Gagaku Ensembles from Germany and U.S. Perform at the Home of the Parent

The Cologne Gagaku Ensemble from the University of Cologne, Germany, and the Hawaii Gagaku Kenkyukai from Honolulu visited the Home of the Parent between September 21 and 27. There were a total of 34 participants from the two gagaku (Japanese court music) ensembles. They attended the September Monthly Service at Church Headquarters on the 26th in addition to performing at the second Student Gagaku Festival co-sponsored by Tenri City and Tenri University on the 24th.

The Cologne Gagaku Ensemble began when Dr. Robert Günther, professor emeritus at the University of Cologne, invited Mr. Masatoshi Shamoto (head of Malie Mission Station and gagaku instructor at the University of Hawaii at Manoa) as a guest instructor to teach 14 students at the University of Cologne in the summer of 2000. Assisting Mr. Shamoto was Mr. Yoshiro Shimizu, an alumnus of the Tenri University Gagaku Music Society, who has since been coaching this group. The Cologne Gagaku Ensemble, thus formed, is the first and only gagaku ensemble of its kind in Europe in the history of the 1,200-year-old tradition. Although the ensemble has performed on various occasions in Germany, this concert was scheduled on their first ever tour of Japan. Their participation in the festival came about after Dr. Günther expressed the desire for the Cologne Gagaku Ensemble to perform in it upon learning about the first Student Gagaku Festival, held at the Home the Parent in August of last year.

The first half of the second Student Gagaku Festival included the instrumental piece Bairo, which was jointly performed by the Cologne Gagaku Ensemble and the Tenri High School Gagaku Club. The Cologne ensemble also performed a vocal piece entitled Ise no umi. The students from the University of Cologne amazed the audience with their solemn performance of this classic mainstay of the imperial court repertoire. An intermission followed an instrumental piece played by the Nara University Gagaku Kenkyukai. The second half of the program was centered on dance pieces, which included the Tenri University Gagaku Music Society performing Somakusha. The Cologne ensemble performed Bato, and Tenri University students joined the Hawaii Gagaku Kenkyukai for the piece Nasori. The concert concluded with a performance of Etenraku Nokorigaku Sanben by members of the participating ensembles.

Following the concert Dr. Günther remarked: “Not only were we able to realize the ambition of performing in Tenri, but I was deeply moved by the warm reception we received. I am thankful from the bottom of my heart.”

Mr. Oliver Richters, a member of the ensemble since its inception, said the following: “We were nervous about performing in front of a Japanese audience who are more informed about gagaku than audiences at home. But coming here has been an excellent experience, for we were able to experience first-hand the performance level of the Japanese students.”

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