YANGON, Myanmar--For many years, under military junta rule, the Myanmar National Symphony Orchestra was only allowed to accompany popular songs or perform folk music in television programs on the state-run broadcasting station.
“We did not play classical music for many years,” said Soe Soe Ei, one of the members of the orchestra.
Today, under a new civilian government and the direction of Japanese conductor Yoshikazu Fukumura, the standards of composers such as Mozart and Beethoven are back on the program.
Fukumura came to Yangon in late June. Since then, he has been training orchestra members for comeback concerts to be held in Yangon on July 13 and the capital of Naypyidaw on July 15.
“It is hard to replace those lost years," Fukumura, 66, said. "But the members’ music sense and attitude (toward music) is good. If they receive appropriate training for several years and young members also join them, the orchestra will become excellent."
At a state-run broadcasting station in Yangon, Myanmar’s largest city, in late June, members of the orchestra were tuning their musical instruments in preparation for the start of a rehearsal.
When Fukumura arrived, the atmosphere became tense. While the members practiced pieces by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart (1756-1791), Fukumura would occasionally issue strict directions.
Following his instructions, the members practiced the same passages repeatedly. Finally, the sound began to be unified.
Fukumura's demanding rehearsal continued for more than two hours, including the break.
The state-run orchestra was established in September 2001 under the initiative of then military junta strongman Khin Nyunt, first secretary of the State Peace and Development Council, the supreme decision-making body of the military junta.
Under his support, the orchestra was engaged in performing in concerts.
Three years later, however, Khin Nyunt fell from power and was placed under house arrest. After that, the orchestra became unable to hold high-profile public activities as its existence was regarded as taboo.
To inquiries, government officials replied that Myanmar does not have orchestras.
Things changed for the better in January this year when Khin Nyunt was freed from house arrest along with the release of many other high-profile political prisoners. It was also decided that the orchestra could resume its public activities. Fukumura was chosen to direct the orchestra to help speed its recovery.
After studying in Italy and Britain, Fukumura served as conductor for the Kyoto Symphony Orchestra and other groups in the 1970s and subsequent years. He also appeared on some TV programs, including, “Daimei no Nai Ongakukai” (Untitled Concert).
Starting in the late 1980s, he expanded his activities to other Asian countries and Latin America, reconstructing orchestras and training orchestra members in such cities as Shanghai, Hanoi and Havana.
Now, he finds himself in Myanmar, trying to rebuild an orchestra after years of relative inactivity and obscurity.
“I want to train it so that it becomes the leading orchestra of this country both in name and in substance,” Fukumura vowed.
The problem is that the orchestra lacks musicians for some key instruments. Therefore, the conductor has invited players of such instruments as violins and oboes from Vietnam and other countries. The invited performers will also instruct his Myanmarese musicians.
At its two upcoming concerts in July, the Myanmar orchestra will perform six pieces in each concert, including “The Creatures of Prometheus” by Ludwig van Beethoven (1770-1827).
- « Prev
- Next »