on a Concert Tour of Japan
As I contemplated my first concert tour of Japan, I was filled with reservations. First off all, my fluency in the language is pathetically limited to a few phonetic words and phrases taught to me by my exceedingly patient Japanese students at the College of St. Elizabeth. Second, I was scheduled to perform a sacred (Roman Catholic) program of piano music by Franz Liszt in a predominantly Buddhist country. Third, I entertained quite realistic visions of being the only 5'10" female blonde individual literally "standing out" among a sea of Japanese, and by my side, a 6'6" husband with a red beard! Let's not even mention Jeff's apprehension about sleeping on a grass mat or his mortal fear of eating raw fish. Perhaps that is why I hyperventilated on the day before my departure when informed by a fax from Japan that audiences would expect me to change concert gowns during intermission. (I had already finished packing and was otherwise reluctant to relinquish my cherished intermission relaxation ritual of eating yogurt and bananas).
Nevertheless, musicians learn to live by faith. I left Newark Airport on June 15 for several performances beginning with an official debut recital in Osaka sponsored by the Liszt Society of Japan. For the debut, the Consul general for the U.S. in Osaka Kobe offered a gracious welcome. From Osaka, I gradually worked (or "played") my way through Kansai, Ashiya, Kobe, Inazawa and finally, Tokyo. Everywhere, my hosts were wonderful, my translators diligent, the audiences enthusiastic, the press responsive, the concert halls exquisite, the Steinways friendly, and the hospitality legendary.
Indeed, most of my recitals were followed by dinner receptions (complete with numerous toasts) sponsored in turn by the Swiss Consulate, the American Chamber of Commerce, and the Kansai Cultural Center. The receptions were a wonderful opportunity to meet the charming Japanese and international audiences, receive countless business cards, and be photographed with nearly everyone present.
Through the long flight home, my thoughts distilled to these: "What a stellar experience! How wonderful it will be to return to this fascinating country with a civilization refined by its many centuries."
I retain a special gratitude that Japanese audiences responded so positively to the spirituality of the music I played, including the Sonata in B-minor. And yes, changing concert gowns during intermissions was definitely worth the trouble because of the audience reactions when I walked back onstage. On the way home, we stopped in Hawaii for a few days of R&R. It was my reward to Jeff for being such a good sport with the chopsticks at all of those receptions.