John McLachlan in Tokyo


Aisling Braiden (Irish Cultural Attaché), Jo Kondo, John McLachlan, Satoko Inoue, Paul Hayes, Toshiyo Watanabe and Yuji Itoh

A report from John McLachlan on a recent visit to Tokyo to attend the premiere of one of his works.

11 June 2012

I am writing this on flight AF275 from Tokyo to Paris. I have just had a whirlwind week there where I attended a world premiere, by pianist Satoko Inoue, of a new set of piano pieces of mine called Nine[1].

I stayed with fellow Irish composer Paul Hayes and his wife Yvonne, who have lived in Tokyo since the 1990s, and happen to live quite centrally, although Tokyo is such a megacity that really it is hard to say where the centre might be. Paul often assists the Irish Ambassador, John Neary and Cultural Attaché, Aisling Braiden in arranging cultural events. Nonetheless, I was quite surprised and honoured to discover when I arrived that there was an invitation to lunch with the Ambassador ‘on the occasion of’ my visit! This took place in an amazing restaurant with views of the Imperial Gardens of Chiyoda. While there I met Satoko Inoue for the first time, with her husband, composer Yuji Itoh who has created and curated the concert series ‘Music Documents’ for 5 years. I also met conductor Takuo Yuasa who has conducted the Ulster Orchestra many times, and this in turn led to my meeting a few days later the head of the Japan Federation of Composers, Isao Matsushita, to catch up on matters relating to ISCM.

The concert was on 9 June, at the Monnaka-Tenjo Hall, a hexagonal arts space that occupies the entire top floor of a slim eight-storey building. The programme included three pieces from Paul Hayes, and ones from Yuji Itoh, Toshiya Watanabe and Jo Kondo, all of whom were present along with a man seki audience – Japanese for ‘full house’, which literally means ‘ten thousand seats (filled)’, though sadly not in this case!

The day after the concert, I met up with composer Jo Kondo in Kamakura, his home town, where we toured some amazing temples and looked over the Pacific Ocean. I had met Jo previously in Hong Kong in 2002 (ISCM) and 2008 (at the Irish Composition Summer School).

When I first heard from Satoko her intention to premiere this collection of pieces I was not sure about going all that way for a 12 minute work, especially as I left it too late to apply for any support from Culture Ireland. It turns out I made the right decision as it’s always worth traveling for a world premiere of one of your works, no matter how far!

  1. The rather plain title Nine is balanced by more colourful titles for the pieces themselves, which are Arpa, Scala, Ananda, Kimata, Nebula, Aurea, Maya, Hikka and Fretta — these names describe each piece, using Latin, Greek, Sanskrit, Italian and Finnish.  ↩

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