Combining Eastern and Western Music
Over the years, we've had a number of opportunities to play music with some talented musicians; these collaborations add an extra level of excitement for us, offering the chance to learn new material and to perform with new people in front of audiences who may not be familiar with taiko. This month, we were invited to join choral group Columbia Chorale as they celebrated the beginning of their 40th season with a special Sounds of Japan performance. For the event, the Chorale commissioned a new piece by Japanese composer Tomoe Seno, combining the voices of a 60-person chorus with the sounds of taiko, flute and piano.
The new piece, called Matsuri Genso (Festival Fantasia), mixes both Japanese and Western music styles. From the composer, "the choir and flutes create a ceremonial atmosphere, evoking the night before a Japanese festival... the sorrowful harmonies melt with people praying for and celebrating the future."
Rehearsing Matsuri Genso for the first time as an entire group.
We learned the taiko portion of the piece before the event, but our first time practicing with the other musicians did not occur until the day of the performance. Artistic director Andrew Thalheimer noted that it was nerve-wracking to prepare for a piece without hearing all the parts, but for performing member Helena Converse, it was reminiscent of her time performing with her school's orchestra. Helena noted, "we only met weekly at most, so we regularly needed to go home and learn our part to a piece before coming back together to get to hear the whole thing." Fortunately everything came together during the rehearsal and we had a blast during the performance!
It was a treat to be guest performers joining such a talented group of artists. We had a wonderful time and look forward to possible new collaborations to come!