Hayashi kenkyukai next Sunday

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Every year February Udaka Michishige hosts the hayashi kenkyūkai. In Japan a kenkyūkai is a meeting of people gathering for a day of intensive study. In this case we members of the Kei’un-Kai and INI (Udaka-sensei’s students) get together for a day of intensive noh practice. In a hayashi kenkyūkai we perform only maibayashi and full noh plays performed in kimono and hakama. Those of us who study instruments also join as musicians when we don’t chant or dance.

This Sunday I am going to perform Takasago maibayashi, featuring the godan kamimai, one of the fastest dances in the Noh repertoire. I will also play the taiko for Makura Jidō maibayashi, featuring the gaku, another godan (five sections) dance.

The kamimai is not my first godan dance: I already studied the godan hayamai for Tōru and the gaku for Kantan. However, the speed of the kamimai in Takasago is quite a challenge. It requires not only confidence in the movements, but also full understanding of the music, and ability to think well ahead in order to keep up with the fast tempo.

Anyway, good luck to me!

–Diego Pellecchia

Events celebrating Noh actor Akira Matsui in London

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noh_akiramatsuriNoh time like the present is a series of Noh-related performances taking place at LSO St. Luke in London 24 -25 February 2017, celebrating Kita-school actor Matsui Akira, one of the few professional Noh actors intensively participating in non-traditional performances. Matsui recently turned 70, just like Kanze-school shite actor Tsumura Reijirō, another pioneer of intercultural theatre emerging from the Noh world. My teacher, Kongō school actor Udaka Michishige, also turned 70 last year. A generation of Noh actors opening the doors of noh training to the ‘world outside tradition’.


All information and details are available on the Japan-UK Events Calendar website – here

“These two performances at LSO St Luke’s are a rare opportunity to experience the 650-year-old art of noh, and the genius of classical noh performer Akira Matsui, now age 70, in a bold collaboration with western opera, theatre, ballet, music and poetry. We are particularly pleased that this special programme will include ‘Rockaby’ by Samuel Beckett.

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The project also includes a range of education activities ‘Getting to noh… more’, including a Seminar on Noh Theatre and Western Culture, at 6pm on 20 February 2017 at the Guildhall School of Music & Drama, and a series of lecture-demonstrations on Noh Maskmaking, in partnership with The Japan Foundation, from 17-24 February 2017 in Norwich, Oxford, Durham, London, Southend and Dublin.”

— Diego Pellecchia

Japanese Performance Theory Workshop at University of Michigan

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I repost here information on the forthcoming Japanese Performance Theory Workshop at University of Michigan, organized by Prof. Reginald Jackson. This looks like a wonderful chance to start thinking about how we could build bridges between the scholarship on Japanese theatre, often based on a literary/historical approach, and the rich variety of methodologies that have become common practice in contemporary performance studies.


image.jpgThe following is quoted from the University of Michigan, Center for Japanese Studies website:

The Japanese Performance Theory Workshop (JPTW) intervenes between Japanese Studies and Performance Studies to foster generative critical engagements with Japanese performance. Through seminar-style discussions, performance screenings, research presentations, and writing exercises, this intensive week-long summer workshop will help participants working on Japanese performance at the undergraduate, graduate, and faculty levels develop better conceptual, methodological, and pedagogical tools.

At a basic level, the JPTW represents an experiment designed to address a few overlapping gaps. The initial idea for this residential workshop emerged several years ago, mainly out of frustration with a prevailing conservatism in the study of Noh drama within the Japanese academy especially. The theoretical and methodological worldliness that often characterized literary study of premodern and modern narratives did not obtain for some sectors of the academy devoted to “traditional Japanese theater.” It felt like there was a wealth of fascinating material being underserved by painstakingly informative but unduly positivistic approaches. What if there was a way to energize that material along different lines?

There also seemed to be a gap between conceptually vibrant performance studies scholarship that dealt mainly with modern and contemporary western forms, on the one hand, and historically astute but conceptually dilute work on traditional Japanese performing arts, on the other. Performance Studies programs tend to neglect East Asian performance traditions, while studies of East Asian performance—of the premodern era, in particular—tend to lack theoretical rigor. While there exist intensive summer opportunities for students of various academic and artistic backgrounds to study Japanese performance traditions, both in the U.S. (e.g. the Noh Training Project) and in Japan (e.g. the Traditional Theater Training Program), there are no comparable opportunities for university students and faculty to study Japanese performance with an emphasis on strengthening conceptual approaches to it and analytical writing about it. Given these circumstances, the basic aim of the JPTW will be to provide a venue in which to study Japanese performance practices and critical theoretical approaches to Japanese performance in relation to one another within the context of an intensive summer workshop.

JPTW is a residential summer workshop that focuses on improving engagements with Japanese performance and performance theory. The program will host advanced undergraduates, graduate students, and faculty (five each), working across fields such as performance studies, Japanese literary and cultural studies, ethnomusicology, visual arts, dance studies, and creative writing.

To the extent that a rigorous engagement with Japanese performance need not require Japanese language skills or a performance background, neither of these is required for admission to the program. Indeed, this background can often inhibit more adventurous interpretations. Along these lines, the JPTW will maintain a critical stance toward prevailing notions of expertise and will explore forms of producing knowledge that do not adhere strictly to either an Area Studies model or a practice-based model.

https://www.ii.umich.edu/cjs/news-events/events/conferences-and-workshops.html

 

— Diego Pellecchia

Kongo School events – January 2017

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2016 was a terrible year in so many ways. What better way to start the new year than with Noh! Here are a few dates you may want to save if you are in Kyoto in January 2017

  • Jan 3 from 09:00 Yasaka Shrine Okina free of charge
  • Jan 3 from 12:00 Kongo Noh TheatreUtai-zome (ritual chanting of Okina, plus maibayashi Yumi Yawata) free of charge
  • Jan 6-8 Udaka Michishige Men-no-Kai Noh mask exhibition, Kyoto Prefectural Cultural Art Hall
  • Jan 17 Yōseikai Young generation series at Kanze Kaikan. Various performances. Free of charge
  • Jan 22 Kongo Monthly performance at Kongo Noh Theatre. Noh: Tōbōku, Iwafune

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— Diego Pellecchia

The 16th UDAKA Michishige Men-no-Kai Noh Mask Exhibition

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The 16th edition of the Men-no-kai exhibition celebrates Udaka Michishige’s 70th birthday and will feature masks by him as well as several by his students. Michishige’s masks have been published in The Secrets of Noh Masks (Kodansha International) and The Way of Noh (Casadeilibri).

Place: Kyoto Prefectural Center for Arts and Culture 2nd Floor
Kawaramachi Hironokoji-sagaru, Kamigyo-ku (across from the Prefectural Hospital)
Time: January 6th-8th 2017, from 10:00 to 18:00 (closes at 17:30 on the 8th.

On Saturday 7th from 13:30 Udaka Michishige will demonstrate the noh costuming process.

Access information (in Japanese) http://www.bungei.jp/map/access.html

— Diego Pellecchia

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Udaka Michishige in the Noh ‘Oshio’. Mask: Sankō-jō. (Photo: Uesugi Haruka)

 

Ominameshi (Kongo Monthly Noh October 2016)

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This coming Sunday, 23rd of October Udaka Michishige is going to perform the Noh Ominameshi 女郎花 at the Kongo Noh Theatre in Kyoto.

Here is a summary of the play.

A Traveling Priest comes to Mt. Otoko on the western outskirts of the capital in the autumn and seeing that the area is covered with beautiful ominaeshi or ominameshi (a yellow-flowered valerian), one of the seven autumn herbs, he recalls poetic references to it and decides to pick one. Just as he is about to do so he is stopped by an Old Man. The Old Man explains that he is the guardian of the flowers. The Priest wonders that this particular flower is protected. Exchanges of poetic references with the Old Man convince the Priest that he is a man of feeling. The Old Man then takes the Priest to the Iwashimizu Hachiman Shrine where he shows him two graves which he describes as being that of a man and a woman. The woman’s grave is covered with ominameshi and the Old Man reveals that they were husband, Ono no Yorikaze, a man of the area of Mt. Otoko, and wife, a woman from the Capital and that there is a story behind their deaths. Entreating the Priest to pray for their souls, the Old Man disappears.

Later the spirits of the man and his wife appear. They describe how the wife drowned herself after being treated coldly by Yorikaze. When ominameshi blossoms appeared on her grave Yorikaze was overwhelmed with remorse and also drowned himself. He suffers in hell for his unwitting cruelty and prays for deliverance for their souls. (Rebecca Teele Ogamo)

 

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— Diego Pellecchia

Thoughts on the forthcoming Kei’un-kai INI Gala Recital 2016

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Next Sunday (August 21st) I will join the Kei’un-kai, INI Taikai Gala Recital celebrating Udaka Michishige’s 70th birthday. I am going to perform in a number of pieces, among which the shimai solo dance excerpt from the Noh Kurama Tengu. Although this is the only piece in which I will perform as a dancer, hence one may think it is the highlight of the day from my point of view, I am more concerned with practising the many other numbers in which I will sing as a member of the jiutai chorus.
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Kongo School chant books, and the program for the forthcoming recital.

As for Kurama Tengu, I have performed the maibayashi (longer excerpt with music) just a couple of weeks ago. For the Taikai recital I will perform the relatively shorter, latter part of the dance as shimai (solo excerpt to the accompaniment of a chorus of four, without music). In the Kongo school this shimai follows the choreography of the hakuto (‘white wig’) variation of the play, featuring complex kata sequences (movements). The play narrates the encounter between the boy Ushiwakamaru, who will later become the General Minamoto no Yoshitsune, and the Great Tengu of Mount Kurama. The Tengu, impressed by Yoshitsune’s courage, promises to train the boy in the martial arts, preparing him for his future battles against the rival Heike family, which he will eventually defeat. The difficulty of this dance lies in being able to make strong yet controlled movements, expressing the power as well as the stateliness and supernatural nature of the elder Tengu.
However, as I mentioned before, my major concern is not this dance, but rather the various other pieces in which I will serve as chorus member. Looking at the program from the beginning (9:00am) I am slated to sing in
  1. The chorus for Kami-uta, the recitation of the chant from the ritual performance Okina, often performed at the beginning of celebrations such as an important birthday. Difficulties: here Kami-uta serves as ‘opening ritual’ – we will perform with formal kamishimoIt is an honour for me to partake in this recitation.
  2. Immediately after Kami-uta I will perform in the su-utai solo chant recitation of the full Noh Shunkan, recounting the story of three men exiled to Kikai Island after they failed a coup attempt against Taira no Kiyomori. Two of them (tsure) are pardoned, while Shunkan (shite) has to remain on the island alone. I am going to take the role of one of the tsure, Taira no Yasuyori. However, in su-utai recitations singers chanting the part of shite, waki or tsure are also singing in the chorus. Difficulties involved in this: 1. Yasuyori and Naritsune (the other shite) get to sing long sections in unison. 2. Yasuyori reads the pardon letter – highly dramatic scene. 3. The chorus part in this play is particularly difficult.
  3. Chorus for a round of 12 different shimai. Difficulties: 1. shimai chant typically is faster and with shorter pauses compared to chant performed with music, putting more emphasis on adjusting the tempo to the shite’s acting. Without musicians as reference, being able to follow the chorus leader is crucial. 2. being the lowest in rank, I will be sitting upstage right, the farthest from the chorus leader (sitting upstage center-left). It will be more difficult to isolate and follow the leader’s voice while hearing one more voice to my left, as well as while producing a loud voice myself. 3. this round of shimai consists of basic pieces, but still, twelve assorted dances is a good number. It will be important to be able to quickly switch from mood to mood.
  4. Chorus for the maibayashi from the noh Tomoe, the only warrior piece in which the shite is a woman. Difficulties: 1. Tomoe is a long piece, featuring chant sections that range from melodic to dynamic, from poetic description to energetic narration. 2. A chorus for a maibayashi is typically composed of four members, meaning that individual mistakes are clearly heard. 3. Once more my position is the farthest from the chorus leader, yet the closest to the flute player (in this case Sugi Ichikazu-sensei, one of the highest ranking flute players in Kyoto), who will be able to hear every syllable slip or rhythmical inaccuracy. Sugi-sensei listening to my chant is on my mind every time I practice Tomoe 🙂
  5. Chorus for the full Noh Sesshoseki – nyotai (The Death Stone). This is the second time I sing in the chorus for this play, which is very useful as I understand the development of the mood of the play better. Difficulties: 1. downside of having sung the play already: my position is not the lowest. I am now sitting to the extreme left of the front row, meaning that I am the closest to the audience, as well as to the waki who will be sitting in the downstage left corner for most of the play. Luckily during our last training session in Matsuyama I could practice the chorus chant alone, while another students and Udaka-sensei would play the drums. Thiswas very useful for memorizing the ‘ma’, or pauses between phrases.
All in all, this is quite a bit of work for a non-professional like me. I am spending most of my practice time memorising chant. At the same time, I am very grateful to have so many chances to sing in such a great variety of pieces. 頑張ります!I’ll do my best!

Live subtitles on tablet at Noh performances

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This is something I’ve been involved in recently, translating Japanese into English for Hinoki Noh publishing house. I hope I will be able to translate texts in Italian too, some day! Multilingual subtitles at the Noh theatre would be amazing.

The picture above shows the introductory section spectators can read before the performance begins. After that the audience can follow the action on stage while reading brief descriptions automatically updating on the screen as the play progresses. Pages have black background and white characters, minimizing the annoying effect of bright screens in the semi-darkness of the playhouse.

See the Japan Times article on this service here.

 

Noh Charity Performance for Kumamoto

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Kanze and Kongo school Noh actors, as well as Kyogen actors will perform in a 2-part charity event as part of the Kumamoto earthquake relief effort.

Performances will take place on August 25th at the newly-built Rohm Theatre in Kyoto (Okazaki area). The first section (from 10:30) features the Noh TsunemasaHagoromo, the Kyogen Busu and the half-noh Kokaji. The second section (from 18:30) features the Noh Funa-BenkeiHagoromo, the Kyogen Bo-shibari and the half-noh Shari.

Tickets (1,500yen general admission) are available from June 1st. Each part requires a different ticket. Contact me if you are interested in purchasing a ticket.

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