On his deathbed, Ludwig van Beethoven is alleged to have said, “Applaud, my friends. The comedy is over.” But Beethoven got it wrong. The “comedy” is far from over.
Music lovers can experience the joy of “Daiku” when the Pasadena Master Chorale (PMC) joins the Los Angeles Daiku and Los Angeles Daiku Orchestra to present Beethoven’s Symphony No. 9 on Sunday, Jan. 12, at 5 p.m. at the Aratani Theatre in Los Angeles. Japanese soprano Mari Kumasaka will appear as guest artist along with Tracy Van Fleet, mezzo-soprano, Robert MacNeil, tenor, and Dean Elzinga, bass-baritone. Jeffrey Bernstein, founder and artistic director of Pasadena Master Chorale, will conduct.
“In Japan, the word ‘Daiku’ refers to Beethoven’s Symphony No. 9,” Bernstein explains. “The tradition of singing the Ninth is huge in Japan because that is where the work was first heard in Asia – and under truly extraordinary circumstances. In 1918, German prisoners held in the Japanese town of Naruto mounted a crude performance of it to keep their spirits up. It instantly caught fire with the guards and townspeople and spread throughout the nation.”
Today, the work is performed hundreds of times annually – not only in Naruto, to commemorate the 9th’s Japanese debut, but often in stadiums with massed choirs of thousands of singers. In 2009, the Los Angeles Daiku was founded to bring this tradition to the United States.
“Our goal is to build a bridge of musical friendship between the U.S. and Japan,” says Bernstein, who, last June became the first American to conduct the Naruto performance with 800 performers on stage. “For instance, this year, roughly 20 singers from Naruto will travel here to join us for the performance, including Mari Kumasaka, who sang the work with me in June. Members of the San Francisco Daiku will join us as well.”
Bernstein is also pleased that, this year, for the first time, the concert will take place in the heart of Los Angeles’ Little Tokyo.
The Aratani Theatre is a fitting venue, too, for the U.S. premiere of Bernstein’s work “Dreams of Japan.”
“It’s a paean to Japan, a token of my affection,” says Bernstein, who was commissioned to write the work for the All-Japan Federation Daiku and the Tokushima Orchestra in honor of the 32nd Annual Daiku in Naruto. “The style of the piece was informed equally by traditional Japanese music and by film music, the salient Western music of our time.”
Tickets for the 2014 Daiku performance are available for $25 per person. To purchase tickets, visit www.pasadenamasterchorale.org or http://daiku2014.eventbrite.com. Recorded information is also available by phone at (626) 208-0009.
The Aratani is located at 244 S. San Pedro St. between Second and Third streets.