Wednesday, February 28, 2007

Kibo - The Wrap-up! Part 2

If you don't know what the Kibo concert was all about or you don't live in Winnipeg here's a some background. I know this might be boring some people (sorry), so this is the last post on the subject, then I'll get on with my life.

On Saturday, rehearsals began at 10:00am and ran through until late afternoon. I arrived at the Theatre around 10:30am and drank as much coffee as I could before practicing our piece. The finale rehearsal ran smoothly despite many changes and add-ons on how to finish the finale. The whole show seemed so surreal, I never felt any panic or nervousness, but instead an almost serene feeling. I guess this was in part because our piece was so close to the beginning and it didn't have time to let the anxiety build. It sure felt nice that I didn't have to stage manage or worry about other performers.

One of my favourite parts of the evening was the intermission, I went out to the lobby to see if there was anyone I knew that came to watch. Apart from the usual family, I spoke to my ex-prof from University, artist Ivan Eyre, he was shocked to see me on stage. Not only is Ivan one of Canada's most well-known artists, he's a great person, teacher and very humble. I also briefly spoke to a few of my sister's friend's, Kathy and Tannis, as well as a bunch of customers' from the store I work at. After the intermission, Shayna and I grabbed some drinks and returned to the balcony to take in the second half of the show.

After the concert, the performers were invited to the Japanese-Canadian Cultural Centre for some Chinese food and drink. When I say drink, I don't mean beer or wine but Sake! This was a great way to wind down after a long tiring day, I of course resisted the urge to indulge too much (the weather was a little rough that night), but instead enjoyed blasking in our brief triumph. While the Taiko performers noisily chugged Sake, I sipped Coke's and enjoyed catching up with my pal Sumi, from the Aurora Dance group.

As I said yesterday, the show went off pretty much without a glitch, it would have been nicer to have a full house, but at least we had the opportunity to perform in the grand Pantages Playhouse Theatre. The big stage, the blinding lights and the crystal clear sound could become addictive for a performer, I had never appeared on a stage larger than the West End Cultural Centre (unless you count grade 8 band at the Centennial Concert Hall), and I would welcome the opportunity to do something like this again. It was fun, but it's time to move on to the next project.
The photos on stage are from the rehearsal in the afternoon, while the group photos were taken before and after the show.

Monday, February 26, 2007

Kibo - The Review? Part 1

Since the Winnipeg Free Press has their continued fascination (ass-kissing) with celebrities, giving washed up actor/wannabee rocker, Dennis Quaid yet more front page exposure in Sunday's paper, of course they failed to mention anything about the Kibo concert. Not that I was really expecting much, but since the Free Press was one of their major corporate sponsors, I thought they might write a review or at least publish a photo from the show.

The audience was told before the show, "no photos will be allowed during the performance!", so any quality pictures from the show will be rare and hard to come by (let me know if you have any good photos from the show, especially during the Brent/Geoff/Shayna song). I remembered to bring my camera, so I attempted to take as many photos as possible. After performing my piece with Shayna and Brent, I snuck up to the front row of the balcony and snapped away... sans flash, the result was some very blurry shots. The zoom on my camera doesn't really have much zoom, so the least blurry shots are the more distant looking. Earlier in the day during dress rehearsal, I took the opportunity to take some closer-up photos as well as some casual candids. My regret is that I didn't get any decent shots of the out of town performers, Kaoru Watanabe, Shoji Kameda and Chieko Kojima. All the other performers in the show had to make their way backstage for the finale piece, so I missed virtually all of their dance, drum and flute performance, I was told their piece was incredible, and I managed to get a glimpse of Chieko's dance from the side of the stage.

Overall I think the show was a success, I'm not sure how much money was raised or how many seats were sold. The middle section on the floor was full, but the left and right sections were only full half way up, then there was several rows of empty seats, but the last couple of rows ($35 tickets) were occupied. The balcony was closed to the public, but many of the performers found their way up from backstage. Rumor has it the show was being video recorded (from the balcony beside the sound/lighting table) and may be distributed to the performers which I'm surely looking forward to.

There were many highlights, as previously mentioned Chieko, Shoji and Kaoru were great, Hinode Taiko were busy with their own numbers (including one I haven't seen before, Stress, which even drew some laughs) as well as a collaboration with the Aurora Dancers on V.

The Aurora Dancers probably had the most stage time from beginning to end. The beauty of their pieces and the calm gentleness of their movements always finds a soft spot in my heart.

Musically, the show was solid, Michael Oike is truly gifted, a professional pianist who performed some Schumann as well as accompanying his niece, Alex Allen, who danced to a piece called, Hitori Botchi, Yuugata no uta.

Singer Shayna Paulicelli belted out First Love, a song in Japanese and English, she has an amazing voice and look for big things from her in the very near future (can we say Canadian Idol?). Shayna also joined Brent and myself for Okaasan no uta, which is a fairly haunting, yet quite lovely song. It was a pleasure to play guitar for these two talented singers, I think it sounded okay, except for when the sound cut out at the beginning of the guitar intro. I had accidentally pulled the cord out of the DI (direct input) box at the side of the stage when it snagged on one of the layers of curtains. Special thanks to Pam Okano for thinking of me for the guitar part.

An interesting element to the evening was the readings that members of the community gave in honor of a grandparent or relative. As Wayne Sato, Karleen Manchanda, Russell Kunz, and Kristen and Stacey Matsumoto each read their relative's profile, images flashed behind them to give some insight and perspective to the audience. The use of the images on screen were most effective in the first piece of the night, Hajime ni ("in the beginning")- "out of hardship and dislocation, a community is born and thrives. The roots of Manitoba's Japanese-Canadian community are outlined in this multi-artist, multimedia creation developed for the concert" (as quoted from the program book).

The photos posted today are from the actual show (again I apologize for the blurriness), in the next posting I'll display some group shots and some behind the scene rehearsal photos.

Thursday, February 22, 2007

Can't Get Enough Of The Office

Always seem to jump on the bandwagon late, I watch movies from rental stores that are already on 7 day rental and finally watch Oscar award winning movies years later. Same goes for TV, I have never watched Lost, 24, Grey's Anatomy, House, Heroes, or Dancing With Stars.

One show that has me completely hooked is the Office (US version). This Christmas I received the first season on DVD (only one disc) and I couldn't stop watching it, I ran out and rented a disc from season two and then luck would have it, my daughter traded (borrowed) the complete season 2 for me to burn (oops, I mean make a back-up copy). I've been attempting to watch as many new episodes as possible, but you know how it is to try to find time, every week. I presently have the first ten episodes from season 3 on my computer to catch up. If you haven't seen this show, trust me it's addicting, it's one of those shows where the awkward silences and eye-rolls will have you busting a gut with laughter, it's brilliant! Steve Carell is perfect as the goofy boss of the Dunder Mifflin paper supply company in this mockumentary-style parody of water cooler culture. Check out the NBC-The Office site for highlights, previews, episode guides, webisodes and other goodies if you have lots of time to kill.

Here are some select Fansite's for The Office
Dwight Shrute's Schrute-Space
LITO:Fansite for the Office
OfficeTally: the Office Fansite of the Office

These are some of the character (actor/actress) sites. (very cool!)
Pam Beesley/myspace (Jenna Fischer)
BJ Novak/myspace (Ryan the Temp)
Kevin Malone/myspace
Melora Hardin/myspace (Jan Levinson)

Wednesday, February 21, 2007

Kibo: Special Deal

Remember I was concerned about the high ticket prices for the Kibo fundraiser concert on February 24th, lo and behold Ticketmaster has now offered a student rate for $20 per ticket. I don't know if there are any students that read this blog (or anyone for that matter?) or any students that are interested in this type of show. When tickets are discounted the week of the show, I always have mixed feelings. How about all the people that paid the full price, will they feel ripped off? If you buy a $50 pair of jeans then find out it's on sale for less than half price, I would feel slightly pissed. Usually when shows try to sell off seats it's the last row corner's or the back of the balcony. These discounted seats are still the best available, as good or better than the $50 version. It's clear that sales haven't gone as well as predicted, so plan B is to get as many bodies as possible to fill the building. Which isn't a bad idea, as who wants to perform to a half empty hall. On Ticketmaster's site you just have to type the words, HUMANRIGHTS in the special offer box to receive your special price. To be honest, if I wasn't a student I would still try to get this offer because how will they know if your a student or not. As of Wed. 7:00pm, the available "special deal" seats are still outstanding (row 10 middle). Good luck!

Tuesday, February 20, 2007

Practice, Practice, Practice!

There are only 4 days until the Kibo concert and all I can think about is practice. It seems quite simple, play one three minute song then I'm done, I can pack up and go home if I want, but really it's more complicated than that. I'm playing guitar for vocalists Shayna and Brent, both youngster's with years of stage experience, I haven't been on stage for over a year and I have never performed in such a large venue, like Pantages Theatre.

Shayna was the lead in Grant Park High School's (my old school!) production of Ragtime this past December at the Burton Cummings Theatre, and she has many musical theatre shows and singing competition's on her resume.

Brent recently performed (acted) in the play Arcadia, as part of the StoppardFest and in early March he is off to the New York Frigid Fest to perform his play, Jesus Christ, I'm Sorry. The three of us played the song only once on Sunday during the Kibo show rehearsals and we won't have a chance again until the day of the show, as Brent is away until Friday.
My guitar part is fairly simple and repetitive, but I have to set the speed and tempo. The challenge for both of them is the language, they have to sing this song in Japanese and harmonize together, a lot trickier than singing solo to recorded music.
Oh well, I suppose I should return to my bedroom and play Obaachan No Uta again and again, I tend to practice it a couple of times then proceed to play other stuff for hours. I guess that's a good thing, I'm starting to write songs again and I'm getting the urge to find some gigs and perform again, either with Zamboni Joe or solo...stay tuned.

Thursday, February 15, 2007

Our Hope, Our Future?

One project I'm involved with is the upcoming KIBO concert on Saturday February 24th at the Pantages Theatre in downtown Winnipeg. Kibo ("Our Hope, our future") is a celebration of Nikkei spirit and artistry that features international performers from Japan and Los Angeles, as well as local artists. The Manitoba Japanese Canadian Citizens' Association, with the combined efforts of the Manitoba Japanese Cultural Centre and the National Association of Japanese Canadians are hosting this gala event to help raise funds for the proposed Canadian Museum Of Human Rights.

If you love Taiko drums you should enjoy this show, Winnipeg's Hinode Taiko will be joined by Chieko Kojima and Kaoru Watanabe of Kodo from Japan as well as Shoji Kameda from On ensemble from Los Angeles.

Local performers include the Aurora Dancers, pianist Michael Oike, singers Brent Hirose and Shayna Paulicelli and myself on guitar. I have previously written about Brent, Shayna and Aurora in past postings on this site (August archives), while there is info about Michael on the Kibo page. I'm not totally sure about the overall format of the show, but I know there will be photo images projected in the background that follow the history of the Japanese Canadian journey from the end of WWII to the present. There will be a lot of familiar faces flashed on the screen combined with drums, dancing, music, martial arts and spoken word, so brace yourself for a complete multi-media extravaganza.

I almost forgot to mention tickets! They are available through Ticketmaster or better yet call or drop by the Japanese Canadian Cultural Centre (180 McPhillips) as they are selling a limited number of tickets, so you can avoid the ridiculous "Ticketbastard" agency fees. As of right now, there are great seats still available and prices are $50 and $35. A quick check at Ticketmaster tells me that the first row left and right sections are still open, $35 seats are only the last three rows on the floor and that balcony is not open, this may change if they sell out the floor.

I don't know if I'm just cheap, but the ticket prices are a bit on the steep side, I don't like to even spend twenty dollars to see a band I like a lot, so to spend fifty it has to be special. I suppose people spend upwards of 40-80 bucks no problem for mid-range popular acts and over a hundred for classic rockers such as the Who, Eric Clapton or Van Morrison. This Kibo show is different though, it's a fundraiser/showcase, a reflection of the talents within our community. I'm not sure if her highness Ms. Asper will be in attendance, as I really hope she can experience in person the efforts this organization has put forth and I hope we can at least raise enough money to maybe pay for one window on that grand Museum at the Forks.