Grand Finale and Piano Collections), but in comparison the Little Jack concert arrangement had a more haunting quality to it, perfectly suited to the theme.  The decision to sometimes use the trumpets for the main melody was one of the more surprising alterations of the concert, but it worked out fantastically.  Continuing from there was a concert medley of "Rest in Peace", "Epitaph", and "Searching for Friends" that was every bit as poignant and powerful as one could hope.  "Rest in Peace" was hardly any longer than the OST version but so much prettier orchestral, and it set the stage for a beautiful performance of "Epitaph" arranged with more emphasis on the tragic nature of the piece (yes, it was even more gut-wrenching than the original).  "Searching for Friends" brought about a more hopeful tone; this was another moment where the sweeping effect of the orchestra's string section in full was overwhelming, especially when a final reference to the Epitaph theme concluded the piece.

Following a second intermission came the answer to the most burning questions I had going into the concert.  Could an amateur orchestra pull off the two most momentous works of FFVI, and would they dare to perform them in their full, unabridged forms?  Much as with Opening Theme, my doubts were demolished when the pipe organ resounded the opening chords for the final battle, "Dancing Mad".  In the original version a synth chorus plays a major role in the moments that follow; in the concert the orchestra not only filled that place entirely but added new qualities - a classical tragic sound for its early cues and tremendous bombast for later ones.  Even the fast-tempo, progressive rock segment from the last part of the original version, which could have just as easily been left to the pipe organ, was instead given the full force of the orchestra (and some insanely fast xylophone accompaniment), making the buildup to the piece's organ finale all the more dramatic.  The arrangement in all spanned twelve minutes - including every single segment from the original - before leading into the orchestral performance I'd waited 15 years for.

As the years since Final Fantasy VI's original release accumulated, I'd given up hope of ever hearing its masterpiece "Ending Theme" performed orchestrally.  Even seeing it listed on the concert program, I'd expected a rendition of only the character medley from the first half at best.  Indeed the performance began with the same, solitary piano intro of the original and moved through each character theme's reprise almost note-for-note.  All my favorite parts came across better than I dared hope - the redemptive leading reprise of Cyan's theme, the majestic brass of Edgar and Sabin's Figaro theme, the definitive arrangement of Celes' theme leading into the resounding reprise of Locke's.  As the strings faded away at the end of Stragus' theme - the last of the character medley - the brass roared to life and the orchestra continued on.  Every part of the ending theme was performed live, from the lengthy, tumultuous reprise of Setzer's theme, to its soaring second reprise, to the main theme of Final Fantasy (still beautiful after all these years), to the climactic, driving conclusion, which boasted the full force of the orchestra and an ingeniously implemented final blast of sound from the pipe organ.  Total duration for the orchestral version of the FFVI ending theme: 21 minutes, every one of them amazing.

After the program-ending rendition of "Prelude" and enthusiastic applause, the orchestra returned for an encore.  Steering away from FFVI for the first time, they performed the "Roaming Sheep" theme from FFIII, which though a bit simplistic in purely instrumental form was still pretty.  When the conductor announced an appearance by a special guest, Uematsu-san himself stepped onto the stage to share his reflections on the concert with the audience.  Following Mr. Uematsu's appearance we were treated to yet another encore, "Waterside" from Blue Dragon, which though I'm not familiar with in the slightest was still quite nice.

For a third and final encore, the orchestra turned to none other than Final Fantasy IV.  Wisely the spotlight was returned to the pipe organ for a booming rendition of "Golbeza Clad in the Dark", before the orchestra joined in for a furious performance of the classic "Battle with the Four Fiends".  Having never completed FFIV, I can't even claim to be a huge fan of this piece, but hearing it performed with the same tremendous gusto as the earlier FFVI battle themes had me fantasizing over the prospect of the Little Jack Orchestra tackling more Final Fantasy music in the future.

Including two short intermissions and brief commentary from the conductor and Mr. Uematsu, the concert spanned no less than two and a half hours.  That's not including the bonus performances that small subsets of the orchestra played in the hall lobby before the show.  Modest but entertaining performances of "Spinach Rag" and "Johnny C Bad" were the ones I saw; apparently there were others.

As mentioned, I've attended other game orchestral concerts in Japan (20020220 Final Fantasy, Super Smash Bros. Melee and 2007 Press Start), but the Little Jack Final Fantasy VI concert blew them all away.  That's not to say the performance was perfect, as there were some noticeable performance slip-ups here and there.  But these were hardly more common than in other concerts, and were eclipsed by excellent performances on the pipe organ and other instruments.  What left an even greater impression was the sheer might and beauty of the orchestra in full.  I've been entertained and sometimes impressed by the orchestras in other game concerts, but never truly astounded as in this one (even when in the exact same venue).

During his time on stage, Nobuo Uematsu mused how even in comparison to the many professional orchestras that have played Final Fantasy music, there was something special about hearing a concert by musicians who really loved the music they're playing beforehand.  After hearing such a fantastic performance, I'm inclined to agree.  There were video recordings and no doubt audio recordings being taken as well; one can only hope that they resurface as some kind of free or commercial release, so that more fans can enjoy Final Fantasy VI music performed on the grand scale it has deserved all this time.  In any case, any game music fan in Japan at the time of the Little Jack Orchestra's next concert should absolutely make it a priority to attend.  I know I intend to be there.

Carl Aug 30, 2009 (edited Aug 30, 2009)

Awesome.   Yeah, 21 minutes of ANY Ending Theme just isn't gonna happen at any American Concert, so it's fantastic that they're willing to go to such lengths there in Japan. 

I've always wanted to hear the haunting Mystic Forest live myself, did they have any female vocalist doing the "aahhhs" like Grand Finale, or was it substituted with flutes or something similar?

Ugly Bob Aug 31, 2009

well, that was an epic review, Adam. Kind of like I was there. Not really, and that makes me sad.

I really enjoyed reading your review, especially how you described the lead-in to Dancing Mad and The Ending Theme. 21 minutes of heaven, no doubt!

I definitely will be watching for the Little Jack's Orchestra, as per your recommendation.

Too bad there is no recordings of this concert anywhere. I'd (and everyone else here!) would love to hear it!

Adam Corn Aug 31, 2009

Thanks U.B., I'm glad you liked it.  It took forever to write!

Carl, I'd say it has less to do with the concert being held in Japan than does the fact that it was organized and performed by fans.  Square Enix is a Japanese company but in 15 years they never gave us a FFVI concert, much less an orchestral version of the ending theme.

As for Mystic Forest, I don't remember the instrumentation in great detail aside from the trumpets (which surprised me), but there were no vocalists for the concert whatsoever (for the better IMO).  All the arrangements were original, so they didn't necessarily need something to fill in the vocal part from the FFVI Grand Finale version.

Angela Aug 31, 2009

Indeed, a most superb write-up, Adam.  This sounds about as close to a dream concert of Final Fantasy VI as we're ever going to get.  And all those encores sounded like a real treat as well!

I'm most curious to hear how the battle themes turned out.  As a big fan of VI's battles, it stands to reason if these renditions impressed even you, then I would be doubly so.

Adam Corn wrote:

All my favorite parts came across better than I dared hope - the redemptive leading reprise of Cyan's theme, the majestic brass of Edgar and Sabin's Figaro theme, the definitive arrangement of Celes' theme leading into the resounding reprise of Locke's.

Ahh, if I could only hear this for myself, I can die a happy woman. smile

Adam Corn Sep 3, 2009

I should mention that the concert program states that the next Little Jack orchestral concert is tentatively slated for October 2010, to include music from Chrono Trigger.  Count me in!

Angela wrote:
Adam Corn wrote:

All my favorite parts came across better than I dared hope - the redemptive leading reprise of Cyan's theme, the majestic brass of Edgar and Sabin's Figaro theme, the definitive arrangement of Celes' theme leading into the resounding reprise of Locke's.

Ahh, if I could only hear this for myself, I can die a happy woman. smile

Those were almost the exact words I told my friend leading up to the concert. smile

Schala Sep 5, 2009

Wow, awesome review. Thanks! Definitely wish I could've been there. ^_^

vansciver Feb 23, 2011

Did any recordings of this ever surface?

Adam Corn Feb 23, 2011

Not that I know of. sad  I did some searching a while back and came up with nothing.

Square Enix are idiots for not allowing it to be made available.

vansciver Feb 23, 2011

Thanks, Adam.  Great review of the concert, by the way!  Very detailed!  I don't know if you've gone back to read it, but I'm sure it would flood you with happy memories. smile

jayavictory Mar 23, 2014

Aww... To see a performance of my favorite of FFVI score, you are envied!

If only we could somehow convince Thomas Böcker to record a full concert dedicated to FFVI. That would be golden!

Adam Corn Mar 29, 2014

Yeah I wish I could go back and re-live that concert.  It makes me sad that the memories are fading.

Square really could just license the arrangements (I'm sure the orchestra would appreciate a donation) and hire a professional orchestra and the show would be a huge success.  They hold multiple concerts for specific Dragon Quest titles every year so I can't imagine a FFVI one wouldn't be successful.

I wouldn't argue against a Böcker-produced FFVI concert either. smile  Take the FFVI arrangements from Symphonic Odysseys and Final Symphony and you have the better part of one already.

Wanderer Mar 29, 2014

Man, I would have given anything to see that concert. I'm listening to the FFVI OST now and if anything, it's only gotten better with age. Not that later soundtracks didn't have highlights but FFVI is virtually filler free, an astonishing achievement for Uematsu.

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