10th UK Taiko Festival wrap-up

UPDATE – Kagemusha has sent a highlights video from the festival!

After Japan, I spent a week in Devon, England, with Kagemusha and the 230+ other attendees of the UK Taiko Festival. I was invited to teach workshops and perform and I stayed with Jonathan, Gabriel, and Oliver Kirby. The trip was profoundly moving, and included the most incredible performance opportunity I’ve ever been given.

First off, Kagemusha Taiko is full of wonderful people, and the UK Taiko Festival has the same loving, creative, encouraging atmosphere of the taiko communities in the US. The Festival was held at Kagemusha’s home at Hannah’s at Seale Hayne, a retired university campus that has been converted into a facility for youth programs and artists. It’s an amazingly beautiful place and the perfect setting for a taiko conference. Dorms and fun cafes and pubs allowed the attendees to stay on campus so there were lots of opportunities to meet new people.

Short audio interview of me at the Festival: http://audioboo.fm/boos/2305354-kristofer-bergstrom

One of the highlights for me was working with Mizuho Zako, of Oedo Sukeroku. She has a really compelling naname style, with moments of striking stability and graceful movement. She, Masashi Itohara, and I did a simple trading-solos piece in one of the concerts. The end-result wasn’t anything groundbreaking but it was nice to finally be able to pull something like that together with great players in a short, 40-minute rehearsal. I’m getting better!

I taught four workshops and they were a joy. I debuted my new piece, Radiddlepa, in my “30 Days to Better Shime” workshop. I made all sorts of mistakes (in fact, the head of my mallet popped off at the climax of the piece!) but the attendees were very supportive. Caroline, one of the Kagemusha members, approached me after the workshop and asked gently, “This is maybe a weird thing to ask, but would you play that again for the Kagemusha members and volunteers at the end of the festival?” I happily agreed, and that performance turned out to be the most moving performance setting I’ve ever had.

The Kagemusha members and volunteers gathered in the Kagemusha studio, a nice-sounding space where I’d been practicing Radiddlepa for hours during the lead-up to the Festival. The late-afternoon sun was streaming through the windows as the members sat down on the floor. I could tell many of them were sitting for the first time all day. There was a sense of relief and pride that the Festival had been such a grand success. Everyone was tired but happy.

Jonathan thanked everyone for their hard work and recognized the heroic efforts of the drum coordinators. I gave a short speech about what an incredible experience I’d had; that the months of prep and the Festival itself had had a lasting impact on me as a player. It will stand out as a critical moment in my career. I told them how honored I was to have been invited and how close I felt to them as friends and fellow students of taiko.

It was in this air of love and relief that I got to perform Radiddlepa. My playing was much more fluid than in the workshop. I didn’t have any bachi malfunctions. I was nervous but it felt wonderful.

When the piece ended there was a long pause. I felt deeply relieved to be through the piece. It was like I sat down for the first time too. When the attendees started clapping, I looked up to find a number of the members crying. The applause died out but no one said anything. There was a quiet “Wow…” and we all laughed a bit because we didn’t know what to say.

I’m almost crying again as I write this. It was so incredibly rewarding… to have struggled through that 10 months of composition, to finally have the piece ready so I could answer “yes” to Caroline’s invitation, to be able to offer the piece at that special moment at the conclusion of a wonderfully successful Festival, and then to have those people appreciate and love me for it. It was a profound experience that I will never forget.

One Response to “10th UK Taiko Festival wrap-up”

  1. Lovely post, Kris. Congrats on the birth of a great new piece!

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