This weekend, Choral Chameleon will give the world premiere of Eri Yamamoto's full-length choral piece, Goshu Ondo Suite, for choir and jazz piano trio. I'm glad to say that this project has been recognized in publications including The New Yorker and The New York City Jazz Record.
To put it bluntly, the work of this wonderful composer and pianist has been a revelation in my musical life. Working with her and working on Goshu Ondo Suite this fall has been a great privilege because it has afforded Choral Chameleon many opportunities. Included among them is the chance for the choir to rehearse in a way we usually don't, to encounter more unfamiliar harmonic language, and to learn in a tactile way about another culture which differs from the norm in North America. Most of all, though, it is a chance to celebrate the great melting pot that is New York City, acknowledging a profound truth about the nature of life in the form of this concert and this joining of people.
Since the beginnings of this beautiful city, people from all corners of the earth have migrated from near and far to look for ways to improve their lives and grow their prosperities. Like so many before me, I came here almost 14 years ago because I felt so compelled to do so that I could no longer ignore it in my life. The pull of this place calls the most ambitious, the most energetic, and the most visionary people to put themselves to the test at their very core. It bids us learn things about ourselves, and about the world around us, that we are not expecting to learn.
In this way, I see a great deal of my own journey in Eri, except to a greater degree in her. She took considerably more risk than I had to take coming here, as I was already an American citizen and spoke English fluently. Here, we have a native Japanese woman who made the difficult choice to leave her family, her home, and the strong memories of a formative childhood which so clearly influenced her. Despite this separation from the very fabric of her being, she still bravely leaped, because she, too, felt the formidable pull. Goshu Ondo Suite is one thing that was born as a result. These two facets of herself, her story from Japan and her new story as a jazz musician in New York City, somehow managed to fuse themselves into the form of a choral piece. In a way, it’s like a personal soliloquy which celebrates both of these prominent patterns in the fabric of her life.
How deeply profound it is to witness this, and how few words there are that could describe the honor I feel having been asked by her to bring it to life. I know that our singers feel the same sense of honor and responsibility in having been invited to premiere this excellent work, ironically by a composer who has never written a choral piece before. The pull of human intuition and the charge she must've felt to create this extensive work certainly outweighed any technical challenges she might have faced in getting it out of her consciousness and onto paper.