Our first musical responsibilities were playing for worship at church. We've been doing this with some regularity since our arrival.
Then, our first concert was part of JCE5--the 5th Japan Congress on Evangelism. A couple thousand people were there, from all over Japan! This was a really important conference, since it only happens once every 9 years or so, and it probably won't happen again in Hokkaido for a long time. Can you find Keith in the choir? He really blends in quite well. It was his first time performing in Japanese! I got to play with some excellent violinists to accompany the choir.
In this picture, the word which you see repeated over and over on the screen can be transliterated "hareruya." Any guesses what piece we're performing? ;) The other pieces we performed were the Sapporo Olympics theme song ("Snow Ballad"), Beethoven's Ode to Joy, and You Raise Me Up. We're performing with this group again this Thursday at a big Christmas concert.
In October, Keith and I played together as part of an art show. I played two mini-concerts by myself (unaccompanied Bach suites--first complete performance of the 2nd suite!) and Keith and I played a longer concert together. A pastor from Hokkaido is quite a gifted artist--he did a number of copies of famous Biblical-themed paintings, as well as a number of his own works. All of the paintings featured scenes from Jesus' life. We had expected that people would walk around and listen the the music while they looked at the art... but no, they sat down and watched us. Our hosts kept adding more chairs... Keith found this to be a rather nervous situation, as it was his first time playing solo piano in a "concert" setting, rather than providing background music. He did really well, and we had a lot of encouraging feedback after the event!
When we played Arvo Pärt's Spiegel im Spiegel, we asked everyone to go look at the pictures--that piece really reflects the idea of God coming to us as we reach up to him, seen most clearly in the incarnation of Jesus.
The very next day, we played for the worship service at Kibou no Oka church, where Keith has been teaching English (and practicing the organ). This was part of the church building's first birthday festivities. There was a special celebration in the afternoon, and I played a couple of pieces and joined with an ensemble of musicians from the church to play some movie theme music.
I played again at Kibou no Oka in November for their monthly "kirakira time" outreach. (Kirarira means "sparkle sparkle." We are amused.) I played a movement of Bach's G major sonata for viola da gamba and harpsichord. I played with Naho, who is the organist at Kibou no Oka. We "made do" with a cello and an organ. (Ahhh... that organ is soooo nice... but I miss my viol!)
Keith and I, along with our friend, John, provided music for the ceremonial opening (hakkaishiki) of a new church--Hiragishi Izumi Kirisuto Kyoukai (translated, that means Hiragishi [a neighborhood of Sapporo] spring of water Christian Church).
(No, those people aren't all members of the new church--they came from all different churches in the area to pray for an support the new church!)
Right now I'm preparing for Christmas concert craziness. I had my first rehearsal with my pianist, Shino, on Saturday. We'll be preparing for 2 concerts on December 22 and 24, in Asahikawa and Chitose respectively. We're working on Brahms, Beethoven, and Bach. In addition, I'll be giving my testimony, and we'll sing some Christmas songs together! (Presently I'm looking for an opportunity to play the same concert in Sapporo so I can invite my friends... hopefully I'll have an update on that soon.)
Actually, the Christmas concert schedule starts this week: we have a concert on Thursday, then on Saturday, I'm playing a Bach suite and giving my testimony at a local church here in Sapporo. This will be part of Sakae Church's patchwork quilting exhibition.
In addition, I'm playing for all kinds of Christmas parties and events throughout the month! I think on Christmas day, when it's all over, I'm going to want to sit on the couch in my pajamas and stare at the wall.
And finally, a few prayer requests...
- I'm thrilled to have finally found a pianist! Praise God! I was pretty nervous for a while there. It was a little bit last minute, but we had our first rehearsal last Saturday. Please pray for good communication (neither of us are really comfortable in the other's language), good and efficient rehearsals, and a good working relationship.
- There are a lot of concerts and other engagements, so I need to be able to use my time wisely, not only to practice and rehearse, but also to rest well. I'm also continuing with student work, various tasks at our church, and language study.
- Please pray for me as I'm planning the concerts for December 22 and 24. I will also be preparing my testimony for these two concerts, as well as the one this coming Saturday (December 5).
- Please pray for the possibility of a concert in Sapporo. I'm looking for a church to host us. At the minimum, it would be a very informal chance for Shino and I to invite our friends and family to hear us. Or, it could be a chance for us to partner with a church for an outreach event. Please pray that we would find the right opportunity and the right place to play.