CONCERTO JAPON! REPORT Japanese Music Concert with Orchestra

20fAndrew MacGregor is a Melbourne-based shakuhachi, bamboo flute player with absolute passion. He considers Japanese music as sophisticated classic music which should be appreciated all over the world like western classic music and is active to promote concerts. He will conduct this year’s third concert tour in August with award winning koto player Miho YAMAJI.

“Often Japanese music is introduced with an image of usually old musicians wearing kimono playing traditional pieces with shakuhachi, koto and sangen in kneeling position. There are more abundant and different aspects of Japanese music, but those stereotypical images are very strong.“ says MacGregor. The music I particularly introduce is the more modern and powerful aspect of Japanese music.

According to a Japanese composer Minoru MIKI, “it is said all instruments have origins in western Asia. When they were introduced to the west, they developed large symphony orchestras. On the other hand, when they were transmitted to the east, each formed a traditional community in each country and rarely ventured beyond nationalities and ethnicities.

“Autumn Fantasy“ performed in January by MacGregor and Haruko WATANABE (21 string koto) is one of those major works by MIKI. MacGregor has been fortunate enough to have the chance to play music by such great modern composers such as Minoru MIKI, Katsutoshi NAGASAWA, and Satoko MAEDA, the composer of “Stella of Akane M. Angel“ which was premiered in Australia in May this year.For August’s concert, Australian composer Basil Hawkins has arranged Toshio FUNAKAWA’s “Double Concerto“ for western orchestra with guitar, mandolin, percussion (Timpani, Taiko), and many shakuhachi. The shakuhachi and koto will be powerful soloists with this western orchestra.

Shakuhachi in Australia has come a long way in such a short time. There was no shakuhachi teacher here only about 15 years ago. MacGregor met shakuhachi through rock’n roll pianist Leon Russell, and not through Japanese music. Only thirty seconds of the mysterious sound of strange flute on a vinyl record completely captured MacGregor. He then got his first shakuhachi through his Aikido teacher, and started his formal lessons from an American teacher who happened to move to Sydney at that time. He often rode the 900 kilometres from Melbourne a few times a year for his lessons.He decided to change his life from successful engineer to shakuhachi player. He has never had teacher nearby other than for the 4 months, when he lived with his teacher in Japan.

” It is quite difficult to keep the shakuhachi spirit alive in isolation. I nearly gave up a few times.’ MacGregor says. However, even in such difficult circumstances, he was honourably selected as a finalist for the All Japan Japanese Music Competition this year.

He deserves our highest appreciation for his continuing efforts to offer such high standard Japanese music concerts in Australia. He says ” There are some interesting comments from the last concert in May. From an Australian member of the audience: ”Why don’t Japanese people come to Japanese music concerts?’ And then, from a Japanese visitor: ” I did not expect this standard at all, as this is in Australia, but I was extremely moved as it was truly marvellous!’

Many Japanese have not played any Japan instrument but most of them have played some kind of western instrument, such as recorder, violin, and piano. But now, Japan has introduced Japanese instruments to the school curriculum for the first time since the establishment of the modern education system 120 years ago. A lot of Japanese people have an unreasonable image that Japanese music is old-fashioned and “not-cool“ , without really having an understanding of it. We non-Japanese may also be able to contribute to changing those images, and already it is changing.

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