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

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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March 3rd is the Girls’ Day in Japan, also known asHina-Matsuri, or the Doll Festival. Ahead of this special day, a celebration called Hina-Meguri was held on February 16th at the Soma Civic Hall. In a warm atmosphere created by the large friendly audience with Hina Dolls, the El Sistema Ensemble successfully performed in two stages at 11:00 and 13:30 in the lobby.

This was the debut concert for the beginners’ class members who started learning the violin or the cello in last June. With the help of more advanced players, they confidently played the tunes "Twinkle Twinkle Little Star," "Ten Little Indians" and "Sakura Sakura" in both stages.

Later in the morning stage, eight flutists from the El Sistema Ensemble performed pop masterpieces, including "A Whole New World," "When You Wish upon a Star" and "Sukiyaki." The last performance in the afternoon was a french horn ensemble. The two elementary school children were proud of themselves for playing two etudes with their instructor Mr. Yamamoto.

Many of the grandparents surged to shoot pictures of their grandchildren on stage. One of them was even moved to tears by the performance of Sakura Sakura.

The concert on the cold rainy day let us spot a small achievement in the mission of El Sistema Japan -- music is not only for children but also for the whole community. Thank you so much for your continuous support to our endeavor.

Indeed the latest coronavirus pandemic has forced us to stop our routine weekly practice session as well as the once-a-year children's music festival, scheduled to take place at the Soma Civil Hall this weekend, to which everyone was eagerly looking foward. We really would like to count on you in order to overcome the challenges and fulfill our mission.

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In addition to the operation of orchestra and chorus in Soma over weekends, El Sistema Japan has always been placing importance on supporting curricular activities in school as we work in partnership
with the local Board of Education.

Shown in the photos below are fifth graders attending a music appreciation workshop at Soma Iitoyo Elementary School on 21 November. With kind support from a local Japanese harp school, Ms. Monma and her students all gathered together.

The students first listened to Koto, traditional Japanese harps and then tried them out. Ms. Monma played the piece Haru no Umi (Spring Sea) with Mr. Ueda, previously a member of the Board of Education, managing activities with us and now a farmer and flautist. After the performance, the children tried out the Japanese harps. There was one harp for every four children and they orderly took turns to play Sakura Sakura. Joined by recorders, all sounded quite well for their first trial.

Nowadays it is rare to hear traditional Japanese instruments even in Japan. The school teachers and the board members appreciated this precious opportunity for the children to listen to and try such instruments.

In small cities like Soma, schools with smaller numbers of children are often too tight in resources to hire music teachers with specialist training. El Sistema Japan assists those schools to provide higher quality music appreciation classes, specialist training on classroom musical instruments like the recorder and the melodica, support for marching bands, and so forth. This is part of the government funded disaster relief program, which sends specialists including, but not limited to, emergency school counselors to the affected region. Most of the specialists we work with are also from the region.

Promoting children’s access to art and culture is one of our priorities at El Sistema Japan. It is important that children without easy access to art and culture still have opportunities to experience
and learn music of good standard. We are thankful for your support.

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Friends of El Sistema Japan

Location: Chiyoda-ku, Tokyo - Japan
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Project Leader:
Yutaka Kikugawa
Chiyoda-ku, Tokyo Japan
$31,835 raised of $150,000 goal
 
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