Today was the beginning of a 4 day experience with the Japan String Quartet. It's an adventure that I'm able to be a part of thanks to the quartet I'm playing with at HPAC.
This morning we went to the hall in Osaka to attend an orientation and concert given by the Japan String Quartet. And afterwards a reception so that we could meet the quartet that will be giving us masterclasses for the next two days. It's going to be interesting. Unlike HPAC, or the Affinis Music Festival last summer, or the chamber music trip to Hokkaido two years ago, I'm the only foreigner in the room and apparently the first one to attend the workshop program. So there was no translator and no thought of accommodating someone who might be unfamiliar with accepted protocol in Japan. I'm in the unsheltered world of trying to figure things out. But luckily for me, I have a quartet to help me through. I'll follow them to the hall–perhaps everyday–find out where I need to go, where I can leave my things, eat, warm-up, etc. They will guide me through what is obvious to everyone else.
It's mostly the deceptive wall that surrounds me that is difficult. During the reception, as our quartet met the members of Japan String Quartet, some of them just spoke in Japanese and I regretted having not introduced myself as "Andrea, I only speak a little Japanese(desu)." And so throughout meeting them there was uncertainty in there eyes as they looked at me and spoke.
But the cellist had studied at Juilliard and currently lives in Dallas and he came over to me and started speaking in English. A very friendly man (as were the other members) and we had a fairly long conversation about his studies with Casals and Shapiro, and his thoughts on making a career in different places, all aided by the intervention of the host of the evening, another man who had an English conversation with me about his experience as a newspaper writer covering the Pacific Music Festival in Hokkaido for several years (it was this festival that introduced me to Japan and the idea of joining HPAC). It's a new thing for a foreigner to be in the program, and I'm grateful for them for warming the space around me.
It was also wonderful to hear an established quartet play three quartets by Beethoven. There is a sense of time that an established quartet has, despite all attributes of the individual members. It's an interesting thing to witness. I'm looking forward to working with them, to learning more about how they think about making quartet music, or at least as much as I can glean from what they say and do.