5/18/2018

A memory of university orchestra days part 3

A photo of the jr. orchestra at a summer camp happened to come out of an old album stored in PC. It was at the dining room of the guesthouse in mid '70s. The people on the photo was only about one third of all the members.


The guy tuning his viola in the center of the photo was a kind of leader in the beginner's group. On the usual day, we often stayed at the club room in the university after classes. Late at night, a small ensemble was sometimes started with a few members there. This guy, capable of playing trombone, recorder and viola, was the main person in such an ensemble. It was a primitive ensemble by beginners but was still much fun. One of the pieces we often played then was the 1st contrapunctus of Art of Fugue by Bach. It was tough for us to go through fugue since there was few unisons between parts as you know. It was still interesting the fugue thema was taken over from an instrument to the other. This person composed music as well. 

We have organized a small ensemble within the orchestra and have often been to hospitals or the other facilities for a small concert. He has conducted it and/or arranged wellknown old songs for that ensemble. Before graduation from the school, he has given me his work, piano trios for soprano, cello and piano, featuring the poems by Saisei Muroo and Jukichi Yagi. Very beautiful and heavenly music. Unfortunately, I haven't performed them in any concert yet. I owe him much. I know he has worked as a psychiatrist in his life and maybe already in his retirement for now.

The girl on the right of the back row, a cellist, was a student majoring in piano at the music education faculty. She used to sing the aria "Er Barme Dich" from Matthew's Passion in the ensemble mentioned above. She was not necessarily the best alto singer those days. However premature her technique as a singer might be, her performance was compelling to us with her incandescent enthusiasm. It was performed in the hospital where my father used to work. She was really proficient at piano. Not only perfect in technique but also warm and always emotionally expressive. In the only concert of the orchestra which I took the role of the principal cellist, performing the 7th symphony of Beethoven, I asked her to sit the top side position. It was one of the most remarkable moments for me in the university orchestra days. I heard she had married to a pediatrician in her home town area several years after graduation.

Well, back to the jr orchestral memories, at the Christmas party of the orchestra in the end of that year, we have performed Pastrale of the Christmas Concerto by Corelli. A good choice. It made us feel keenly of the season. As quiet as snow falling night, soothing and pleasant. In a subway on the way back home, I was  accidentally on the same train with a couple of cellist girls and a violinist, who were all music education students. It was the time when we were finishing the prep course for medical study and were ready for getting out of the dorm. We would attend the main campus in Tokyo when we started professional studies. Our whole lives would undergo a big change then.

Anyway, the cellists seemed to be very interested in our life at the dorm and wanted to visit us there. In addition to them, that violinist said "Me, too". This violinist was really a good player who would play the role of concert misstress for a couple of years later on. In the same small ensemble within the orchestra, she has played the violin solo for "Er Barme Dich" together with the cellist girl as told above. Very decisive performance. Still full of deep vibrato which expressed her poetic turn of mind. I was a bit hesitating to have them at the dorm. With approval of the room mate, we have accepted them there.

In February or sometime in early spring, they have visited us. I wonder how we have treated them at that time. Have we served red tea with an electrical pot? I can't remember that. When I asked that violinist to play something, she started playing Chaconne by Vitali. It was so impressive when the grave double stop of the tune abruptly sounded gorgeous in our plain room. The music she played changed the atmosphere. Other than that, we have played some early quartet of Mozart together with a violist friend of mine. I could not remember how we managed that. But it was when I noticed what fun it was to play chamber music with good company, even though it was far from real chamber music.

The jr orchestra days was musically very premitive and skill less time for me as a cellist. But it was still really brilliant days in my life when I could learn how good it was to play ensemble as if we sung together. It has determined my way to go, even if I was a bit away from music during my medical career. It has made my life full of joy and good memoir.

I often wonder how those friends are doing now. How have they done with music throughout their lives? I sure would ask them about that if I had a chance to see them.

I still have a bit more to talk about those days. But the glass of scotch on the rocks is being finished now. It is the time for me to put an end to this tale. Thanks for reading.

5/17/2018

A memory of university orchestra days part2

In response to overwhelming approval by "3" friends, here is the part 2...

Next spring when freshmen/women came into the schools, as in usual year, a junior orchestra was organized for the instrument beginners. A year behind the classmate at the school, I joined it. A violinist, a graduate from the Dept. Dentistry, instructed us. He had started violin in the university and finally played the 1st violin part in the orchestra. For amateur players, the 1st violin players are looked honorable being in the orchestra. The cello part, including myself, has welcomed 5 fresh members. Two of them were students of the faculty of music education in the women's university. Another girl was a student of some science in the same university. The other, but not least, one was a student of faculty of medicine. Without the science majoring member, all of us have played in the orchestra until our graduation.    


Since I had started cello a few months earlier, I helped them to tune their instruments. As if a senior member. Those majoring in music education have progressed with cello quickly. I didn't know I would be behind them soon. Every week end, we had the practise of the jr orchestra. A lecture theater class room in our university was always used. The podium was too small for all of us to sit around the conductor. Some of the members sat at the table in tier. Tuning was deliberately done. Before starting with any tunes, we practised scales. Each instrument was harmonized in unison. Even it was really impressive to me. I believe the others might feel it the same way. The pieces we have practised were such as the 2nd movement of the Symphony Nr 94 "The Surprise" by Haydn  or the Water Music by Hendel etc.  I can't remember how the ensemble sounded. Maybe, close to music of atonality. We still enjoyed every moment to play together. 


After the week end practice, we often went to have supper together. It was a downtown for students where our med university was located. And there were a lot of restaurants for students. Not so long since I joined the orchestra, we went for dinner at an Italian cuisine there. Candidly, I had not been to such a restaurant yet. A beautiful girl, a senior cellist, took a seat beside me. A fair skinned thin girl wearing glasses. She was so kind to talk to me for some topics when I had nothing to talk about. When my dish was served on the table, she was, with a charming smile, telling me this seasoning was very good for the dish. I was really thankful for her kindness. But it turned out to be Tabasco, which I had never tried before. It was the moment when I first learned that a beautiful rose had thorn. I could hardly remember we had happy hours together. One reason was that we had little amount of money for such an event. I haven't attended any party alcohol was served before entering the university. Yes, I used to be a sobersides stiff. Who knew I would be indulged in this club later!


Every summer, we have had the summer camp in Shinshyu. It is a large basin or a long valley spreading north to south, surrounded with high mountains, located in the center of the main island. A winter olympic game was held in 1998. Pretty famous resort area. After the olympic, things have been settled down like in the days when we used to visit for the summer event in '70s. The mountains are named Japan Alps. The scenary might be like that in Switerland or the other area in European Alps. It was always in the end of August when the summer vacation was over. In the area, cool breeze was starting blowing. 





Four years ago, I have driven to the summer camp place for a sentimental journey. There was still the private house for students to stay for such activities. The same guesthouse. 


In front of the guest house, there was a small river running from the mountain. In the end of August, breeze of fall was starting to blow down here from the top of the mountain. 


There was a pretty big late a few km away from the guesthouse. We used to walk to this lake and swam across it, when we knew the water could be too cool to swim and swimming was forbidden there.  Some friends were rowing boats beside us. What an adventure! After that adventure, we all walked another few km to the camp site. It was a real fun. Only youth could do such a thing.


The road was quite the same as almost 40 years ago. Drenched to the skin, we were walking all this way. A lot of laughter and talks.

Part 3 might refer the jr orchestra activity and subsequent event, if I won't forget it.  



5/16/2018

A memory of university orchestra days

An old tale...

Having admitted the med university, I was busy at the tennis club. Liberal arts studies were not very attractive to me. No professional studies at all then. I was spending slow and free time residing at a dorm in the campus. Talking to friends and sometimes as described later, enjoying primitive ensemble until late at night, I and the room mate used to go into sleep listening some music in our topic or seemingly important to us. We always get up late! in the morning. Sun was shining brightly through the window. With simple breakfast, we again listen to FM radio program broadcasting some classic music. Or some music recorded in cassette tapes. We were making music repertoire with those cassettes. Wearing tennis tennis-wear, I attended the classes around noon. Or exactly speaking, almost in the afternoon. As soon as the classes  were over, I headed to the tennis court and played it until sun set. It was as if the time would go on eternally in the same way as the other silly youngsters spend their precious young age.

Honestly, I wanted to join the orchestra, which was a joint with a women's university. Shyness to girls has made me me hesitate to be a member of the orchestra. Late in fall, the room mate at the dorm suddenly proposed me to join it together. I was almost glad to have someone who would join it with me. No reason to deny that proposal. We went to the club room, which was in the hospital campus in the center of Tokyo. Being asked what instrument I would play, I answered "Cello" without any hesitation. In the summer camp of the tennis club, I happened to watch a program on TV which showed Tortelier playing Bach. I was instantly fascinated at his performance as well as the instrument itself. Without that encounter to cello in the TV program, I could not become a cellist.


I went to the women's university campus to get the instrument they would lend to me. It was late fall. Cold wind was blowing through the entrance to the club house, a tiny shabby cottage, in a pine forrest. Leaves of the trees were fallen. I was nervous since it was first visit there. It was a not virtuosity instrument at all. One of the cheapest models produced by a japanese manufacturer was wrapped with a cloth case. It was still an important instrument which invited me to classical music performance.

I was pleased to have that cello. I still remember how excited I was to get back to the subway station nearby carefully carrying it under my arm. Lesson by the string instrument trainer of the orchestra, who was a cellist at a professional orchestra in Tokyo, has started. I attended to the lesson once a week. Even though I was not very serious learning it, I have finished a text for beginners named Werner's text in 1.5 years. I should have studied scale, bowing or the other basic techniques, as I look it back. Repentance always comes late as the other things in youth! Anyway, in the evening, I always took it out of the case and practised it for a while in the dorm room while the room mate went to the student hall for practice of oboe. 

In several months since I started cello, I have began playing ensemble with friends, even if I was not good enough to play anything yet. A friend of mine, who has become a professor at a university later, has brought Hendel's recorder sonata. A minor sonata in it was impressive. I am often playing it with my wife now. Another guy, owning practice in Chiba now, was proudly playing his old violin. His forte was the 1st theme in the 1st movement of Mendelssohn's concerto. I have never heard him playing more than several bars of that piece, though. I often played some simple baroque sonata with him. Basso continuo was my role. Such fun time seems to be endless at that time.


Practising it at a summer camp. The right person was the part leader pretty good at it. He might be giving me some advice. 

In a year, on my request, my parents have given me the money to buy a new cello. It was not a gorgeous one at all made in East Germany. But it cost as much as my parents earned in a month. I could not be more thankful to them since they have never complained of the expense for that. Unfortunately, that German cello often had a problem in the neck. I have given it up and got a cello which belonged to the club and had been played by a member, who was pretty good at it. It sounded good especially on C and G strings. Deep and beautiful sound. Using that instrument, I played "Apres un Reve" of Faure with my wife at our wedding party later. I wonder who is taking it over in the orchestra now. I would try it again myself.
To be continued, unless any comment says just stop it...




5/14/2018

The Song of the Earth by Mahler

There are musical works which we could hardly understand until we reach certain age. It may be a blessing to old age that we could appreciate some profound pieces of music. One of such music for me is "The Song of the Earth" by Mahler. When I first knew of this piece in my early twenties of age, I thought it had been too engthy and even boring. A friend of mine sharing the dorm room with me told what a great work it was at that time. He must already be a precocious guy then. He has particularly loved the last movement of the Farewell.

In the last years of his life, Mahler has tried to seek a relief from death with this music as they always say. Through the aestheticism and pessimism for life, featuring chinese old poems, he tried to reach a frame of mind free from the anxiety and sense of loss in death. In that context, it is an extention of the last movement of his 9th symphony. The words reiterated in the end of paragraphs in the 1st movement typically expresses the basic tone of this music. All after the poem invites us to the pleasures in the earth, it finally says dark is life, dark is death. It doesn't seem to be an indulgence in pessimism. But it tells us what our lives are at the end of them. I could see an openmindedness to death in these phrases. We should accept it as it is. The beautiful earth will go on even after our death.

I don't know if Mahler has been saved with this music for himself or not. In the end of the last movement, as the form the other works of Mahler often takes in, a march, in rather bright tone, starts. The contralto sings "Forever" repeatedly. This part reminds me of the very last moment of our lives when we lose our consciousness. No emotion, anxiety nor suffering from our lives any longer. It is just at the time death arrives on us. Not a salvation from death itself but acceptance of death as it is. Of course, I have never experienced such a near death moment myself but from my past history as a doctor, I have met quite a few such patients. It is an ideal acceptance of death just in my view. Mahler could be in the same idea, if not too far different, as I described above.

Bruno Walter, conducting Wien Philharmony in this recording, has stressed aestheticism of this work. Walter knew Mahler in person and wrote his short biography by himself. Knowing what Mahler was concerned about at composing this piece, Walter might give accent at the aesthetic aspect of this piece.




How difficult it is for me to describe such a music as this one, which belongs to the last thing in our lives. It is not very healthy to be indulged in only these things. However, it might be of value from time to time to come into the world Mahler has developed in this music.

If I could see that room mate, I would ask him how he listens to this music all after our long lives.

5/01/2018

Declining or not?

Recently, I have met a couple of old friends, Jim W6YA and Chip K7JA, who attended the Visalia DX convention last month. Both of them seemed to have great time with friends, old or new. I asked them how many young people were there. Both answered to me there had been only two young hams. Chip told me those two young ones were 21 years or younger. One was ZL4YL as Jim told me. Jim seemed very pleased to have her there. She was not a conversational CW operator, though. It was Chip's observation that each middle aged hams in thirties or forties in their age was about 10% of the attendees, respectively.

It was a real nice feast for hams interested in DXing. But I could not help feeling it was shedding the last brilliant light in the history of ham radio. DXing is not ham radio itself but is the main genre which attracted young hams and lead them to be good operators. Reduction of the number of young hams in that genre sure means ham radio is declining in every respect, as it has been repeatedly told. Chip, a 66 year old ham, seemed one of the youngest in the main group in the convention. It means the convention won't be carried out or, at least, would be reduced in size in a decade or two.

In Japan, the situation is rather worse than in the US. In addition to the aging process in the society, there are more bureaucracy which benefits those, private or administrative, hunting concessions. Even JARL is letting them seek concession in ham radio. The former heads, directors or the others, would participate in the concession hunting. The license system is getting more and more complicated and requiring more fee. I am sure it will accelerate the tendency of decline of ham radio in our country.

In order to maintain and progress this hobby, it is a matter of urgence to advocate young people into it. Since the high tech in radio communication and the appearance of the internet environment has come in the society, the situation is quite different from that several decades ago when DXing was the only window to foreign countries. We could not invite youth in the same manner as in the old days. The point is, however, the same as before. It should be something true and not changing in time. Any enjoyment which disappears in some time won't attract young people. We are asked if our way of enjoyment is worth calling them for.

In '60s, we have had a club in the town of Kiyose, a suburb in Tokyo, where I started ham radio at the age of 13 years. Ham radio was a hobby for young people interested in radio communication and in home brewing radio gears. Time has passed. Very few are still on the air in that town now. Could we regain the exciting era of ham radio with young people?



4/30/2018

An ensemble with good friends of mine

How fast the happy days are gone! A facebook popup told, on the same day 6 years ago, I had played the piano trio of Faure at a small concert. Of course, with the same two girls. Both of them have been married since then. The violinist would become a happy mother of two children very soon.

When I was doing stably with my own practice, I recalled playing cello for spare time. I was about 50 years old, 18 years ago, then. At first, I wanted my daughter to play with me, who said no way to me for her studies for the entrance exam etc and possibly due to the rebellious phase in her life. This girl who used to learn violin from the same teacher as my daughter did is a professional violinist. She has had training and study in Germany after graduation of a music university some years ago. She has kindly done with me for over 10 years for ensemble. A kind and great violinist.


I miss those days but still feel much grateful to them for letting me play with them. Feeling I am getting worse at performing cello for something of fast passage etc in accordance with aging, I am still practising it everyday. So far, no chance for me to play such a chamber music. I am still dreaming of another chance to play with them.

4/23/2018

The 7th anniversary of my mother's passing

In 3 days, it will be the 7th anniversary of my mother's passing. She was 96 years old. Despite of having lived in Christianity belief, she has suffered from many things in her life. In the end years of her life, she had Alzheimer's disease. Losing her recent memory, she still kept her respectable personality.

When we decided not to care for her at home but to move her to a nursing facility nearby, my borther wanted to be with her at his home in Sendai. In a year or so, it turned out to be difficult for him and his wife to go on caring for her. She had been sent in a nursing facility there, where she had had one of the best care available for her. I could not thank more the staff there and my brother/his wife.

She used to be a sharp person. I sometimes wonder what frustration and anxiety for her to lose her recent memory and some aspects of her intellectuality. She has accepted it as it was without complaining anything to the others. Her wish was to come back here and to live with our father, who had passed away 14 years ago.

Even after she has lost her recent memory, when I brought breakfast to her at the house in the same property, I found her praying eagerly sitting at the table. Even though I was not a Christian, it was an unforgettable scene of glory even for me. In her last hospitalization, she was always smiling to the visitors asking about the related people.  Even though she repeatedly expressed her wish to come home here.

On the 1st anniversary, my sister has sent me a poem titled as A Prayer for the Autumn Years of Life, by Heuvers, who had spent many years as a catholic priest in Japan. What is written in this poem was how she has spent her last years of life. I believe she has taught us how to spend the last years of our lives with her existence itself.

I still miss her.