YOUNG PEOPLE’S CHORUS OF N EW Y ORK C ITY™ FRANCISCO J. NÚÑEZ, ARTISTIC DIRECTOR/FOUNDER
TOUR OF JAPAN JULY 12 - AUGUST 10, 2009
Introduction: Meet the players On August 10, 2009, the Young People’s Chorus of New York City™ returned home from an extraordinarily successful tour of 18 cities throughout Japan! The young people who traveled and performed on this remarkable tour grew as professional young artists and brought home new experiences and memories that changed the way they viewed the world. We hope you will enjoy this mini-book about our adventure. The YPC is forever grateful to those who made this trip possible: Min-On Concert Association ANA Airlines Toyota Manhattan Church of Christ Mrs. Hiroko Onoyama, Board Member YPC Board of Trustees Parents of YPC choristers And a special thank you to Jacquie Bird, for her extraordinary choreography.
The YPC Team
CHORISTERS Moraima Avalos Joshua Batista Danielle Bennett Rachel Bodden Lindsay Bogaty Andrea Bonaparte William Cabaniss Hannah Chinn Zachary Denkensohn Elizabeth Dorovitsine Stephan Douglas-Allen Lindsey Feldman Sydney Fishman Aneesa Folds Emma Hirschhorn Nathaniel Janis Alphea John Marissa Katz
Camille Labarre Natalie Labarre Miranda Langrehr Wynter Lastarria Arielle Leacock Rafael Loveszy Charles Lovett Jamal Marcelin Hadley Maya James Nash Edward Rakowicz Caroline Smith Brette Trost Emily Viola Lenice Wells Anthony Wyche Haru Zenda
Choristers gather for a group picture in Nara
STAFF Francisco J. Núñez, Artistic Director/Founder Elizabeth Núñez, Associate Conductor Amy Kotsonis, Assistant Conductor Sophia Miller, Assistant Conductor Nicole Arbes, Production Assistant Jon Holden, Pianist John Hadfield, Percussionist COMPANION TRAVELER Hiroko Onoyama, Board Member
Chapter 1: Before the Journey Before leaving for Japan, the YPC was graciously hosted by the Consulate General of Japan for a morning of lessons in Japanese culture and a delicious lunch of traditional Japanese food - a taste of what was to come! Choristers were taught the etiquette of how to bow, mealtime manners, and geographical information about the regions of Japan they would be visiting. One chorister, Brette Trost, gave a lovely speech thanking the Consulate General and his staff for their hospitality and expressing YPC’s honor to travel to Japan as cultural ambassadors of our nation. Those in attendance were also addressed by Chair of the YPC Board of Trustees, Hon. A. Jerry Kremer who Above: Choristers pose with Ms. Williams and Ms. Dinzey from Toyota (center and upper left), Board Member Mrs. Onoyama (lower left), Ambassador and Mrs. Nishimaya. (middle right), was joined by YPC Board Members Suzan Kremer Not pictured: Deputy Consul Mrs. Sugiyama, Consul Suzuki and Mr. Kawabata from ANA. and Hiroko Onoyama. After the lesson, the YPC Below from left to right: Hiroko Onoyama, Francisco Núñez, Suzan Kremer, A. Jerry Kremer, gave a small concert. Ambassador and Mrs. Nishimaya. Thanks to arrangements made by YPC board member Hiroko Onoyama, YPC was featured on NHK, the national TV network of Japan, in two LIVE segments on their version of “Good Morning, America.” Because of this wonderful publicity, YPC arrived in Japan already famous!
Above: Filming live with NHK at the Manhattan Church of Christ. Right: Group shot with the NHK crew
Chapter 2: Performing throughout Japan Traveling by bus, train, and even plane, YPC moved almost daily from one city to the next, performing in concert halls that held between 2,000-4,000 audience members. Among the many places YPC traveled to were northern cities like Aomori and Sendai, centrally located cities such as Nagoya and Yokohama, large or historically significant places like Hiroshima and Tokyo, and cities on Japan’s islands, such as Fukuoka and Nagasaki. Under the direction of Francisco J. Núñez, YPC took the stage for the first half of the concert dressed in blue choral From left to right: Hannah Chinn, Brette Trost, Alphea John, Zach Denkenrobes to perform classical and contemporary music, includsohn, Charlie Lovett, James Nash, and Rafael Loveszy prepare to walk on ing several pieces from the Transient Glory® series. Alstage for the first time. though some of these pieces were difficult for audiences to understand, the music was received enthusiastically. A costume change during intermission brought the everrecognizable “YPC look” to the stage for the second half of the concert, as the choristers re-emerged in their blue shirts, brightly-colored scarves for the ladies, and jackets and ties for the young men. A Japanese folk song, “Furusato,” opened the second half of the program, with each audience applauding and singing along to the familiar tune, followed by an exciting program that included such pieces as Nigerian carol “Betelehemu,” the familiar jazz tune “Take the A Train,” and a thrilling gospel set, all complete with choreography by Jacquie Bird. Possibly the most meaningful connections were made when the choristers walked into the audience while singing “It Is Possible,” giving audience members a chance to meet the singers face-to-face and share a cultural connection on a personal level by shaking hands. Some of the audience members even offered gifts to the children, such as scarves, tie pins, and cloth fans, creating memorable moments for the choristers every night. Chorister Emily Viola remembers, “One of our choristers, Marissa, was offered a key chain, and two other choristers, Hadley and Josh,
received flowers from one audience member!” The choristers charmed each audience, approaching the podium to announce the pieces and give background information – in Japanese! The speeches constantly changed with each concert as the tour progressed, adapting to each new city and adding facts such as the age range of the children (age 13-18) which the audiences truly could not believe. The children worked late into the evenings with the help of Hiroko Onoyama, who traveled with YPC throughout Japan for the first half of the tour, to make sure their pronunciation was as accurate as possible. Their speaking skills became so strong that many audience members were overheard saying that some of the children must be Japanese! One bass chorister, Above Left: YPC in concert performing Delibes’ “Dome Epais”. Charlie Lovett, had mastered the inflection of a Japanese Above Right: The boys practice their dance moves before a concert, from left to game show host, which really entertained the audience. right: Josh Batista, Will Cabaniss, Eddie Rakowicz, Haru Zenda, and Nathaniel Janis
Onoyama-san shared stories about her “Furusato,” or “hometown,” and told the children of the personal meaning this song holds for Japanese people as hearing it brings memories of their own hometowns. Thanks to her connection with the founder of SONY, a very special evening was spent in the world-famous Tokyo SONY Studios, recording three songs with their finest engineers. Masao Morita, chairman of SONY Music Entertainment Japan and the son of SONY co-founder Akio Morita, personally produced YPC’s recording session that took place from 10:30 p.m. until 1 a.m.! Here, YPC recorded the choral arrangement of “Tegami,” a popular Japanese song performed by Angela Aki in the exact same studio which she recorded the song. Within 48 hours, YPC had given concerts in two enormous, sold-out halls in Tokyo and Yokohama and this very specially arranged recording session – such amazing opportunities! Waiting in the airport, YPC style. From left to right: Emma Hirschhorn, Aneesa Folds, Wynter Lastarria, MaThe choristers were even more excited rissa Katz, and Arielle Leacock to learn that the concert in Yokohama was recorded, which YPC will be able to enjoy and distribute in the very near future. One piece held particular significance throughout the tour -- “Kibo,” or “Hope,” written by Japanese jazz pianist Toshiko Akiyoshi, an NEA Jazz Master. This piece was first heard at the YPC Gala at Jazz at Lincoln Center in March of 2009 with Akiyoshi-san herself playing the piano. The arrangement was commissioned by Onoyama-san and created for the YPC SATB voices by Francisco-san. On August 6, YPC performed a concert in Nagasaki, singing “Kibo” during the second half of the program as they had in every other performance. However, this performance was different, as it was Hiroshima Day. Apprehensive with the fear of not being accepted as Americans on this solemn day, the YPC was instead met with an audience that embraced them with warm and enthusiastic applause, just like every other audience before and after. “Kibo” was also one of the pieces that YPC recorded during the very special evening at SONY Studios in Tokyo. At the very last concert in Kumamoto, the YPC choristers and staff were so thrilled to see new and familiar faces – Caroline Smith’s mother, Carol, and sister, Laura, flew to Japan to support the YPC at their final concert!
Ways to get from here to there: Subway, Taxi, and Bullet Train
Chapter 3: Rave Reviews! Prior to the trip, the YPC choristers and staff were told that concerts in Japan are rarely sold out, and that while Japanese audiences may be very enthusiastic about the performances, their applause will always be polite with no cheering or standing ovations. However, the sold-out, enthusiastic audiences wildly applauded the chorus back to the stage for third and fourth encores, and the YPC was even met with standing ovations. The first standing ovation was truly a shock to everybody on stage. Chorister Zachary Denkensohn described his feeling on stage when “the audience clapped boisterously, but something surprising happened: scattered among the crowd, people began standing. We sang our two encore pieces as the crowd managed to somehow get even more excited. Onstage this resulted in an amazing feeling of pride and confidence.” Evaluations were taken from the audience at each concert and shared with YPC at the end of the tour. The rave reviews included a comment that in the 45-year history of the concerts of Min-On, YPC is the very best chorus to visit and to make a great connection with the audience. Though the program was greatly varied in repertoire from around the world, YPC was able to connect to the Japanese audiences through singing four songs in their language, speaking to the audience in Japanese, and even reflecting Japanese form through stage movement when the chorus created a lotus flower formation during “Furusato.” Onoyama-san shared the most wonderful comment of all from a reporter that attended the concert in Tokyo, and expressed,
“Well, they are professional, that doesn’t need to be discussed; they are of the highest level. But what strikes me most is the mission of the chorus, which I read in the bio, and seeing the children. They are bringing the idea of world peace and equality for all. As you see them on stage, you see what can be done when we respect all people…they make me cry.”
Above Left: Young Men practice their bamboo part for the piece, “Panta Rhei”, Center Left: a view of the audience; Above Right: Tech rehearsal in the Tokyo Metropolitan Arts Space.
Chapter 4: Before and After the Performances YPC choristers and staff quickly grew familiar with the performance routine – they would arrive at the concert hall in the afternoon, after traveling for hours by plane, train, or bus (and occasionally, all three in one day). Immediately, everyone found his or her way to the road boxes already set up backstage, where all uniform pieces lived. Each chorister took his or her own garment bag to hang up in the dressing rooms before quickly heading to the stage to warm up physically and vocally. Before every concert, YPC rehearsed for at least two hours on the new stage. Francisco-san and the choristers would take time to learn the feel of the new space and the sound of the hall, and pianist Jon Holden-san would become familiar with the new piano. More importantly, however, was everyone’s desire to continually reinforce and strengthen as an ensemble. All of the musicians on the stage had a commitment to increasing their personal level of music making – not just for the audience members, who would hear their concert for the first time, but for themselves. They were looking to make each concert better than the last; to find new ways to make that unique connection to the audience. Their intent was focused and the rehearsals proved to help each performance grow stronger, with the ensemble working together to enhance their musicality. Concert Chorus member Aneesa Folds expressed her feelings on this focus, saying, “On this trip I’ve From left to right: Hadley Maya, Miranda Langrehr, learned a lot about myself and my voice. We have no choice but to be reAnthony Wyche, and Wynter Lastarria practice before sponsible and to be smart about the way we carry ourselves. If we lose anya concert
one at any moment everything changes because every voice matters. It's funny because we are given so many chances but every single concert has to be right on, and the feeling of support and the family bond that we share makes that possible. When we are on the stage we are one and the audience can always see that. The concerts have been successful and we have created a strong connection with every audience. I can now understand what it means when they tell us we are young ambassadors. We are doing something special that is making a huge difference, and that is something that we can all cherish forever." After the concerts, the YPC choristers and staff often had to pack their suitcases immediately upon returning to the hotel, taking out only what they would need the very next day. Everyone became very used to moving with only what they could carry in their backpacks, as the suitcases would be collected late at night, transported immediately to the next hotel, and placed in the appropriate rooms where they would be waiting for the choristers and YPC staff the following night.
The YPC staff was a small but strong team, working late into the night and waking up extra early to make sure everything ran smoothly. Amidst sewing buttons and patches back onto jackets, preparing gifts to offer to the many new Japanese friends and colleagues they were meeting all the time, and packing and re-packing the many YPC suitcases for the continuous travel, they also worked every night to carefully review and organize the next day’s schedule, made sure the children remained healthy, and made sure they were safely in From left to right: Wynter Lastarria, Josh Batista, Lizz Dorovitsine, Mr. Olga—Former their rooms at night. A special thank-you goes to the CEO of SONY, Arielle Leacock, Hannah Chinn, and Francisco Núñez, after the concert YPC staff for their diligent and committed hard work! in Tokyo
Clockwise from top left: After almost 24 hours of travel, choristers are greeted by Min-On at the hotel in Sendai; Choristers practice dancing before a concert; As part of a summer festival in Sendai, choristers tie their written wishes to a tree; Francisco chats with Transient Glory composer Ko Matsushita after the concert in Tokyo; Entering the recording session at Tokyo SONY Studios;
Above: The first tech rehearsal. Right: Group shot outside Nagoya Castle.
Clockwise from right: Choristers celebrate Onoyama-san’s birthday; Natalie Labarre and Eddie Rakowicz at the farewell banquet; As Sydney Fishman gives a speech, YPC experiences their first earthquake; Lenice Wells and Marissa Katz play with a deer in Nara; Every week choristers were taken to the local Laundromat to do their laundry; Jon Holden plays Herbie Hancock’s piano at the Min-On Cultural Center; YPC Staff waiting to ride “It’s a Small World” at Disneyland Tokyo; Choristers dance outside the Marine World–Uminonakamichi; Onoyama-san poses with Jamal Marcelin, Anthony Wyche, and Stephan Douglas-Allen.
Chapter 5: Eating, Shopping, and Sight-Seeing Traveling every step of the way with YPC was their tour guide, Toyama-san, and translator, Naoko-san, who quickly grew very fond of the choristers and performances – the children sometimes caught them singing along to some of the songs and became equally fond of them! Led by Toyama-san and Naoko-san, the choristers enjoyed sight-seeing and shopping in the indigenous markets, and visited shrines, castles, and historical landmarks. Sometimes, the choristers and staff all ate meals together, and other times, the children were given the opportunity to go out on their own to explore and eat lunch or dinner in small groups. For many of them, it was the very first time they had eaten true Japanese food, and they had opportunities to relax and enjoy each other’s company during meals. Senior chorister Eddie Rakowicz described, “The food has been
From left to right: Jamal Marcelin, Rachel Bodden, Caroline Smith, and Stephan DouglassAllen smile outside the Marine World–Uminonakamichi
even better than I expected, and the living situations have been relaxing and comfortable. And as is common when one spends a lot of time with a group of people, you learn things about them that you would not have had you remained beneath the New York stars.” An additional present was generously given by Dr. Daisaku Ikeda, the founder of Min-On, to visit Tokyo Disneyland! The Min-On staff gave the children trinkets from Tokyo Disneyland and $30 for the day to spend on souvenirs. In the town of Kochi, YPC did a choral and cultural exchange with a children’s chorus called “Children of the Sun,” exchanging musical performances and American and Japanese dances, and singing “Tegami” all together to culminate an exciting day. During one of the last free days on the trip, YPC went all together to a beautiful aquarium, called “Marine World – Uminonakamichi,” not too far from the hotel. As the choristers loaded the bus that Toyama-san had arranged, everyone was amazed to learn that Toyama-san was able to negotiate a regular public city bus in Fukuoka just for the YPC to take back and forth, at the typical cost of the city bus fare per person, between the hotel and the aquarium. (In the meantime, the YPC staff all imagined what it would be like to call the MTA back home in New York City and ask that they specially dispatch the M15 for YPC to travel to the New York Aquarium for the basic $2 per person fare!) Toyama-san told the YPC staff it was the first time he had ever tried to do such a thing – only in Japan!
Above: Charlie Lovett and Emily Viola aboard a train. Right: Choristers pose during some free time
In addition to the abundant time the choristers were able to explore the different cities and participate in special activities, there were also mornings to sleep a bit later and evenings to turn in a little earlier, so that everyone could rest. With the utmost respect for one another and for their jobs as performers, the choristers took the time to rejuvenate so that no one got sick or missed a performance.
Sydney Fishman and Anthony Wyche hang 1,000 origami cranes in Hiroshima’s Peace Park
As they moved from city to city, choristers discovered more than just the artistic fulfillment of performing. They also experienced personal change through cultural understanding. As
sixteen-year-old Alphea John expressed, "This trip to Japan has taught me a great deal –
not just about my voice, but about my culture and personal life. Japan is a giving culture: you give them something in thanks and they return by giving more. It has changed my ways completely and I am now more prone to think about others, not just myself.” Above: Haru Zenda poses near a hole the size of the Buddha’s nostril. Left: Francisco peeks through the Buddha’s nostril. To squeeze through brings good health to your life Left: Walking the streets of Japan. Below: Group shot at the Haneda Airport
Chapter 6: Graciously hosted by Min-On YPC was invited and hosted by the Min-On Concert Association. Min-On was founded in 1963 by Dr. Daisaku Ikeda, who is also President of SGI (Soka Gakkai International), a Buddhist organization characterized by its global movement for peace education and cultural exchange. In 1996, Francisco-san and what was then the Children’s Aid Society Chorus performed a concert in Carnegie Hall with SGI – thus, in a way, YPC has come full circle with this organization and its leaders. Min-On’s mission states a commitment to “deepening mutual understanding and friendship between countries with international musical culture exchange projects that go beyond differences in nationality, race and language.” Celebrating its 46th year, and featuring other very famous artists such as Midori on tours such as this, Min-On maintains a very large international following. Just a day after traveling by plane and bus to reach Tokyo for the biggest, most important concert in Tokyo’s most beautiful concert hall, YPC visited the Min-On Culture Center in Tokyo to receive a special tour and presentation, hearing music played on the many beautiful and historically significant harpsichords and pianos in their museum. While the choristers learned about the exquisite antique instruments, the YPC staff members, including artistic director Francisco Núñez, board member Hiroko Onoyama, conductors Elizabeth Núñez, Amy Kotsonis, and Sophia Miller, production assistant Nicole Arbes, pianist Jon Holden, and percussionist John Hadfield, met in a sit-down session with the entire staff from Min-On. Representing the United States and Japan as ambassadors of their common interest in two different parts of the world, Francisco-san and Mr. Hiroyasu Kobayashi, the President of MinOn, led a powerful discussion about the significance of finding peace throughout the world through crossing cultures with music. The staff of Min-On also presented Francisco-san and the entire YPC with a beautiful photo taken of a gorgeous rainbow that had appeared in the sky while YPC was performing in Tokyo – to see this natural wonder was truly a sign of great luck! On the last night of the tour, Min-On hosted a closing banquet, complete with a delicious Japanese dinner, memorabilia for each chorister to take home, and a beautiful slide show of pictures from the entire trip. (It was at this time that many of the children and YPC staff experienced their first earthquake!) Everyone from Min-On was warmly thanked through speeches and song from the YPC choristers for the incredible opportunity to see the country of Japan, perform in 18 magnificent concert halls, and experience the fulfillment of learning about themselves, one another, and a culture different from their own. In kind, the Min-On staff very graciously thanked the YPC for artistic and high-energy performances, reinforcing that YPC was the best chorus that had ever come through a Min-On tour. To the delight of everyone in the room, YPC was officially invited to return in the summer of 2010 for a second multi-city tour of Japan!
Above: Francisco and YPC are welcomed to the Min-On Cultural Center in Tokyo by the President of Min-On, Mr. Hiroyasu Kobayashi, and staff; they displayed the Japanese and American flags to represent our two nations. Right: The YPC Staff is presented with a beautiful collage of pictures representing our time in Japan.
A letter was read to YPC at the farewell banquet from Dr. Ikeda:
“To my esteemed artistic director, the Honorable Francisco J. Núñez, and my dear members of the Young People’s Chorus of New York City, the youthful ambassadors of musical culture who shoulder the future of America. As the founder of the Min-On Concert Association, I would like to express my deepest gratitude to each one of you for your enthusiastic performance in brilliant harmony, which has greatly encouraged and deeply touched the hearts of people in every concert. Your beautiful and clear voices created rainbow bridges of hope and courage all over and expanded the circle of friendship among the people throughout many cities in Japan. Once again we thank you very much from the bottom of our hearts for your tremendous accomplishment. It is our greatest pleasure to find you safe and in excellent health, and you completed the first Japan tour in a great success. This evening, we are very pleased to have the opportunity to serve you a dinner as our modest gift of appreciation. Although my wife and I sincerely like to join you for expressing our appreciation and sitting together with you for joyfully listening to the wonderful experiences and golden memories of your Japan tour, we unfortunately have to ask your pardon for our absence. Please enjoy relaxing and have a pleasant time this evening. Thank you very much. Daisaku and Kaneko Ikeda, Founder of the Min-On Concert Association August 9, 2009”
Right: The President of Min-On, Kobayashi-san, tells the children they will be treated to a day in Disneyland Tokyo with our translator, Naoko-san. Below: Choristers get ready for a day of fun in Tokyo Disneyland (our guide Toyama-san is on the left); Lower Right: Dancing in Disneyland!
Chapter 10: YPC Mission The tour was true to the mission of YPC: achieving cross-cultural understanding and acceptance on a global level through making music. The children came away from the tour with a greater understanding of the demands of performing as part of a professional tour, and learned so much about taking care of their bodies and voices that they could never have learned without such an experience. However, more powerful than all of this were the messages they carried home, through their blogs and spoken words – the understanding and respect they had gained for a culture previously unknown to almost all of them; the work ethic they needed to build and maintain as a team to succeed. They came to understand the essence of YPC – music is important, yes, but more important is using that music as a means to bring people together. The children felt new inspirations from the audiences but also from one another – realizing talents and strengths in each another that they had never known, and becoming A rainbow appears during the concert in a tight-knit group of young people that had unconditional respect and support for one another, no matter where anybody came from. They recognized being a part of Tokyo. something that continually inspires them to achieve more and to work harder, and through their experiences they made conscious decisions to better themselves and make changes in their own lives. This incredible and unique trip was called “life-changing” by many of the children and parents, who saw and heard changes in their sons and daughters through e-mails and phone calls. The way these children view the world was transformed. All they saw, learned and experienced inspired many of them to think more actively about their own futures, with a new motivation to make changes in their daily lives that will help them become individuals who are already making a positive impact in this world.
Thank you again to everyone who made the wonderful experience possible. Most Sincerely,
Francisco J. Núñez, Artistic Director/Founder Young People’s Chorus of New York City™ www.ypc.org
Above: Choristers sing together at the Hiroshima Peace Park. Left: Emily Viola chats with a deer in Nara.
Left: YPC poses with Min-On President Mr. Hiroyasu Kobayashi. Above: YPC Staff Amy Kotsonis and Nicole Arbes soak in a Japanese Hot Springs.
Above and clockwise: Miranda Lan-
grehr and Hadley Maya; Lindsey Feldman enjoys a special gift from Onoyama-san ; Caroline Smith smiles in a Kimono Below: Nathaniel Janis, Charlie Lovett, and Anthony Wyche enjoy Udon from a noodle house. Right: Recording at Tokyo SONY Studios
Left (left to right): Lizz Dorovitsine, Aneesa Folds, and Wynter Lastarria. Above (left to right): Emma Hirschhorn, Andrea Bonaparte, Dani Bennett, and Arielle Leacock
Above: Choristers visit the site of the Atomic Bomb in Hiroshima in 2009. Below: Past YPC choristers visit the same site in 2005.