By Martine Bigos (IV)
On Sunday, November 10, Pingry Taiko Drumming attended Columbia University’s Fall Taiko Festival in Manhattan. The drummers performed “Dokokara” and “Matsuri” and they enjoyed the performances of many talented groups, including Swarthmore, Cornell, and Stony Brook Taiko. Noah Bergam (V) represented Pingry in the group performance of “Tonbane” at the end of the festival. Noah said that the performance “made me realize that our Taiko group doesn’t exist in a vacuum. There are so many nuanced styles and group dynamics––it was awesome to see it all coalesce on stage and form a community of drummers.” Belinda Poh (IV), another member of the club, added, “It was a really cool experience to see how many different people played and the different ways to play. I think it was worth it and all in all a really interesting and fun thing to do. Performing was fun, but watching the other groups I think was the best part.”
Mr. Leone, Pingry’s Taiko Club leader, was interviewed shortly after the festival, and below are excerpts of that conversation:
How did you learn about the festival?
I performed at the Columbia Fall Taiko Festival last year as a member of New York Taiko Aiko Kai (NYTAK). One of NYTAK’s performing members and Columbia Taiko’s president, Koh Yamakawa, was in charge of running the festival last year, and after learning that I advised a taiko group at Pingry, he was eager to have us perform at this year’s festival.
What was your favorite performance to watch?
I’m always in awe of any performance of Jack Bazaar (performed by Swarthmore Taiko at the festival). Kris Bergstrom, the composer of the piece and lead instructor at the Los Angeles Taiko Institute, is a pioneer of naname (slant drum) style choreography, and looks for ways to push and challenge the boundaries of how to play taiko. He ran a workshop at the East Coast Taiko Conference a few years back, and we spent the full two-and-a-half hour workshop just learning the first six measures of the piece (a section titled “Cronkite”). While the rhythms aren’t necessarily difficult, the movement is incredibly challenging, so it’s something special to see the piece be performed.
Are there any pieces that you would like to bring to Pingry that you saw at the festival?
I’m thinking of bringing in Omiyage (performed by Taiko Tides at the festival, composed by Shoji Kameda) as one of next year’s performance pieces. The rhythms and choreography are a little tricky, but it is a fun and satisfying piece to play. It’s also one of the pieces that inspired me when I first started playing taiko, so it would be special for me to get to teach and have our students perform it. I’m hoping to get a couple of student-written pieces worked in to our repertoire. Getting to see other groups play, each with their different styles, opens the door for what is possible rhythmically and choreographically, so I’d like to channel that into helping our group write a few pieces of our own to help us define our own Pingry Taiko style.