(Some background: a review I wrote is meant to go up on the crashout webpage as well, and I intended to link to it. But it’s not up yet, despite the concert being over for quite some time. Both me and Zeng were there, and I decided to hell with this I’m gonna re-write the review for Squarebrain because I really really need to tell you all how great the concert was. Onwards!)
Passion, by the Eminence Symphony Orchestra
Date: 23 December 2006
Venue: Victoria Concert Hall
Passion is the latest concert by the Eminence Symphony Orchestra. For those not in the know, Eminence is an orchestra dedicated to playing videogame and anime music in an effort to bring orchestral music to a younger, less stuck-up audience.
A guy called Hiroaki Yura (a talented violinist) founded it in Australia in 2003. Eminence holds an annual videogame and anime music themed concert in Melbourne and Sydney, called A Night in Fantasia, which has turned out to be very succesful. This year (okay, 2006), they held another, smaller concert they dubbed Passion, and for the first time, they played outside of Australia…
The repertoire was diverse and interesting. They included select pieces from:
- Chrono Cross
- Kirite (Yasunori Mitsuda’s latest solo effort)
- Laputa, Castle in the Sky
- Super Mario Brothers
and more. The full orchestra was not present; instead, there were five players: Ayako Ishikawa and the aforementioned founder Hiro on the violins, Natalia Raspopova on the piano, Joshua Hill on percussion and Zane Banks on guitar.
Ayako Ishikawa deserves some special mention. She was born in ’84, and is the youngest ever person to be admitted to the Purcell School of Music in the United Kingdom.
She is also, as you can see, very pretty. But the most striking thing about her is the transformation she undergoes when she picks up a violin. Without it, she is sweet, demure, every Singaporean guy’s dream submissive air-headed girl (boo! hiss!).
With the violin in her hands, it’s a different story altogether. Her shoulders broaden. The chest comes up, the bum goes back, left leg forward, striking a pose much like Johnny Depp in Pirates of the Carribean, only more aggressive. And then she plays, and it’s fire, her hair flies everywhere, bowstrings snap; we, the audience, might as well not exist, she is lost in her world.
And then the piece is over and she reverts back to the Japanese stereotype on-stage. It is quite a memorable thing to witness.
That’s not to say the other instrumentalists are shabby, either. They’re world-class, literally. It’s just that I have the teensiest crush on Ayako now. But enough! I have to review the concert itself.
Ayako and Natalia played a duet from Laputa. It is beautiful; it’s so good that the OST CD sounds empty and lifeless in comparison. Hiro and Zane play Radical Dreamers from Chrono Cross; it almost equals the original, and that is high praise, considering how ethereal the original sounds.
The other favourite was Dream of the Shore Bordering Another World, which is Chrono Cross‘s overworld music for world II. The whole ensemble played this one, and it was absolutely enchanting. My only beef is that the arrangement was too short!
Also very enjoyable were the three classical music pieces that were snuck into the repertoire. These were Danse Macabre, Hungarian Dance and Tango Jalousie. I would go so far as to say that these were the best pieces of the lot, because they were the only ones that seemed to challenge the musicians. Game music tended to be easy. They loved showing off (oh, how they loved showing off!), and we loved listening to them (oh, how we loved watching them show off!).
The group finished off with Meridian Dance, an encore piece. It’s the final battle music to Seiken Densetsu 2, and I’m galled that I didn’t remember it! It is a frantic, screaming arrangement that left the audience quite breathless.
Oh yes, did I mention Yasunori Mitsuda himself was in attendance? You know, the guy who composed Chrono Trigger, Xenogears, Chrono Cross? He played accompaniment for several pieces on a cool little Irish / Greek instrument known as the bouzouki. Unsurprising given his penchant for Celtic themes. I could hear him only intermittently because my position’s acoustics weren’t that good, but I didn’t care. He was there! That is enough.
Alright, now the bad point. There is only one: sometimes, the musician would be off-sync with each other. It was terrible to hear! The most egregious example was Time’s Scar, where the band would consistently mismatch timings with each other. The other, much more subtle example was Radical Dreamers. I’m sure the musicians in the audience caught it. It was all Zeng and I could complain about as we left the concert hall.
Special mention: logistical hiccups
Great as the concert was, I’m sad to say that there were some logistical hiccups that marred the experience for quite a number of fans.
First up was the host. Yes, he was a last-minute replacement. Yes, he did quite well under stressful circumstances. But yes, he was also quite annoying. Also at one point he cracked a joke that fell flat (not remembering Hiro’s name? Not funny).
Second, and most horrifying, was the bungled post-concert autograph session. “Chaos” is a charitable euphemism. A huge number of fans queued up, obviously much more than organisers anticipated. The line was so long it snaked up through the top bit of the Victoria Concert Hall and back down again. Zeng barely managed to get his copy of Kirite signed by Mitsuda-san.
More troubling was the unfairness. The first few guys managed to get signatures on multiple items, photographs, the works. Pretty soon the organisers realized this was going too slowly, and started implementing some law and order. But over an hour later, the VCH staff decided they wanted to go home, and shooed the last batch of people away.
Sacrilege! Those poor people at the back only wanted to meet the Eminence members, and come on, it was Yasunori Mitsuda’s first time in Singapore.
Despite all that, I really hope Eminence comes to Singapore again. You know we love you guys! Please bring the whole orchestra here, and show us all how damn good videogame and anime music can be.