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.

February 10, 2019 at 4:00 PM

Tenri Cultural Institute

43A West 13 Street, Manhattan

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. 


Boyd – A Feather on the Breath of God

Lombardo – SHAKUGO; Three Duets (world premiere)

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

Lam – Three Songs from Shide

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.


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.

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
, 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
, 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.

Vivien Leigh

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