An Afternoon of Japanese Koto: UMD Japanese Koto Ensemble

An Afternoon of Japanese Koto

UMD Japanese Koto Ensemble and the Washington Toho Koto Society
Sunday, April 24, 2022 . 2PM
Photo by David Andrews.
Principal People: 

Kyoko Okamoto, director

Special Announcement: 

The livestream for this event will be available to view until June 24th.

Event Attributes

Presented By

Presented By: 

For more information regarding accessible accommodations, please click here.

Join us in person at The Clarice or watch the livestream from the comfort of your home.

Directed by Kyoko Okamoto, the UMD Japanese Koto Ensemble features elegant music played on the koto, a traditional Japanese 13-string instrument. Koto music reflects the quiet beauty, simplicity and harmonizing effect of Japanese nature. The concert will also feature the Washington Toho Koto Society.

The Clarice lobby concession bar Encore will not be open for food and beverage sales during this event.

Health + Safety

Patrons attending University of Maryland arts events are no longer required to show proof of vaccination or a negative COVID-19 test. We continue to encourage audiences to wear a mask and stay current with vaccinations and boosters. Please see our Health & Safety information page for information about what to expect during your visit.

Introduction & Welcome
J. Lawrence Witzleben, UMD Professor of Ethnomusicology
Greetings from the Embassy of Japan
Paolo Lami, UMD Mechanical Engineering student
Koto Uta (Koto Songs)
arr. Toshihiko Mizuno (b. 1957)
Mary Josie Blanchard, flute
Sachiko Smith, sangen
Nicholas Mangialardi, shakuhachi
Eriko Murray, vocal
Hanaikada (Flower Petal “Raft”)
Tadao Sawai (1937–1997)
Hiina (Something Beautiful)
Ichiro Sakamoto
Rokudan no Shirabe (Six Variations)
Yatsuhashi Kengyo (1614–1685)
Kaoru Hana (Fragrant Flowers)
Kimio Etoh (1924–2012)
Nihon Meikashu (Medley of Japanese popular songs)
arr. Seiho Nomura (1927–2011)
Nicholas Mangialardi, shakuhachi
Yachiyo Jishi (Lion Dance)
Kengyo Fujinaga (1742–1780)
Yuriko Gandolfo, koto and vocal
Sachiko Smith, sangen and vocal
Nicholas Mangialardi, shakuhachi
Haru no Umi (The Sea in the Spring Time)
Michiyo Miyagi (1894–1956)
Kyoko Okamoto, koto
Mary Josie Blanchard, flute
Hikari to Kaze to… (Lightning and Wind and…)
Masaaki Kikushiro (1915–unknown)
It is my great pleasure to welcome you to the 50th Annual Japanese Spring Koto Recital presented by the University of Maryland Japanese Koto Ensemble and Washington Toho Koto Society. The koto, with its delicate, yet resonating sounds, is a beautiful traditional Japanese instrument. Its musicality can truly be appreciated during the spring season and the blooming of the cherry blossoms.
Every year in the heart of the capital, we celebrate the coming of spring amidst a sea of vibrant cherry blossom trees—a token of friendship gifted by the city of Tokyo to Washington, D.C. This year marks the 110th anniversary of this symbolic gift, commemorating the ties of friendship between our two countries. And, just like the cherry blossom trees, the beauty of the music performed today transcends barriers and connects us as people.
I would like to extend a special thanks to Kyoko Okamoto, founder of the Washington Toho Koto Society and Director of the UMD Japanese Koto Ensemble, for her 50 years of dedication to promoting and teaching the beauty of Japanese culture to the younger generation through her passion for the koto and Japanese music. Congratulations to all members of the Society, the students and faculty at the University of Maryland on another successful annual recital. I hope you all enjoy this afternoon of magical performances.
Tomita Koji
Ambassador of Japan
Koto Uta (Koto Songs)
This is a medley of four well-known traditional Japanese songs: Nihonbashi Bridge of Old Edo, Cherry Blossoms, Counting Song, and Moon Over the Ruined Castle. It includes three koto sections along with shakuhachi, vocal, and sangen. The third koto was created for UMD students, who began playing koto just three months ago.
First koto: Manami Awazu, Joshua Batugo, Yoshiko Capps, Brian Cheung, Dennis Erickson*, Kumiko Gale, Colin Khem, Paolo Lami*, Leina Maeda, Lombar Martinez, Raina Newsome*, Keiko O’Rourke, Priscilla Seah, Fuki Tsujikawa, Yoshiko Tucker
Second koto: Zainab Abdul-Rahim, Yoshiko Carlton, Yuriko Gandolfo, Jackie Lee, Changxu Pang
Third koto: Aidan Appleson*, Lydia Danen, Nicholas Kristy*, Huimin Lin*, Kyoko Okamoto, Sabrina Sanchez*, Adam John Santilli*, Cole Shapiro*
Hanaikada (Flower Petal “Raft”)
Imagine rafts of delicate flower petals floating down a clear mountain stream.
First koto: Paolo Lami*, Raina Newsome*
Second koto: Dennis Erickson*, Colin Khem
Hiina (Something Beautiful)
Hiina or Hina means something beautiful, and the word can be found in literature from the Heian Period. Hina dolls were popular among the children of the aristocratic families. Nowadays, Hina dolls are elaborate collections of ornamental dolls representing the Emperor, Empress, attendants, and musicians.
First koto: Aidan Appleson*, Colin Khem, Nicholas Kristy*, Huimin Lin*, Sabrina Sanchez*, Adam John Santilli*, Cole Shapiro*
Second koto: Kyoko Okamoto
Rokudan no Shirabe (Six Variations)
This most famous classical composition is a good example of Danmono, which is a purely instrumental koto piece with a theme, followed by several variations, each having an equal number of measures.
Koto: Zainab Abdul-Rahim, Yoshiko Carlton, Brian Cheung, Yuriko Gandolfo, Colin Khem, Jackie Lee, Lombar Martinez, Kyoko Okamoto, Changxu Pang, Sachiko Smith
Kaoru Hana (Fragrant Flowers)
Inspired by the delicate sweet fragrance of flowers, this work expresses the freshness of spring.
First koto: Zainab Abdul-Rahim, Joshua Batugo, Yoshiko Carlton, Paolo Lami*, Leina Maeda, Kyoko Okamoto, Priscilla Seah
Second koto: Yoshiko Capps, Brian Cheung, Lombar Martinez, Raina Newsome*,
Keiko O’Rourke, Sachiko Smith
Third koto: Yuriko Gandolfo, Jackie Lee, Changxu Pang
Bass koto: Dennis Erickson*, Colin Khem, Fuki Tsujikawa
Nihon Meikashu (Medley of Japan’s Popular Songs)
This ensemble piece includes four well-known Japanese contemporary songs: Bride Doll, Departing Ship, Snowy Town, and Coconut.
First koto: Zainab Abdul-Rahim, Kyoko Okamoto, Priscilla Seah, Sachiko Smith
Second koto: Yuriko Gandolfo, Jackie Lee, Changxu Pang
Bass koto: Colin Khem
Yachiyo Jishi (Lion Dance)
Literal translation is “the lion dance for eight thousand generations.” This is a piece of traditional celebratory music. The lyrics express longevity in poetic terms by referring to pine trees as a symbol of longevity. An example of tegoto-mono form, the work consists of an opening song, an instrumental interlude (tegoto), and a closing song.
Haru no Umi (The Sea in the Spring Time)
This is the most renowned and exquisite piece for the koto and shakuhashi duet. One can clearly imagine and feel the tranquility of waves rolling along a seashore and out to sea with fishing boats coming and going in the spring. The passing of the sea melody back and forth between the koto and shakuhachi, played with flute today, creates a wonderful harmony.
Hikari to Kaze to… (Lightning and Wind and…)
It contrasts the beauty of straight lines of lightning with the sweeping curves of the wind.
First koto: Zainab Abdul-Rahim, Yoshiko Carlton, Brian Cheung, Yuriko Gandolfo, Jackie Lee, Leina Maeda, Keiko O’Rourke, Changxu Pang, Priscilla Seah, Sachiko Smith, Yoshiko Tucker
Second koto: Manami Awazu, Joshua Batugo, Kyle Brady, Yoshiko Capps, Lydia Danen, Kumiko Gale, Tetsuko Harris, Paolo Lami*, Lombar Martinez, Raina Newsome*, Kyoko Okamoto, Fuki Tsujikawa
Bass koto: Dennis Erickson*, Colin Khem
* Indicates UMD student
All program notes by Yuriko Gandolfo
The Koto, or “so”, produces an evocative sound recognized in Japanese cultural surveys as the most distinctively Japanese voice in Japan’s spectrum of musical instruments. The six-foot-long board zither is made of paulownia (kiri) wood with movable bridges supporting the thirteen strings that are plucked with three ivory picks worn on the right hand. The left hand also manipulates the strings to create more varied sounds. A Japanese precursor to the koto was produced in prehistoric times, but this more elaborate zither was introduced from China and Korea by the eighth century. In the mid-17th century, the koto moved beyond use by courtier, priest, and scholar to become a popular instrument.
The Shakuhachi is a Japanese and ancient Chinese bamboo flute. Scholars believe it was first brought to Japan in the 7th century from China. Like koto, shakuhachi was first performed mostly in the Imperial Court and did not become widely available until the 17th century.
The Sangen or Shamisen was brought to Okinawa (the southernmost islands of Japan) in the 16th century. An integral part of Kabuki music, Sangen’s popularity moved beyond theater to teahouses where geisha entertained guests and local communities. Today, there are a number of trio pieces for koto, sangen, and shakuhachi.
The performers are students from the University of Maryland Japanese Koto Ensemble class (MUSC129K/129L).
Performers are directed by Kyoko Okamoto, a native of Japan, who graduated from Kyoto University of Foreign Studies and is a certified teacher of the Ikuta School of Koto. She has studied with Kazue Ehara of Ashiya, Japan. She has been teaching koto at UMD since 1972.
Okamoto Sensei’s lectures and concerts have delighted universities and community audiences nationwide. She has recorded for film productions by the Smithsonian Institution and performed for the film, “The Art of the Hyogushi.” Okamoto Sensei also played for the educational film Pacific Bridge in 1977. In the same year, she appeared on public television as part of the music series, Music in Harmony, produced by the National Symphony Orchestra. In addition, Okamoto Sensei has played for Prime Minister Nakasone and the former Emperor of Japan at the Japanese Embassy in 1987 in Washington, DC.
Ms. Blanchard was selected for the Texas All-State Orchestra. She studied flute with Byron Hester, the first chair flute for Houston Symphony, and performed as a soloist in Stephens College Orchestra. Ms. Blanchard has been teaching the flute for years, and her students have won many honors including the National Symphony Orchestra Fellowship.
Mrs. Sachiko Smith has studied the koto since 1985 with Kyoko Okamoto, and performed with the Washington Toho Koto Society since then. In 1998, she received the stage name of Kitagawa Yukiji for sangen from the Kitagawa School in Tokyo, Japan. She also obtained her teacher’s certificate for sangen in 2001.
Nicholas Mangialardi studied shakuhachi with Yodo Kurahashi and Ronnie Seldin. He is a scholar of Arab music and teaches Arabic language and literature at Williams College, where he oversees the Arab Music Ensemble.
Native of Japan, Eriko Tokura Murray began her singing career at the age of 10, performing with Mizushima Boys and Girls Choir as a soloist. While living in Sri Lanka, she sang with Sri Lanka Symphony Orchestra and Chamber Music Society Colombo including 2 premier contemporary pieces for “a voice and strings” at the official residence of the Sri Lankan President. In Washington DC, she joined the 7 Sopranos production and sang at Carnegie Hall on 2013. She also founded a children’s chorus “Kodomo Chorus” as well as Japanese a cappella group, KIMONOdeSisters, performing at GWU and Kennedy Center. She has been appointed to sing national anthems at Embassy of Japan for ceremonies since October, 2013.
The Washington Toho Koto Society is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit cultural and educational organization incorporated in Maryland to promote goodwill and enjoyment of koto music.
President: Kyoko Okamoto
Vice President: Colin Khem
Treasurer: Jackie Lee
Recording Secretary: Zainab Abdul-Rahim
Phone Number: (301) 572-7088
The next spring concert will be held on Sunday, April 23, 2023, in Dekelboum Concert Hall at The Clarice Smith Performing Arts Center at the University of Maryland.
Kyoko Okamoto
Assistant Director
Yuriko Gandolfo
Stage Manager
Margaret Kaii-Ziegler
Stage Crew
Michelle Amano
Joy Aso
Robert Brose
Hiroshi Butler
Rex Butler
Bo Connor
Lee Craumbaugh
Grace Kaii
Andrew McCanne
Jake McCanne
Keiko Miller
Daniel Nosal
Marie Nosal
Donald Romberger
Melvin Ware
Yoshiko Zenfuku Jaeggi
Kimono Dressers
Wanda Butler Hardie
Yoshiko Hirota
Eriko Murray
Keiko O’Rourke
Kazumi Oiki
Hide Tetsuko Harris
Coco Lei Li
Douglas Bolt
Antonino d’Urzo
Stage Calligraphy
Eriko Okamoto
Keiko O’Rourke
Stage Logo and Screens
Kimie Bond
Gerald King
Paul Okamoto
Yuriko Gandolfo
Joshua Batugo
Chie Berkley
Jackie Lee
Lombar Martinez
Washington Toho Koto Society Performers
Zainab Abdul-Rahim
Manami Awazu
Joshua Batugo
Kyle Brady
Yoshiko Capps
Yoshiko Carlton
Brian Cheung
Lydia Danen
Kumiko Gale
Yuriko Gandolfo
Tetsuko Harris
Colin Khem
Jackie Lee
Nicholas Mangialardi
Lombar Martinez
Kyoko Okamoto
Keiko O’Rourke
Changxu Pang
Priscilla Seah
Sachiko Smith
Fuki Tsujikawa