On Thursday night, December 8, the Celt Taiko students of Crespi Carmelite High School in Encino held their annual Winter Concert. Father Paul provided a prayer and led the Pledge of Allegiance after expressing gratitude to God that the Arts Building was now available to provide a stage for music and theater productions of the school.
The three Taiko classes - Beginning, Advanced, and Performance Ensemble - each performed at least two arrangements before an audience of more than 150 parents, friends, and volunteers. Cameron Hygate, an Advanced Class Junior, asked the audience how many had never been to a Taiko performance before. About 25 hands shot into the air. Afterwards, many of these newcomers expressed how stirring and professional the Celt Taiko performance was that evening and they wished other friends had been there to share in the experience. They will have an opportunity to attend the Spring Concert this May.
Blaine O'Brien, class instructor, let all his students display their full talents on a stage expertly lighted and decorated with black and red drapery, strands of lights, golden fans, and paper lanterns. During one number in the first half, the platform was packed with fourteen drums and Beginner students (who had only studied Taiko for only a few months) impressing the crowd with their studied coordination during "Renshu" - a Japanese verb for "Practice." They returned later to perform Joel Mankey's "Shonami" (little wave).
The Advanced Class showed the "Naname" stance with the drums slanted at an angle during their performance of "Oiuchi Daiko" by Kenny Endo. They returned to perform another Endo piece called "Odaiko Kakiai Kihon Kyoku." This number featured two large overhead Odaiko drums flanked by four performers in a rhythmic back and forth alternation between one another. Blaine had been able to borrow one of the huge drums from CSUN's Jinshin Taiko troupe. The students (mostly Sophomores and Juniors) had a chance to display the stamina required to play for eight minutes with the only respite provided by four original solos performed during the piece (see video below).
Each half was bookended by the extraordinary flair of the Celt Taiko Performance Ensemble - six performers who are enjoying their third or fourth year of playing Taiko at Crespi. These young men now display the level of confidence that raises the bar for future performances at Crespi. "Raion" was performed with particular mastery as four of the troupe played two taiko at once with amazing originality of composition and movement artistry.
With four returning next year, the heights to which they can aspire has been raised significantly. Their motivation will be fueled by the upcoming team trip to Stanford in the Spring where they will learn and interact with collegiate and professional masters of this genre of music. The Performance Ensemble performed a beautiful and rousing first rendition of "Omiyage" punctuated by cheers from those on the stage and on the floor alike.
Blaine O'Brien thanked the many volunteers who had organized the theater, decorated the stage, sold raffle tickets, contributed prizes and food items, and sold Taiko memorabilia. Over $2,500 was raised to help fund the Spring trip. The day after he praised the students' dedication:
The amount of work that went into what little time we had has payed off in a more important way as well. I personally feel like the kids had a very good run last night. It was both inspiring to them, and incredibly educational. As a leader and teacher, I saw my students execute my instructions to a tee, even down to correct ways to recover from a mistake on stage. They are learning to be performers at a core level, and the support you show tells them that it matters.
In the spring we'll have far more time to take that same talent and make a bigger gathering of it. Now that we have our first show together in the bag, I can better approach coordinating jobs next time and focus even more on teaching, ensuring that we have the entertainment to build such a great show upon.
For now we only have one blurry video to offer of the show (above and on the "Watch Us" page). Matthew Somogyi, whose name was unfortunately omitted from the program, committed to filming the entire concert with additional footage from the rehearsal and personal interviews. We look forward to screening his edited production at Crespi and hope to post additional photos and video footage on this site. So add your name to the list of followers and return often to this site to see additional opportunities to watch our students perform.