A concert bringing together 800 cellists from Japan and around the world will be held in May next year in Fukushima prefecture to play and pray for those affected by the 2011 earthquake, tsunami and nuclear disasters that devastated the northeastern region of Japan.
The organizing committee of the Fukushima Cello Concert 2023 solicits the interest of cellists, amateurs and professionals, to participate in the event, where they will perform together on May 21 at a gymnasium in the city of Fukushima. A cello caravan carrying them to perform in other parts of the prefecture is also planned.
In the five weeks since applications began, more than 200 have expressed interest. Among them are cello teachers in Australia of the so-called “Suzuki method”, a philosophy of education that emerged in Japan with the aim of nurturing talent primarily through music.
Knowing from personal experience the difficulty of getting around as a cellist, Mikio Shin, head of the committee, said the large stringed instruments will be available for rental on site for those who cannot bring their own.
A concert with 150 cellists is held in Sapporo, northern Japan, May 24, 2018. (Photo courtesy of Fukushima Cello Concert 2023)(Kyodo)
Shin was also in the disaster areas just five weeks after the March 11, 2011 disaster and the past year has seen progress in infrastructure repairs. Yet many residents cannot return to their homes due to nuclear fallout.
“I felt people are still halfway there in terms of ‘rebuilding hearts,'” he said. With this in mind, the project aims to produce a “healing effect”, exploiting the unique characteristics of the cello as a stringed instrument “rather close (in timbre) to the human voice”.
The idea is for cellists at home and abroad to hold official practices from February in person and online, with repertoire ranging from classical pieces to folk songs from the Tohoku region in northeastern Japan. .
Songs by famous Fukushima-born composer Yuji Koseki, known for his score of the opening ceremony theme for the 1964 Tokyo Olympics, will also be performed. The cellists will join 150 local high school choristers.
Undated photo shows Tokyo Cello Ensemble. (Copyright Rikimaru Hotta)(Photo courtesy of Tokyo Cello Ensemble)(Kyodo)
The Tokyo Cello Ensemble, a group of 10 Japanese musicians with notable track records as domestic and foreign performers, and cellists from various locations, including neighboring Miyagi Prefecture, another hard-hit region in the northeast in 2011, will also join.
The planned cello ensemble project has its roots in a 1998 mass cello concert in Kobe, Hyogo Prefecture, held to commemorate the Great Hanshin Earthquake in 1995.
Shin said he drew on his experience from his involvement with a now disbanded non-profit organization, which was created after the Kobe concert and then organized large-scale cello performances.
When the NPO disbanded, he promised that one day he would perform a concert in Fukushima, originally scheduled for 2021 on the 10th anniversary of the triple disaster but pushed back due to the COVID-19 pandemic. .
“We hope to convey that distant people haven’t forgotten what happened, and lift people’s spirits through the cello,” Shin said.
A concert with 150 cellists is held in Hyogo Prefecture on November 4, 2018. (Photo courtesy of 2023 Fukushima Cello Concert) (Kyodo)