Arnie Roth Brings 'Final Fantasy' to Toronto

Published: November 25th 2010
in Culture » Music

Arnie Roth
Pic: Photo courtesy of Flip Publicity

Arnie Roth is a Grammy Award-winning composer, conductor and producer who’s a member of the wildly popular group Mannheim Steamroller. He’s worked with the likes of Luciano Pavarotti, Diana Ross, Andrea Bocelli, Il Divo, and the list goes on. 


But it’s his gig as the conductor for the Final Fantasy concerts that has earned him the respect of video gamers around the world. Roth is bringing Distant Worlds: music from Final Fantasy to Toronto’s Sony Centre for the Performing Arts on Nov. 27. We caught up with him to talk about music and the upcoming show. 


How did you first get involved with music?


As the music director and conductor for the Chicagoland Pops Orchestra, I had researched the success of the video game music concerts that had taken place in Japan since 2000, and was interested in bringing it to our orchestra. It turned out that a colleague of mine was working with this project, and that helped us bring the first Final Fantasy concerts to America.


Growing up, what artists did you listen to?


While I certainly spent a lot of time critically listening to a large variety of ‘classical’ scores, as that was the direction of my professional training as a concert violinist, I also listened to a tremendous amount of other music, such as The Beatles, Chicago, Elton John, and so many other artists and styles.


You compose, conduct and play the violin. What’s more challenging for you?


It would be hard to pick one as more difficult than another. To do any of these things well, at the highest professional level, one has to really devote a tremendous amount of time and work to each of these. For violin, it really has to be a daily amount of hours working on the violin, or else one’s skills deteriorate quickly. For conducting at the highest levels, one spends time studying scores for each concert in preparation. And for writing and composition, perhaps that one seems to need less daily time, as it is driven more by individual project deadlines, at least in my own case.


What is it about music from video games that you like?


They are tremendously exciting scores, and many are very creatively orchestrated and arranged, often showcasing the orchestra or ensemble extremely well. Certainly, there are a variety of scores of videogames, and not all of them rise to the level of the huge and conspicuously excellent Final Fantasy scores.


How does the music from Final Fantasy compare to music from other video games?


It really began wih the famous composer of so many of the FF scores, Nobuo Uematsu. He started right from the beginning – over 23 years ago! – writing extremely beautiful melodies for the individual characters in the games, and these melodies stuck in many cases through many years and many versions of the games, so that the fans are quite ‘married’ to these famous musical themes. You do not see that kind of devotion to the music of other video game series.


We know you like music from video games, but do you also enjoy playing the games themselves?


I must tell you that I am not a ‘gamer,’ per se. I have certainly played many of the games including FF, but I spend much more time preparing music by working directly with the composers of all of these video games and I think that this is ultimately what brings a deeper connection to what the composers intended originally.


What can audiences expect from the concert?


Related articles: (Arnie Roth, Final Fantasy, interview, Nobuo Uematsu, music, )

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