Monday, January 19, 2015

Trip to Okayama for Duo Concert

I went to Okayama today to play a concert with one of the guest players at HPAC.  She is a retired member of the Bavarian Radio Symphony Orchestra and even though she is Japanese, she has lived in Germany for most of her adult life and speaks broken English with a German accent und a few German words.  She is also one of the founders of the HPAC orchestra, and is heavily involved in the artistic decisions of the organization.  In her early seventies, she seems to maintain a busy life, moving between continents; seemingly with contacts everywhere.  It was through some distant family of hers that this concert came to fruition.

Because language was possible but not entirely smooth, I moved through the planning and execution of the occasion on happily little knowledge.  I got to ride the Shinkansen (the best thing ever!), play a concert, take a picture with a lot of women in kimonos (sadly I don't have a copy), bow and smile, eat a fancy lunch, have a little tea ceremony, and ride the Shinkansen again (still the best thing ever!).

waiting to board the Shinkansen;
someday before I leave Japan I just want to buy a short distance ticket
and ride back and forth on the Shinkansen all day long
The event was held in a fancy hotel on the outskirts of Okayama and like most fancy hotels, it was set-up to please any bridal party.  This is the function of most (maybe all?) fancy hotels in Japan: weddings.  They ceremony happens there, the party happens there, and I suppose it's then very convenient for everyone to stay there.  Quite efficient, why not?  They even have a "church" in the parking lot to make it real.

We went to the "Top" (13th floor) of the this hotel on a hill for the luncheon.  And there was the view of the entire city.  Our bentos were waiting for us but we waited until after the concert to eat them.

our private dining/dressing room

view of Okayama

When we entered the room where the luncheon was being held, I noticed that all the guests were women and almost all (save 2?) were wearing kimonos.  I didn't know why and still don't.  Nor do I know why we held flowers and sang "Hana wa saku" (Flowers Will Bloom) though after some internet searching I do now know that it was a song produced by NHK for the 3.11 tsunami (for a link for more information from the NHK website including a link to the sheet music and English translation click here.)  But we did.  And there were New Year decorations and some sheep masks.  Regardless, it seemed like a nicely planned event and I was glad that my inner debate on whether or not to wash my hair this morning fell to the cleaner side of things.

We played our concert, staring out at Okayama with an added bright spotlight directed towards us from the corner.  We opened with the peppy, though at times awkward Hoffmeister Duo in F Major.  Mizushima-san decided to play next, and chose an appropriately light-hearted Telemann Fantasia.  It was at that point I realized that although I had personally been enjoying the poetic reflection of Bach's D Minor Suite, specifically in the direction of old age and death, perhaps it wasn't best for this bright, high-on-the-hill, ladies luncheon.  But that's what I had, so the various meditations on growing old and dying, tepidly went forth over tea.  And then we happily ended with a B-flat major Beethoven.

They gave us huge bouquets with beautiful flowers as we took our bows.  Mizushima-san being more mature and cooler than I, later explained that we had to ride the Shinkansen and had too much to carry.  She left hers.  I opted to attempt to take home the bouquet.  I love flowers, especially in winter, and always love seeing the exquisite bouquets that get handed out on stage on certain occasions.  I couldn't just give it up.  So I brought that home along with the box of mochi that they gave each of us and the box of extra tea ceremony sweets.  Somehow, four trains and a bus later I got the bouquet, the cello and the large backpack with clothes, mochi, and uneaten lunch home.  I turned used soymilk boxes into vases, and violà, date night!

traveling bouquet
(on the Shinkansen!)
train ride home

mochi and tea sweets
I enjoyed both on my date night,
but admittedly not as much as the left-over CalorieMate (plain) from the day
date night (for one....)

They gave us some money and it covered the travel and a bit extra.  More than worth it for me.  I almost went to onsen tonight to make it the perfect Japanese day, but got caught up in the book I was reading on the train and felt like staying in.  I have several days of rest, now, and perhaps onsen another night.  Cheers to Japan, for good trains, beautiful flowers, and delicious food.

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