Asano Taiko Spring Recital 2009

Last Sunday we successfully completed the March 2009 Asano Taiko Spring Recital, 今響きが風になる. Saturday began at 8:30 with loading up drums from the Asano practice space, the rental warehouse and Asano EX and then transporting them all over to the concert venue, the Matto Bunka Kaikan. (The same place we saw Exstasia two years ago.) Then we moved on to rehearsing.

For this recital I was part of the back stage crew. While most recital participants were only busy during their own rehearsal time, the stage hands were tied up all day helping the groups figure out which taiko to use, getting organized back stage so that the drums could be easily and quickly moved on and off and marking the location of the drums for each group.

Each group performing in the show had about a 20 minute time slot to figure out where they would place their drums on the stage, play through their piece once and make any final adjustments. Once the group decides where to place their drums, we marked the spot with little pieces of colored tape. For this recital there were so many groups playing, we ran out of colors and had to get creative with the way we used the tape.

On either side of the stage, the drums were all organized into different sizes and then "taiko corrals" were taped on the floor to make sure they got back into the right spot.

I had three rehearsals to participate in during the afternoon. Other than that, I was backstage trying to help keep everything running smoothly. After the last group finished their rehearsal, the stage hands had one last meeting to make sure that everything was ready for the next day.

The day of the concert, we still had to arrive around 8:30. There were about 3 groups that hadn't rehearsed the day before, so they were schedule to run through their numbers Sunday morning. Finally, the last thing we did before lunch break was to run through all of the transitions between the groups, just moving the drums on and off stage. This helps everyone, stage hands as well as performs, to remember what their responsibilities are during the transitions. It really helps the main event to run smoothly. Then it was time for lunch and to get the hall ready for the guests.

The doors opened at 1:30 and at precisely 2:00 the curtain rose on Hono Taiko and Hikari performing 天地響応 (Tenchi Kyou-ou), formerly known as 聖鼓 (Shoko). This was followed by the "Asano Taiko Kids" groups. First the beginning group (which my daughter played with) followed by the intermediate and advanced groups. My daughter was thrilled at the end of the day after the concert when they announced which students had "graduated" to the next level. From April, she will be allowed to move up to the intermediate class.

My first performance was with JIGEN and wasn't until about halfway through the program. So for the first half, I was busy helping out backstage. But eventually, our turn was approaching and it was time to get changed into our outfits. We came out and gave a good effort, but it was lacking in many areas. As I have mentioned in previous posts, JIGEN was given a rather challenging piece to learn for this recital and we probably could have used at least another month of practice time. Then again, maybe we should have practiced more on our own as well. At any rate, we made it through the song without falling apart.

(My mum took this picture and had the camera set wrong, but I kind of like the way it turned out.)

After JIGEN, I only had enough time to change for the next group, Shin Matto Bayashi Hozonkai. I play Odaiko for this group and was particularly looking forward to performance this time around because we had added Shamisen, which make the song a lot more interesting. After this performance, Jige san, of Hono Taiko, who was Emceeing the event, called me back out on the stage for an interview. After some pleasantries, she announced to the audience our plans to return to Michigan next year and play taiko there. I was a bit surprised by it. There were several people in the audience who didn't know about these plans (co-workers and students) whom I hadn't plan to tell for some time yet. Oh well, it's no big deal. Furthermore, it is encouraging because it is like a indirect "stamp of approval" from Asano Taiko and Hono Taiko on our plans. I mean, if they were embarrassed of us, or didn't want us to proceed, they wouldn't be announcing it at one of their sponsored events, now would they.

After the interview, it was back to the dressing room for one more costume change for my last group, Matto Yume Mitai. For this group I was playing shime taiko again. Although it was my first time to play the shime part for this song, it was our fourth or fifth time to perform it, so we are all pretty comfortable with the music. It was easy for me to submerse myself in the music and just enjoy playing without having to think about what phrase comes next or what to do next. I thoroughly enjoyed myself.

The only thing left was the finale, where we packed the stage with as many taiko as possible and as many people as possible and played Mushi Okuri, a traditional taiko piece from the Kaga area.

When the concert ended, the clean up began almost immediately. Pull up the tape from the floor, put the taiko back in their cases, disassemble the stands that can be disassembled, begin loading the drums back into the trucks and vans. There is a huge amount of work that needs to be completed, but with all the people we have helping, the concert venue is cleaned up and all the drums are back in their proper places at Asano taiko within about two hours! It always amazes me how smoothly and quickly this whole process is carried out.

I have more to say, but this is getting long and I seem to be running out of time, so I will save it for another time.

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