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Symphonic Fantasies Interview with Thomas Böcker

Sam Hughes chats to Thomas Böcker, award winning producer and promoter, about the upcoming concert Symphonic Fantasies! They chat about the events he’s worked with so far, the upcoming concert and more!

Ok first of all Thomas, thank you so much for speaking with us, it’s a pleasure to have you.

My pleasure, thank you for the great opportunity!

Now you’re a man of many talents and Symphonic Fantasies isn’t your first video game concert. Can you tell us a bit more about yourself and what it means to be a producer and promoter for these concerts?

I have always been a fan of game music, going back to the age of 7 or 8, when I got my Commodore 64, which is where I first came into contact with melodies written by composers such as Chris Huelsbeck. At the age of 14 I got an Amiga, while at the same time my brother got interested in consoles such as the Super Nintendo. Needless to say, I was surrounded by game soundtracks because of it, and one day I read in a German magazine about orchestral concerts in Japan, featuring music from popular games. I thought this was amazing, but nothing like that happened in my country. So one day I came to the conclusion: I had to produce one myself!

This is the story in a nutshell, but it wasn’t until 2003 that I presented the first video game music concert outside Japan – finally, in Germany at the famous concert venue Gewandhaus zu Leipzig. Since then, I have produced several events such as all the official opening ceremonies of the Games Convention, the Symphonic series including Shades, Fantasies, Legends and Odysseys – plus the highly successful Final Symphony world tour, with music from Final Fantasy.

I really enjoy producing these concerts as so many aspects I love are involved in my work – the creation and coordination of a new concept, and the co-operation with many talented artists from different fields.

Thomas Böcker

So what first brought you into the world of video game concerts?

Back in 1999 I came up with the idea of the Merregnon music albums. I invited composers such as Chris Huelsbeck, Yuzo Koshiro and Gustaf Grefberg to write original music for an illustrated fantasy story one could read in the CD booklet while listening. One could say Merregnon is – stylistically – the soundtrack for a game that never existed.

While the first album was done with sampled instruments, the second volume was recorded in Prague with an orchestra in June 2002. Because of this, I made new contacts, gained knowledge and it gave me the confidence to send a proposal for the first game music concert to the Leipziger Messe. They then decided to go ahead with the event as the official opening ceremony of the Games Convention trade show

What can people expect from this year’s concert Symphonic Fantasies, it’s not just Final Fantasy Music this time is it?

Symphonic Fantasies was first presented back in 2009, in Cologne, and was later performed again as a slightly revised version in both Tokyo and Stockholm, but this will be the first time it’s been performed in the UK, and by none other than the world famous London Symphony Orchestra. Symphonic Fantasies features music from Final Fantasy, but also from Kingdom Hearts, Secret of Mana, Chrono Trigger and Chrono Cross.

Symphonic Fantasies was our first concert to feature longer, more elaborate arrangements of music of up 15-20 minutes each. The idea behind this is to retell the games’ stories musically. When I got approval from Square Enix to produce such a tribute concert I wanted to avoid the usual, familiar format of several short pieces that only cover a fracture of material from the game. Instead, the composers/arrangers Jonne Valtonen and Roger Wanamo developed the material, layered it, put it in new context, used less familiar tracks etc. It was a big success back then, the composers loved it, the audience loved it – and it made me decide to continue this path for future concerts.

How many people does it take to put on a concert of this scale?

It depends on how you count it – but the core team consists of three people only; arrangers Jonne Valtonen, Roger Wanamo and myself as the producer.

As the core team we work on the creation of the concert. We work for several months on the concept, the arrangements, researching the material etc. When it gets closer to the concert date, our conductor Eckehard Stier becomes more involved, making his recommendations.

As for London, there are many great people involved from the LSO’s side too, who help coordinate many aspects of the production. Still, I think the number of people is surprisingly small – until the actual concert date, when you suddenly have 200 musicians performing on stage!

What would you say has been the most challenging part of the process?

Everything is very euphoric at the beginning of such projects, with so many thoughts and ideas flying around the table. But someone has to keep everything together; we have to get all the permissions, make sure everything is on schedule and budget – and realistically manageable. It certainly does not sound like the most fun part to do, and it definitely isn’t, but it is a vital part, and the most challenging.

Final Symphony II - LSO - LONDON - Barbican
Final Symphony II – LSO – LONDON – Barbican

On the flipside then, what would you say has been the most exciting part?

On one hand, it’s being with the team. We often work apart on these concerts as our offices are based in Germany and Finland, but when the concerts finally happen we get to come together, which always results in a great time. On the other hand, I love seeing the reaction of the audience – when the team’s vision becomes reality. Simultaneously scary and fantastic!

Now in England, there has definitely been a rise of interest and love for video game music in the last few years. However, it does seem to be a fairly specialised area still. How have you seen the genre grow, and have you noticed different responses to it around the world?

In terms of audience reaction, I think it is pretty much the same all over the world – even in Japan, where one would usually expect a bit more reserved feedback due to the culture, we got standing ovations after Final Symphony II last autumn. It’s always a mixture of fans sitting silently to get every detail and nuance during a performance, but when it ends they get on their feet and give rapturous applause.

The genre is definitely growing worldwide though, with hundreds of concerts each year. This year was very exciting in that we successfully embarked on our first ever tour of the United States with Final Symphony.

Still, even today there are reservations and prejudices from some orchestras to the idea of performing video game music, and it will need more time to convince those establishments about the quality of the music. We are on it though, and we will change their perceptions!

What else can you tell us about this unique performance?

Symphonic Fantasies is an eclectic mix of fantastic, creative ideas with wonderful music – a concert not to be missed! It is our biggest production so far, with 200 musicians involved – the London Symphony Orchestra, the London Symphony Chorus, soloists Slava Sidorenko (piano, Kingdom Hearts) and Rony Barrak (darbouka, Chrono Trigger/Cross). Eckehard Stier is our conductor of choice again – and we are also honoured to have Kingdom Hearts and Final Fantasy XV composer Yoko Shimomura with us on October 6!


Where and when can we look forward to hearing the performances of these pieces?

The concert will take place at the Barbican on October 6, 2016, 20:00. Yoko Shimomura will also be taking part in a ticketed pre-concert talk and audience Q&A session. You can find all information and book your tickets here:

Fantastic, well what lies in the future for you now?

This year, we will have two performances of Final Symphony in Auckland, followed by two performances of Symphonic Selections in Bochum. For next year, there will be concerts in Munich and Paris – with more to be announced soon!

Thanks again for your time, we look forward to Symphonic Fantasies!

Thank you very much! Great fun to answer your questions.


Symphonic Fantasies




Thomas Böcker

Game Concerts


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Sam Hughes
Sound designer, voice actor, musician and beyond who just has a big passion for conversations, knowledge sharing, connecting people and bringing some positivity into the world.

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