Life in the Land of the Rising Sun

Friday, April 28, 2006

Blue Skies, Green Trees, and Some Gentle Winds...

...and brass.

Today was the final rehearsal for ye old academy's annual Taiikusai(Sports Festival), which will be held tomorrow. As always, the entire student body is divided into six teams, which will spend the whole day in intense (and sometimes even violent) competition. However, the event starts out civil enough. It all kicks off with the six teams marching onto the playing field accompanied by members of our school music club. It's the first performance of the new school year, and we let the students take care of it themselves for the most part. It's a good way to start off the new year.

As it turned out, it was a beautiful day today, so I became your proverbial gaijin with a camera and went crazy. Here are a few shots to add some color to this rapidly darkening blog:

Pianist/flautist/student conductor Chiaki Oshima is at the helm. She's an incredible musician, and I wouldn't be surprised to see her doing this sort of thing for a living...though she really should be on the stage.

The band is playing under a blue sky, pink flowers...

...and plenty of green leaves and greener needles.

A couple of smiling oboists and a collection of bored-looking string players wait to help haul away the gear as soon as the performance is done. The band is set up in C Team's stands.

The flutes look bored, too. So do the saxes. However, in the back row, Sanshiro Ogawa (Mr. Ogawa's son) is blasting a fanfare on his trumpet.

Okay! Now for some action! The clarinets are getting into the action.

So are the brass...and here and there a sax.

Down in front on stage right are the bass winds, including a bass clarinet and two bassoons. There is also a very young bass trombone player (no good picture, though), but no tuba at present.

It's okay, though. Ms. Sato is giving us plenty of bass with her History copy of a Fender Jazz electric bass. (Moody is turning greeeeeeeeen...)

All through the entire affair, the percussion line keeps the beat going. It's gotta be hard work...

And of course, our beloved chief director, Mr. Ogawa, is there in the background proudly observing his charges. It's a beautiful day for this annual ritual, and it feels pretty good to be out here. The band is sounding pretty good, too, even though we lost quite a few power players to graduation.

The main event is tomorrow. The weather forecast is cloudy with occasional rain in the afternoon, but everything is on schedule. Oh, bloody hell...

Have a good weekend, everyone!


  • Nice shots. Beautiful day. What music did they play?

    By Blogger Pandabonium, at 8:28 AM  

  • Every year they start the festival by playing the fanfare from "Disney's Electrical Parade". Then, during the march-in, they play a medley of marches including "Washington Post", a couple of European marches whose names I can't remember, one from Minnesota called "The Big M" or something like that, a marching arrangement of our school's anthem and fight song (complements of yours truly), and, finally, "Stars and Stripes Forever".

    Interestingly, when the Afghanistan invasion started some years ago, Mr. Ogawa deleted all the American marches from the repertoire (out of concern for the "political sensitivities of the audience", or so he said), but he reinstated them last year. Apparently the European and Japanese marches don't have the same punch. That was also the year that I made that marching arrangement of our school songs...mainly to replace "S&SF" since it's in more or less the same style. Oh, they're using both.

    After the marches, they play the Japanese national anthem, "Kimigayo" and then a ceremonial fanfare. After that, they clear out as quickly as they can so C Team can sit down.

    By Blogger The Moody Minstrel, at 8:45 AM  

  • On behalf of the trombones, I protest the lack of good pictures.

    Mr. Ogawa's decision reminds me of a concert band tour I was on in early 1971. My university band played at the U. of Paris and our director decided to go ahead and play the S&S Forever (which had received a standing ovation in Essen Germany - I guess it sounded close enough to "Die Wacht am Rhein" to stir their hearts in the home town of the Krupp works).

    We all thought our director was NUTS, as the U of Paris had been the scene of very violent clashes with police and anti-Vietnam war protestors. The hall we were in had been spray painted with anti-American slogans and hammer and sickles and such.

    He prefaced the tune with a statement that it was not being played with any political intent, but rather because it was a good march. Uh, sure. Kind of like saying "what?, that American flag on my jacket?...oh I just happen to like the design..." There was tension in the audience, but they relaxed once we got going and in the end applauded. whew...

    By Blogger Pandabonium, at 6:24 PM  

  • wow..i wish i could play an instrument ..oh well its never too late to learn :D

    By Blogger saba, at 11:32 AM  

  • LOL, Panda! The French seem to be good at turning just about anything into a reason to demonstrate. (Of course, when it comes to actual wars...)

    Welcome back, Saba! How did your finals go? (loud diminished 7th chord) If you did play an instrument, what would it be?

    By Blogger The Moody Minstrel, at 7:32 PM  

  • this is the best a man can get! a whole bunch of pretty girls playing music, with blue skies, green trees and gentle winds...

    I want to be there!

    By Blogger YD, at 10:23 PM  

  • YD, too bad you couldn't see the taiikusai itself! That's always a spectacular event. (Last year it was kind of boring for some reason, but this year they spunked it up a bit by changing the events around, improving the dance routines, and having more interesting background music playing at a more sane volume.)

    I hope to post some pics of it soon.

    Yes, it would be an ideal scene for a long as the pretty girls weren't his students (whose parents know him very well...).

    By Blogger The Moody Minstrel, at 11:15 PM  

  • finals..went bad...not like i wanted them too...but isnt that always the case..anyways they are over!!! but hey guess what im taking a spring course YAY (sarcastic)..and you know what the spring course is??? Organic chemistry (How Fun)... if i would play an instrument i would play the violin...always wanted to learn how to play looks so classy and sophisticated..and i love the sound it makes...

    By Blogger saba, at 1:00 PM  

  • ORGANIC CHEMISTRY???!?!?!??!?!?!??

    (Loud diminished 7th chord)

    That's one of the words that the Moody Minstrel cannot hear!!!

    ("It" is okay, however.)

    I actually started out as a chemistry major in college (believe it or not). I entered a local community college (which I attended for free thanks to musical talent grants...and they had a pretty good music program, too...which has proven to be a very good thing), took their high-level chemistry course (which included 300-level Organic) and graduated with honors. Then I transferred to Oregon State University, whose chemistry program was supposed to be directly compatible...even to the point of using the same textbooks and sometimes even the same tests.

    Well, I found out the hard way that it wasn't very compatible. The books and tests may have been the same, but the system and the approach were both rather different. So was the professionalism of the instructors.

    From the beginning, I somehow ran afoul of one of the tenured professors at OSU (most likely because I hadn't been in his 200-level classes, unlike my classmates), and all kinds of strange things happened. For one thing, in 300-level Experimental Chemistry my lab partner and I worked together and wrote our lab report together. He got a B and I got a D. I asked the prof for an explanation, and he said, "If you weren't such a damned clutz, these things wouldn't happen." (Meaning what, exactly?) Later, in the same class, after spending a month preparing a sample, I took it out of my lab drawer to find it had not only suddenly changed in color and quantity, but the identifying marks I'd put on the flask were gone, as well. I tested the chemical inside and found that it was badly contaminated.

    That same hour, the prof came swaggering by with his usual sneer and said, "You know, [moody], if your sample is all screwed up, your lab partners are going to be pretty upset." Chuckling loudly, he then swaggered along on his way.

    Considering the drawer had been locked, and only the prof and I had keys to it, I could only draw certain conclusions. I made a formal claim to the head of the chemistry department and was told (very apologetically) that that prof was notorious for such things, but, since he was tenured, there was really nothing I could do about it except accept a failing grade (or drop out) and take the course again the following year...most likely with the same prof.

    Not surprisingly, I wound up on academic probation.

    That pretty much cured any and all interest I had in science as a field of study, so I switched to foreign language instead, graduated with honors, and have been far happier for it.

    I honestly hope you have better luck than I did, Saba.

    Violin is a very good instrument, and I've been learning it a bit myself recently (or trying to, at least). It is a difficult instrument to learn. More than anything, it takes patience. You have to expect to sound pretty bad at the beginning. Since there are no frets, your pitch will be off until you can feel the intervals naturally. Until you get the bowing technique down, you will sound like a sick cat with occasional squeaks. That's probably what kills off most aspiring players. If you can put up with the noise and embarrassment at the very beginning, you'll do fine. (I'm a bit surprised at your choice, though. I half expected you to say bass guitar or something like that. ;-) )

    By Blogger The Moody Minstrel, at 12:04 AM  

  • Wonder why oboists are smiling and string players are bored.

    Is it the selection criteria or just co-incidence. hmmm

    By Blogger Robin, at 1:48 PM  

  • Waiting for the event to unfold right here...I'm sure it's bursting with colors! Hurry up! pressure.

    By Blogger agus, at 6:59 PM  

  • wow moody interesting story ....*shocked* what an ass of a prof...well i just finished a lab right now actually ..crystalization of acentiline ..3 hours of suffering it was...but its done..its crazy though this course because its a one year course and im doing it in 6 weeks..we learn a week worth of material a day which is sooo can never hate..always been good at it..and studying biomedical computing i have to like science lol.. Guitar?? everyone wants to learn that so its not unique..besides i ve heard some pieces of music where the violin was played to rock music (cant remember the name of the violinest) but it sounded so amazing..i envyed him soo much im in love with classical soothing and pure :D (shocked??)

    By Blogger saba, at 5:37 AM  

  • A lovely day for such an activity. Nice pictures, nice smiles.

    Is music a compulsory subject in school in Japan?

    By Blogger Happysurfer, at 7:54 PM  

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