Kyo Shin an Arts, Brings Japanese and Western Classical Music together for 10 Years

From groundbreaking to mainstream, over the last decade KSA has built and promoted a wide body of new classical repertoire combining Japanese and Western instruments. Commissions to date total 29 composers for 49 new works.

The 10th Anniversary Season continues on February 10 with SNOWDROP MOMENT, a program of solos and duos for kugo, harp and shakuhachi performed by Tomoko Sugawara and James Nyoraku Schlefer.

Sunday, February 10, 2019 at 4:00 PM

Tenri Cultural Institute

43A West 13 Street, Manhattan

SNOWDROP MOMENT: The beautiful Japanese kugo disappeared from East Asia 1,000 years ago and from the Middle East 300 years ago. Over a decade ago, harpist Tomoko Sugawara recreated the instrument from ancient images. Join Kyo-Shin-An Arts in a voyage of discovery and an afternoon of contemporary music for kugo, Western harp and shakuhachi.

Music by Anne Boyd, Bun-Ching Lam, Kikuko Matsumoto, Michiyo Miyagi and more. Featuring world premieres by Yao Heng-lu and Robert Lombardo. 


Anne Boyd – A Feather on the Breath of God

Robert Lombardo – SHAKUGO; Three Duets (world premiere)

Yao Heng-Lu – Moon in Mid-Autumn and Good Scene South of River (world premiere)

Bun-Ching Lam – Three Songs from Shide

Kikuko Matsumoto – Tsuma-Shirabe

ABOUT THE KUGO: The Kugo (Angular harp). With an L-shaped body, it arose in Mesopotamia around 1900 B.C.  It soon spread to other regions of the Near East, eventually becoming a favorite instrument in local Islamic cultures where it survived until 1700 A.D.  Meanwhile, it entered the Silk Road and reached China around 500 CE.  Korea and Japan came next, but it disappeared from the Far East by 1100.  Egypt adopted it 1400 B.C.  Wherever it went, artists, poets, and musicians loved its beautiful shape and admired its complex sound.  But angular harps hardly penetrated into Europe, which instead launched its own harp –the Frame harp– although at a very late date, 800 A.D.  Slowly Frame harps took over the world.  — Bo Lawergren, Professor emeritus, Department of Physics & Astronomy, Hunter College of CUNY, New York.



TOMOKO SUGAWARA, KUGO AND HARP. Born in Tokyo, Tomoko Sugawara began to play the Irish harp at age twelve and the grand harp at sixteen.  A graduate of Tokyo University with a degree in Fine Arts, Sugawara first discovered the kugo in 1994.  In 2007, The Asian Cultural Council gave her a grant to research the instrument in New York. Her instrument was reconstructed by the historical harp maker Bill Campbell in 2007, based on designs seen in ancient kugo pictures as well as instruments that survived at the Emperor’s treasure house, Shosoin, in Japan. Sugawara has performed on both the concert harp and kugo in many major international venues, including the World Harp Congresses in Prague and Amsterdam; Meiji University, The New York Qin Society, the Fifth Symposium for Music Archaeology, and at Berlin, Columbia, Indiana, Princeton and Harvard Universities, the University of Pennsylvania and the British Museum. She was awarded a fellowship from the Asian Cultural Council during 2007 – 2008, and a grant from the Rohm Music Foundation in 2007.  Alone or in ensemble, Ms. Sugawara and her kugo provide an enchanting, meditative excursion through many cultures, moods and ages.  Her partner and manager, music archeologist Bo Lawergren augments her performances with amusing anecdotes and painted illustrations of the Kugo from various historical contexts.


JAMES NYORAKU SCHLEFER, SHAKUHACHI, is a Grand Master of the shakuhachi and one of only a handful of non-Japanese artists to have achieved this rank. He received the Dai-Shi-Han (Grand Master) certificate in 2001, and his second Shi-Han certificate in 2008, from the Mujuan Dojo in Kyoto. He has performed at Carnegie Hall, Lincoln Center, the Kennedy Center, Tanglewood and BAM, as well as multiple venues across the country and in Japan, Indonesia, Brazil and Europe. Schlefer first encountered the shakuhachi in 1979, while working towards a career as a flute player and pursuing an advanced degree in musicology. Today he is considered by his colleagues to be one of most influential Western practitioners of this distinctive art form. Known to his students as Nyoraku sensei, Schlefer established his own dojo in NYC in 1996. He also teaches shakuhachi at Columbia University, a broad spectrum of Western and World music courses at New York City College of Technology (CUNY), and performs and lectures at colleges and universities throughout the United States. As a composer, Schlefer has written multiple chamber and orchestral works combining Japanese and Western instruments as well as numerous pieces solely for traditional Japanese instruments. In December 2015, he was recognized by Musical America Worldwide as one of their “30 Top Professionals and Key Influencers” for his work both as a composer and Artistic Director of Kyo-Shin-An Arts. His writings about the shakuhachi and his career were published in 2018 on NewMusicBox and he was profiled by the National Endowment for the Arts’ “Arts Works Blog” in May 2016. His programming for Kyo-Shin-An Arts has also been recognized with two CMA/ASCAP Awards for Adventurous Programming (2013 and 2016). His orchestral music can be heard on the recording Spring Sounds Spring Season MSR Classics.

KYO-SHIN-AN ARTS: Kyo-Shin-An Arts’ is a contemporary music organization with a mission to commission music and present concerts that bring Japanese instruments – specifically koto, shakuhachi and shamisen – to Western classical music. A 2016 and 2013 CMA/ASCAP Adventurous Programming Award winner (small presenter, mixed repertory), Kyo-Shin-An Arts will be presenting its 10h chamber music season at the Tenri Cultural Institute. KSA works in partnership with established ensembles and Western soloists, bridging two cultures by introducing composers and players alike to the range and virtuosity of Japanese instruments and the musicians who play them. The resulting music provides audiences with a unique introduction to traditional Japanese music within a familiar context and fabulous contemporary music. Concerts feature a blend of KSA commissions with World, American and NY premieres, traditional and contemporary music for Japanese instruments and Western repertoire. Current ensemble partners include the Cassatt and Voxare String Quartets in NYC, the Arianna and Ciompi in MO and NC, Ensemble Epomeo, Sybarite5, River Oaks Chamber Orchestra and Orchestra of the Swan in the UK. Players of Japanese instruments include Christopher Yohmei Blaisdel, Masayo Ishigure, Yoko Reikano Kimura, Nami Kineie, Yumi Kurosawa, Riley Lee, John Kaizan Neptune, Yoko Nishi, Akihito Obama and James Nyoraku Schlefer.  Commissioned composers to date include Victoria Bond, Chad Cannon, Ciara Cornelius, Douglas j Cuomo, Carlos Sanchez-Gutierrez, Daron Hagen, Matthew Harris, William Healy, Kento Iwasaki, Mari Kimura, Angel Lam, Daniel Levitan, Gilda Lyons, James Matheson, Paul Moravec, Mark Nowakowski, Yoko Sato, Somei Satoh, James Nyoraku Schlefer, Benjamin Verdery, Aleksandra Vrebalov and Randall Woolf, among others.

TENRI CULTURAL INSTITUTE AND KYO-SHIN-AN ARTS PRESENT: The excellent acoustics and intimate gallery setting of the Tenri Cultural Institute create a superb setting for listening to chamber music and offer audiences the rare opportunity to hear both traditional and contemporary music from two cultures in a setting similar to the music rooms of the courts and castles of both Europe and Japan. Over 300 years of chamber music tradition are presented throughout this series. Performances feature piano trios and string quartets from the great composers of Europe, music from Japan’s Edo period written for shamisen, koto and shakuhachi and contemporary music combining Western and Japanese instruments.


March 10, 2019 at 4PM: Spring Green, Hub New Music: Michael Avitabile, flute; David Dziardziel, clarinet; Zenas Hsu, violin; Jesse Christensen, cello; and James Nyoraku Schlefer, shakuhachi. This exciting, young quartet brings their own commissions with shakuhachi to KSA. Quintets by Chad Cannon, Takuma Itoh, Kojiro Umezaki, and Angel Lam (co-commission), plus quartets by Matthew Aucoin (world premiere) and Judd Greenstein.

April 14, 2019 at 4PM: Kammerraku Anniversary, Cassatt String Quartet: Muneko Otani and Jennifer Leshnower, violins; Ah Ling Neu, viola; Elizabeth Anderson, cello; with Yoko Reikano Kimura, shamisen and voice; Sumie Kaneko, koto and voice; and James Nyoraku Schlefer, shakuhachi. The first of the 10th Anniversary septet concerts. World premieres by Schlefer and Daron Hagen, plus the Ravel quartet.


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