Four (actually five) Taiko Concerts in Two Weeks!

Raion Taiko at the DIA - Friday Night Live

It's finally August! Actually, finally is probably not the best word since July really flew by. It was perhaps our busiest month yet, the past two weeks being the most intense. After our performance at the Concert of Colors, we had two more that week - one in Battle Creek and the next at the DIA (Detroit Institute of Arts (pictured above).

Our DIA performance was actually rescheduled from May (also a busy month). We had planned to to perform outside, but as we approached our scheduled performance date, it looked more and more like it was going to rain. A day or two before the performance, a last minute replacement was found and we postponed our performance until July, when it was less likely to rain. 

Funny how things can be ironic. As it turned out, on the day in May that we were originally booked for it did not rain. In fact, it was a beautiful evening, if I recall. And, you guessed it, July 22 turned out to be a fairly wet day. As we were driving down, it started pouring rain. Obviously, the rain let up in time for us to perform, but there was a point where a few sprinkles started during the show, but not enough to cancel. (Nothing like this video - rain starts around 2 min)

The following week we only had one performance at a library near Grand Rapids, but the week before we held our first Kids Summer Taiko Week each afternoon. We had a great time with two classes with kids aged 4 - 12 years. Altogether, we had 12 kids. To end the kids summer course, we held a mini-recital at Guernsey Farms Dairy on the lawn.

There was a good crowd on hand for the performance with many family and friends. After the performance, there was, of course...

... Ice Cream for all!


Raion Taiko at Detroit Concert of Colors 2011


Yesterday Raion Taiko reached a major milestone (in my mind, at least) when we performed on the stage of Detroit's Orchestra Hall as a part of the 2011 Concert of Colors.  What a privilege and honor to be a featured performer at such a wonderful hall, one of the top 3 halls acoustically in North America. When Mayumi and I first formed Raion Taiko back in 2005, I never dreamed that we would make it to Orchestra Hall.

Orchestra Hall is the home of the Detroit Symphony Orchestra, the Detroit Symphony Civic Orchestra and has hosted many national and international acts, which is evidenced by all the signatures on the backstage walls. Including one that we were especially delighted to discover yesterday ...

When I was in high school, I played violin in the Detroit Symphony Civic Orchestra and we rehearsed at Orchestra Hall every Saturday, so I was well aware of the hall's acoustic qualities and it's reputation. As we were setting up and preparing for our set, I stepped out into the audience to check the placement of the drums and I looked up and around at the hall and for a minute a wave of emotion washed over me as it sunk in that we were actually on the stage at Orchestra Hall.

The hall certainly lived up to its acoustic reputation. As a result, I think we were able to give one of our best performances yet.  It was hard to see very far out into the audience, but the response was good and I noticed several people in the front row who seemed to be thoroughly enjoying themselves with big smiles on their faces. My cousin, who drove down from Saginaw to see us, told me there were even a couple dancers in the aisles in the back. It's amazing how the audience energy gives energy back to us on stage.

We ended with our arrangement of Yatai Bayashi (made famous through Kodo) and received a standing ovation, to our surprise.  Unfortunately, because of time restraints, we weren't able to end with our usual encore, Mushi Okuri.  We did get a big compliment after the show.  A man came down to the stage to ask me if we have ever seen Kodo perform to which I replied that we had several times.  He followed up with, "You guys are right up there with them, aren't you."  Of course, we know better, but it was still nice to hear.

If you missed us at Orchestra Hall, try to catch us at the Detroit Institute of Arts this Friday, July 22 at 7 and 8:30 PM.  You can always stay up to date on our performances through the Performances Page on this website and also by becoming a fan of our Facebook Page.



Getting to Know our Neighbors: A Trip to Ft. Wayne, Indiana


We wrapped up our intensive, two-week schedule on may 15 with a visit to Fort Wayne Indiana. We were honored to be invited as guest performers for the 2011 Cherry Blossom Festival.  It was the last of about seven performances over the course of two weeks. It was nice to be busy, but it was a relief to have it behind us as well. In contrast, June is looking to be a fairly quiet month as far as performances go. We do have a couple smaller events, though, so keep an eye on the performances page.

In Fort Wayne we were able to finally connect with the members of Fort Wayne Taiko. We had briefly connected through emails and so on, but this was the first time our groups got to really meet in person. We even had the added bonus of meeting Kaiju Daiko from Chicago. It is really exciting to finally be making some midwestern connections with our taiko neighbors. I look forward to connecting with the other groups from Chicago and from Ohio as well.

The Cherry Blossom Festival was quite large. Unfortunately, the weather was not cooperating and it kept many people away and those that were there, chose to stay out of the cold and rain and partake in the indoor activities. Still, we had a tent and a band shell to keep us dry and there's nothing like a very enthusiastic audience to help you stay warm.

We played a half-hour set and ended with our usual closer, Mushi Okuri. There were three children from our kids class in attendance (thanks for making the long drive to Ft. Wayne) so we had them join us on stage for the final number.

In spite of the bad weather, we all enjoyed sharing taiko with the Fort Wayne community. We hope we can continue to build the taiko connections in the Mid-West!


Taiko Drums Rumble through the Detroit Institute of Arts


Raion Taiko had two major performances this past weekend. First a fundraising concert at Garden City High School on Saturday evening and on Sunday afternoon, we were part of the Kodomo no Hi celebration presented by the Consulate of Japan, Detroit and the Detroit Institute of Arts. We've been looking forward to play at the Art Institute for a long time and were excited to finally get there. We performed in the Diego Rivera court, which is a really cool place to play taiko, but it also has a lot of very hard surfaces, making the volume very loud.  We had to really hold back because, for one, there is a decible limit for the art work, and two, because the back wall of the court is shared with a movie theater and there was a film going on at the time. It was difficult. We played about 25% and it was still quite loud.

We'll be back at the DIA for a Friday night performance on May 13. They are considering an alternative performance space, though, because apparently there will be another event going on in the theater again. Hopefully there will be a good space where we will not disturb the other events going on.


Kids Taiko Class


This week I am very excited for our Monday night kids taiko class for two reasons. First of all, the class is full! We have 8 kids and 8 kid-sized drums. We started our kids class back in February, but it was difficult to get it going. For a long time we only had one or two enrolled. But starting in the summer, the students slowly began to come and join and now there is no more room in the Monday class. Don't worry, we will work on starting another kids class.

The second reason I am excited, however, is even better. After practicing through the summer, this group ranging from 4 to 7 years old, is really starting to play well. Yesterday at the end of class, the students performed the song they are learning for their parents. It sounded great! They remember their parts, they're listening to each other and playing together. The moms and dads were very impressed with the progress they've made.

On October 3rd at Novi High School, our kids class will be able to perform this piece in public for the first time. They are very excited to be able to perform as a part of the Japan Festival in Novi, sponsored by JBSD.

We have two more weeks to practice hard for this event. I hope many people will come to see the performance!