Prague Shakuhachi Summer School 07

August 28, 2007

The Prague Shakuhachi Summer School took place from August 18-21. Participants came from the Czech Republic, England, Holland and Ireland. The teachers were Christopher Yohmei Blasdel, Vlastislav Matousek and Kees Kort.

The summer school venue was close to the centre of Prague. Evening concerts took place in a local church and literary cafe. One of the evening concerts featured collaborations between poets James Ragan and Petr Berkovec and shakuhachi players. The first half contained performances by Vlastislak Matousek and Marek Matvija accompanied the poetry of Petr Berkovec. In the second half, Christoper Yohmei Blasdel accompanied James Ragan.

There was an evening concert devoted to honkyoku and another to contemporary music. These were held in a church with excellent acoustics in the old town. The summer school included workshops on honkyoku, morning yoga classes and presentations. The pieces taught included Tamuke, Hifumi hachigaeshi and Kyorei. David Bidlo and I did a presentation on shakuhachi acoustics. The city of Prague provided excellent opportunities for sight-seeing. Meals and accommodation were also quite affordable.

Many thanks to Marek and Vlastislav for an amazing summer school. I think everyone will be back for more next year.

European Shakuhachi Society Summer School 07

August 27, 2007

The Second European Shakuhachi Society Summer School 2007 welcomed over fifty participants from Europe and Japan. It was held in the town of Munster in the Alsace region in France. The town is famous for the nestling of cranes in the rooftops.

The venue at Kleebach was perfect for workshops. Pieces taught included honkyoku from various schools (including KSK and Tozan), sankyoku and shinkyoku. I presented a workshop of Irish music on shakuhachi. There was a concert each evening. The first evening concert was an open mic session at Hotel de Ville. Then there were two teachers’ concerts and the final participants’ concert. The surrounding hills and closeness to nature made this summer school special.

For me, the highlights were the classes taught and performances by Furuya-sensei and Kakizakai-sensei, two of Yokoyama’s leading pupils. The summer school would not have taken place without the work of Veronique Piron and Jim Franklin. The teachers and performers included Furuya Teruo, Kakizakai Kaoru, Veronique Piron, Jim Franklin, Watanabe Haruko, Sozan Chiaki Kariya (assisted by Jean Francois Lagrost), Onishi Mizuka, Andreas Gutzwiller and Daniel Lifermann. This event was evidence of the popularity of the shakuhachi in Europe. We look forward to more pan-European shakuhachi events next year. Many thanks to Albert for the photos. Find out more about the European Shakuhachi Society.

West meets East

October 17, 2007

On Sunday August 26 2007, I presented a workshop of Japanese and Irish music and culture with Junshi Murakami, an accomplished player of the Irish harp. This was part of a Japanese festival organised by Irish Art Now and took place at the Newry Museum in Northern Ireland.

We presented a programme that included pieces by the blind Irish harpist Turlough O’Carolan (1670-1738), Irish dance tunes, some well-known melodies as well as a couple of honkyoku and Japanese folk tunes. The timbre of the Irish harp is not unlike the Japanese koto so the ensemble worked well. Many thanks to the staff at the Newry Museum, Kathy and Peter from Irish Art Now and the fantastic audience.

Coach House Concert

December 11, 2007

In commemoration of the 50th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic relations between Japan and Ireland, the Ambassador of Japan, Mr. Keiichi Hayashi organised a concert, “A Celebration of the Musical Links between Japan and Ireland.” The performers were Mr William Dowdall (flute), Mr John Feeley (guitar), Mr Philip Horan (shakuhachi) and Mr Junshi Murakami (Irish harp). This concert was presented by the Ireland Japan Association and The Embassy of Japan and sponsored by Takeda Pharmaceutical Company Limited. It took place on Friday, 7 December 2007 at 8.00pm at the Coach House, Dublin Castle.

The first part of the concert contained two pieces by Takemitsu Toru, including ‘Towards the Sea’ for flute and guitar and was performed by William Dowdell and John Feeley. The duo also performed special arrangements of ‘Sakura Sakura’ and ‘Haru no Umi’. Philip Horan and Junshi Murakami opened the second part of the concert playing pieces by the Irish composer Turlough O’Carolin as well as a performance of the solo shakuhachi honkyoku ‘Sokkan’. The four musicians then joined together for some Irish and Japanese favourites including ‘O’Carolin’s Concerto’, the ‘Last Rose of Summer’ and two Japanese lullabies. There followed a unique performance of ‘Shika no Tone’ with Philip Horan playing shakuhachi and William Dowdell playing an adapted sliding flute headjoint to copy the meri-kari technique of the shakuhachi. The concert ended with two encours, ‘Danny Boy’ and ‘Hana’, in which the performers were joined by the ambassador, Mr. Keiichi Hayashi on the flute.