Oliver & Ocean Perform with Kansai Philharmonic Orchestra & Yamamoto Noh

Oliver and Ocean performed again with the Yamamoto Noh theatre troupe in the beautiful NHK (Nippon Hohsoh Kyokai) Hall in downtown Osaka. NHK, the biggest television company in Japan, Hall is home to the Kansai Philharmonic Orchestra and theme of the concert was “East Meets West”. The idea was for the noh play to be backed by a full symphony orchestra. It was combining major art forms from the 1300s (noh – Japan) with the 1700/1800s (classical music – Europe). The mix was absorbing: the sparse sounds of the drums and flute of noh with the sumptuous full orchestra. The play is about conservation of the rivers and bay of Osaka, was backed by pieces dealing with water, culminating in Strauss’s Blue Danube.

NHK Hall is stunningly beautiful. It is located on the third floor and the escalators taking patrons to the entrance goes through this fantastic foyer with high glass ceilings and luxurious bannisters. I was surprised at the almost capacity crowd of 1,400 people for a Monday night. In the video above, Oliver’s speaking part comes at the 4:45 mark.

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The crowd was loving the children’s role in the play. With the seriousness of the noh players and the sophistication of the orchestra, the kids made it accessible for everyone. I loved the director of the orchestra putting on one of the children’s hats for the grand finale piece and asking the audience to participate. It was a really nice for the kids to be on stage with both professional noh actors and the Kansai philharmonic. It is an experience they will never forget.

A huge thank you to all the parents who helped in getting the kids ready. Also to the Yamamoto troupe and the Kansai philharmonic.

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Yamamoto is working to make noh more accessible to a modern audience. After the performance I spoke with Petko Slavov, a Bulgarian PhD in ancient Japanese theatre, and his company, Okina makes digital content, like apps and games that teach ancient Japanese culture. They also help Yamamoto make school visits and noh workshops. We hope to have them come visit in the spring.

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