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

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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The year 2020 was full of unimaginable events. We had originally planned our 6th El Sistema Japan Children’s Music Festival in Soma in March 2020. Like many other events, that was postponed due to the pandemic and finally held on December 27 at Soma Civic Hall with a modified program. Last year, while lessons were suspended and the future was uncertain, the children patiently kept practicing. The year-long effort resulted in a great performance, followed by a storm of applause from the audience in a warm atmosphere on a cold winter day.

“On the day, I was so happy just to see such a large audience despite the situation and that we were able to perform in front of them,” said Momoka, the concertmaster, after the concert. “When we were getting ready and about to perform, I felt a lot of tension, not from nervousness, but from the huge anticipation that you feel when you are really excited. That feeling for the first time in a year almost made me cry. I don't know how to put the joy of performing into words, the whole performance felt like an instant, and I really didn’t want it to end in a way I had never felt before. Just after the concert when teachers told me one after another that the performance was great, I cried so hard that I couldn’t speak.”

For Nanami, the chair of viola, “this music festival was extraordinarily special." She continued, "the festival and the rehearsals towards it brought us, the Soma Children’s Orchestra, a lot of progress. Making efforts for each other, helping each other, laughing together, we worked hard to play in ensemble and to make good music. Those moments are so precious in terms of time and memory. Nothing can replace them and the experience will always stay vivid in my mind. We are not professional musicians, but I like the sight and time that we played together more than any other beautiful, skillful performance. I think our performance was so original, wonderful, and full of memories that, years later, I will still want to listen to it.”   

El Sistema Japan is now preparing for an upcoming concert, the World Children’s Music Festival 2021 on March 29 from 6 pm JST (https://www.elsistemajapan.org/wcmftesteng), which will be broadcasted globally. This was originally planned in March 2020, and rescheduled for this date in a new form.  We would be pleased if you joined us online (https://worldchildrensmusicfestival2021intokyo.zaiko.io/buy/1pre:c5M:8e8c3).

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Kasumi, a 2nd grader, forgot to do her homework of writing her fingering numbers on her music. She has just switched from violin to viola and the fingering numbers on the left hand are essential for her so that she can read music.During a break, she was still struggling with her homework.
Just then, Yusei, a second-year junior high school student, passed by and reached out to her saying, "Hey, isn't this incorrect here?" Yusei is an expert in sheet music, being a violinist, flutist, percussionist, and even singer in the chorus. "Also wrong here, wrong there!" They continued on to find and fix the mistakes together.
Until recently, they have been practicing separately, as they are from different classes and playing different instruments. So I asked Kasumi how they got close, and she said, "Because he and my sister are friends in the chorus." Children find each other's strengths, help each other, and grow together, regardless of age or instrument. I felt this story offered  a good example of the learning community that we envision.
We hope you will continue to follow the activities of the children of Soma as they are conquirng their challenge through music.

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The practice of Soma Children’s Orchestra restarted in June. At first, in order to keep the social distancing, it was only done by each section and with limited time. On June 21st, we were finally able to get together with the full orchestra members to practice after 4 months.

The morning class started with the combination of “Sheep class” who just started within a year, and “Bach class” for beginners. They joined together for the first time and played Eine Kleine Nachtmusik by Mozart. In the afternoon, the intermediate and advanced “Mozart class” with many high school students, played Brandenburg Concerto No.3 by Bach.

Four months ago, they practiced Beethoven’s Symphony No.9 again and again for the Soma Children’s Music Festival scheduled a month later. However, after the situation of the coronavirus disaster (COVID-19), we chose to play a standard piece of Eine Kleine Nachtmusik, and our memorable piece of Brandenburg Concerto No.3, which we played 4 years ago at St. Thomas Church in Leipzig, Germany, where Bach rests.

As it is a difficult piece, and we had not played it since 2016, everyone was quite worried. However, once we got together, the Soma Children’s Orchestra showed its true ability. 

It was especially impressive that many members from  “Bach class,” who just started practicing 4 years ago, joined and felt the joy of ensemble lively through their first ensemble, with the masterpiece by Bach.

This was truly an exciting experience that could not have been felt online, and the staff and the teachers were very moved.

The children in Soma have survived through the earthquake, the Nuclear accident and the typhoon disaster. The children will not give up on the situation of coronavirus as well. We will keep on moving forward with our friends, and with our music, towards the day that we would be able to deliver our music to everyone.

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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
$33,920 raised of $150,000 goal
 
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