TOKYO #4

My time here just gets more interesting every day…Thursday morning back at my “home” school of Saint Mary's to work with a couple groups, including the top “Varsity Men's Ensemble” which has toured all around the world. I was stunned when Randy told me he sees them just 20 minutes each day! They're a very advanced group with an incredible commitment and dedication. We've worked together on beautiful works by David Childs, an up tempo setting for Christmas of “Gaudete,” and the infectious Indian work “Desh.”

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As soon as that class finished, I scooted out to the local subway/train station to meet Martie Tarter, choral director at the Christian Academy in Japan (CAJ). I had been to this school last weekend for the solo and ensemble competition, but it is a ways out in the burbs, so I was glad for her escort. Once there, I got to work with their talented middle and high school singers. I'm always amazed not just at how well these groups sing, but how well they adapt to a new face in front of them. We had a great time with the only disappointment how quickly our time together drew to a close.

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Taking the train back through downtown to Saint Mary's, I found a little nest of restaurants at the Ikebukuro station and enjoyed a tasty meal of Sobe (brown, cold) noodles with tempura shrimp and veggies…oh, and the always refreshing Japanese beer!

Friday, after spending the morning with the Saint Mary's guys, Randy drove me to the International School of the Sacred Heart. I'd be working with two of the top choirs at this all-girls school. The top group, about 12 singers in all, sang all their repertoire a cappella-no mean feat given the challenging nature of the pieces. The large chorus did an equally impressive job, responding quickly and cheerfully to the new ideas I presented. Well done, ladies!

Friday evening, Randy and I headed out for dinner downtown, first stopping at a little Irish pub, then walking toward the restaurant where he had made reservations for us. Along the way, we got sidetracked by a huge festival at one of the city's many shrines. This one had literally thousands of Japanese thronging the sidewalks. Many were dressed in beautiful traditional kimonos, and were buying multi-colored bamboo “offerings” decorated with vibrant figurines to leave at the shrine. The deeper we got into the crowd, the more mesmerizing the experience became. We were inundated with sights, sounds, smells from all sides.

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