The concert event went well today. About 100 people in the Alice Mackay Room, at the Vancouver Public Library + CTV coverage. Pretty good for very short notice. The event started with Harry Aoki and Alison Nishihara playing Pachabel’s Canon on harmonica and piano.
Then I welcomed everybody and explained what the Save Kogawa House Committee was all about. I also told people that we were very grateful for the Vancouver Opera Touring Ensemble gifting us with a performance.
I had seen excerpts at a Roy Miki lecture, the Vancouver Arts Awards, and still I had tears in my eyes when I saw performances on opening weekend and just last week at the library.
Harry Aoki next talked about some of his experiences during the war years, and afterwards at the sugar beet farms in Alberta. He next played some pieces on his double bass that he wrote during that time. A surprise dance performance by Toronto choreographer/dancer Andrea Nann brought a spellbinding tone to the music. Harry closed with a final piece on his harmonica that he played while traveling in Romania and they asked for “Canadian music” – a bit of a hoe-down.
Next up was artist Raymond Chow. We introduced the acrylic painting that he has done for limited edition reproduction to help raise funds for Save Kogawa House. This was the first day Joy had seen the painting. Raymond spoke about how he was inspired by “Naomi’s Road” and the pictures to paint the old house with a 6 year old Joy standing in front. I told how when Ann-Marie and I went to see Raymond and the painting on Thursday that he had played us a short rendition of a song based on the story. He then played “House of Joy” for the audience.
Introducing the Vancouver Opera Touring Ensemble, I told the audience that they had just returned from Vancouver Island playing an amazing show in Uculet, and also in Campbell River and other places + a standing ovation on Denman Island.
The room filled with song from the voices of Jessica Cheung, Gina Oh, Sam Chung and Sung Chung. The audience sat rapt in attention, as the story unfolded. The singers coming up to their 30th performance, as fresh and as exuberant as each time I have seen them. I am getting familiar with the songs and story, and still – I am amazed at the staging, the acting and the performance. Everybody does such as good job.
The applause was healthy and the cast was called back for more bows. I then told the audience that it was easy to see why if Obasan was the book every Vancouverite should read, then Naomi’s Road was the book every Vancouverite should see. The audience responded very positively when I asked them “Do you think every Canadian should see Naomi’s Road?” Again, I invited people to tell all their friends about Naomi’s Road, and about Kogawa House, and that we were accepting donations at the back.
I invited the cast back as well as our earlier performers so that Ann-Marie Mettern could give each person a gift. I named them each – Gina, Jessica, Sam, Sung, David, Angus, Harry, Andrea, Raymond and Alison.
Next, I invited Joy to say a few words. There were tears in her eyes, as she said “There are no words to describe how happy I am…. To the Vancouver Opera Touring Ensemble, Joy said “Every time I see you perform, I am amazed. It is so wonderful.” She looked at Jessica, and said “You’re e-mail mentioned how the opera is healing for some people. You’re absolutely right…. Everything that is happening. It is all so wonderful.”
People lined up to buy books at the back and have them autographed. People lined up to talk with the performers. One person came up and talked with Ann-Marie and myself about having Naomi’s Road staged at a Heritage Site and splitting 50/50 with the Save Kogawa House campaign.
It was a good day.