Festal Ballade for Band
ItoMusic / Brain
Commissioned by Japan Maritime Self Defense Force, OMINATO BAND
Premiered on 21 September 2016
Beyond the long and bitter-cold winters, the people in Aomori drown in the joy and delight of summer festivities, where summers are short-lived. Brightly lit and colorfully decorated floats called Nebuta are a common feature in Aomori’s festive summer parades.
“Festal Ballade” is a continuation from “Festal Scenes” (1986), which is a piece still very well received by many, something I am proud to say with my utmost gratitude. It is a creative blend of Japanese musical elements and Western composition technique, and about six minutes long. “Festal Scenes” was commissioned by the Wind Band of the Maritime Self-Defense Force of Ominato in Aomori, and features four popular folk songs from the Aomori prefecture of Japan.
30 years on, this new composition, also employing the same folk songs, was born from a request, once again, by the mentioned wind band.
Following the astounding progress of Japanese wind bands’ performance profile on an international level since 1986, back when information and resources were scarcely available, “Festal Ballade” can be said to have evolved greatly (from “Festal Scenes”) into something more authentic, and perhaps, “truly Japanese”. The melodies from “Tsugaru Jongara-bushi Kyokubiki Rokudan”,“Tsugaru Aiya-bushi”,“Hoh-hai-bushi”, and “Aomori Nebuta” are presented in sequence, while hidden expressions of melodies from the “Ominato Nebuta”, “Hachinohe Sansha Taisai” can also be relished.
In a matter of 30 years, the power of the Internet has vastly improved, while the Japanese bullet train service has also expanded, bringing Aomori closer than ever. Things have changed, apparently, even for things that did not seem to have. The gradual change in tempo and rhythm of the Taiko drums at Nebuta festivals is just one example.
I can only imagine what my composition would be like in another 30 years, if the band of the Maritime Self-Defense Force would, hopefully, once again request for my services in creating a new variation. Without doubt, the world would have changed significantly. In the least, it is my personal wish that world peace is prevalent, and that Nebuta festivals can still be enjoyed as it is now.
Bar 176 onwards: To be performed as close to the “Aiya-bushi’s” triple time. The beats’ lengths are not even, with something similar to 1st >2nd >3rd beats. A search on the Internet about the “Tsugaru Aiya-bushi” is strongly recommended.
Bars 261 to 274, and/or bars 311 to 317 can be omitted, to shorten the piece to a little over 8 minutes long. The full piece is a little over 9 minutes.
Flute 1, 2 (also Piccolo)
Clarinet in Eb (optional)
Clarinets in Bb 1
Clarinets in Bb 2, 3
Bass Clarinet in Bb
Alto Saxophones in Eb
Tenor Saxophone in Bb
Baritone Saxophone in Eb
Horns in F 1, 2. 3, 4
Trumpets in Bb 1, 2, 3
Trombones 1, 2, 3
Percussion 1 - Cabaca, Cymbals, 2 Temple Blocks, 2 Suspended Cymbals (large and normal), Bass Drum, Tam
Percussion 2 - Wood Block, Flexatone, Bamboo Chime, Suspended Cymbal, Sleigh Bells, 2 Toms, Bass Drum, Tam
Percussion 3 - Xylophone, Marimba, Vibraphone, Chanchiki, Sleigh Bells, Tehiragane