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Music From Japan’s 35th anniversary season

The 2009-10 season marks the 35th anniversary of Music From Japan.  To commemorate this important occasion, Music From Japan and its Artistic Director, Naoyuki Miura, are pleased to announce Festival 2010: two special programs to be performed the weekend of February 20 & 21 at Merkin Concert Hall in NYC.  One features the illustrious gagaku artist Sukeyasu Shiba, and the other focuses on new and recent works by Japanese composers, commissioned by MFJ.  Sukeyasu Shiba’s Gagaku Universe will also travel to the Freer Gallery of Art, Smithsonian Institution in Washington, DC on February 24.  A program for school children will also be presented at New York’s Hunter College Elementary School on February 22.

Sukeyasu Shiba’s Gagaku Universe will open Music From Japan’s 35th-anniversary season at Merkin Concert Hall in New York City on February 20, 2010.  The concert will celebrate Mr. Shiba’s accomplishments as a performer, composer, researcher, educator, and advocate of gagaku, as well as Music From Japan’s achievements in introducing American and world audiences to the music and culture of Japan.  For this concert, Music From Japan has commissioned Mai Fu Jin 35, a gagaku piece based on the classical tradition, as well as dance segments choreographed to three movements from Mr. Shiba’s Shotorashion suite for gagaku ensemble.  Works in the all-Shiba program will be performed by his Reigakusha Gagaku Ensemble.

Born into the Shiba family – a branch of the Koma clan of gagaku musicians associated with the temple-shrine complex of Kofuku-ji/Kasuga Taisha in Nara for more than a thousand years – Sukeyasu Shiba served as a leading gagaku performer for the Imperial Household Agency for 27 years.  A respected composer and scholar known for his reconstructions of lost parts of the gagaku repertory, Mr. Shiba established Reigakusha in 1985 to research and perform this ancient music.  Among the awards Mr. Shiba has received are the Japan Art Academy Prize and, in 2003, the Imperial Award from the same organization.

The second concert in Music From Japan’s 35th-anniversary presentation, also at Merkin Concert Hall, is on February 21, 2010.  Highlights of MFJ Commissions II will present past commissions by Music From Japan, as well as two new commissions written especially for the occasion.  Works by Hikaru Hayashi, Shin-ichiro Ikebe, and Sunao Isaji will be revived, and new commissions by Hitomi Kaneko and Yasuko Yamaguchi will receive their world premieres.  Highlights of MFJ Commissions II will be performed by members of the Reigakusha and by the Music From Japan Chamber Ensemble, with Yasuaki Itakura conducting. 

MFJ’s 34th season presented “Masters of Tradition: Mojibei Tokiwazu V and his shamisen quartet” and “Tradition/E-novation: shamisen, violin, voice and computer” across the U.S. in March, 2009.

On February 22, 2010, MFJ will present a special gagaku program for the students at New York’s Hunter College Elementary School.  The children will be introduced to gagaku music with a brief history and a performance of Ponta and the Thunder God, based on the retelling of an old folk tale by Sayumi Kawauchi and set to music by Sukeyasu Shiba.  The students will even have a chance to sing a “shoga”, an oral notation system that is sung to aid in the memorization of melodies.  They will be shown and told about the instruments played in gagaku, and some lucky students will get a chance to try them out.

Since opening in 1994, the Resource Center for Japanese Music has offered composers, performers, scholars, and the general public the opportunity to access its custom-designed Music From Japan Composer Database and a library of scores, books, magazines, compact discs, etc. of Japanese music.  The organization is a rich resource of information to people around the world, providing information on its web site and helping with further access to, or details about, specific works and composers.


Music From Japan 2010: 35th Anniversary Season


February 17 (Wed)

New York, NY – Columbia University, 4:00 pm

Composition seminar


February 20 (Sat)

New York, NY – Merkin Concert Hall, 8:00 pm



Guwa No. 1 (1966) for shakuhachi and harp

Ichigyo no Fu (1979) for ryuteki solo

Mai Fu Jin 35 (2008; world premiere commissioned by MFJ for 35th anniversary) for sho (2), hichiriki (2), ryuteki (2), gaku-biwa, gaku-so, kakko, taiko, and shoko

Chosa Join (1983 reconstructed) for haisho, gaku-so, genkan, and ohichiriki

Shotorashion (1980/2010; *world premiere of dance sections commissioned by MFJ for 35th anniversary) for sho (2), hichiriki (2), ryuteki (2), gaku-biwa, gaku-so, kakko, taiko, shoko, and dancers (2)

Introduction and Mandala



The Rage of Jikokuten and Finale*


Reigakusha Gagaku Ensemble; Maya Sakai, mikomai dancer; Stephen Pier, dancer/choreographer; Bridget Kibbey, harp

Pre-concert lecture at 7:00 pm by Mr. Shiba


February 21 (Sun)

New York, NY – Merkin Concert Hall, 7:30 pm



Hikaru Hayashi: Lament (1999-2000) for string quartet

Shin-ichiro Ikebe: Bivalence II (1997) for violin duo

Sunao Isaji: a loveleg day for mirages on the sea (2003) for flute, violin, cello, piano, percussion, and conductor

Yasuko Yamaguchi: Wurzel (“Roots”) (2009-10; world premiere) for hichiriki, cello, percussion, and piano

Hitomi Kaneko: New commission (2009-10; world premiere) for sho and string quartet


*Mayumi Miyata, sho; *Hitomi Nakamura, hichiriki (*members of the Reigakusha Gagaku Ensemble)

Music From Japan Chamber Ensemble: Eriko Sato and Tom Chiu, violin; Fred Sherry, cello; Tara Helen O’Connor, flute; Stephen Gosling, piano; Eric Poland, percussion

Cassatt String Quartet

Yasuaki Itakura, guest conductor


February 22 (Mon)

New York, NY – Hunter College Elementary School, 10:30 am

(school program, not open to public)

Special program for young students, featuring Nabuko Kiryu as narrator, with Sukeyasu Shiba and the Reigakusha Gagaku Ensemble.  Program includes Sukeyasu Shiba’s musical setting of the folk tale Ponta and the Thunder God and an interactive introduction to gagaku.

February 24 (Wed)

Washington, DC – Freer Gallery, Smithsonian Institution, 7:30 pm


Program and performers as for Feb 20, except for first piece:

Souan no Kai (2003) for hichiriki and gaku-biwa will replace Guwa No. 1


All programs and artists are subject to change.

Music From Japan Festival 2010, 35th anniversary, is made possible in part by public funds from the Agency for Cultural Affairs, Government of Japan, for the fiscal year 2009, and the New York State Council on the Arts, the state agency.

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© 21C Media Group, October 2009

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