Life in the Land of the Rising Sun

Saturday, October 08, 2011

Calling the Hatchlings Home to Sing

Today (Saturday, October 8th) is the first-ever regular concert of the Vent Bleu Philharmonie aka the Alumni Orchestra. It's the new pet project of Mssr. Maestro Ogawa, an orchestra made up of graduated former members of our very own Ye Olde Academy orchestra. It has been a monstrous undertaking tracking down all those alumni, sparking their interest, convincing them to dust off their old instruments or find ones to borrow, and getting them all together to rehearse. Also, since they're all either college students or adult members of society now, there is also the usual issue of actually getting them to participate with any degree of diligence rather than just showing up at the last minute. It has been frustrating, and yet it has clearly been a labor of love.

Since I've been co-director of the Ye Olde Academy music program since 1998, it's only natural that I should be here helping out, too. My job? Standing across the street from the Kashima Workers' Culture Hall (the performance venue) at the entrance to the Homac Home Center parking lot holding a sign telling concert goers to park in the Culture Hall parking lots instead. It's a thankless and largely-ignored job, but someone's gotta do it.

Alumni Concert 3
A cell phone shot of the Kashima Workers' Culture Hall taken from my position at the Homac parking lot entrance.

Alumni Concert 2
The entrance to the main Culture Hall parking lot, which my sign directed concert goers to use.

Alumni Concert 1
The Homac Home Center parking lot directly behind me, which I tried to discourage concert goers from using, but many did anyway.

As soon as I finish my work for the day at Ye Olde Academy, I hustle to the Culture Hall, collect the sign, take my position at the parking lot entrance, and assume my best farmer-with-a-pitchfork pose (only with a sign instead of a pitchfork). I then remain that way for what will be a 90-minute stint, doing my best to ignore the stares from passersby, the occasional near traffic accidents caused by gawkers, the wonderful cocktail of exhaust fumes, and, as it turns out, the more annoying concert goers.

For the first half hour not many people concert goers arrive, and those that do are decent enough to park in the Culture Hall parking lot like they're supposed to. Suddenly, one grumpy-looking, old redneck in a Toyota Mark II (a favorite of asshole blue-collar types) glares at me before turning hard into the Homac parking lot without signaling, passing as close to me as he can possibly get without hitting the rail I'm purposefully standing behind, parks, and then walks across the street to the Culture Hall, scowling at me as he goes. I dunno; maybe he did that just to spite the gaijin, but what the hell. At least it meant one more person in the audience.

Finally it gets to be the time the hall doors open, and the number of arriving guests increases exponentially. Most of them go into the Culture Hall parking lots, using the grassy #2 lot when the main one fills up. However, an increasing number ignore me completely and park in Homac's lot, which is admittedly more convenient. As they walk across the street to the Hall, most of them try to keep their distance from me and not acknowledge my existence. One woman, however, approaches me very deliberately...

"Are you [the Moody Minstrel]?"

"Yes, that's right. Good evening!" I admit I'm sorely tempted to put my sign directly in front of her face, but I decline.

"Did you quit the Kashima Concert Band?"

"Yes, I did." [I only quit the goddamned thing back in f***ing 1999...] "I'm participating in the Kashima Philharmonic Orchestra, however."

"Yes, I've seen every concert! The last one was wonderful!"

A devoted fan! "Thank you very much!" I'm STILL tempted to jam my sign in her face and ask her if she can read the f***ing thing. Hello? Homac parking lot...BAD!!! Culture Hall parking lot...GOOD!!! SAVVY??!? But I decline the temptation, and the woman cheerfully excuses herself and crosses the street.

The sun quickly fades, as do the arriving guests, and then it is time for the concert to start. I steadfastly maintain my position, visualizing nightmare scenes of traveling down a sewer pipe in a paper boat, being swallowed by a fish, or thrown into a stove to melt into a heart-shaped lump. Then one of the kinder band mothers comes marching across the street to my position and urges me to wrap it up and come inside. It is already several minutes into the performance, but I point out that some people are still arriving (and one does while I speak, ignoring my sign and parking at Homac). I then continue my lonely vigil for another half hour, when I finally decide to call it a night.

Going into the lobby of the Hall, I'm suddenly treated like a celebrity and invited to sit and have some tea. I can just hear the performance from inside the hall, which I can't yet enter; the guest clarinet soloist is just finishing his concerto, and it's brilliant, as is his encore. Then it's intermission time.

I go in to watch the second half of the program, which is Rimsky-Korsakov's "Scheherazade". It's a really cool piece, but what is perhaps even more entertaining for me is looking at all those old faces that have passed through our music machine and into the world, now having come back to give yet another gift of music to this little, coastal city. There are a few faces I don't recognize (because they're paid extras), but I remember the others very well. I even remember a good portion of the names. Even more amazing is that some faces are those of kids who are still in our music program, there to support their seniors by filling some of the gaps. Most extraordinary of all is that two of the most impressive performers are currently 9th graders, one on cello and one on harp. I'm happy knowing that we'll still have them for at least a couple more years. Overall, the performance is far from perfect (since getting all those alumni to dust off their instruments was hard enough, let alone getting them to practice), but it's still a good evening's entertainment and well worth it. (Besides, I didn't have to buy a ticket.)

I leave immediately when the concert ends. It's clear that they expect me to stay and greet people, but I'd rather not. In my experience, alumni tend to be rather cold and unfriendly to me, especially those that were students of mine more than five years ago. Back in 2000 a newly graduated student put it to me very bluntly by saying, "Now that I'm graduated, the teachers are no longer teachers to me, but fellow human beings, so the sense that you're a gaijin is stronger than before. So is the feeling that trying to talk to you would be too uncomfortable." Those words still haunt me, so as a general rule I tend to avoid alumni like the plague, just as many if not most would prefer to avoid me. C'est la vie. The music was the important thing, anyway, and I got my dose of that. I also got my fill of being a human sign post for at least the next few years.


  • Punk said: "So is the feeling that trying to talk to you would be too uncomfortable."

    To which you replied "My opinion about you is the same as ever. You were a spoiled brat in school, and it's obvious you haven't matured at all. Good luck in the real world." ?

    By Blogger Pandabonium, at 4:27 PM  

  • At least she tried to be polite when she said it. :-/

    By Blogger The Moody Minstrel, at 4:46 PM  

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