Pianist Ryan McGaughey performs fan-favorite tunes from Final Fantasy VII
In the intimate waiting area of Fulkerson Recital Hall, long-time fans of the Final Fantasy games and their parents or children milled around Feb. 21 waiting to hear piano renditions of the iconic music of “Final Fantasy VII” performed by pianist Ryan McGaughey. The game’s original music was written by Nobuo Uematsu, but the particular arrangements for piano were written by Shiro Hamaguchi.
Mark Castro, an archaeologist for the Cultural Research Center at Humboldt State University, made a habit of attending orchestral concerts at Sonoma State University while he was working on his master’s degree. Castro said he hadn’t played Final Fantasy VII since high school, but he was excited to go to the concert and reminisce on forgotten songs.
“Those are always the ones I gravitate towards,” Castro said. “The ones with a story.”
Ushers collected raffle tickets for a giveaway of the new Final Fantasy VII remake set to come out in April. As everyone found their seats, the lights dimmed and silence fell upon the room like a blanket.
McGaughey took the stage and dove into the familiar runs of “Prelude,” a song that begins almost every Final Fantasy game. A projector screen beside his piano ran through a compilation of footage from the Final Fantasy games as well as the 2005 animated movie.
The projector depicted a depressing, industrialized world with pollution and machinery as the piano fluttered along with the hopeful brightness of “Prelude.” “Main Theme” was a more intense, swelling piece accented by intense battle sequences between vigilantes and armed guards of this alternative future city.
In between songs, McGaughey took to the microphone with a charming, slight stutter, thanking everyone for coming out to see him perform. Using an online survey he created and his own powerpoint slides, he had audience members participate in a contest that mirrored the game’s turn-based combat system.
McGaughey brought the event to a close with a fan-favorite, “One Winged Angel,” a song accompanied by a battle with the main antagonist played at the end of Final Fantasy VII. It is a technical, epic and anxiety-inducing battle march with twinkling runs interspersed throughout.
In an exclusive interview with The Lumberjack, McGaughey talked about why he enjoys playing video games and their music.
“It’s like watching a really good film or reading a really good book, but you’re actually able to interact in it,” McGaughey said.
Before he left the stage, McGaughey picked out a winner of the raffle for the Final Fantasy VII remake.
Psalms Palmer, a music major at HSU and longtime fan of the Final Fantasy games, won. She remembered loving the music from the moment she heard it. Throughout the performance, Palmer reflected on playing the game with her sisters when she was a kid.
“If you can tell the story through music,” Palmer said, “you don’t have to do anything else.”