Shoka - Japanese Children Songs | Analekta AN29130

Shoka - Japanese Children Songs


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Label: Analekta

Cat No: AN29130

Format: CD

Number of Discs: 1

Genre: Vocal/Choral

Release Date: 20th October 2014



Diana Damrau (soprano)
Orchestre Symphonique de Monrteal


Kent Nagano


Diana Damrau (soprano)
Orchestre Symphonique de Monrteal


Kent Nagano


One day, Kent Nagano listened carefully when his wife was singing a children’s song to his daughter. The song told a chapter of Japanese history previously unknown to him: It told of emotion, tenderness, love – and bitterness. The song originates from a period when Japan had to open up to the West. At this time, Japan was suffering from over population, starvation and poverty.

These songs came to me very late. Though of Japanese heritage, my family came to America at the end of the 19th century leaving me three generations away from Japan. I came down one morning to breakfast and found my daughter listening to these songs on a little recording, and my wife was singing along with the songs to try to teach them to my daughter.”

His daughter Karin Kei was three years old on the day she inspired one of her father’s most ambitious projects. Kent Nagano was so touched by the lyrics and sounds of the songs that he immediately started researching their source.

After quite a while, I’d say six weeks or two months, after listening every morning to these intriguing and beautiful melodies, it occurred to me that due to my limited Japanese, I had no complete comprehension of what they were about, and so I asked my daughter to explain the texts. Her translation, confirmed by my wife, revealed a complex and profoundly poetic collection of texts. They were at once both intensely moving emotionally and disturbing. Their haunting, mysterious beauty has continued to entice all generations since their creation making them actual and vividly relevant to our modern world.”

In Japan, the songs that enchanted Nagano are commonly known as 'Shoka', or school hymns. They are based on famous Japanese poetry, but are composed in the Western musical style. The songs emerged during the era of the Meiji-Restorations in the outgoing 19th and early 20th centuries. It was the time when Japan finally opened itself to the West after close to 250 years of reclusiveness. The backward feudal state transformed into a modern imperial world power.

It was in this period of economic and cultural upheaval that the children’s 'Shoka' came into being. Sometimes the lyrics deal with day to day life, while other songs tell of the strangers coming ashore in Japan. Some tell the stories of Japanese who went overseas to flee the poverty at home.

The songs from ancient times have left a deep impression on the American conductor and rekindled his interest in his Japanese roots. Kent Nagano wanted to bring them to public attention by a performance with the Orchestre symphonique de Montréal. His friend, Peter Schmidt, a famous designer from Hamburg, created animated short films to support the musical event.

1. nanatsu no ko (Seven Little Ones)
2. amefuri otsukisan (Monn in the Rain)
3. soushunfu (Song of Early Spring)
4. aoime no niñgyou (Blue-eyed Doll)
5. tsukimisoo no hana (Evening Primrose)
6. jyuugoya otsukisañ (Dear Old Full Moon)
7. hanakage (In the Shadow of Flowers)
8. yuuyake koyake (Burning Sunset)
9. haruyo koi (Spring, Come Soon!)
10. sumidagawa (On the Sumida River)
11. akatoñbo (Red Dragonflies)
12. akai kutsu (Red Shoes)
13. oboro zukiyo (Blurry Moon)
14. natsuwa kinu (Summer has Come)
15. hanayome ningyou (Bridal Doll)
16. chin chin chidori (Orchestral Fantasy on “Chin, Chin, Chidori”)
17. hamachidori (Beach Plovers)
18. dokokade haruga (Where is Spring?)
19. chin chin chidori (Chin, Chin, Chidori)
21. sakura (Sakura, Sakura)
22. ano-machi kono-machi (This Town, That Town)

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