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A new tradition begins - Kanagawa Philharmonic Orchestra

新たな伝統始まるー神奈川フィルハーモニー管弦楽団

In April 2022, Ryunosuke Numajiri was appointed as the fourth music director of the Kanagawa Philharmonic Orchestra (Kanagawa Phil), and a conversation between Numajiri and Governor Kuroiwa was held.
We will bring you Mr. Numajiri, who is active at the forefront both in Japan and abroad, and Governor Kuroiwa, who is the "Kanagawa Philharmonic Cheerleader," about his thoughts on the Kanagawa Philharmonic, his aspirations for the future, and some interesting anecdotes.

- Regarding your appointment as the fourth Music Director, please tell us how you felt when you first heard about this, and how you feel now that you took up your position in April.

Numajiri:
To be honest, I was very happy.
I have had a long relationship with the Kanagawa Philharmonic Orchestra, and I performed there when they held regular concerts at the Prefectural Music Hall. Since 2007, I have performed together with them in an opera performance at the Kanagawa Prefectural Hall, once a year, for 10 years. Since opera performances require long rehearsals, I think that our bond has naturally deepened. Since I am taking over at a time when we no longer have a relationship where we have to make ourselves look good or be overly considerate, I think we will be able to spark off a firestorm right from the start.
We are blessed to have the prestigious Yokohama Minato Mirai Hall as our home, but we also have the Prefectural Music Hall and Prefectural Citizens Hall as our second and third homes, so we can create programs that suit each one. It's rare to find such a blessed environment.

-What is the position of the Kanagawa Philharmonic Orchestra within Kanagawa Prefecture?

Governor Kuroiwa:
It is the only professional orchestra based in Kanagawa Prefecture and is a valuable asset to the prefecture.
11 years ago, when I became governor, I was asked to become the head of the Kanagawa Philharmonic cheering squad. When I listened carefully to what he had to say, I found that it was quite a difficult task...
In fact, if the Kanagawa Philharmonic Orchestra does not resolve its 500 million yen debt within the next two years, it will be forced to disband.
So after watching the Kanagawa Philharmonic concert, I grabbed a donation box and a microphone and called out, "Kanagawa Philharmonic is going under! Please donate!" Everyone was coming out of the concert with a satisfied look on their face, but they were surprised to see the governor suddenly calling for donations in the lobby, and people started lining up in front of my donation box, and they started donating more and more.
As this was happening, the orchestra members' attitude changed, and suddenly we all found ourselves lined up in the lobby in our costumes, all shouting "Please!"
This has continued for a long time, and we were able to resolve our excessive debt in August 2013 and become a public interest incorporated foundation in April 2017, so I think we are a rare orchestra that has a strong sense of community and that we all worked together to protect it.

At the same time, I felt that the sound of the Kanagawa Philharmonic Orchestra was improving. Then, the conductor at the time said the same thing, so I realized that my intuition was correct.
By recognizing that there is a crisis, everyone's feelings become one. This is reflected in the sound of the orchestra. So, all the people of Kanagawa Prefecture really came together, and the quality of the Kanagawa Philharmonic Orchestra improved, and we overcame the crisis. I think it was a very dramatic experience.

-Please tell us about the appeal of the Kanagawa Philharmonic Orchestra.

Numajiri:
As the governor said earlier, we are the only professional orchestra based in Kanagawa Prefecture, which has a population of 9.2 million, so there is still room to gain new fans. Our neighbor, Tokyo, has a population of 14 million, but there are eight major professional orchestras. There is quite a lot of over-competition.
Kanagawa Prefecture has an atmosphere of craving culture, and amateur orchestras, brass bands, and choirs are also very popular. There are many halls with good acoustics outside of Yokohama, so the Kanagawa Philharmonic Orchestra really feels like it exists in a treasure trove. In recent years, their skills have improved remarkably, and I think it's an orchestra worth supporting.

Governor Kuroiwa:
That's right. There was a crisis that threatened the continuation of the orchestra, and the Kanagawa Philharmonic Orchestra itself made various efforts to overcome it.
He would go everywhere, from small concerts to elementary school performances, and many other places, letting people enjoy music.
When they go to an elementary school and play with the school orchestra, or when the Kanagawa Philharmonic suddenly plays their school's song, the elementary school students, who don't know what it's all about at first, suddenly realize, "Hey, I've heard this before," and are able to experience the charm of music and orchestras.
Then, the feeling of "Let's all support the Kanagawa Philharmonic Orchestra," and "This is an asset for our prefecture" spread. I think that was a very powerful force.
Pushed by such things, the Kanagawa Philharmonic continued to grow.
As a result, the ranking of "your favorite Japanese orchestra" rose to 4th place. I think that's really a happy thing for us. I want to continue to cherish this trend.

-Can you tell us what the Kanagawa Philharmonic needs to do going forward?

Numajiri:
Anyway, we want to get the people of the prefecture to recognize us. We need to reduce the number of people who think "the orchestra has nothing to do with me." To that end, I don't mind performing outdoors or on a boat. I would like to hold various types of concerts, such as concerts for children and beginners, and crossovers with other genres. Of course, it is also important to improve the quality of our regular concerts, which are the "face" of the orchestra.
Our goal is to ensure that the magazine rack in every home's living room always contains a copy of the Kanagawa Philharmonic's annual program.

Governor Kuroiwa:
Orchestras can be a little intimidating, right? I think we can do a lot more by getting together and having a more friendly atmosphere.
Actually, I think there are a lot of mysteries when watching an orchestra performance. For example, what is the conductor doing? What is that person doing? I don't really know what that person is doing.

Numajiri:
It doesn't make any noise, after all.

Governor Kuroiwa:
Can an orchestra play without a conductor?
There are times when you do things accordingly, right?

Numajiri:
When the performance is going well, I sometimes choose not to give any instructions.

Governor Kuroiwa:
Actually, everyone is puzzled as to what a conductor does. If there is something that explains it, I think you can realize, "Oh! So that's how it's done."
When I was a newscaster, I once did a news program on the Matsumoto concert (music festival) that Seiji Ozawa holds every year. We brought the studio to the stage in Matsumoto and had Seiji Ozawa come in after the concert, and did a program, and I watched a rehearsal at that time. It was only after watching a rehearsal that I really understood what a conductor does.
When you see the process of bringing everyone together in the same direction, it becomes very easy to understand.

Numajiri:
For example, when the string instruments and wind instruments do not match well, the conductor will write prescriptions such as asking the percussion instruments to be a little softer, or conversely, asking them to hit more clearly. If you see such a scene, I think you will have a deeper understanding of the orchestra. Kanagawa Philharmonic Orchestra's rehearsals at Kanagawa Art Hall are often open to the public for free, so I would like you to come and see them.
However, I myself don't really understand what "conducting" is, and when I was a student, I was conducting an orchestra rehearsal and the sound suddenly improved. I wondered why, and it turned out that Professor Seiji Ozawa had been in the rehearsal room. Then everyone suddenly started to sound good (laughs). I wanted to tell them to just make a good sound from the beginning, but in the end, it's not just the technique of conducting, but also human qualities. That's something that may not be easy to see just by observing a few rehearsals.

For more information on the Kanagawa Philharmonic Orchestra, which has started a new tradition, please click here:
Kanagawa Philharmonic Orchestra Official Homepage

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