On 29 April 2018, Riverside Parramatta will hold a solo piano concert that no video game music aficionado should miss. Worlds Connected will be the first concert produced by Natalya Aynsley, classically trained pianist and owner of the popular piano cover YouTube channel Natalya Plays Piano. It will be a celebration of the music from Final Fantasy and Kingdom Hearts.

For fans of the games, or those who enjoy the works of video game music composers Nobuo Uematsu and Yoko Shimomura, Worlds Connected will undoubtedly be a beautiful and nostalgic journey down memory lane. Be prepared to relive anew those intense moments from pieces like One-Winged Angel with the solo piano’s clarity and expressiveness. Listen to the captivating pieces composed specifically for the piano that inspired new generations of budding pianists like the sentimental To Zanarkand and Dearly Beloved.

We took a moment to chat to Natalya to learn more about Worlds Connected. Here’s our exclusive interview with her and don’t forget to get tickets to Worlds Connected while you still can!

Gamers Classified: A lot of fans enjoy your piano arrangements so the thought of producing a concert must have crossed your mind before. What motivated you to go for it this time and make this concert happen?

Natalya Aynsley: This idea has been on my mind for about a decade now ever since I saw a student hold a low key performance of some Final Fantasy music at Sydney Conservatorium. I then spent years talking myself out of it, knowing I’ll need to save quite a bit of money and allocate a lot of free time to make it a reality. I went to see Distant Worlds – the 30th anniversary Final Fantasy concert last year and that’s when I knew I had to make my own concert happen so I started putting a plan together bit by bit and finally took the plunge to quit my teaching job in order to give myself the time I needed to prepare.

Gamers Classified: Video game music concerts are more popular than ever. ABC Classic FM even has a program on Fridays 3pm-4pm called Game Show dedicated to video game music. What do you think is the appeal of video game music and how is it different from other genres?

Natalya Aynsley: Video game music has been through a tremendous evolution in the last 30 or so years. Thanks to the technology we have today, there are absolutely no constraints placed on the style or genre the composers are able to create. This music gets performed and recorded by the top world renown orchestras and artists, and it is on par with some of the greatest film scores and classical orchestral works ever written. I think the appeal is that the younger demographic gets exposed to this music through the games and then is able to experience it in real life.

Gamers Classified: There are many memorable scores from video game music composers spanning across different titles and franchises. With so much to choose from, why did you focus on Final Fantasy and Kingdom Hearts for this concert?

Natalya Aynsley: There is definitely an endless supply of beautiful game music I could have chosen from but I decided to go with these two because Kingdom Hearts is my favourite video game of all time and I absolutely adore its music. I chose Final Fantasy because some of the most epic pieces to have come out of the video game music genre have in fact been composed for Final Fantasy. The two games are very similar since Kingdom Hearts incorporates some Final Fantasy characters as well as Disney, and as such the music is actually very similar in style as well.

Gamers Classified: Was there an arrangement you found to be more challenging to tackle than the others? What made it so challenging?

Natalya Aynsley: Yoko Shimomura, composer of the Kingdom Hearts soundtracks, actually confessed in an interview that when she worked on the Piano Collections arrangements, she deliberately made them more advanced and technically demanding. Yoko-san really wanted to showcase the possibilities of the piano and how amazing the instrument is through the arrangements. Every Kingdom Hearts piece I’ve picked has its own challenges but the one I’ve worked on the most would have to be Medley of Conflict, which is a mash up of different battle themes. The trickiest Final Fantasy piece is definitely One Winged Angel, it’s an iconic piece from the franchise that every fan will be expecting. It’s definitely one of my favourites and the thing that makes it challenging is the fact that it’s made up of different ideas all stuck together in a disjointed and fragmented sort of way. The composer Nobuo Uematsu spent a few weeks composing just a few random bars of music each day, eventually stitching them all together to create the piece. So in addition to a number of difficult scales and arpeggio passages, I found it challenging to make it sound like one cohesive piece even though it constantly morphs and evolves into different shapes and forms.

Gamers Classified: Most of your fans are likely already familiar with video game music. If someone has never heard video game music in their life, what’s one song you’ll recommend to them, and why?

Natalya Aynsley: It’s near impossible to narrow it down to just one as the video game music as a whole encompasses so many different styles from classical to jazz and everything in between. The orchestral version of ‘Hikari’, the original Kingdom Hearts theme song, is just wonderful and if you’re after some chilled out piano instrumental music, you can’t go wrong with a Final Fantasy classic ‘To Zanarkand’.

Gamers Classified: Do you think knowing the story and context behind a song enhances the experience for the audience? What’s one scene in Kingdom Hearts or Final Fantasy that really moved you?

Natalya Aynsley: I don’t think it’s necessary to know the story at all to be able to enjoy the beautiful music however I will be chatting to the audience in between playing to introduce each piece and give everyone a brief overview of the story. The scene that has stuck with me the most is probably the end of the first Kingdom Hearts game. Mickey Mouse, who is King Mickey in this game, and Riku, our hero Sora’s best friend who fights to keep the darkness away from his heart but eventually succumbs to it, must remain inside the realm of darkness in order to help Sora seal its door for good. Just as the door is about to close, he catches Sora’s eye and says “take care of her” referring to their friend Kairi who they have both been looking for after their world got destroyed. At this point the destroyed worlds begin to reconstruct themselves and Kairi is pulled back to her home of Destiny Islands, but Sora promises before separating they will all reunite someday. It is a beautiful scene that displays friendship, love and the ultimate sacrifice you’d make for someone you care so deeply about.

Gamers Classified: How do you like to spend your time when you’re not in front of the piano?

Natalya Aynsley: I’ve actually graduated with an Advanced Diploma of Fashion Design some ten years ago so after dipping my toes into the fashion industry and deciding it wasn’t for me, I have walked away with some mad industry grade sewing skills and I’ve been enjoying making my own clothes ever since. I also got into archery a few years ago so I’m looking forward to getting back into practice after the concert!

Gamers Classified: We’re looking forward to the concert! What’s next for Natalya this year? Can you reveal to us any upcoming projects or is that all a secret for now?

Natalya Aynsley: I would really love to take this concert on tour around Australia but that’s a project for 2019. I’ve been neglecting my YouTube channel quite a lot in order to make this concert happen so I look forward to getting stuck back into it – I’ve got a few fun things planned for my viewers! I’ve also been composing bits and pieces over the years so I’d love to spend some time getting those projects finished off. Apart from that, I’ll be lurking around one Sydney venue or another doing what I love most as a freelance musician!

To learn more about Natalya, please visit her website www.natalyaplayspiano.com