Ganbare Japan!, a charity concert for a hard-hit nation

Vancouver's artistic community turns out in force to raise money for victims of Japan's earthquake and Tsunami.

Ganbare is Japanese equivalent of "Hang in there", a word that delivers a special effort to someone who's in a process of a hard work.

After Japan's devastating earthquake and tsunami last month, the idea resonated with the Vancouver Symphony Orchestra -- the first to step up -- and with the other artists, supporters, sponsors, businesses, media and volunteers who followed soon after to organize the city's earthquake relief concert. All profits from the concert went to Japanese Red Cross for the needs of those who suffered devastating tragedy on March 11. The City of Vancouver Civic Theatres waived the rent for the Queen Elizabeth Theatre for the first time in history to support the event.

There was an instant response from the Vancouver artistic community, and within a month a spectacular show was prepared. The benefit concert was a demonstration of the spirit of coming together to work as one body of visual and performing artists to help Japan while playing music and presenting performances on stage.

The concert started with the opening sequence of Eagle Song Dancers by Bill Williamson and members of the Squamish Nation, an aboriginal people living in the Lower Mainland. It was followed by a solo dance of Jay Hirabayashi, the director of Kokoro Dance, who performed his original dance to the meditation tune of Japanese bamboo flute played by Takeo Yamashiro.

The main part of the concert was the classical music pieces of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, the composer very popular in Japan, played by Vancouver Symphony Orchestra and Jon Kimura Parker, a Vancouverite who has performed and collaborated with famous musicians on many stages of the world. Erin Wall (soprano) and David Pomeroy (tenor) from Vancouver Opera sang parts of Verdi's La Traviata.

After the intermission, the concert continued with the Vancouver-based rock band 54-40, Mae Moore, Bill and Saffron Henderson from Chilliwack, Doug and the Slugs and The Sojourners. The musical part of the concert was closed by Jim Byrnes, a native of St. Louis, Missouri, who has collaborated with artists including Jerry Lee Hooker and Muddy Watersduring his 45-year career singing blues.

Before the final part of the concert, a pre-taped video message from David Suzuki was played. In the finale, Taiko for Tohoku, a joint collaboration of taiko players was presented. There are nine groups of taiko players in the Lower Mainland, famous from numerous cultural events on the artistic scene of Vancouver and collecting some 60 players from different cultural backgrounds who are interested in Japanese drum (Jap. taiko) beating.

The most famous are Uzume Taiko (first Canadian professional group of taiko drummers), Chibi Taiko, Katari Taiko and Ryukyu Taiko. These groups gave a 20-minute performance in a coordinated show that filled the theatre with an energy so high it was intended to be heard all the way to Japan.

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