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Magcal Academy (Odawara Edition) "Odawara Boys and Girls Choir"

マグカル・アカデミー (小田原編) 「小田原少年少女合唱隊」

Please tell us why you joined the Odawara Boys and Girls Choir and how you feel since joining.

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Leader Kana Fujita, second year student at Seisen Jogakuin High School

My older sister who lived next door to my house was a member of the Odawara Boys and Girls Choir, and she asked me if I wanted to join her. At that time, I was in the first grade of elementary school, and I was a girl who loved singing and often sang in the bath. Whenever I joined the choir, the girls in the choir always took care of me and taught me various things, so it was really fun. There was a period when I took a break from activities to prepare for junior high school entrance exams, but I no longer practiced singing on Saturdays and Sundays, and it was very painful to have singing disappear from my daily life. When I first joined, I think there were about 80 people in the choir. In the past, there was a time when there were over 100 people. However, it is unfortunate that the number of participants has decreased due to various reasons. However, since we are a small group, the power of each member is very important, and I strongly feel the gratitude of being able to sing together. Since it's a chorus, we can't sing alone, and if even one person is missing, our chorus won't be able to sing, so I want everyone to do their best and keep singing.

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Sub-leader Yoshiko Ishida, second year student at Hiratsuka Gakuen High School

It all started when I was in the third grade of elementary school, when I went to see a concert by the Odawara Boys and Girls Choir in Odawara. They were really good and looked like they were having fun, and I wanted to get in there and sing along. At the time, I was worried about whether I would be able to work in a group, but here it is normal for older people to take care of younger people. Although taking care of younger people is not part of my daily life, I feel that I need to pass on what my seniors taught me when I was little. I think it's wonderful that friends who love singing can get together and sing with the same purpose.

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Former leader Chiharu Moriyama, third year student at Odawara High School

I joined the school when I was in second grade at the recommendation of my grandfather. At that time, my grandfather saw the Odawara Boys and Girls Choir singing together with a choir from overseas, and was amazed at the high level of performance. Once I joined the group, I was glad that I did it because not only did I feel more camaraderie through singing, but I was also able to engage in international exchange. It was a great experience to be able to go abroad to sing and have a homestay experience in a foreign country. I had a homestay in the Czech Republic, and even though we spoke different languages, we were able to communicate by trying to understand each other. I was moved when I was able to sing a Czech song with them and felt that we were connected through the song. I really enjoy singing.

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Makoto Satomi, 1st year student at Seisen Jogakuin High School

I've loved singing since I was little, and my grandmother, who was a choir singer, suggested I join the Odawara Boys and Girls Choir. I joined the school when I was in the first grade of elementary school. My grandmother had heard from a fellow choir member that this was a good place to have a children's choir. The choir members are from different schools and grades, so everyone takes care of each other like one family. I also like that I can make friends with people of all ages, which I wouldn't have met just by attending my own school. There are friends who gather together for the purpose of singing, so practicing singing is very rewarding.

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From left: Chiharu Moriyama, Kana Fujita, Makoto Satomi, Yoshiko Ishida

When asked what characteristics the Odawara Boys and Girls Choir has compared to other children's choirs, all they say is the warm personality of the leader, Mr. Kuwahara, the international nature of the group, and the fact that it is run by volunteer parents. He listed the things that are being done. Choirs and musicians from various countries such as the Czech Republic and Indonesia are invited, and there are opportunities for them to perform together and receive high-quality instruction. There is no audition at all when joining the military, and anyone who likes singing can join.
In chorus, it's not just about one person being good at singing, but it's important for each person to sing together while maintaining a balance as a whole. They said that they really enjoyed the feeling of coming together as one through song by caring about each other.

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The refreshing uniform has a star badge on the chest. The number of star badges represents the number of years of enrollment. It seems that there are families where two generations continue to sing together, with the Mulberry Chamber Choir, a choir made up of choir graduates, and the current choir.
Their main activities include family concerts, regular concerts, training camps, and Christmas concerts, as well as singing at nursing homes and joint concerts with overseas choirs.
He also showed me this handwritten note.

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This notebook has been a tradition since the beginning of the Odawara Boys and Girls Choir. She writes about how she feels after a performance, or when something happens, to connect with her instructor, Mr. Kuwabara. If you look through it quickly, you'll see that Kuwabara-sensei responds to the comments about being nervous after singing in a few places for the first time, with his kind and gentle words. Since we are celebrating our 55th anniversary next year, how many books will this be? I felt that the reason this tradition has continued for such a long time is because of the strong relationship of trust between students and teachers.

Lastly, we would like to ask the instructor, Taeko Kuwahara. What is the significance of you continuing to teach children's choirs for 55 years?

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Taeko Kuwahara

I want children to feel the joy of communicating with each other through songs. I think singing has the power to let out all the hazy emotions of adolescence that cannot be put into words. Singing makes you feel refreshed and good. It also enriches your heart.
There seems to be a serious decline in the choral population not only in Japan but also in Europe and other countries. One of the reasons for this is the declining birthrate, but I am concerned that there are more children now who want to do everything on their own using smartphones and the Internet. I wonder if everyone feels like it's a chore to try to work together and accomplish something. When the time comes for me to retire, I plan to leave the role to Haruko Kuwabara, who currently lives in the UK and is a member of the choir's 10th generation, who is the music director. She returns to Japan every month to teach, creating music before the actual performance, and acting as a bridge with overseas choirs.
We are currently recruiting new members from first grade of elementary school to second year of high school. Would you like to join us and enjoy the joy of singing together with our voices and hearts? My goal is to increase the number to around 50 people.

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