The academic year that I arrived in Fukuoka, my school’s brass band had about 15 kids. The teacher in charge joined forces with his colleagues in middle schools to recruit members for the new school year (the one that just ended) and together they were able to double the size of the band. What a difference it made!

Last Monday, during the national holiday Vernal Equinox Day, the band put on its second major performance. When the first one happened, I don’ t know. This time it was announced widely, so it was hard to miss. I even saw a flyer for it in my local supermarket! Since I saw they really wanted participation from the community at large, I invited two of my friends.

Before the concert, we had lunch and coffee. As we were talking, the conversation turned to the subject of “band geeks.” I wasn’t aware there was such a thing. As one of only four high schools in Detroit Public Schools with an entrance exam, the high school I went to was very different from the high schools I grew up seeing portrayed on TV and in movies. While I figured there must be schools that really did have something approaching the Nerd-Jock Dichotomy from media, I didn’t see it in my school. The best football player from my year was also in one of the school’s hardest curriculums. The only kids who were teased, and mildly at that, were freshmen with oversized backpacks. So I was surprised to learn that in the mainstream it’s not only kids who study too much, join the AV club, and play chess who are considered geeks, kids who play brass instruments are apparently also geeks!

I don’t get it.

I guess it’s because the common thread that I saw in what I thought were geeks was the assumed lack of physical strength and deep love for things few others enjoy, but it’s not easy to lug around a tuba or a bass drum, nor is music enjoyed only by a small fraction of the population.

Is it the clumsiness of walking around with such a big instrument that makes it look dorky?

I guess I’m just too big of a geek myself to understand it. *Shrugs* (I was in the orchestra. Does that make me more uncool? ^o^;)

I don’t know if being in the school band is likewise stigmatized in Japanese high schools, but I do wonder if the scarcity of boys is an indication that it is looked down upon. In my school’s band, of 30 members, only 2 are boys.

Now, while the band did grow, it’s still so small that some kids do double duty during the same song. On the one hand I think, it’d be cool if they could have more members so that they wouldn’t need to switch instruments mid-way, but on the other, I can’t help but marvel that they do switch between instruments without missing a beat. (Not that I could hear anyway.) Especially between instruments that aren’t that similar, such as trombone and bass guitar.

There was one teacher performing with the kids (not counting the conductor), as well as members of a local brass band, but these additional members didn’t perform in the last stage. Some third year students who graduated this year were up there, too, and they got a special send-off in song near the end.

The kouchou opened the concert with a short greeting. He said that some people might feel bad about enjoying themselves while the people in Touhoku continue to deal with the aftermath of the recent disaster, but that, on the other hand, wouldn’t everybody be better able to help out if they keep in high spirits? I agree.

The concert was divided into three sections as follows.

~Classical~

  • “Minami Kaze no Maachi” – Watariguchi Tomonori
  • “The Chaconne” – J.S. Back
  • “Music in the Air!” – Alfred Reed
  • “El Amor Brujo” – Manuel de Falla

I liked “El Amor Brujo” the best. Apparently it’s well known enough that it has an official Japanese title, 「恋は魔術師」”koi wa majutsushi,” an almost direct translation of the Spanish title, which can be taken to mean either “the bewitching love” or “the lover who is a warlock.” Since the title was written in Japanese everywhere, I didn’t know it was by a Spanish composer when I saw the title on the flyer!

~Solo & Ensemble~

  • Oboe solo from “Oboe Sonata” – Camille Saint-Saëns
  • Clarinet solo from “La traviata” (known in Japanese as 「椿姫」”Tsubaki-hime,” based on the title of the play the opera was based on) – Giuseppe Verdi
  • Euphonium solo, “Rhapsody for Euphonium” – James Curnow
  • Trombone solo, which I couldn’t figure out what it was supposed to be, or by whom, but it says: 「ブルームト・アリア」エリック・パウデ, “Buruumuto Aria” – Erikku Paude
  • Three-piece woodwind ensemble, “Idiiru” (“Edile?”) – Yousuke Fukuda
  • Eight-piece ensemble, “Structure” –  Masamichi Amano
  • Four-piece percussion ensemble, “Aeolian Quartet” – Shin’ichi Kaneda

For this section, 3 of the 4 soloists dashed off stage as soon as they had given their little bow after playing. I liked the “Rhapsody for Euphonium,” but the “Aeolian Quartet” was the most hype. For this piece, the percussionists came out with tinsel around their wrists and different colored headbands. You can find several performances of it on YouTube, but for the best sound quality, listen and download from this site: Kaneda Shin’ichi Online Memorial. Click on “Works,” then “Pieces for percussion ensemble,” then scroll down a little. You’ll see it.

In the process of looking for videos of the “Aeolian Quartet,” I stumbled upon Fukuda’s YouTube channel. Though the piece my kids performed isn’t up there, I highly recommend “Rhapsody IV – Moon Dance.”

~Pops~

  • Deep Purple Medley
  • “Michi” – EXILE
  • “Sherii ni Kuchizuke” – I don’t know whose version they did, but the original is “Tout, tout pour ma chérie” by Michel Polnareff
  • J-pop Medley
  • “Tsubomi” – Kobukuro
  • “Aitakatta” – AKB48

Actually, they didn’t write the name of the artists for this section in the program, even though they said it during the concert.

For this section of the concert, they came out in purple shirts and jeans (they had been performing in their school uniform), and for the first time, the stage was lit up with different color lights and a mini disco ball!

They totally rocked out during the Deep Purple Medley! >_<\m/

See the bassist's shadow on the ceiling? ^o^

During “Sherii ni Kuchizuke,” at various points the band members held up cardboard cutouts of hearts, stars, and other things. The MCs had said that whoever could say how many times the hearts had appeared would get something. When they asked, some little kids sitting behind me raised their hands and were chosen. They answered correctly and got a goodie bag, but I don’t know what was in it.

The J-pop Medley, as far as I could tell, was entirely ARASHI songs, but I could be wrong about that. Six of the band members were dressed like ARASHI, lip synching and dancing. I remember that it was six members because I said, “aren’t there only 5 people in ARASHI?” ^o^;

Then, for the AKB48 song, they said they were the XHS32 (X High School 32, instead of Akihabara 48), and five members sang along and danced onstage in what we usually think of as a “schoolgirl uniform”: pleated plaid skirt, white shirt.

As an encore, (though they did it automatically), they did the classic Peggy March hit “I Will Follow Him.” At one of the short concerts at school, one of the teachers had told me that this song had become popular in Japan because of the movie Sister Act. ^o^

And so, after 2 and a half hours, the concert ended. My friends and I went to have dinner at our usual burger joint, then we went home.

次回!Staff Shuffle!

おまけ!Here’s a song that I found in an interesting way. I logged in to YouTube, and saw that it had psychic powers, as it was suggesting a channel called “Mastering procrastination.” The channel apparently doesn’t really have anything to do with that, but I loved the song the person had used in their video, which turned out to be “Who Would Have Thought” by Darren Hayes. Gotta love an artsy fartsy vid for a synth rock-pop track.

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