After performing again last week, Robert Ryker and the Tokyo Sinfonia shared the following message. « Article after article in the news today deals with some aspect of the vicious virus beleaguering the world. There are two sides to every question, and certainly there are no error-free answers to the dilemma of today. We elected to perform last Wednesday, just a week ago, in splendid Oji Hall in Ginza, in the heart of Tokyo. Following the announcement of our decision to perform, we received a scathing message from a professor of health science of one of the universities. Such a decision is crazy, he wrote; everyone should stay home. Of course he is right too. There are no error-free answers to the dilemma of today.

But Wednesday we played.

It was a great pleasure having handsome young voice actor Chikahiro Kobayashi share our stage with us. The audience response was greatly aided by his warm human response to the music we made. When he asked the audience, “how many of you are classical music fans?”, only handful of hands went in the air.

90% of our small audience indicated they were attending a classical concert for the first time.

After the programme, everybody was happy — the novices in the audience, our special guest, his management, the producer, our staff, the hall staff, and even our 19 dedicated Tokyo Sinfonia players. What was interesting, especially considering the special circumstances, was the tenor of the responses written in the questionnaires after the concert.

Here are a sampling of individual comments (there were many!), translated from the Japanese.

‘The dialogue on the stage was entertaining. The conductor’s talk was wonderful. Chikahiro seemed to be having fun. It was great to hear the orchestra up close. I felt the vibration of the sound. I felt the orchestra members’ love. Everything was moving! I loved the energy. I liked the bouncing tempos. I liked all the strings and the contrabass! It was fun to hear lots of wonderful sound. I was impressed with the richness and depth of the string sound.’

‘The live performance gave stimulation to my five senses. I could enjoy through my ears, my body and my eyes. I could feel the sound with my whole body. I felt as if I could see the sound. It was great fun until the very end. I could relax and enjoy it. I enjoyed it more than I expected. I had a luxurious time. It was a very precious experience.’

‘It was a precious experience to listen to the music in the friendly, at-home atmosphere. I liked the music of Bizet. I very much look forward to the collaboration in the future!! I look forward to the next time! I would like to come again. I would love to come again. Thank you!’

And …

‘I was very much moved today amid the situation. I greatly appreciate that this concert was held under the circumstances. (I liked) the message from the conductor, and his courage under the circumstances. Keep up being courageous. It was a very good production: the programming, the dialogue with the guest, bringing classical music and the audience very close. It was too good for the modest ticket price. Thank you. Thank you. Thank you very much!!!’

In Japan now, there are certainly people on the streets of the city and more diners in the restaurants. Some of the schools are reopening. The much larger Tokyo Symphony has followed our example with a performance on the weekend.

Our performance in Oji Hall last week was one of only two performances presented in that splendid hall during the entire month of March. We may well be the only performance presented in that venue in April also, but — unless someone in the orchestra falls ill — we’ll be there.

The splendid soloist we had planned to feature in April, soprano Tanja Kuhn, has had her flights cancelled, her travel insurance cancelled, her professional engagements cancelled and, along with everyone else in Germany, she is disallowed from leaving her home. We have maintained a constant dialogue about what we can do to get her here at some time in the future. Please stay tuned…

In the meantime, the Tokyo Sinfonia will keep on playing. We have a human obligation to keep playing for our precious audience who hearts are filled with what we do. And as professional artists we have to keep on playing in order to keep up our standards. We have to play. We will of course take all proper precautions to maintain sanitary surfaces, sanitise our hands, wear marks and maintain distances, just as we did last week.

What should we play instead which would be likely to please everybody, novice and aficionado alike? Tchaikovsky.

We have chosen to perform three of the romantic Russian composer’s works which will be as intriguing and rewarding to hear as was the programme which generated the fervour cited above. His passionate Hamlet Fantasy-Overture. Tchaikovsky’s great tribute to his favourite composer, Mozartiana. And the charming set of 12 miniatures Tchaikovsky composed for each month of the year, The Seasons.

Wash your hands and gargle, and probably wear a mask, and we’ll see you in Ginza at Oji Hall! We’ll be there. »

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