Monday, August 11, 2008

One Last Night!

The last night of Folklorama always leaves me with a bittersweet feeling. On one hand it's a relief the week is almost over, no more late nights, no stress worrying about the show and no rushing straight from work to the Pavilion. Believe it or not there some things I will miss, like interacting with people from our JC community and the rush of the stage show running smoothly. Like most jobs there are people you get tired of seeing and hearing, but there are a few people I will truly miss.
Highlights and observations from night 7:
  • Saturday's shows were packed and as I'm scanning over the week's revenues and attendance charts, I see that Saturday was in fact the most successful day overall. I spent a good portion of the evening writing thank you cards, so it seemed like the evening flew by fast.
  • Carol was presented with flowers from Alex and Kyla, members' of Kaede during the last show. Aurora repeated the act during the volunteer party with Sumi presenting Lucy with a bouquet.
  • Finally had a taste of the Folklorama beer that is produced by the official beer sponsor, Fort Garry Brewing Company. I drink a lot of FGBC beer and it is similar in colour to their signature dark. The taste isn't as heavy and chewy and tastes thinner than the dark, but definitely has more flavour and body than the Pale. Unfortunately it is only available in cans, so I would recommend pouring it into a glass (or plastic cup) to avoid that tinny taste. The beer is available at Folklorama pavilions, beer stores and liquor marts for a limited time only.
  • The MJCCA presented Sumi with a bouquet and a card for her work as the "face of Folklorama", as she did the JC community proud with her fine representation, can't think of a better person for the role!
The evening concluded with a volunteer party complete with food, drinks and left-over beer. This year Rock band was the entertainment, complete with a projection screen and it was a lot of fun, but I definitely need to practice. There's always next year.

Shaw Japan Pavilion Video 2008

Here's the Folklorama video that is aired on Shaw TV and the website. Sumi does an excellent job explaining some attractions at the Pavilion with Shaw host, Joanne Kelly, such as taiko drumming, kimonos and food. Once again she represents the Pavilion well with her knowledge and incredible poise. I did a Shaw interview years back when I was an ambassador (with Tracey Koga as host, fortunately I never had a chance to view it) and it's hard, really hard to answer questions at the top of your head, I just "winged it", the difference being at the time I really didn't know much about dress, dances, drumming or even food. I must admit I'm extremely proud of Sumi, not only for how she presents herself, but also for her genuine love of Japanese(-Canadian) culture...Enjoy!

Saturday, August 09, 2008

Friday Night, Party Night?

Hot weather, the Bomber game and going to the cottage are all reasons why there was a small crowd during the first show. Those excuses didn't hold up as the attendance recovered for the second and third show aided in part by bus tours. The second show had two buses that totally almost 100 spectators and the usually sparse third show was boosted by another bus full of seniors from the States.
Highlights and observations from night 6:
  • Similar schedule to last night with the exception of Aurora replacing Kaede for dance. Karate performed their final night and Stacey hosted the festivities. I must admit Sumi and I have lucked out with such competent and skilled emcees. It sure makes our jobs easier and with young under-30 hosts (Stacy, Jesse and Marli last year) that can carry the emcee load for future Folklorama's.
  • The film crew from Travel Manitoba made their presence felt. A photographer moved from the front of the stage to the back and even on the stage to get some flash close-up shots of Hinode Taiko. It would be interesting to see the footage they shot, but I don't know if we'll ever have a chance to see it.
  • The second and final night of the late show karaoke party closed out the evening. There seemed to be more volunteers (and performers) from our Pavilion than actual visitors taking their turn at the mike. Almost like the volunteer party without the free beer, or as Stacey said, "liquid courage".
Saturday is the last night for the Japan Pavilion and it will be a welcome relief to have a day off on Sunday. The last night also means the volunteer party, so I might not have the energy to post immediately after Saturday's show, because I hear that Rock Band will be the featured form as entertainment and the beer is gratis. If that's the case, I'll get the posting up Sunday or Monday. This may include my wrap-up with more photos and stories from the past week. Stay tuned and please leave your comments and thoughts about the week.

Friday, August 08, 2008

Dance, Dance And More Dance!

The last three nights of Folklorama are traditionally the strongest nights for attendance and sure enough Thursday night's shows were the best attended so far. Two full houses (for the 1st two shows) aided by a couple of bus tours, helped push the totals closer to previous years and with Friday and Saturday to come, it should be a successful year (I am unofficially speculating so don't get excited yet!).

Highlights and observations for night 5:
  • A film/video crew were present for the first two shows. I can't confirm this, but I heard they were filming a personal profile on Hinode drummer Sheila. A mobile camera as well as a tripod camera, followed her backstage and strictly focused on her during her performance with Hinode. I'm not sure what this will be used for, but I'm betting it's one of those profiles on people's "double" life, a mild-mannered executive during the day and a crazed Japanese drummer at night. I'll see what I can find out.
  • There was a lot of pink tonight! The Kaede dance group performed 3 pieces per show, one more than usual because Shayna was taking the night off, she'll return on Saturday.
  • Yuki tonight had two dancers accompanying him on stage. Alex was joined by Stephanie Okabe, last year's adult ambassador, to provide Yuki with double dancers behind him. I'll post a clear picture tomorrow as proof, because all photos of the trio were blurry tonight.
  • Keiko S-H did a splendid job emceeing tonight, her smooth delivery and confident stage presence is always a joy to watch. She's always welcome to emcee at Folklorama!
During Friday's late show, a video company hired by Travel Manitoba will visit our Pavilion. The video crew will follow a tour group on their motorcoach, as well as inside the Pavilions they visit. This video, travelogue if you will, is going to be used for promotion, sales and education for Travel Manitoba. Sounds exciting...not!

Thursday, August 07, 2008

Late Night Wednesday

I didn't get home until after midnight because of the Wednesday late-night party hour tonight, so I'll have to leave you with an abbreviated version because fatigue may play a big role tomorrow at work.

Highlights and observations for night 4:
  • Yuki Imagawa made his Folklorama debut with a modern Japanese pop song complete with accompanying dancer, Alex Allen. Dressed in jeans and a t-shirt, Yuki showcased an impressive powerful set of pipes that captivated the audience and the ballet-like dance visuals by Alex gave the piece a modern twist.
  • Shaw TV paid the Pavilion a visit and taped portions from the first show. When host Joanne Kelly was searching for an interview, the only clear choice was the "Face of Folklorama" herself, Sumi. Stay tuned to Shaw-TV (crap, I have MTS-TV) as every year they broadcast segments from Folklorama and their website (which has taken down last year's videos recently) will eventually post the videos. When it's available I'll post it here.
  • Connie Tamoto (from Global) hosted and as usual was an excellent emcee. We're lucky to have someone as skilled as her from within our community.
  • Late night party ran from about 10:30 until 11:35 and was a moderate success. The only advertising for this late night event was in the program book and since we haven't hosted a late night show in years, the fear was that we wouldn't have anyone there. We had a small number of left-overs from the 9:45 show, but it wasn't just the volunteers that participated in the karaoke. Spread the word for Friday night!
  • I've been hearing whispers and rumours that we will not be participating in Folklorama next year. I've been asked that by many people and a few have been very upset by what their hearing. I hear this negative talk every year during Folklorama week and I don't know if it's just one person that's spreading their displeasure or opinion or if there's any basis to these claims. I remember a couple of year's ago someone was saying we wouldn't have a Pavilion because taiko wasn't going to be in town. This in fact was false and no one from Hinode ever said they couldn't participate. I'm not saying we will or will not be in Folklorama next year (We could probably use a break), it's not for me to say right now, but I am saying the Pavilion is not the place to discuss the future. It's been a great week so far and let's enjoy it and keep it fun. If any volunteers, performers or coordinators are reading this and have any strong feelings about next year, please leave your comments and opinions here! We'll discuss this at greater length after Folklorama.
The weeks more than half over now, but there's still lots to see and hear. I'm already looking forward to sleeping in on Sunday...sigh.

Tuesday, August 05, 2008

Another Successful Night!

An appearance by the Lieutenant Governor of Manitoba, the honourable John Harvard, highlighted day three of Folklorama at the Japanese Pavilion. The crowds are continuing to grow and the bus tours are arriving in droves, yet a comfortable feeling of "being in control" is being felt by many of the volunteers. From an entertainment standpoint everything is running smoothly and the performers are relaxed and having fun, we couldn't ask for anything more.

Highlights and observations from night 3:
  • Karate returned to the Pavilion after taking a hiatus last year. Good to have the variety, because everybody loves to watch more traditional hand to hand combat.
  • Jesse debuted his first full night of emceeing for the Pavilion, as last year he shared an evening with Stacey. Jesse's charismatic-style is perfectly suited to this event, he loves to charm the audience with his somewhat sincere, yet always engaging wit and if there's a stage, Jesse will entertain.
  • Stay tuned on Wednesday when the Pavilion will stay open later for their first of two nights for a late night party. If you like karaoke be sure to stick around immediately following the 9:45 show (10:30) as Jesse will host this event until about 11:45, hopefully there is enough audience members to the make this entertaining. Part 2 will be on Friday night, so tell your friends!
  • It was the first night for the Kaede dancers, mainly the older group. When is Carol going to get better copies of her songs? She still uses cassettes that sound like they have been played over and over and get the idea. The tape hiss is getting so bad, it literary sounds like an old scratched up 78 from the 40's. I could have sworn someone put them on CD a few years ago. The best thing would be to find the original source and copy it directly to disc or digital file (will need lots of noise-reduction done to it).
  • Tonight was the last night for Kenji, one of our singers. It was also Keiko Saito-Hanssen's last night as one of the Aurora dancers this year and possibly for a while. I heard she might be taking a break from dancing, but I'll believe it when I see it. Keiko has been a solid performer for Aurora through the years and first got acquainted with her back when the Pavilion was held at the Cultural Centre. She is back on stage Thursday night as the emcee of the main stage show.
Wednesday should be exciting as Yuki (I'm not sure what his last name is...anyone know?) makes his first appearance as a singer and as I mentioned earlier, late night karaoke. I think it'll be a good time to try one of those Folklorama beers!

Night Two...5 Days Left

The crowds returned in large numbers to the Japan Pavilion on day two, I'm guessing half of Winnipeg must have returned from the lake because there was a line of people waiting outside the front doors already at 5:30pm when I arrived. The first two shows enjoyed near capacity crowds and I expect them to grow in numbers as the week goes on. The show was similar to the previous night with the exception of different dances performed by the Aurora dancers.

Highlights and observations from night 2:
  • Judo replaced Kendo for tonight's martial art. The group consisted of younger members, I think the highest rank belt on stage (besides Wayne) was a orange. I personally believe the audience is warming to the martial arts segment and by giving them 10 minutes before the main show it enables the rest of the show to flow nicely. Two years ago the martial arts segment was rushed to squeeze them into the main show and only allow them 5 or 6 minutes.
  • Monday saw the return of Shig to the stage, not as a member of Hinode taiko, but as the evening's emcee. His calm easy-going banter was a pleasant surprise as this was his Folklorama MC debut. Notice how the entertainment coordinator's roped their relatives (including their fathers) into this job, I guess the talent runs in the family.
  • Kenji's singing performance included 3 dancers behind him, Mitch was joined this time by Sumi and Keiko and when they're dancing on stage you hardly notice the singer. Visually this adds so much depth to the piece.
Tuesday will be an important night as the Lieutenant Governor of Manitoba, John Harvard is scheduled to pay our Pavilion a visit, as well as CITY-TV...should tuned.

Monday, August 04, 2008

First Night Jitters? No Problem,

Before the first night of Folklorama is always stressful and uncertain, will the stage be finished, will the performers be confused, will the show run longer than the allotted time slot, will an audience show up? All these things are legitimately concerns, but every year everything comes together and runs smoothly as it did last night. The performances on stage were top notch and well rehearsed and the show itself, which we formatted differently from last year, seemed to run without any glitches. The one thing that was noticeable was the smaller than average crowds for all three shows. The disadvantage of hosting a Pavilion on the first week is that the crowds are small early in the week because of the long weekend, but they gradually grow toward the end of the week. The second week is traditionally more successful financially because of the momentum carried from the first week via word of mouth and media reports and reviews.
Some highlights and observations from Night 1:
  • The martial arts groups will perform 15 minutes before each main stage show, the first night was the Manitoba Kendo Club. It was especially cute to see some of the younger (kids) members bashing each other with the kendo sticks and their little screaming voices from under those large helmets. This year we are back with all three MA groups, judo, karate and kendo.
  • For the first time in many years, we have three different singers that will perform throughout the week. Kenji Miyamoto was accompanied by his daughter Mitsuko who provided some interpretive dancing in the background. Kenji drew loud appreciative applause after each performance and you can tell he really enjoys performing on stage. Shayna Paulicelli for the fourth straight year is back and as I've said in the past she's a natural and a born performer. A powerful new song that combines Japanese and English lyrics will be a crowd pleaser all week. She is scheduled to perform for all but two nights. A third singer Yuki performs mid week on.
  • I didn't notice this before, but look closely at the photo with the taiko drummers against the back wall. They are standing on little risers that can be adjusted for height...thought that was kind of cool.
Overall a good night, maybe a little tweaking here and there, but should be a good week as long as the air conditioning holds out. In case your wondering about other aspects of the Pavilion I probably won't go there, I'm writing this from the point of view of a entertainment coordinator. I'll try to keep each day brief as it's hard to write something every night as well as working a 9-5 job, last year I stayed up late a minimum of 2 or 3 hours to write after coming home after 11pm. Thank you civic holiday!

A Little Pre-Folklorama Ramble

This year's Folklorama motto, "How far will you go?" can be interpreted, oh so many ways. It can be used to describe an unique approach, pushing the limits and maybe going to extreme measures. I doubt this is the case because Folklorama always plays it safe, Pavilions are not allowed to make political statements nor are they allowed to tread in controversial subject matter despite the historical significance (such as the internment of Japanese-Canadians by the Canadian Government) and for Folklorama to push it's limits means trying to attract a younger demographic by holding late-night parties (booze-fest) at select Pavilions since many view Folklorama as a seniors bus tour-type of event.

It can also mean, how many countries (Pavilions) can you see in 2 weeks? I heard a while back that they might bring back the passport pass where you could purchase an all-you-can-see passport for a set amount of $ and you would get each Pavilion's page stamped with a different stamp, sort of like seeing all these different countries. It was a popular idea 10 years ago, but I'm thinking it was too cost worthy for the Folk Art's council to swallow. In the past I remember there was also a Folklorama bus that was free to passport holders that ran a couple of routes from Pavilion to Pavilion. It cut time finding a place to park or if you didn't have a car you didn't have to reply on public transit to find yourself to the Pavilions.

More than likely, "How far will you go" refers to how far will you travel to Winnipeg to see Folklorama (from out-of-town), obviously one of it's major sponsor's Westjet takes delight in this tie-in and other years (maybe this year too, I'm not sure) a contest entrant has received a free flight to anywhere Westjet flies. Yes, the power of the sponsor! I received a list of all the official sponsors that have the exclusive right's to everything from beer, banking institutions, hotel services, soft drinks, and money transfer services...yes, Western Union is the official money transfer service of Folklorama 2008...what the hell? Even at our Pavilion, which is a school the other 358 days in the year, one of the vending machines is covered with paper to cover the fact the machine has "Coke" products inside. All official sponsor signage must be visible in the Pavilion and a two and a half minute CD that again recognizes the sponsors must be played before every show. I'm not saying there's anything wrong with corporate sponsorship, I'm just saying each Pavilion is starting to look like the MTS Centre where the boards, the ice and every inch of the building (including in the bathroom) is plastered with advertising.