Monday, 20 August 2012

A very special musical visitor from Kobe in Japan: Naoko Maeda plays Newton St Cyres church organ

Naoko Maeda
visiting organist from Japan
assisted by daughter Haruka
Only twenty four hours after Paul Morgan's wonderful organ recital at Exeter Cathedral, there was another special recital - this time at the Chruch of St Cyr and Julitta in Newton St Cyres. The church organist, Andrew Daldorph (himself a very accomplished musician), welcomed a very talented visitor from Kobe in Japan.

Naoko Maeda grew up in Aberdeen, and has a special fondness for the UK. She is here to revisit her Scottish home, but found time to entertain us here in Devon as well.

Mike Brett with the clapper board
'video rolling'
Master of Ceremonies
Andrew Daldorph

Mike Gluyas and Mike Brett were at the church for her performance, so we can expect high quality audio and video recordings in the near future. Naoko also brought her own studio CDs - so we have some recordings to enjoy straight away.

In a strange audience set up, Andrew Daldorph introduced Naoko from the front of the church with everyone facing him. Naoko then played at the console at the back of the church, sitting back to back with the listeners.

This didn't seem to matter, however, because the sound of the organ filled the church and seemed to come from all directions at once.

Naoko opened with Jeremiah Clarkes 'Trumpet Voluntary', a baroque classic, followed by a lesser known but familiar baroque piece - Bach's Toccata and Fugue in D minor. Her organ interpretation of three of Bach's Schubler Chorales was a delight to hear. "Wake for night is passing", "My soul magnifies the Lord" and "Come, Jesus, from Heaven" made a beautiful combination.

Naoko's 'favourite' piece - the Largo from Handel's 'Xerxes' - soon became ours too, when we heard Naoko play her own arrangement so beautifully. Mendelssohn's Sonate No 1 finished the first half perfectly.

Naoko Maeda
plays Jeremiah Clarke's 'Trumpet Voluntary'

In the interval the refreshments were delicious and very welcome. For an entrance fee of just £5 we were served sandwiches, canapes, and drinks. (Wine cost extra - but still very generous.) Naoko and her two children Haruka and Timoki met the audience. Sadly the children could not speak or understand much English, but with mum's help they soon understood how happy everyone was to see them. (The Daldorph children, George and Imogen, had particularly enjoyed their company over the previous couple of days.)

Haruka assists turning the pages
and operating the stops

After the interval the musical entertainment went from strength to strength. Naoko immediately launched into the incredible funfair sound of Louis Lefebure-Wely's Sortie in B flat (fun, but dignified). Mozart's Andante for mechanical organ used a very high register, like a celeste. Again there was the sound of the fairground, but lots of other ingenious inventions cleverly overlaid - and very cleverly arranged for one person to play.

pedal and manual keyboards
two manuals

Unfreid's arrangement of 'Amazing Grace' brought a religious tone to the proceedings, appropriate to the church setting, and was followed by a traditional Japanese song, 'Sakura Sakura' (Cherry Blossom). Naoko, using her own prepared notes, introduced the song in English, translating for us. "The cherry blossom is beautiful. Why don't we go out and see the cherry blossom?" Naoko's arrangement imitated traditional Japanese styles.The opening was deep, just like the version by the male voice choir 'Chanticleer' which we nearly heard on Tuesday. Later a strange high staccato led to a sudden and unexpected end - to a very moving piece.

three keyboards
In an odd echo of Paul Morgan's recital the night before, Naoko ended with Louis Vierne's 'Final' from  Symphony No 1. (Paul actually played Vierne's 'Lied' from '24 Pieces' followed by the 'Final' from Guilmant's Sonata No 1). The Vierne 'Final' was very different from Guilmant's - lively and comical with staccato embellishments. A beautiful finish to a very enjoyable concert.

As the audience applauded, and craned round to see the person who had been playing to them so beautifully, Naoko introduced a special encore. To the great pleasure of everyone, she played another traditional Japanese piece - Rofu Miki's 'Aka Tombo' (Red Dragonfly) with music added by Kosaku Yamada in 1927. A little translation: "I think of my young days when I was carried on my mother's back."

As in many of the other pieces in the recital, Haruka not only helped by turning the pages for her mother, but also controlled the stops - allowing Naoko to play seemlessly. Aka Tombo was a perfect addition, emphasising the Japanese musical heritage Naoko was bringing to her music.

Then, just to return us to the music of Europe, Naoko finished with the familiar and ever-popular 'Jesus, Joy of Man's Desiring' from 'Heart and Mouth and Deed and Life'. Closing with a very Western feel - but equally beautiful.

A wonderful concert - and, of course, we can hear some of Naoko's music on Tuesday's show - recorded at Toyonaka Church in Kobe.

A happy musical family
Timoki, Naoko and Haruka Maeda

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