Music to Lift the Spirits - the Aobayama Concert Series

Nestled behind BOOOK and the School of Engineering cafeteria, away from the main roads of Aobayama campus, is the Aoba Memorial Hall, where a grand piano sits elegantly in the lobby.

The piano was a donation from the university's Mechanical Engineering Alumni Association to the School of Engineering after the Great East Japan Earthquake, to "lift the students' spirits through music."

This generous gesture would lead to the inception of the Aobayama Concert series, a platform for Tohoku University's students, faculty and staff to showcase their musical talents.

Now in its 16th iteration, this free concert has become so popular with students and the local community, that a recent event on November 24 had to be split into two sessions - a short lunchtime programme, and a full-length concert in the evening.

In all, there were 20 performances, a medley of solo instrumentals, duets, choral singing and even an angklung ensemble comprised of the Indonesian Student Association and their family members.

"We're here because we wanted to introduce our traditional culture, and to let people know that this is the kind of music we have in Indonesia," said Hanif Saifurrahman, an engineering student.

The group performed Beethoven's Für Elise in A Minor and the Doraemon Theme Song. "We have a piano performing with us as well, so although the angklung is a traditional instrument, its sound can be integrated into different genres like classical and pop music."

Other highlights of the evening included alumnus Yasuhiko Tahara (mandolin) and Reiko Abe (piano) doing a duet of A. W. Ketelbey's In a Persian Market, Dr. Takeaki Sato (piano) of the Department of Emergency Medicine performing Chopin's Barcarolle and the duo of Masabumi Yunome (guitar) and Takao Imai (electric keyboards) playing Christmas songs.

For students Chii Ri (piano) and Kazuma Minami (piano), performing at a previous Aobayama Concert was such a fun experience that they wanted to do it again. "I really wanted to try to perform Debussy's L'Isle Joyeuseo this time, so I signed up again," said Minami, a physics student who still makes time each week to practice the piano.

The concept for the Aobayama Concert series has its early roots in a string quartet that Satoshi Murata, a professor at the Department of Mechanical Engineering, formed with students and staff at the School of Engineering.

"This was after the 2011 earthquake. Initially, the four of us - a cello, two violins and a viola - just wanted to play music, so we practiced various Mozart and Haydn quartets together," said Murata, an avid cellist. "Then we started doing concerts at the BOOOK café."

The arrival of the grand piano in 2016 marked a turning point. "Since the piano is on our campus, the original idea was that anyone associated with Tohoku University could play it, and it would serve as a spiritual revival for those affected by the earthquake."

The piano soon drew interest from other talented musicians from all levels of the university. Among them, Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering Professor Toshihiko Nakata who would also become one of the founders of the Aobayama Concert series.

Under the stewardship of Murata and Nakata, the Aobayama Concert is now held two or three times a year, and attracts an audience of about a hundred people from around the university and local community. The series is supported by the Graduate School of Engineering, and a university-wide call for musicians is usually issued about a month before each concert.

The next one is currently scheduled for February 2024, so Tohoku University members interested in performing or attending should look out for the announcements at the Aobayama Concert homepage or here at the university's website next month.


Aobayama Concert Executive Committee

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