Our national anthem, The Star Spangled Banner, is playing and I badly want to sit down. It’s not my patriotism in question — I’m just dead tired! I’m actually playing the anthem on taiko drums, so that’s another reason to keep upright for a bit longer
Backing up to the beginning: Odaiko New England formed a relationship with jazz trumpeter and Berklee College of Music profressor Tiger Okoshi in the spring of 2007 when he arranged a jazz trumpet and taiko version of the national anthem as a tribute to Boston’s new pitcher, Daisuke Matsuzaka. ONE and Okoshi played for the Red Sox several times since (and the Sox have won every game!).
Today’s gig isn’t at Fenway Park, but at The University of Massachusetts’ Amherst campus. We’re doing an educational concert with Okoshi to celebrate the start of baseball season: A Salute to Baseball.
Amherst is a long way from Boston, so we set out around 11:00 pm the night before (after a three-hour practice!), checking in at our hotel near UMass at 1:00 am. Yes, it’s late, but it’s also my first taiko road trip, my first performance with another artist AND our first performance in our brand new happi coats — who can complain?
Wednesday, after an 8:00 am load-in, I’m wicked tired. (And Joy is wicked naked when the stage manager pokes his head into the dressing room to make an announcement.) But still, the UMass people are awesome, Okoshi is wonderful, we look fabulous in our new costumes (Joy eventually got dressed), and there are at least a thousand happy school kids filling the concert hall. After opening with the anthem, we cede the stage to Okoshi and his amazing pianist. The kids love them! ONE takes the stage again to play Mahora and more, including another piece with Okoshi and back-up ambiance for Japanese poetry readings.
My favorite moment in the show: while whisking a chu daiko off the stage after Mahora, I encountered a tall scholarly-looking guy in the dark wings. He shook my hand and shot me an enormous grin before dashing out the stage door.
Have I mentioned how awesome the UMass people are? Not only did they provide a veritible buffet of yummy pastries in the green room and wheel all our equipment around on their enormous carts, but they also took us to lunch afterwards!