Interview with Magcal Ambassador Mari Kumamoto about Kanagawa culture and "evening parties"

マグカル大使・熊本マリさんに聞く 神奈川のカルチャーと“夜会”のハナシ

(Top image: Mari Kumamoto 2022 ©Shimokoshi Haruki_Costume provided by:Hiroko Koshino)

Mari Kumamoto, the passionate pianist who connects culture, art, and people through the power of music

Mari Kumamoto, a pianist well versed in Spanish music, grew up in Yokohama and lives there. Her base is the city of Yokohama, which is free, glamorous and exotic. This time, we asked Mari about this year's Magcal Ambassador activities and recommended events, focusing on the award ceremony held in her hometown, Yokohama.

Appreciate the "Fujisawa Citizens' Musical," a local musical featuring performers from elementary school students to those in their 70s

As a Magcal Ambassador, Mari supports activities that connect people through the charm of culture and art. On March 12, she attended the awards ceremony for the Kanagawa Musical Awards 2023. Original works with regional characteristics based on legends and folk tales from the prefecture were solicited, and two outstanding groups were selected in the preliminary screening. As one of the judges, she praised the honor.

“Kanagawa Musical Awards 2023” Award Ceremony

--This year, seven groups entered and the top two were awarded prizes.

Kumamoto Thank you to everyone who applied. Congratulations to the winners, Fujisawa Citizens' Musical and Yokohama Citizens' Children's Musical. I saw all the works, and all the scripts were wonderful, rich in local color and had good stories. What was impressive about the top two groups was how lively and powerful the performers were.

“Fujisawa Citizen Musical” won first place at “Kanagawa Musical Awards 2023”

``Yokohama Citizen Children's Musical'' where elementary school to high school students gather for easy-going instruction.

--On the day of the awards ceremony, there will also be a performance of "Fujisawa Citizens' Musical," which won first place.

Kumamoto: It's great to see group activities that bring together people of different generations, from elementary school students to people in their 70s. They were particular about the music, stage lighting, and how they used the stage, and it was worth watching. Yes, at the awards ceremony I suggested, "Why not try a collaboration with live music next time?"

“Kanagawa Musical Awards 2023” Award Ceremony

--Performing a musical with live performances is quite a challenge.

Kumamoto: I thought it would be easy to incorporate not only the piano, but also the flute and guitar. It would be interesting if it could be realized, and it would add depth to the work. I would be happy if you could use it as an idea in the future.

[Kanagawa Prefecture Official] “Kanagawa Musical Awards 2023” special homepage

"Believe in the power of the piano's sound" - Mari's thoughts on her performance

--You also sent a message of support accompanied by a piano performance to the 34th National Health and Welfare Festival "Nenrinpic Kanagawa 2022", held last November.

I sent a message to the Kumamoto Sports Festival with a song called "Sword Dance" to cheer on the pianist. It's a song that's also chosen as background music for foot races and relays, so I think I was able to convey a sense of dynamism. The power of the piano is amazing, so I put my thoughts into the power of music.

Speaking of performances, the "Soirée Mari Kumamoto" that you hold every autumn is coming up soon. Are you working on any new projects?

Kumamoto The 10th anniversary of the event will be held on October 5th at the Tokyo Bunka Kaikan. The concert will feature popular songs and songs based on a theme, but this time we will focus on the Spanish musician Alicia de Larrocha, who is celebrating her 100th birthday. She is one of the most representative pianists of the 20th century, and is a charming woman with a long career that began in her childhood and spans about 70 years.

Kumamoto: At last year's evening party, I was moved by the live voices of the audience shouting "Bravo!". Pianists are lonely until the concert, so I savored the happiness of being able to perform in a sunny day. For this concert, I chose the songs with the audience's opinions as my top priority, and I would be happy if they matched with what I wanted to play. I hope to resonate with the audience.

Mari Kumamoto in a chic and gorgeous dress

Even if you have small hands, you can become a pianist! I want to share my experience

Mari has been working to train the next generation of dancers as a professor at Osaka University of Arts since 2008. She provides individualized instruction to students with different goals, whether that be winning a competition, becoming a tutor, or simply improving.

-Is there anything you keep in mind when teaching?

Kumamoto: When playing the piano, it's important to know your weaknesses and charming points. For example, everyone has different "hands," and mine are very small... One of my instructors once told me I couldn't be a professional pianist. But another instructor told me, "It would be good to massage your hands in the bath," so I tried it. Some piano pieces are suitable for people with small hands, so I think it's important to know your individuality and develop them.

--I see, so diversity is needed in the music world as well.

Kumamoto: Yes, because you can't use the same method on every student. At the music school in Spain that I attended, there is no age limit for instruction. Just as each person has different goals, we prioritize each person's individuality in our instruction. I think that kind of attitude is also important.

Kumamoto: I think that Latin music is suitable for piano education. I feel that by placing emphasis on emotional expression rather than fingering instruction, sensitivity can be cultivated.

--When I think of Spanish music, I get strong impressions of guitar and flamenco.

Kumamoto: There are a lot of excellent piano pieces. The contrast between light and dark is clear and easy to imagine, and the melodies are also popular with Japanese people. Alicia de Larrocha, who will be introduced at this year's evening party, is also wonderful, so please keep an eye out for her.

--What style of piano education would you like to pursue if you were to teach Spanish music?

Kumamoto: I previously participated in a volunteer activity called "Piano Clinic" in Tohoku. I would like to give a public lesson as a pianist in a similar format to the experience I had at that time. If people from children to adults are free to participate, I think I can give a lecture on why they can't play as they want and how to play well. I would love to do this as a Magcal Ambassador! I would like to hold the venue in the Kanagawa Prefectural Government Building, which has great historical value.

March 2018 (Heisei 30) “Love Contact Piano Concert” (Location: Prefectural Youth Center)

Mari Kumamoto
Pianist/Kanagawa Prefecture Magcal Ambassador

Born in Tokyo, she started playing the piano at the age of five and moved to Spain with her family at the age of ten.
The following year, he entered the Royal Conservatory of Music in Madrid, Spain, at age 17 he entered the Juilliard School, and at age 20 he entered the Royal Academy of Music in London.
He returned to Japan at the age of 22 and made his debut in Japan at the age of 24. As a specialist in Spanish music, he completed the world's first recording of the complete piano works of Spanish composer Federico Mompou.
He has been active in a wide range of fields, including serving as a judge for international piano competitions, appearing on television and radio, and writing.
In 2008, he became a professor at Osaka University of Arts, where he is also devoted to mentoring the next generation of artists. He lives in Yokohama.

Official website http://www.marikumamoto.com/
Instagram https://www.instagram.com/marikumamoto/
Twitter https://twitter.com/marikumamoto
YouTube https://www.youtube.com/@marikumamoto627/videos

[Concert Information]
■Soirée Mari Kumamoto
Hot Night in Spain - A Tribute to Alicia de Larrocha
Thursday, October 5, 2023 18:30 start (doors open 18:00) Tokyo Bunka Kaikan Small Hall
Inquiries: Proarte Musice 03-3943-6677 https://www.proarte.jp/

■Osaka University of Arts Promenade Concert 2023
Nagoya Performance
Wednesday, August 23, 2023 18:00 start (17:00 open) Aichi Prefectural Arts Theatre Concert Hall
・Osaka performance
Thursday, August 24, 2023 18:30 start (17:30 open) Festival Hall
Tokyo Performance
Monday, August 28, 2023 18:00 start (doors open at 17:00) Suntory Hall Large Hall
For reservations and inquiries, please contact Osaka Art Agency at 06-6372-4583 (weekdays 9:00-17:00)

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