Life in the Land of the Rising Sun

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Music: The Gathering

Part One - Returning Favors
The Ibaraki Symphony Orchestra (Ibaraki Koukyou Gakudan- 茨城交響楽団) is the longest-running and best-known amateur orchestra in Ibaraki Prefecture. Considering a large percentage of its members are actually music teachers, it almost might as well be professional, though no salaries are earned. (On the contrary, as with the Kashima Philharmonic, the members have to pay to participate.) They are currently celebrating their 50th anniversary with a series of concerts all over the prefecture sponsored by Toyota.

(But it's the only pic I could find!)

Ever since the foundation of the Kashima Philharmonic exactly ten years ago, the Ibaraki Symphony has been very supportive. They have lent us members to help fill our gaps and cover our weak spots in almost every single performance to date. In recognition of that, the Ibaraki Symphony asked us to sit in with them for part of their concert in Kashima. I volunteered to participate even though it was on a Saturday, which meant taking a day off from work. Incidentally, I was the only Kashima Philharmonic member there that was asked to play a principal part, i.e. I played 1st clarinet.

The piece we were to perform together was "Finlandia", no doubt chosen because the Kashima Philharmonic had performed it (with Ibaraki Symphony guest members) at its concert the month before. We had only one chance to rehearse, which was the morning of the concert. It was mostly no problem, though those of us from the Kashima group weren't used to the Ibaraki Symphony conductor's style. While our own conductor tends to keep his form simple and straightforward out of consideration for our low average level of ability, the Ibaraki Symphony conductor did no such thing; he directs quite passionately with a deep regard for musical expression. It only took a couple of tries for us to get the hang of it, though, so our joint rehearsal lasted less than half an hour. The performance itself went without any trouble, and it felt great to be able to play with such an experienced and capable group.

The little reception we had after the concert was great, too. Most of the Ibaraki Symphony members were very laid back, likable people, and we hit it off really well. Of course, the fact that it turned out that I knew a number of them - mainly because they were parents of current or former students of mine - made the socializing thing even easier. It was a day well spent, and I hope to get another opportunity like it someday.

Part Two - Gorgonzola
Italian food seems to be a recent trend, and a number of Italian restaurants have opened in the Kashima area since the mid twains. Thus far I've only been able to visit a few of them, and almost every time it was a school-related outing. Ironically, the one Italian restaurant I never seemed to be able to make it to was the one that seemed to be most popular among the faculty of Ye Olde Academy...not to mention the fact that its owner, a jazz musician, had been trying very hard through various channels to get me to come. Finally, on the day of the Ibaraki Symphony concert, my father-in-law (motto: "If I didn't eat it yesterday, I won't eat it today") left town for the weekend. That was a perfect opportunity, so I loaded up the family in the BLUE RAV4 and went in search of the fabled (and very persistent) restaurant.

It wasn't a big place, and it was in a rather remote location, but it wasn't hard to find. It was colorful and yet had a very home-style atmosphere. Getting into the tiny parking lot was a little tricky, but soon we were at a table poring over the menu.

I'd heard that the place was well known for its handmade, oven-baked pizza, so that's what we decided to try. Most such small Italian restaurants tend to make only individual-sized pizzas of around seven to eight inches in diameter, so that's what we assumed they would be. Each of us ordered something different. When the "fungi" (mixed mushroom) pizza my wife ordered arrived first, our eyes just about popped out of our heads; it was more than a foot in diameter. We ended up splitting it while worrying whether or not we'd be able to finish all four pies! Once we'd polished off the (wonderful!) fungi pizza, my daughter's came next. That's when things got interesting. You see, my daughter had ordered a "quattro", which had four different kinds of cheese...including Gorgonzola. I LOVE Gorgonzola, and both my kids seem to like it, too. Unfortunately, my wife has trouble tolerating strong-smelling cheese of any kind. Blue cheeses in particular (e.g. Danish bleu, Stilton, Roquefort, or Gorgonzola) can make her ill even an hour after they've been put away. Her face turned a very interesting shade of yuck when the pizza arrived, and she did her best to keep her nose as far away as possible without being impolite.

The waitress and chef both came and apologized, and the chef demonstrated some dough-tossing for my kids, but while my wife was in a bad way, the other three of us were more than happy with the "quattro", which was totally yummy (if you like cheese).

Fortunately, the next pizza that came was my anchovy and olive pie, which was fragrant enough to knock out the Gorgonzola. My wife gratefully tore into it and felt much better. This was followed up by the Parma ham pizza my son ordered. Full as we were, we happily polished it off, too. After that, the chef came out to talk music with me for a bit, and then he gave me an extended invitation to come and play there...or to come and sit in on one of the sessions they have there from time to time.

Time to scrape off the rust from the chops...

(Gorgonzola!!!!!!!!! Pic from the Italian site "Foodelicious". It certainly is!!!)

Part Three - Speaking of Rust
I entered two of my songs, "Glowing Zone" and "Per'anai", in the all-Japan amateur recording contest (Torekon) sponsored by the Shimamura Music chain. For a number of reasons, the two tunes got submitted at different places: "Glowing Zone" was turned in at the Narita Aeon Shimamura, and "Per'anai" went to the new Tsuchiura Aeon one.

Last year I offered "Herald of the Dawn" and "Quite Enough". Neither won an award, obviously, but while "Quite Enough" got politely ripped apart, "Herald of the Dawn" actually got a good score and very encouraging comments. I kept in mind what I was told then when I made this year's submissions.

I didn't get any awards this time either (at least on the national far as I know), but "Glowing Zone" got an even higher score and even more encouraging comments than last year. (Heck, I even got a request as for what kind of music to try next time!) I haven't seen the results for "Per'anai" yet, but I got a call last night saying the score sheet had come in. I'll probably go and pick it up in a couple of days. I can't wait to see what the judges gave me!


  • It would be hard to imagine Chevrolet sponsoring a music event (unless it was the Grand Old Opry). Good on Toyota. Glad it went well.

    Since my diet, pizza has been completely off-limits. I kind of miss it, but not really. I'm not sure if it was the crust or the copious cheese, but I would get hangover-like symptoms after eating it. I don't miss that.

    Congratulations on your contest entries. I've enjoyed them here at home. Your discography is impressive...bigger than Rush I think. And yet, still not big enough.

    By Blogger Don Snabulus, at 2:16 AM  

  • Snabudon
    The hangover-like symptoms might be a blood-sugar thing. I sometimes get dizzy if I have a lot of really high-carb food, especially if it has a lot of sugar, too, such as the bakery bread they sell in my school cafeteria, unless I do something really active to burn it off soon afterward. I just got tested this morning, and I am still officially not diabetic, but my blood sugar level definitely has its highs and lows, and it affects how I feel.

    I know my discography has gotten rather large! Now I'm debating whether or not to start spending time remaking some of the older tunes, especially with the surprising requests to make my music commercially available that have been coming from fans on ReverbNation. I don't even consider the Blue Taxi album good enough to warrant a true public release, at least without fixing up a few of the tunes first. Since then I've been paying a lot more attention to the production and being a bit more of a perfectionist (maybe 90%) with the thought of putting my next CD on CD Baby or even iTunes. We'll see how it goes.

    I got the results back for "Per'anai" today. Overall, it scored a bit less than "Glowing Zone", and I got much more critical comments than I did for the latter (not quite Simon Cowell, but direct). Still, everything the judge said made perfect sense and was very useful. I have some new things to think about.

    By Blogger The Moody Minstrel, at 5:39 PM  

  • This sounds like a lot of fun things are happening! We'll be gearing up for some outings in July and will try to post them too.

    By Blogger ladybug, at 10:45 PM  

  • Ladybug
    I'm waiting with bated breath!

    By Blogger The Moody Minstrel, at 1:12 AM  

  • Sorry to be off topic, but I was just listening to my iTunes collection and "One Rare Moment Together" came on and had to take a moment and tell you how much I enjoy it. Thanks.

    By Blogger Pandabonium, at 3:28 PM  

  • Pandabonium
    Thank you! That means a lot!

    By Blogger The Moody Minstrel, at 5:34 PM  

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