Queen Elizabeth Hall I 2 April 2014
On the stage of the
Queen Elizabeth Hall, one of the most prestigious venues in the world, in front of an audience of around 800, the Fukushima Youth
Sinfonietta joined forces with Orpheus Sinfonia, a
dynamic group of London musicians, and together shared the message loud and clear: “Music Can
Change the World.”
“This became a special experience for my family, after having survived in an evacuation centre for a while, and now living at home with limitations such as my four-year old son has never played outdoors in his life. All children in Fukushima are still examined sporadically by radiologists for cancer. Our continuing difficulties in Fukushima have already been forgotten in Japan, so it is great to know that people in the faraway island of Britain still care.”
(mother of Miku, 1st Horn)
Length: 120 minutes approximately
Audience: around 800
Music Can Change the World
This was the main event of the project, with the Fukushima students performing for a wide London audience on one of the most famous stages in the world. The Japanese students were joined by musicians of the Orpheus Sinfonia, a London based group of young musicians that regularly performs in various venues around the capital. The two groups first met on 1st April and continued rehearsing together on the following day. On 2nd April, the Fukushima students received individual tuition from the musicians of the Orpheus Sinfonia, and, on the same day, the London musicians also conducted sectionals before the main rehearsal. Orpheus conductor, Thomas Carroll, took charge of the two-day rehearsals and the final preparation for the concert, although composer Ronald Corp rehearsed and conducted his own work. Also, the two Fukushima teachers participated in the concert, with Sato-sensei conducting Furusato, and Suda-sensei conducting Elgar’s Salut d’Amour at the very end of the concert.
It was decided that the position of concertmeister would be shared between the Fukushima student, Miss Yuda, and the Orpheus leader Ms. Akiko Ono, giving a chance to Miss Yuda to learn from an experienced orchestral leader, who also spoke the same language, while experiencing first hand leading a professional orchestra. Miss Yuda was therefore the concertmesiter for the first half of the concert (Commotio, Mozart Flute Concerto and Furusato) while the Orpheus musician took over the position for the second half (Chopin Piano Concerto and Elgar). Subsequently, it was thought that it would be of benefit to the rest of the Japanese group if they all sat both at the outside and the inside of the orchestra, learning from and experiencing both orchestral positions. As such, the rest of the musicians also switched places between the first and second half of the concert.
The evening was held together with the witty presentation of Sam Perry, a trustee of KoC, who took the role of the presenter for the concert. Mr. Perry took the opportunity several times during the evening to explain to the audience the individual circumstances that the Japanese students had faced since the 2011 disaster, while bringing the spotlight on different musicians from the Japanese group who had excelled in their musical efforts.
Bongo films created a 10-minute film that was shown at the end of the first half, highlighting the journey of the students from their schools to the stage of the Queen Elizabeth Hall. This was an excellent opportunity to share the students’ story with images, and to give a voice to the brave young musicians who worked so hard for this concert. Also, at the very opening of the concert, a 3-minute video was shown, outlining KoC’s musical activities in Fukushima since 2011.
The young Fukushima students, many of whom had only been learning music for a year or less, displayed a very impressive level of musicianship, which on occasions was up to professional standard. In the wind and brass section, the Orpheus musicians had been instructed to shadow the Fukushima players and to “jump-in” in case there were any cracks in a solo part. However, they did not have to do this at any point, as all the solos were successfully performed by the Fukushima players. Panos spoke to the Japanese group in the Green Room, before the concert, explaining to them that with their hard work they had already achieved the musical development that they had set out to reach. He mentioned to them several times that this was going to be an evening that they would remember and re-tell for the rest of their lives, so the only thing they should worry about was to enjoy the experience. He also reminded them that even though the QEH is a big stage and a lot of people had come to listen, this only meant that as young musicians they had a bigger opportunity to speak out what they would otherwise find hard to say with words. Panos and Zach stood at the entrance to the stage at the beginning and end of each half of the concert, to make sure each player was encouraged on to the stage, and welcomed back afterwards. It is worth mentioning that before the second half, while Panos was warming up at the piano with different passages from the Chopin Concerto, the Fukushima musicians started playing their part of the score, sitting or standing at random places in the Green Room, and were able to play the entire last movement by heart, without any music!
The members of the Fukushima Youth Sinfonietta, together with the musicians of Orpheus Sinfonia, were rewarded with a very well deserved standing ovation by the 800 member audience, a very rare occurrence in a London venue.
“This is a night you will remember for the rest of your life.”
These were the words with which Panos Karan and Zach Tarpagos encouraged the Fukushima musicians on the stage.
In rehearsal, under the baton of the inspiring leadership of Thomas Carroll (left).
In the QEH, mixed audience of young and younger, with many school students attending, and a strong presence of the London Japanese community, moments before the concert begins (right).