Education  Japan Project #14117

Soma Children's Orchestra and Chorus

by Friends of El Sistema Japan
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Soma Children's Orchestra and Chorus
Soma Children's Orchestra and Chorus
Soma Children's Orchestra and Chorus
Soma Children's Orchestra and Chorus
Soma Children's Orchestra and Chorus
Soma Children's Orchestra and Chorus
Soma Children's Orchestra and Chorus
Soma Children's Orchestra and Chorus
Soma Children's Orchestra and Chorus
Soma Children's Orchestra and Chorus
Soma Children's Orchestra and Chorus
Soma Children's Orchestra and Chorus
Soma Children's Orchestra and Chorus
Soma Children's Orchestra and Chorus
Soma Children's Orchestra and Chorus
Soma Children's Orchestra and Chorus
Soma Children's Orchestra and Chorus
Soma Children's Orchestra and Chorus
Soma Children's Orchestra and Chorus
Soma Children's Orchestra and Chorus
Soma Children's Orchestra and Chorus
With Mr. & Mrs. Stoltzman
With Mr. & Mrs. Stoltzman

On Saturday, July 2, Mr. Richard Stoltzman, a clarinet legend as well as a winner of sveral Grammy Awards, visited Soma for the first time in eight years to give a special lessen and mini concert.

Mr. Stoltzman’s special lessen was held in the Soma Civic Hall for seven lower and upper secondary school students of the clarinet class of Soma Children’s Orchestra.

Students performed a short solo piece or duo piece in front of Mr. Stoltzman. He carefully observed their embouchure (the way to hold the mouthpiece in the mouth and the use of the lips, facial muscles, tongue, and teeth in order to play a wind instrument), sang the phrases with them, and taught them how to feel and express their phrases. Each student got an opportunity to play together with Mr. Stoltzman, and felt his rich sound from up close.

During the class, Mr. Stoltzman said “A clarinet itself may look like a simple wooden tube. But once you breathe into it, it turns into an amazing instrument that can express your emotions. Express yourself through the clarinet. Sing your feelings.” Finally, he sent cheers to the students in Japanese “Ganbare!”.

Natsu, a ninth grade student who took the class said, “This was my first experience to be taught by a teacher from overseas. Even though I’m not familiar with English, his lesson was really easy to understand. And the way of his expression, and most of all, the sound of Mr. Stoltzman’s clarinet was amazing. I was so impressed with the resonance of the instrument as if he played the instrument as a part of his body."

We also highly appreciate continuous support given by our GlobalGiving partners — thank you!

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The 7th El Sistema Japan Children’s Music Festival in Soma held on 7th & 8th May ended safely without any confirmation of COVID-19 infected person. We would like to thank all the supporters, coaches and participants. 

More than 200 players and members of the chorus performed on stage in two days. The last time chorus, wind ensemble and the Soma Children’s Orchestra performed together on stage was back in 2019. All the performances were filled with participants’passion and excitement for music. The Music Festival became more than suitable to celebrate the beginning of El Sistema Japan’s 10th anniversary of the establishment.

On 7th May, the wind ensemble clubs from Soma municipal Koyo, Nakamura Daiichi, Nakamura Daini junior high School started the festival with their performance. Each school played Wakai Hiroba, UBU LOVE, and Under the Flag of Glory Ceremonial March. The audience applauded for the wind ensemble stage after an interval of three years.

The chorus stage consists of three parts. The first part Seven songs of Tableaux by Kaneko Misuzu included recital of the poem. The next part Chorus Suite for Children Chikotan was performed with dances to express the dramatic story of a boy and his classmate Chiko. The suite  is composed by Yasuo Minai and the lyrics are by the lyricist Taizo Horai. They ended their performance with Ametsuchi no uta (the song of the heavens and the earth) with the strings played by Soma Children’s Orchestra. The encore song Pie Jesus and A Comedic Duet for Two cats cracked up the audience with the beautiful solo and cute performance.

All the performances created by the children with their respective strengths under the direction of Mr. Furuhashi was filled with the charm of the Soma Children's Chorus. Those attractive performances made the audience want to listen to them more and more.

The second day started with Gunjo by male voice members of the Soma Senior Chorus Espoir, who has continued to perform in support from the first El Sistema Japan Children’s Music Festival in Soma.

In the following, children's orchestra string ensemble played St. Paul's Suite (G. Holst). Hokuto (3rd grader of Junior High School) splendidly led 50 children, including volunteers from the instrumental music club of Nakamura Daiichi Elementary School. Triptyque (Y. Akutagawa). which was challenged under the direction of Mr. Kimoto drew the audience’s attention with an overwhelming sound from the moment they started playing.

The virituoso violinist Yoko Kubo finally appeared in the first piece of the orchestra section.  She performed Mendelssohn's Violin Concerto  enthusiastically with children. It was a masterpiece performance that embodied the phrase "music is to express the soul" which Yoko often mentioned during the rehearsal. The longest curtain call of the day showed the excitement of the audience.

The last song  Sound of Music Medley became a memorable song for Soma Children’s Orchestra. Since all the members attending the string and wind instrument classes played the orchestra song together for the first time, the appearance of children playing this masterpieace lively was very impressive.

The chorus joined again for the encore and the customary Soma Bonuta, a local folk song was performed. The 7th El Sistema Japan Children’s Music Festival ended with unstoppable applause from the audience.

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Mr. Dai Yamamoto has been a long-time supporter of wind instrument classes and school support activities in Soma. He teaches not only horn playing (his specialty), but also recorders, melodicas, drum and fife corps, and music appreciation classes in every elementary school classroom in Soma.

On December 10, 2021, Mr. Yamamoto's music appreciation class was held at Nakamura Daini Elementary School. It was on the occasion of the music therapists' visit from the sponsor of this school support program, the Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology.

The class, held for 75 third-grade students, started with a performance of Mozart's Horn Concerto No. 2 with karaoke accompaniment, followed by an explanation of the history of the instrument using animal horns which is the origin of the modern horn, and then an introduction of an improvised horn made from gas hose.

Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, hands-on learning by the children could not be conducted, but instead, Mr. Yamamoto listened carefully to the children's voices, which made the 45-minute lesson very productive.

The music therapists commented that the children seemed to be happy to be able to take such a class, as it is difficult these days to give music lessons for teachers. Fun videos can be found on YouTube, but nothing can surpass the experience of a live performance.

The school support activities in Soma City, one of the pillars of El Sistema's activities along with the orchestra and chorus, is a valuable program run by the coordinator, Ms. Hoshi, and the teachers at the school.

Thank you for the wonderful class, Mr. Yamamoto.

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At the Baryo Festival, the school festival of Soma High School held at the beginning of September, four members of our string instrument class had a performance on stage. Though the quartet consisted of three violins and a cello due to circumstances (a string quartet usually consists of two violins, a viola and a cello), they performed four pieces including Mickey Mouse March and the first movement from Triptych, a Japanese contemporary masterpiece composed by Yasushi Akutagawa, in front of their teachers and friends.

Risa, Grade 10, the cellist who led the quartet gave us her impressions of the day,

“I was anxious because we had to be ready within the limited time for rehearsals. ”

“It was a good experience to perform in a quartet because we had few opportunities. We had to discuss a lot with other members to make music, but I think we were able to learn ensemble techniques that we can also use in the orchestra.”

“Not many of my school friends had heard our performance before, so they were all surprised. I was happy to receive compliments from the teachers as well!"

We hope that the children will expand their areas of activities and have many experiences with music. We also highly appreciate continuous support given by our GlobalGiving partners — thank you!

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The World Children's Music Festival in Tokyo, which took over three years of preparation, was finally held in Tokyo Metropolitan Theatre on 29th March 2021. Some audience virtually joined and others managed to come to the concert hall but all seemed really satisfied with the performance. 

Initially, in April 2020, on the 250th anniversary of Beethoven's birth, the concert's primary purpose was to perform Beethoven's Ninth Symphony with musicians from El Sistema and related countries, mainly from four locations in Japan and children from eight countries around the world.

Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the event was postponed to August 2020. It soon became apparent that this would also not be possible and that our friends from overseas would not be able to join us on stage. However, we kept our hopes high that the situation wouldl improve over time, and the children will be able to sing Beethoven's Ninth by March 2021.

Despite our hopes, all choir activities were suspended when the Tokyo metropolitan area declared a state of emergency at the beginning of the year. Not sure about how many children from Soma would be willing to travel to Tokyo in March, we made the difficult decision to give up on Beethoven's Ninth's performance. The piece that would replace this monumental piece was Beethoven's Fifth Symphony, which was the first orchestral piece that the Soma Children's Orchestra performed five years ago. The chorus changed program to Mozart's "Ave Verum Corpus," a piece that the children of Soma sung many times in memory of those who died in the earthquake, and "Ametsuchi no Uta (Song of Nature)" by Maki Ueda and Nozomu Hayashi, a work that the children of the Tokyo Whitehand Chorus practiced online throughout lockdown.

Will the wind instrument section be able to prepare such a monumental work with just two months of preparation? Will the chorus be able to resume practice before the concert? On top of all the uncertainties, a large earthquake hit Soma at the end of February, causing one of our precious rehearsals to cancel. Our conductors, Mr. Kimoto and Mr. Furuhashi, were beyond worried.

We would like to thank all of our supporters, parents who have encouraged our children, teachers who have taught our children both online and in-person, all our staff members, interns, volunteers, and, of course, the children who continued to strive to enjoy music and had the courage to move forward with their peers.

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Organization Information

Friends of El Sistema Japan

Location: Chiyoda-ku, Tokyo - Japan
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Project Leader:
Yutaka Kikugawa
Chiyoda-ku, Tokyo Japan
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