“We’re gathering our extended taiko family for the holidays,” I wrote on our website to promote ONE’s 2nd annual Winter Extravaganza. It was an ironic statement for me, since my own family would not be coming.
And so it was that I left my taiko widower and orphans at home to take part in our 2009 Winter Extravaganza on Sunday the 13th at our dojo in Woburn. And extravagant it was! We had performances by six taiko groups and guest violinist Yael Bat-Shimon; plus a crafts bazaar, bake sale, auction and reception.
But first, there was a lot of work to be done to get ready. ONE members and students began arriving as early as 10:00 am to begin decorating and setting up for the event. I arrived around noon to help set up the reception snacks and bake sale. It was an unfortunate task for someone who’d forgotten to eat lunch! Our savior, former Community member Junko Kargula, arrived with sushi, crackers and hot tea. She was soon followed by Wasna with a batch of her Aussie Lamingtons — not for the bake sale, but for us! We truly and unanimously adore Junko and Wasna!
Before long our dojo was festooned with holiday cheer. Christmas trees, garland swags, lights and wreaths transformed our minimalist practice space. Jasmine’s snow-dusted cherry blossom mural and last year’s wrapping-paper cranes formed a beautiful backdrop for the coming performances. Karen’s origami and orange tulle pom-pom garlands hung from the lobby ceiling. We were ready for our guests.
The first group to play was ONE’s Recreational Taiko class. They played Raku, which Karen and Shane brought back from a visit to Shidara in Japan earlier this year. As a mom, it’s hard to watch. I marvel that no one put an eye out or lost a tooth playing this wildly dangerous song on a crowded stage. But anyone could see that they were having a blast, and the audience loved it.
Next up was Wellesley College’s collegiate taiko group, Aiko. Their song — also called Aiko — was a peaceful and complex exchange of rhythms.
The third number, Yatai Bayashi, played by ONE’s Taiko Styles class (and yours truly) was a grueling event for a number of reasons. Firstly, well, it’s Yatai — a taiko song played in a stomach-burning half-sit up. Second, we had so many masochists — er, taiko players — who wanted to play, the song took nearly 20 minutes to get through. And third, I missed six weeks of rehearsal time in the months leading up to the Extravaganza so I played like a buffoon. My apologies to those who put in a much better effort. Yatai was mercifully followed by a break for auction- and craft-browsing and bake sale goodies.
ONE Ensemble members returned with Kaminari, in which the thunder god playfully dances and beats his drum against a background of vocals, strings and more percussion. This is my absolute favorite ONE piece!
An adult community ed class taught by our own Mark H Rooney at Concord-Carlisle High School played next. Joining them was Mark’s student from Wesleyan University in Connecticut, jazz musician Tyshawn Sorey. Their thunderous performance piece, Kiyohime Daiko, did not actually loosen dust and debris from the rafters, nor shake loose any light gels, as is typical in other venues, but it certainly wasn’t due to a lack of power!
In all, 49 taiko players performed together for a finale piece, Kokyo. No stage could contain the enormity that was Kokyo, as it was more party than performance. Hilda and Rita wore jingle bells as they played our big hiras out in front of the stage. Others played accessories as they danced among our guests in the audience.
In the end, I only missed my family a little bit. As I congratulated David’s daughter on her impressive tennis season, asked Jasmine’s son about his chorale performance earlier in the week, and chatted with Lauren’s mom and Mark’s parents, I realized that I was with my taiko family, after all.