First order of business was a goodwill visit to our partners on this tour, Min On. They are a company who know how to provide a welcome, on arrival, the entire staff were gathered in their reception area to applaud us into the premises (see picture). Even for a group of people who are used to receiving applause, this was a novel experience!
While a few of our number were whipped up to their formal reception room for formalities and photos, the majority of our group were treated to a tour of their keyboard instrument museum. This is one of those quirky collections that might not be as famous as a big museum, but is in many ways more fascinating. There are keyboard instruments from the 1500s to the present day, but perhaps most interesting are the eccentric curios from the 19th century, including pianos with bells and tambourine pedals, and house organs and that wheeze and squeeze their way through pre-programmed popular tunes of the day.
From there, onto our second concert, this time in Hachioji. Quirkiness continued as the orchestra were sent to the stage in a goods lift (see picture).
Hachioji, admittedly not the most well known of Japanese cities (in practice it’s a Tokyo suburb – think Croydon), has one of the warmest audiences we have ever encountered. There was a worry in the afternoon about the hall’s acoustics: we had been told that they were excellent, but without an audience in, our musicians felt that the sound wasn’t projecting from the stage. Come the evening and another full house (see picture), the sound was transformed, and we got a full, rich noise.
The audience themselves were again mouthing along to the words of the songs, and there were tears in Hana Wa Saku again, but we now realised that the audience the previous night, in Tokyo proper, were somewhat reserved in comparison.
This is was an audience who not only mouthed along, but also did actions to some songs (the chop-chopping in the Barber Shop song for example), and at the end of the concert, cheered well before the end of pieces, and at the end of concert, clapped together in time, until we gave three encores!
Tomorrow we travel to Osaka by Shinkansen (bullet train, which this little boy is VERY excited about!), and in the evening, an Izakaya (a pub / bistro / social club hybrid very popular in Japan) dinner hosted by our friends at Min On – kampai!!!