Beverly J. Packard
The richness of the sounds of the all the instruments that make up Hiroshima, along with the awesome talent of band members is perhaps best appreciated in a live concert setting. I had the opportunity to see them perform at the Berks Jazz Fest last year, and the impressions of that concert have stayed with me...
As I got to know their music in the months before I saw them in concert, I was so moved by a few of their songs that I went to their website to tell them so, and I received a gracious note in return from June Kuramoto, who is one of the band’s founders along with Dan Kuramoto.
June explained to me the origin of the song that so haunted me from the time I heard it, entitled 'A Thousand Cranes.' What is moving to me are the children’s voices, so well placed in a seemingly poignant yet optimistic triumph over something difficult. So clear was the message that it prompted me to ask June about it. She explained the song captures the story of a young Japanese girl of 12 named Sedaka, caught in the bombing of her native land. By age 12, her family was confident she had escaped the effects of radiation, but, alas, she had not. Realizing that she had developed leukemia which could not be cured, she and her family set out to make a thousand paper cranes, a tradition in her country to bring healing and health. Her story so inspired June that when June’s own mother faced illness years later, June wrote the song and her own family began making their own thousand paper cranes.
Although I knew ‘A Thousand Cranes’ would not be played at this concert, I looked forward to simply being in the presence of this band and to the other songs I knew would be played that day. I expected the band to enter the stage area close to the start of the first song. Usually clapping breaks out at the sight of the artists, one of whom will continue the audience connection by chatting and welcoming the crowd in a boisterous and enthusiastic way. But this was not the way of Hiroshima.
They came onto the stage quite unobtrusively, appearing to carefully and meticulously make sure all was ready, seeming to use the time to prepare their own minds and hearts, oblivious even to the vast audience that had already gathered. One could have heard a pin drop. It seemed we all sat, awestruck, at the nearly worshipful atmosphere that was created before our eyes. There was a reflective, spiritual orientation to what they were doing. They communicated a special kind of reverence -- a great respect for, first, their own instruments and each other, then the music they played, then for their fans and by the end of the concert, it was obvious there is a respect and reverence for people everywhere.
This atmosphere continued throughout the evening as they went through songs that were favorites for many, such as Turning Point, Mix Plate, The Door is Open, Time on the Nile, Caravan of Love, The Quiet Storm, a tribute to Native Americans, and ending with an encore of One Wish, to everyone's delight! We learned a little bit about the taiko drum and also the koto that evening. It was quite a fascinating evening and the memory of how they looked and how they sounded is still with me, after these many months. But it can easily be explained: it's simply the effect a band like Hiroshima has on a fan who is listening not only with his ears, but with all of his heart and soul.
Beverly J. Packard
Jazz Circle Member of the Berks Arts Council
Michael C. Packard