Taiko and Orchestra are my two passions, and it's not very often that they come together in a collaboration.
Three years ago, Midnight Taiko performed onstage during the Award Gala for the Calgary Immigrants of Distinction. We quite enjoyed the experience, with a good meal and entertaining the crowd with some of our best pieces. We were invited back again this year, in 2017, but this time there was a twist: we were collaborating with the Calgary Multicultural Orchestra. for the award ceremony on March 10.
Through the International Avenue Arts and Culture Centre, the Calgary Multicultural Orchestra offers FREE after school music lessons for children ages 6 to 17. Children learn a musical instrument, play in an orchestra, and perform in community concerts and recitals throughout the year. Under the baton of Jose Duque, I was impressed to discover this arts program in Calgary that I had never heard of before!
The challenges of mixing taiko with orchestra are not easy to overcome. Most taiko players are not used to the concept of following a conductors cues, tempos, or expression. Learning to follow a conductor is a refined skill that musicians usually begin learning in school band. Communicating using sheet music can be difficult, as many taiko players do not read traditional sheet music notation. Taiko music does not always fit well into the structure of classical music, and vice versa. Taiko is also very loud! So balance can be difficult to establish.
After weeks of rehearsal and a little bit of trial and error, the collaboration evolved and was performed successfully! It was very nice to see the kids of the orchestra excited to perform with us. We began with an arrangement of Beethoven's Fifth Symphony, followed by the orchestra performing Silver Buckles, and closing with an arrangement of Beethoven's Ninth Symphony. I introduced the main theme of Ode to Joy on the shinobue, which was then passed to the orchestra for the conclusion of the performance.