A “Messiah” and a river walk – メサイアの演奏会と川辺の散歩

2016-01-25 walk (43 of 151)(日本語は明日加えます)Classes are over for the academic year at Rikkyo University.  The chapel choir sang its last Service on Sunday, and the students are now in exams.  Which means things slow down a bit for we choirmasters.  This state will not last long, however, as the choir departs for England on Feb. 18, and much remains to do before that.  Still, I managed to enjoy myself a bit recently.

On Sunday, Jan. 24, my colleague at Rikkyo University Hiroshi Oshima conducted a performance of Handel’s Messiah at Kioi Hall in Tokyo.  It was one of the best performances of the work I’ve heard.  The orchestra was the Tokyo Bach Kantate Ensemble, an excellent professional orchestra that was spot on in every respect.  The chorus was sprightly and light when the music called for it, and powerful and dynamic when needed.  The balances and pitch were good throughout.  Subtlety of dynamics and word accent really brought out the meaning in the more dramatic choruses. Dr. Oshima not only conducted this fine performance, but also sang the tenor solos.  It was interesting to watch him finish his solo, then return immediately to conducting.  Congratulations, Dr. Oshima, the Chorkreis Kantate Ensemble, and Tokyo Bach Kantate Ensemble.

The following day I experienced some pain in my back – probably thanks to the very low (for large Americans, anyway) seats in Kioi Hall.  Three hours slouched over with my knees sticking up were not what the doctor ordered.  In order to clear things up I spent the afternoon walking down the Shakujii River, and then back home via another route.  The river is a rather sorry thing, deeply entrenched in a concrete ditch many meters below street level.  Still, the changing scenery along the river banks was good, and there were many parks for taking breaks.  If you have back pain I highly recommend five hour walks in winter sunshine along a river.  It certainly helped me.  Photos of the walk:

I started walking near Oyama Station in Itabashi-ku. Here the river is at its dullest, with modest buildings and no greenery on either bank.  It has to make its way under multiple levels of elevated expressways at one point.

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Once crossing under the expressways, however, the scenery improves dramatically.  Many stretches are shaded by cherry trees (imagine the scene below in the spring!).

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Here and there are small river-side parks that use water from the river in imaginative ways.  Below is a small catch-and-return fishing pond enjoyed by elderly men in the afternoon sunshine.

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There are several temples and shrines near the river path.  A fairly new (2008 or so) Buddhist statue sits right along the path, inviting the passerby to detour to the temple up the street.  This Yatsu Dai Kannon (谷津大観音)requires a bit of work to photograph.  Here are three views.  Do you prefer your statues with or without telephone poles and wires?

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The most memorable stop on this walk was another temple, the Shojuin(正受院), sometimes called by its nickname “akachan-dera.”  My first impression was of a jewell hidden away in a rather plain neighborhood.  Plum trees were just beginning to blossom.

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A wander around the grounds, however, revealed that this temple houses the cremated remains of many thousands of babies.  I read that many were aborted fetuses, while others died as babies. Parents leave gifts and snacks for the departed  near the building in which the ashes are stored.  It is a profoundly melancholy place.

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2016-01-25 walk (97 of 151)

Moving on toward Oji Station brings one to the nicest part of the way.  At Oji Shrine (below) the river has been diverted into a tunnel on its way to the nearby Sumida River, and the old riverbed transformed into a water park.

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My walk home was less scenic, but pleasant all the same.  I saw this building in the setting sun (Kita-ku Central Park).

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The next morning I woke up with a much happier back, and good memories of an afternoon spent wandering this great city.  Give it a try next time you have a pain to exorcise!





Posted in Choral ~ 聖歌隊関係, Handel "Messiah" ~ ヘンデル「メサイア」, Tokyo ~ 東京 | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

A grand recital – 立派なリサイタル

Douglas Cleveland gave a fiery performance yesterday (Sunday, January 10) at the Rikkyo Niiza Campus St Paul's Chapel. Everything on the program was played confidently, and with great style. He and the Fisk organ tackled music from French Baroque period, J. S. Bach, Jongen, and modern American organ music. I enjoyed everything performed, but found the most thrilling part of the program to be a new work by David Briggs entitled Four Concert Etudes. Dr. Cleveland commissioned this work for the opening recital of the Fisk organ at Plymouth Congregational Church in Seattle, Washington, where he is director of music. The Etudes are technically challenging to perform, but thrilling for the listener. Thanks for a riveting performance, Doug!

昨日、(1月10日)、ダグラス・クリーブランド氏が立教学院の新座キャンパスチャペルにてオルガンリサイタルを行いました。(立教学院主催)大変素晴らしい演奏でした。フランス様式バロック時代から J. S.バッハ、そして、現代アメリカの作品まで、幅広いプログラムでした。私にとって、忘れられない曲は演奏者にとって弾くのが難しいブリッグス作曲のドラマチックな「4つのコンサート用練習曲」でした。最高の演奏を聴かせて頂いてありがとうございました、クリーブランド先生!

Photos from the day:

Douglas Cleveland, center, and his wife and assistant for the concert, Catherine (right), with Rikkyo University Organist Yuko Sakiyama and the students of the university Organists' Guild. クリーブランド氏、アシスタントであった奥さんのキャサリンさん、そして立教学院オルガニスト﨑山裕子と大学オルガニスト・ギルドのメンバー。

(Left to right) Yuko Sakiyama, Douglas Cleveland, Scott Shaw


Program プログラム

Marchand: Grand Dialogue

Dahl: Tierce en taille

J. S. Bach: Praeludium und Fuge in Es BWV 552

Jongen: Scherzetto, Petite Prelude

Baker: Prelude on “The Lone Wild Bird”

Briggs: Four Concert Etudes


Posted in Music - general ~ 音楽:一般, Organ ~ オルガン関係, Rikkyo ~ 立教 | Leave a comment

Concert Tomorrow (Sunday, Jan 10) 〜 オルガンリサイタル(1月10日、日曜日)

Douglas Cleveland will be playing a recital at the Rikkyo Gakuin Niiza Campus St Paul’s Chapel tomorrow at 2:00 p.m.  The program is both interesting and enjoyable.  Doug really knows how to make the Fisk organ sing.  He is the music director at Plymouth Congregational Church, Seattle, which, interestingly,  recently installed a large Fisk in the same style as the Niiza organ.  Please come and listen if you are in the area.  Admission is free.


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Posted in Music - general ~ 音楽:一般, Organ ~ オルガン関係, Rikkyo ~ 立教 | Leave a comment

Happy New Year – あけましておめでとうございます

2016-01-01 (55 of 78)

Happy New Year!  Best wishes from “The View” to you and yours.  Today is my last day of vacation before work resumes.  It was a good holiday, with plenty of time to unwind, enjoy family time, and (of course) indulge in photography and cycling.

あけましておめでとうございます!去年に引き続き、ぜひ”The View from Tokyo”を楽しんで頂きたいです。どうぞよろしくお願いします。クリスマスの後から今日までゆっくり過ごすことができましたので、明日から職場である立教大学で頑張れる気がします。

On New Year’s Day I rode down to the Arakawa River before dawn to catch the first sunrise of the year (photo at right).  I was not alone!  Hundreds of other people lined the river dike and bridges, and from here and there I heard cheers as the first sunrise of the year unfolded.


15 years ago, when living in Nagasaki, my good friend DWB and I rode out to the ocean and had a swim on the 1st of January.  It was one of the best New Year’s days in memory.  Something this year reminded me of it, and also gave me a feeling that I had to see the ocean again this holiday.  To make a short story long, I planned to ride from home to Chiba City, then out to the coast on January 3rd, a distance of 90 km one-way.  On the 3rd I was up at 3 am, out the door as planned at 4:30, then promptly sidelined by two flat tires around 5 am.  What to do!?  I hobbled home, changed bikes, and grabbed a train to Chiba Station.  Ha ha!  I beat the demon of flat tires, and rode from Chiba out to the coast.  In doing so, I only logged 100 km for the day instead of the 180 planned, but was well pleased by being at the Pacific ocean coast in unseasonably warm weather.  The route map is below.


2016-01-03 ride map (1 of 1)

If you do this ride, I suggest you skip the lower road, which goes through some ugly suburban development around Togane.  The upper route, on the other hand, took me through beautiful country roads, with traditional style houses and plenty of temples and shrines.  Here are few shots of the ocean, and then the upper route.


Brompton and Scott reach the coast

Brompton and Scott reach the coast

my Brompton bike in the dunes

Brompton lost in the sand

Mystery statue along the coast

Mystery statue along the coast

Shuttered store, but drink machines worked on

Store shuttered, but drink machines worked on

My most memorable find was Kongosho Temple (金剛勝寺).  It was in the literal middle of nowhere, but lovingly maintained and welcoming to the passerby.  Here are a few photos of the beautiful vermillion gate.


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2016-01-03 Kujukuri (133 of 161) 2016-01-03 Kujukuri (131 of 161)

In contrast with all this beauty was a house along the roadside that was in danger of falling down.  I stopped to photograph it, and was greeted by a voice from the balcony informing me that this house was inhabited, and why was I taking pictures of it?  I apologized and left.  As I left, the lady on the balcony said “I’m all alone, this is the best I can do…”  It was sobering to realize that among the fine country homes there is also poverty.


2016-01-03 Kujukuri (128 of 161)

I made it back to Chiba Station just as it started to get dark, folded up my bike, and whizzed back to Tokyo on the train.  It was a New Year’s Ride to remember.  My final photo of the day: cranes saluting the setting sun.


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Other than riding and partying, “the wife” and I had several outings for coffee, sight seeing, and just general wandering.  One day found us at Shiodome, and then Hamarikyu Teien (a large former villa and park on Tokyo Bay).  We enjoyed matcha tea and sweets on the teahouse deck.  Another fine day.




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If you’ve read this far, allow me to plug an upcoming organ recital at Rikkyo University.  Next Sunday, January 10, at 2:00 p.m., Douglas Cleveland from Seattle, USA, will perform an organ recital at the university’s Niiza Campus.  “Big Blue” (the Fisk organ) will be put through its paces in a fine program of French and other music suited to the instrument.  The concert is free.  To whet your whistle, here is Big Blue again:

以上で、冬休みの報告を終了します。最後に、1月10日の立教学院オルガンコンサートのPRをさせてください。米国シアトル市に住んでいるDouglas Cleveland氏が10日、14時より立教学院新座キャンパスの聖パウロ礼拝堂(チャペル)で演奏する予定です。大学院の頃からクリーブランドさんの演奏の素晴らしさに感動し、新座キャンパスのフィスク社オルガンが完成してからずっと依頼したかった方です。是非、彼の素晴らしい演奏を聞きに来てください。入場無料です。

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Posted in Nature ~ 自然, Photography ~写真, Tokyo ~ 東京 | Leave a comment

Happy post-Christmas days 〜 クリスマス後の自由な日々

Another Christmas has come and gone.  I started working as a church musician in 1975, which suggests to me that this was my 40th in the business.  I suppose I have learned a few things over the decades, but continue to have new experiences.  To my annual list of Christmas duties, this year I added the Rikkyo Gakuin (combined university and junior/high schools) Niiza campus chapel eve service.  The university chapel treble choir and I went out to join the boys of the junior/high school choir, while the university mixed choir remained on the Ikebukuro campus to sing the service there.  Niiza is in a suburb of Tokyo, which meant a bit of commuting, but I have to admit that I really enjoyed playing the exciting Fisk organ in the chapel there, as well as directing the choirs.  After a train ride back to Tokyo I played the midnight mass, and a few hours later directed the choirs and handbell choir for the Christmas service on the 25th.   Photos of the season:

Christmas eve at Niiza

Chapel eve

Full moon over the Niiza chapel


Rikkyo Niiza St Paul’s Chapel Fisk organ


Rikkyo Niiza St Paul’s Chapel Fisk organ

Organ 2

Rikkyo Niiza St Paul’s Chapel Fisk organ

Christmas day at Ikebukuro


Rikkyo University All Saints chapel Christmas day service

The Christmas day service marks the end of the tenure of the choir staff.  I had a really fine group this year, and will miss working with them on a daily basis.  Here they are, as well as the full choir (all 70 members of the two choirs sang for the midnight and Christmas mass day services).

The Retiring 2015 Choir Staff after the Christmas High Mass

The retiring 2015 choir staff after the Christmas day service

full choir

Now that I am free for a week or so, I’ve done some resting, some lazing around the house, and some eating and drinking.  Next on the program – either hard exercise or a trip to the store for bigger jeans.  To start the program off easily, my “the wife” and I spent the day walking around the Odaiba area of Tokyo today.  It was chilly but sunny, and we enjoyed the beautiful sights on Tokyo Bay, as well as the interesting shopping in the area.


Rainbow Bridge


The wife waits for no one

Venus Fort 1

Venus Fort shopping center, Odaiba

Venus Fort 3

Venus Fort shopping center, Odaiba

Venus Fort 2

Venus Fort shopping center, Odaiba




Posted in Choral ~ 聖歌隊関係, Church music ~ 教会音楽, Organ ~ オルガン関係, Rikkyo ~ 立教, Tokyo ~ 東京 | Leave a comment