So many of my conversations with new (or new-ish) colleagues begin with “You play taiko??”. It’s a great ice-breaker to push beyond small talk with fellow musicians that extends beyond everyday conversation.
One such conversation was with Adam Mailman, director of Cochrane Music Society’s Band on the Bow. We were playing in a symphony together and were making casual conversation prior to the gig. As a percussionist, he appeared a bit shocked that a quiet oboist who usually never says BOO at rehearsals, mentioned taiko. We figured that we’ve probably worked together before, but because we play in different sections, sit in different areas of the stage, we hadn’t really gotten to know each other much.
After a few conversations, Adam and I had arranged for taiko to be involved with a special concert he was working on with the Band on the Bow. The ensemble was a guest artist at the final concert for the Alberta Band Association’s Jr High Honour Band, and there was one piece on the agenda that had a taiko feature.
The piece was Kago-me, based on a children’s game, and scored for a taiko feature of 2 odaiko, multiple shime and multiple chudaiko. Although it would have been fantastic to include that many taiko, the sound would have completely overpowered the band, so I recommended a one-per-part philosophy and had 3 of my taiko buddies join in the fun.
The collaborative piece was relatively simple and easy to put together; I think the hardest part was brain work. My taiko brain is trained to listen for a shime, use my eyes to time my strikes and movements with my colleagues, and use small-ensemble-type playing skills. My brain isn’t accustomed to timing my movements and strikes to a conductor’s baton! After the first rehearsal, it was easier for my brain to shift gears into symphonic musician mode, and it became easier.
The concert was very well received. The theatre was packed! We performed Dokokara as a taiko solo feature, and then into Kago-me with the ensemble. It was a lot of fun to see my worlds colliding, and to see taiko in an event that hadn’t experienced taiko before.
Special thanks to Lisa, Eric, and Marty, for their time and taiko talent, and also to Adam and CMS for the idea and the opportunity!