Duo YUMENO, my duo with koto/shamisen performer Yoko Reikano Kimura, had a fruitful week-long residency at the University of Hawaii between April 3 and 10. Of course, being in Hawaii, both the weather and the natural surroundings were beautiful, but the warmth and the kindness of the people really touched us throughout the trip.
Photo by Thomas Osborne
The residency included two recitals. The first included works by the faculty members of U of H – Donald Womack‘s A Glinting Edge of Sky, Thomas Osborne‘s Circles of Light (with Christopher Yohmei Blasdel on shakuhachi) and Takuma Itoh‘s But Beautiful (newly commissioned work by the duo). We also included two solo pieces – Kin’ichi Nakanoshima’s Mittsu no Dansho for koto and Sayaka Ishiguro’s Genka Triptych for cello. Naturally, each ensemble pieces had distinct flavors, but they all had similar traits as well. We were moved by their delicate colors and moods that perfectly balance the characteristics of the cello and the koto.
For the second recital, we performed five world premier duos for koto and cello by five composer students of U of H. The program included; James Finamore’s Byodo-In, Thomas Goedecke‘s Turtle and Crane, Tyler Ono’s The Heart’s Uncertainty, Lim Jae-Hyun’s Buzzy, Busy…, Switchy! and Andrew Filson‘s From the Mist, I Emerge. We were very honored to have talented composers write such adventurous and heartfelt pieces for us. It was the first time for all composers to write music for a non-Western instrument, and their dedication was apparent through their music.
Photo by Thomas Osborne
Between the two recitals, we had a chance to work with the student composers and exchanged ideas. It was a great learning experience for us because we had to examine fundamental questions about our music making. How can we use our instruments to effectively convey our thoughts and emotions through music? What approach should Western classical composer take when composing for traditional Japanese instruments such as the koto? In any case, we sincerely hope that this is just the beginning for these young composers to write music for groups like us and looking forward to hearing more new works from them.
(L to R) Thomas Osborne, Donald Womack, Thomas Goedecke, Andrew Filson, me, Yoko Reikano Kimura, James Finamore, Lim Jae-Hyun, Takuma Itoh
Yoko and I would like to thank Donald Womack, Thomas Osborne and Takuma Itoh for inviting us to Hawaii and giving us the pleasure to have this invaluable experience. We will surely treasure this memory for many years to come.
I did not have any dramatic change in 2017, but it was definitely a step forward in the same direction. I became a member of the Albany Symphony Orchestra’s cello section in September, which is exciting for me because they are known to champion contemporary music. Duo YUMENO was featured at the National Cherry Blossom Festival and performed at the John F Kennedy Center’s Millennium Stage. This year, I hope that I can announce more events that reflect “step forward” in my musical life.
When I look back on 2017, I cannot help but to think how deeply divided we have become – both in the US and Japan – at how we view the world. But, I was fortunate to find hope at a concert performed by Jordi Savall and Hespèrion XXI in February. Savall assembled a orchestra of musicians, both in the European and Middle Eastern tradition, and presented a beautiful program that highlighted the rich and multi-cultural music of the Republic of Venice.
After concluding the program with a triumphant rendition of the final movement of Beethoven’s Fifth Symphony, Savall spoke to the audience, saying, “I’m a citizen of the world.” At this point, most of the audience members were reminded of the recent Muslim travel ban that was issued in late-January. He continued, “Today on stage, we have musicians from Iraq, Syria and many other countries. I know it’s a difficult time, but we must continue to value our emotion, memory and sensitivity. We must be very sensitive…”
Throughout 2017, I was reminded of Savall’s words and how music that affects me the most cherish all three values – emotion, memory and sensitivity. I was also encouraged to know that music can be relevant in these trying times and promote these virtues that can make the world a better place. I hope to live by these values throughout 2018 and the rest of my life.
May these values enrich your life, too!
Photo by Shoji Kawabata
On April 1, Duo YUMENO performed at the National Cherry Blossom Festival in Washington DC. This performance at the Kennedy Center’s Millennium Stage was a milestone for us because in 2008, we first performed together at Fort Wayne’s Cherry Blossom Festival.
As Japanese musicians, cherry blossoms continue to hold a special place in our hearts, and it was magnificent to see so many cherry trees at the Tidal Basin as symbols of friendship between Japan and the US.
This concert featured the world premier of Daron Hagen’s “Misterioso,” which is based on The Tale of Heike, as well as two songs related to the flower: Yamada Kengyo’s “Cherry Blossom Viewing” and “Sakura Sakura.” We were moved to have a full-house audience, but it gave us an incredible feeling when we had the whole audience sing “Sakura Sakura” both in Japanese and English.
It was also an honor to have Ms. Alicia Adams, Kennedy Center’s VP of International Programming and Minister Tamaki Tsukada at Embassy of Japan, who is also the director of Japan Information and Culture Center, to give short remarks prior to our performance. We are also grateful to the staff members at Embassy of Japan and Kennedy Center who worked tirelessly to make this event successful.
Also, I would like to thank Ayumi Ishiyama for making this gorgeous jacket for me!
It feels like a lot has happened since my last post, but here are some of the highlights.
I performed “Not a Singe Cloud Exists” by Yoko Sato at Yoko Reikano Kimura’s shamisen recital on January 8. Yoko worked very hard for this recital and sounded fabulous. I was so proud to be part of this concert.
It was also great to be part of New Opera Showcase 2017 – an event presented by The National Opera Center America – with the SONOS Chamber Orchestra under the baton of Erik Ochsner. We had such fun in the cello section too!
Duo YUMENO performed at the new years party of the Japan Society of Fairfield County, CT on Jan 22. This was our second performance at the Japan Society, but we already feel like we are part of this wonderful community.
Photo: Marco Borggreve
Jean-Guihen Queyras and Alexander Melnikov’s recital at Carnegie Hall was simply magnificent. They performed Beethoven’s A Major Sonata, Chopin’s Cello Sonata among others. Queyras was able to bring out so many beautiful colors from his instrument, and his playing made me realized that there is so much more to explore in my music making. The possibilities are infinite. So inspiring!
I didn’t expect much from Martin Scorsese’s latest film, Silence, but was moved by the strong performances of wonderful actors, powerful images (and the incredibly subtle sound designs) and the complexity of its themes. As a Japanese, I can assert that this is one of the most evenhanded and honest depiction of Japanese people and culture in a mainstream Hollywood film.
It’s been a while since my last post in October, but Duo YUMENO’s recital at New York Buddhist Church on 10/16 was a success, and we would like to thank everyone who attended the concert!
We also had some memorable performances in the beautiful state of Connecticut, such as our recital at Greenwich Historical Society (10/18), performance/demonstration at Riverside Elementary School (11/7) and a recital at Edgehill Senior Community in Stamford (11/19).
As far as performance with orchestra goes, I had a wonderful time being part of Northeastern Pennsylvania Philharmonic’s cello section on November 12. It was a great privilege working with Maestro Lawrence Loh and soloist Arnaud Sussmann.
Janufa by Leos Janacek
Yoko and I had a chance to catch Wagner’s “Tristan and Isolde” and Janacek’s “Janufa” at the Metropolitan Opera. Both performances were powerful and moving. “Janufa” especially was a revelation.
Kiga Kaikyo / Straits of Hunger (1964)
A retrospective of Japanese film director, Tomu Uchida was held at MoMA, and I had a chance to see “Mori to Mizuumi no Matsuri,” “Kiga Kaikyo” and “Kagirinaki Zenshin.” Most of Uchida’s works are rarely shown even in Japan, but it was great to catch even a glimpse of his rich filmography.
And of course, who could forget the historic presidential election on 11/8!? No matter what happens from now on, we must try hard to move forward. Let’s make this world a better place for all of us.
We are making our final preparation for our recital coming up on this Sunday. I think we have a lot of exciting and beautiful pieces on the program, so please stop by if you are interested!
I had a wonderful opportunity to perform with the Glens Falls Symphony Orchestra last weekend. During my stay in Glens Falls, I saw this fantastic exhibition of prints by Durer and Rembrandt as well as many other artists. I usually do not take pictures of art works at museums but couldn’t resist photographing these works because the details were stunning.
Albrecht Durer: The Great Fortune – Nemesis
Rembrandt van Rijn: The Descent From the Cross
Aegidius Sadeler: Daina and Actaeon
It’s less than a month away from our recital at the New York Buddhist Church. We are very excited to present a new program that features Daron Hagen’s “Cantabile,” which was recently praised as “gripping” and “gorgeous” by the New York Classical Review. This concert will also feature the New York Premier of Yoko Sato’s breathtaking “In the Land of Dreams” for cello and shamisen. We are also proud to present Marty Regan’s sublime “Silence of the Moon” and Thomas Osborne’s exhilerating “Tumbling From the Ninth Height of Heaven” – two of our favorite duos for koto and cello.
The program will also feature solo pieces composed by two leading contemporary Japanese composers – Toshio Hosokawa and Rikuya Terashima.
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I was immensely moved and devastated by the unsentimental look at the women in Japanese society and how the actors – particularly Setsuko Hara – expressed so eloquently with their gaze. Naruse reminded me that a powerful facial expression is all you need in a great movie.
The very talented Hidejiro Honjo presented this awe-inspiring shamisen recital last week, and I’m still thinking about how great it was. The entire program was contemporary music, but I was struck by how different each piece was – the calmness of Elizabeth Brown’s Afterimage and Yuji Takahashi’s Kasukani to the overwhelming energy of Dai Fujikura’s neo. I was also impressed by how Honjo’s performance was completely integrated with the music of Toshi Ichiyanagi’s Rinkai-iki and Ushio Torikai’s TROIS that these contemporary pieces sounded “classical.”