Thursday, August 5, 2010

East or West, Flute is Best

This summer is a scorcher, and the heat is gradually getting to me, I'm afraid. But last night I had a rare treat that transported me from the sweaty grind of my daily life to a beautiful musical experience: I attended a flute concert.

I am a pianist (third rate at best), a guitarist (good enough to strum along on the camp songs used in my classes), a former vocalist (before I developed asthma in 1994), and am the daughter of a woman with perfect pitch (which means I have a pretty sharp ear, despite not sharing my mother's gift). I've had a lot of musical experience and training, so I tend to be critical of musicians in general, and performers I get to see with my own eyes in particular. I also LOVE the flute, which both my brother and his wife play, delighting the family with their talents through the many years.

So when a former student (a Chinese woman who's lived in Japan almost as long as I have) invited me to this concert, I was eager to go. Well, to be honest here, I really wanted to attend, but was afraid I might not be able to. I haven't been out to a concert in YEARS. I usually refuse invitations like this. The main reason is my size; I simply can't get my fanny into the seat!! So I never go to the movie theater, or to see a play or lecture. And I rarely can attend a concert, either.

But this woman was part of a group hosting the event, and she had some pull in making arrangements for people who need some "special attention" in their seating. Bless her heart, she went all out for me: arranging a parking space right near the door, making sure there was an ample chair (without armrests) available to sit in along the outer aisle (I was totally comfortable!) with a good view of the stage. She even brought me a cold drink for the intermission! What a dear friend! I didn't have to worry about a thing, and had a VERY easy time of it!

And I am SO grateful to have had the opportunity to attend this particular concert, because it was wonderful! The flutist was Junichiro Taku, a VERY accomplished and entertaining musician. He wore formal attire [with one costume change midway, into very cool Chinese garb to compliment a Chinese piece he played], and used four different flutes for the international program entitled, EAST x WEST. But his interesting banter between songs, and the tricks he used to transform a classical flute into a Chinese recorder, or some other ethnic instrument along similar lines, were nothing short of genius. I cannot praise his ability enough. [As I tend to be critical of professional musicians (especially in Japan, where the least able singer can become a top idol, due to their looks, dancing abilities, and/or fashion trends), Mr. Taku can take these words as high praise, in fact.]

I know I sound stuck up. Forgive me this tendency I have to sound arrogantly superior. Living in Japan, in a culture that has bred a nation of modest, humbly-minded gentlefolk, my way of speaking is glaringly the opposite, despite my own feelings of humility born of a major lack of self-esteem. But I once had a musical gift that defined my identity among my peers, and out of habit I have retained that critical ear and mindset which came with the talent. No one is sadder about having lost it than myself, believe me! But although I am no longer able to carry much of a tune, the asthma hasn't had the power to diminish my appreciation for great entertainment.

If you ever have the opportunity to attend Junichiro Taku's flute recital, by all means go, go, GO! You will not regret it!