Recently, I visited one of my favorite places, Innesfree Garden in Millbrook, New York, to hear an open-air concert by Trio Getsuro. These three dedicated musicians presented an hour of traditional and contemporary Japanese music for shakuhatchi (bamboo flute) and ichigenkin (one-stringed zither). Ralph Samuelson and Elizabeth Brown performed on shakuhatchi and Issui Minegishi plucked the seldom heard but mesmerizing ichigenkin. Each is an accomplished musician and educator, but when brought together, they created a magical soundscape that the Innisfree audience thoroughly enjoyed.
Ralph Samuelson introduced the group and spoke of their continuing dedication to their instruments and the musical history that flowed through them. On one of the pieces, I sat close enough to watch and listen to him, a true master who wove breath and sound to connect instrument, musician, and listener into one entity.
The June day was cool with the wind sounding through the trees sometimes nudging the trio into a quartet, adding another sound layer to the delicate melodies. In all, seven unique pieces were performed. Composer Robert Carl was in attendance to hear the trio play his haunting 2016 composition, “Jyun On (pure sound)” that he calls a conversation among the three instruments.
Ms. Issui Minegishi, an internationally known instrumentalist, composer, and promoter of the ichigenkin, played her 2020 composition, “Hi fu mi yo I mu nay a, ko to (1,2,3,4,5,6,7,8,9,10)”. The piece, both playful and meditative, was a standout in virtuso musicianship.
photo by ichigenkin.com
Composer/musician Elizabeth Brown led the trio in two of her compositions: “Shakuhatchi Duets from Isle Royale.” The piece is in two movements: “Loons” and “Black-Throated blue warbler.” Only the first movement was played since the gusty wind, becoming the fourth member of the ensemble decided to turn the musicians’ pages faster than Ms. Brown and Mr. Samuelson had anticipated. I’ll have to track down that second movement to hear how the two pieces complement one another. The first was beautifully rendered. Brown’s second offering was “Aki Meguri Kite (autumn comes round again)”, created from tanka poems written by survivors of the 2011 earthquake and tsunami and collected in Voices from Japan. In the silences between the musical phrases, the solo voice of Ms. Minegishi spoke several of the tanka poems. It was a moving and inspirational ending to a deeply felt concert by Trio Getsuro. I hope you’ll hear them live or in concert. This music, meditative and minimal, will stay with you forever.
And if you are in the Hudson Valley in New York, visit Innisfree Garden, one of the jewels of garden walks. http://www.innesfreegarden.org
And please visit the site: ichigenkin.com for more information and photos.
Laurence Carr is the publisher of Lightwoodpress.com