Concert four saw us in Nagoya, one of Japan’s industrial nerve centres and the home of Toyota. The hall, the NTK Forest Hall, was a vast, hangar like space – Michael Collins joked that his pilot son could probably park a 737 in it. And we were warned that only 850 of its 2,200 seats had been sold. Well, four out of five concerts being sold out is ok we reasoned, and we’ll play our socks off for the 850 who have bought a ticket. (And being frank, most UK chamber orchestras – ourselves included – would kill to be disappointed with an 850 audience for most of their concerts.)
(Prior to the concert, my first conveyer belt sushi experience in Japan – see picture. Their UK counterparts pale in comparison…)
We need not have feared. Whether our hosts were managing our expectations by giving us a pessimistically low number, or there were many last minute sales, what we were greeted with was an audience of at least 1,700, brimming with enthusiasm.
We have now got used to the audience mouthing along to the words, and joining in with the actions to the chop-chop-chopping of the Barbershop Song, but at the end of the concert we got our first standing ovation. A rare occurrence in Japan I understand, and many of those standing were in tears, with one man constantly bowing to us.
After the concert, a quick turnaround to Nagoya Station to catch the last Shinkansen to Tokyo. Orchestral musicians are a resourceful lot, and refreshing beverages were purchased ahead of the journey (see picture), supplemented by CLS management. Our Shinkansen party caused a minor diplomatic incident, however. The guard had to come and remind us that as this was the late night train, many passengers were trying to sleep. We were all high from the audience reaction, and consequently conversation was ‘animated’.
Tomorrow we are being sent all across the Tokyo Metropolitan Area to perform Meet the Music projects and concerts in a care home, kindergarten and children’s hospice. Meet the Music is central to what we do in the UK and we integrate it into all of our projects, including international touring. At the kindergarten we are performing in, 12 young Japanese professional musicians and education producers are coming to observe our wonderful animateur Claire Henry, and our musicians. Four of us then go to the Brtish Council offices in Tokyo to share how we work with a wider group of Japanese musicians and producers.
We then have our authentic Japanese Karaoke party to look forward to / approach with embarrassed fear…