Friday, December 04, 2009

Sacred Clay: Japan 2006

Producing this international music tour for good friend, World Music Artist Gary Stroutsos, was something I had wanted to do for a long time. After having him perform with master koto musician Elizabeth Falconer for a Moon Viewing concert at the Seattle Japanese Garden, I knew that I wanted to take Gary to Japan and that his heartfelt music would be well received there. Gary has a thick resume, with multiple CD's and performances in venues like the White House (for President Clinton due to his soundtrack work on Ken Burns' Lewis & Clark documentary,) Canyon DeChelley (live recording work on Native American flutes,) and Seattle's Benaroya Hall, to name just a few of many. His music is hard to pigeonhole, but floats across world cultures and traditions through the
vehicle of American Jazz.
The concert tour included 9 performances in 6 cities starting with a formal concert in Tokyo's AKO Studio (an acoustic performance hall made entirely of the same wood used in pianos, spruce I think. Gary was a special guest of Yamaha keyboardist Chiaki Sato, a nationally recognized synthesizer player since a child (and my cousin!) Besides a duet performance, Gary got to play & display a number of clay flutes and whistles made by Ceramic artist Rod Kendall. here's a shot of Gary & Chiaki in a Yamaha rehersal studio.

Below is a shot of Gary performing INSIDE an old pottery kiln in the ancient kiln city of Tokoname. A Kyoueigama Gallery in Tokoname, 65 seats fit into this old kiln that formerlyly fired a few thousand pots at a time. The glazed brick interior was an acoustic blessing and it was a real treat to hear Rod Kendall's clay flutes in there.

Next, we were off to four Buddhist Temple concerts in Gifu Prefecture. Here Gary is outside of Houfukuji in Kakamigahara City, not far from Nagoya. Inside, he played an evening concert lit only by the temple's candles and incense. Afterwards, the guests were treated to a shojin ryori (temple food, mostly vegetarian) meal prepared by Mrs. Nishibu (Rev. Nishibu's wife) and temple staff. Another temple concert was in the mountain town of Takayama at the historic Kokubinji Temple (founded in the 7th century.) After these concerts, we headed to my old town of Mashiko, where the annual Pottery Festival was going on. Gary played at the Mashiko Messe Ceramic Museum in front of the Hamada Shoji House. The next day, a performance held in a stone "kura" (storehouse) converted to a cafe made another great acoustic venue for Gary's flutes. It was a memorable trip and we have plans for another Japan in the near future!
For all ceramic-instrument music, check out the CD "Sacred Clay." Gary Stroutsos on wind instruments and Grammy-nominated percussionist Will Clipman on udu and other percussion instruments, all created by Olympia, WA clay artist Rod Kendall. Available through our website,

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