After a week of intense practices, it was finally time to show the Mihama community what everyone had learned since beginning joint practices on Monday!
The day began with the standard warmups, followed by a performance by Rakko of their piece “Hana Matsuri,” and then brief run-throughs of the two joint pieces to be performed in the afternoon, “Omatsuri Daiko” and “Raku.” By now the students were comfortable with not only the pieces but with each other as well, and the bonds they had established over the last week showed on stage. The rest of the morning was filled with staging checks, making sure that everyone knew what drums went where for what piece, and what do to before/after each piece.
After lunch and some final preparations, it was time for the performance! Officially titled the “Japan-America Wadaiko Joint Recital 2016,” the afternoon concert featured performances by Rakko, the Pittsburgh students, and the local taiko group Tokoraku, a community group who counts among their members several former members of Rakko (including one who came to Pittsburgh last year!). In the cross-cultural spirit of the program, group introductions and song introductions were done in both English and Japanese.
The concert opened with a performance by Rakko of “Kairei,” the piece that won them 3rd place at the All Japan competition several weeks ago. Tokoraku then took the stage for two pieces, “Hito” and “Minakuchi-bayashi,” before Rakko and Tokoraku joined together for an arrangement of Chichibu yatai-bayashi.
After a short break, it was the Pittsburgh Taiko students’ turn! They began with the ō-daiko feature piece “Arashi.” Next came “Kunugi-bayashi,” with the group’s shinobue players joined by several members of Rakko who had had asked to perform alongside the Pittsburgh students, having learned the piece by watching rehearsals over the past week! Finally, the Pittsburgh portion of the program ended with “Kore Kara.”
The group was warmly received by the audience, many of whom expressed after the concert in written comments that they were surprised and pleased by the performance level demonstrated by the Pittsburgh students. It was evident that they left a deep impression on the audience, most of whom had never seen non-Japanese play taiko before and did not know what to expect. The Pittsburgh students not only represented their schools and Pittsburgh well, but also the greater North American taiko community.
Another short break followed, before Rakko returned to the stage for “Irodori.” It was then time for the moment to which the whole week had been leading up to, the joint performances, as members of both Rakko and the Pittsburgh team took the stage together. With “Omatsuri Daiko” and “Raku,” the students truly displayed the ties that they had established over the past through week. It was hard to believe that just 5 days prior, they practiced together for the first time. The energy in the hall reached up another level as the students played the two pieces. The smile on their faces when they finished playing “Raku” revealed the degree to which they were not only satisfied with their performance, but had enjoyed playing together as well.
A short break then followed, before Rakko students, Pittsburgh students, and host families got together for a Farewell Party, featuring a rich selection of foods ranging from pizza to sushi. Following the meal, reflections on the past week were shared (in both English and Japanese), and some tears were shed on both sides. It was clear that the ties established over the last week run deep. Even if we must depart for the United States tomorrow, that does not mean that this is an end. Rather, as many stated at the party, this is only a beginning, and we all look forward to seeing what springs from this exchange.
Once the party ended, the students departed to spend one last evening with their host families, before a day of travel tomorrow.
Visit the Pittsburgh Taiko Flickr page for more pictures from not only today, but the entire trip to Japan.