Kisen and Hanami Odori Wrap-Up
The main portion of my performance at the National Theater was a piece called Kisen. Here is a bit of background about the piece with photos and audio recordings from the performance!
First performed in the 1831 as part of a larger Kabuki play known as The Six Poet Immortals (Rokkasen Sugata no Irodori), the piece is named for the priest character Kisen, and accompanies his playful dancing in the play. Our performance featured only the nagauta music (shamisen, singing, and percussion), without dance or the Kiyomoto musical ensemble that also accompanies the Kabuki play. This allows the Kineya guild to focus on making the music dynamic and interesting, without concern for the dancers’ needs or the larger Kabuki story line.
In general, I felt really good about how I played! I was a little uncertain in a few spots, and I haven’t fully overcome my general nervousness when performing shamisen, but playing the piece with that group of people felt great. The ensemble featured the leader of our guild, Iemoto Kineya Katsukuni, my favorite nagauta singer, Kineya Rokuzo (now Kineya Tosei), and National Treasure Kisaku Sensei on kotsuzumi. I’m not sure how I wound up smack dab in the middle of all those folks, but it sure was a treat!
I also sang in Hanami Odori, with over 400 other musicians. I’m not sure I think the music benefits from that many people, but being buried amongst the mass certainly made my National Theater singing debut much less stressful. It’s amazing to me that 200 shamisen can stay together through all the tempo changes.
Here’s how it sounded in rehearsal.
The best part of the whole thing was that my teacher was pleased with my performance. On the phone this morning she said, “I now think of you as a professional player…” I think that might be a bit generous, but I’m very pleased to have finally achieved a certain level of independence. My teacher can assign me a song and with enough time, I can memorize and perform it in the style of my school.
I’m looking forward to the next opportunity, and hopefully to bringing Sensei and other musicians here to LA for a performance!
Tags: nagauta shamisen