German musicians, including members of one of the world's leading orchestras, are raising funds for a youth orchestra in Soma, Fukushima Prefecture, where children continue to live with damage and fallout from last year's quake, tsunami and nuclear meltdown.
On Sept. 16, Berlin Philharmonic players and other musicians gave a charity concert in the orchestra's chamber-music hall. It was part of the Berlin music festival, which features prominent orchestras from around the world.
Flutist Emmanuel Pahud and the 12 Cellists of the Berlin Philharmonic gave a concert that included pieces by Dvorak and Piazzolla.
They finished with "Kojo no Tsuki," a piece by Japanese composer Rentaro Taki, which saw some people in the audience wiping away tears.
Proceeds from ticket sales will help fund a children's orchestra currently in training in Soma, about 45 kilometers north of the destroyed Fukushima No. 1 nuclear plant.
The youth orchestra is partly the work of El Sistema, an organization with roots in Venezuela that promotes education through music at project sites worldwide. It provides instruments and funds tutors.
The idea for the orchestra came from a Berlin Philharmonic player who visited Japan in autumn last year and suggested founding a branch. Friends of El Sistema Japan was launched in March; it decided upon Soma for its first project.
The orchestra's first players are already rehearsing. Since spring, a local strings teacher has been coaching members of the instrumental music club of Nakamura Daiichi Elementary School in Soma.
"I have become grateful that we can play instruments and practice them," said sixth-grade cellist Chihaya Sato.
Another Soma elementary school is inviting an instructor for its fife and drum band, and chorus training will take place at a third.
Before the Berlin concert, the audience heard Norio Sato, Soma deputy mayor, speak about the orchestra and tsunami damage in the Soma area.
Yutaka Kikugawa, executive director of Friends of El Sistema Japan, expressed hope that the orchestra might someday travel to perform in Berlin. The audience applauded.
(This article was written by Ken Matsui and Tatsuya Sasaki.)
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