Tohoku Youth Orchestra gathers for long-awaited practice

The Tohoku Youth Orchestra, comprising students from three prefectures hit hard by the devastating earthquake that struck northeastern Japan in 2011, gathered for its first practice in eight months in the city of Fukushima on Oct. 24, kicking off preparations for public performances set for next March. Joining the practice at the Fukushima-Minpo Co. building were members of the orchestra's sixth-term group. A practice session was initially planned for May this year, but had been postponed due to the new coronavirus outbreak. Rejoicing at their chance to finally practice together, they vowed to help promote reconstruction of the affected areas toward the 10th anniversary of the disaster. The orchestra is composed of 88 members ranging from grade school to university students, all living in or hailing from Fukushima, Miyagi or Iwate prefectures. There are plans for the orchestra to practice around once a month. The first session was attended by 41 members. Participants underwent body temperature checks, sterilized seats and took other steps to avoid coronavirus infections before the rehearsal. Under the direction of conductor Toshio Yanagisawa, they played various pieces including one titled "Ima jikan ga katamuite" (Time tilting now) composed by Ryuichi Sakamoto, representative and director of the orchestra. A message from Sakamoto was delivered before the practice session. "I am watching all of you with passion from New York," he said, adding that he "would like to hear your views" about music to be played next year at a time when concert styles are changing amid the coronavirus pandemic. "I'm happy to meet my fellow musicians after such a long hiatus," said Sachiko Suzuki, a 23-year-old Fukushima University senior and orchestra member. "I feel I have tuned myself up looking ahead to the performances (next year) on the 10th anniversary of the great earthquake." The non-permanent orchestra was set up by Sakamoto in 2013 as a project in support of reconstruction. It launched in full in 2015. (Translated by Kyodo News)